B.A., Mississippi College; M.A., University of Memphis; Ph.D., University of Virginia
Markella B. RutherfordAssociate Professor of Sociology
Cultural sociology with research interests in childhood, family, emotions, social inequality, & consumer culture.
Much of my past research has been animated by questions about how the meaning of individual autonomy is articulated in contemporary American culture. I have been particularly fascinated by the balance of emotional vs. civic understandings of individual autonomy. My dissertation focused on the articulation of ideals of autonomy in ceremonial speeches--especially commencement addresses. In another project, I collaborated with a student to investigate the ways that various maternity care providers understand the balance between their professional expertise and women's autonomy in the birthing process. My book, Adult Supervision Required, examines the contradictory ways that American culture has envisioned individual autonomy for parents and children. For American children, growing freedoms at home and over the private realm of emotional expression have been balanced by new anxieties that have severely limited the experience of autonomy in public spaces. For parents, a greater diversity of parenting styles and personal choices has been balanced against the growing power of state agencies to police the family. I am currently working on a project that examines social and emotional learning curricula in schools. These curricula are one consequence of the increased recognition of children as autonomous emotional actors. However, what effects do these curricula have in an educational system that is already riddled with drastic inequalities. Does the current emphasis on teaching emotional styles instill emotional capital that serves to reproduce existing social class inequalities, or can emotional capital serve as a means of upward mobility?
I enjoy teaching courses that introduce students to sociology and to sociological theory; courses that challenge students to recognize social inequalities and their consequences for individuals and societies; and courses that challenge students to think critically about culture and popular culture.
I am a member of the American Sociological Association and the Eastern Sociological Society.
In addition to my academic life and interests, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children, bicycling, singing in my church's choir, playing piano and flute (not at the same time!), quilting, cooking, and chilling out on Cape Cod. I also volunteer for the Metrowest Interfaith Hospitality Network, an ecumenical organization that serves homeless families.