Eleanor Townsley is a sociologist who teaches courses in the cultural sociology, social theory, sociology of gender, survey research and data analysis, and an archival and field methods class based in the Mount Holyoke College Archives. She says especially enjoys teaching the introductory course in sociology.
Townsley’s research examines the possibilities of intellectual life in contemporary societies, with a focus on the institutional contexts and political consequences of intellectual practices. She is particularly interested trope theory and has analyzed tropes surrounding the “1960s,” “public intellectuals,” and “interdisciplinary.” Townsley’s early work focused on social science professionalization in the United States during the 1960s and the role of the intelligentsia in transitions from socialism in Central Europe. Still interested in the role of intellectuals and ideas in social change, she is currently examining the nature and influence of media intellectuals in the contemporary United States.
Townsley's research has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, Theory & Society, Theory, Culture & Society, Gender and Society, Thesis Eleven, and New Left Review. She is a contributor to the Handbook of Economic Sociology and coauthor of Making Capitalism without Capitalists (Verso, 2001).
A native of Australia, Townsley has a reputation among her Mount Holyoke students for being passionate about the subjects she teaches, for sparking her students' interest and encouraging them to learn to articulate their own arguments and perspectives. Townsley's students believe the professor's insistence on the development of critical-thinking skills benefits them throughout their lives. In 2005 Townsley was the recipient of the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Teaching Award.
- "Making the Lynk at Mount Holyoke: Institutionalizing Integrative Learning," Association of American Colleges & Universities, April 9, 2015
- "Oprah's success hasn't followed her to OWN," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2012.
- "At Issue with Ben Merens," Wisconsin Public Radio, March 26, 2012.
- "Townsley on Media, Politics, and Democracy," Office of Communications, October 25, 2011
- "Where’s the next Walter Lippmann?" The Washington Post, August 15, 2011.
- "Eleanor Townsley Opens Up on Oprah," Office of Communications, March 3, 2011.
- "Gudmundson and Townsley Receive NEH Grants," Office of Communications, March 11, 2009.
- "Big Ideas Are Important," College Street Journal, March 29, 2002.
- "Faculty Honored for Outstanding Work," College Street Journal, April 21, 2005.