Eleanor R. Townsley

  • Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Sociology and Director of Nexus
  • Nexus Track Chair for Journalism, Media, and Public Discourse
Eleanor R. Townsley

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 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.

Areas of Expertise

The sociology of intellectuals; cultural sociology; sociology of gender; history of sociology; research methods


  • Ph.D., M.A., University of California, Los Angeles
  • B.A., University of Queensland, Australia


Recent Campus News

Mount Holyoke’s annual LEAP Symposium is a powerful vehicle that demonstrates the strong connections between academic work at the College and its practical application in the world in internships and research experiences.

During Baccalaureate, Mount Holyoke seniors gather together in Abbey Memorial Chapel on the Saturday evening before Commencement. They hear remarks from selected faculty members, classmates and College leadership.

Students presented insights and experiences from their summer internships, research and independent studies at this year’s LEAP (or Learning From Application) Symposium, Mount Holyoke’s largest signature event showcasing student achievement.

Recent Publications

Townsley, E. “The Space of Opinion:  Intellectuals, Media, and the Public Sphere.” (with Ron Jacobs). New York: Oxford University Press. 2011

Townsley, E. “Contexts of Cultural Diffusion: A Case-study of “Public Intellectual” Debates in English Canada” (with Neil McLaughlin), Canadian Review of Sociology / La Société canadienne de sociologie 48(4):341-368. (2011)

Townsley, E. “Intellectuals, Media and the Public Sphere”. Pp. 284-317 in The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology. Jeffrey Alexander, Ronald Jacobs and Phillip Smith (eds). Oxford University Press. (2011)

Townsley, E.   “Career Pathways in the Natural and Social Sciences Science in Liberal Arts Institutions” NSF Advance Grant Proposal for Institutional Transformation with Renae Brodie, Amber Douglas, Elizabeth Markovits, and Matthew McKeever. (2011)

Townsley, E. The Sociology of Intellectual Life by Steve Fuller. Review. Contemporary Sociology 39(6):708-704. (2010)

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