Eleanor R. Townsley

Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Sociology and Director of Nexus; Chair of Sociology and Anthropology; on leave spring 2021
The sociology of intellectuals; cultural sociology; sociology of gender; history of sociology; research methods

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.

News Links


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

Making Capitalism Without Capitalists: The New Ruling Elites in Eastern Europe (with Gil Eyal and Iván Szelényi). London: Verso. 1998.

Articles and Reviews

(forthcoming) Public Intellectuals, media intellectuals and academic intellectuals: comparing the space of opinion in Canada and the United States in The Transformation of Public Intellectuals and Canadian Democracy. Michael Keren and Richard Hawkins(eds.) University of Calgary Press.

(forthcoming) “Defining “the social” in Canada and the United States: public intellectuals, media intellectuals and academic intellectuals” in Knowledge for Whom? Public Sociology in the Making. Andreas Hess (ed.). Ashgate.

(forthcoming) The Performance of Politics: Obama’s Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power by Jeffrey C. Alexander. Review. Thesis Eleven

2011 “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 “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 “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)

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

2009 Histories of Australian Sociology edited by John Germov and Tara Renae McGee. Review. International Journal of Sociology.

2008 “On the Communicative Geography of Public Sociology”. Canadian Journal of Sociology 33(3):1-20. Co-authored with Ronald Jacobs.

2007 “The social construction of social facts: Using the U.S Census to examine race as a scientific and moral category”. Teaching Sociology 35(3):223-238.

2006 “The public intellectual trope in the United States”. The American Sociologist 37(3):39-66

2003 “On Irony: An Invitation to Neoclassical Sociology” Thesis Eleven. No. 73 (May): 5-41. Co-authored with Gil Eyal and Iván Szelényi.  2002 republished in German in Berliner Journal fur Soziologie.  2006 republished in Peter Beilharz, ed. Post-War American Critical Thought”. Sage Publications.

2002 Civil Society and the Professions in Eastern Europe by S. Wojciech Sokolowsk. Review. Contemporary Sociology 31(5):553-554.

2001 “The Sixties Trope”. Theory, Culture and Society. 18(6): 99-123.

2001 “The utopia of post-socialist theory and the ironic view of history in neo-classical sociology”. American Journal of Sociology 106(4): 1121-1128. (See full Review Symposium on the book in this issue). Co-authored with Gil Eyal and Iván Szelényi.

2000 “A History of Intellectuals and the Demise of the New Class: Academics and the U.S. Government in the 1960s”. Theory & Society 29(6):739-784.

1998 “‘Liberal’ Academics and the U.S. Government in the 1960's”. In Fettschrift for Iván Szelényi on his 60th birthday. Edited by Éva Fodor and Lanos Ladanyi. Budapest: Budapest University of Economics.

1998 “Wives, Husbands, and Housework Reporting: Gender, Class, and Perceptions of Social Desirability” Gender and Society Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 188-218. Co-authored with Julie Press

1997 “Capitalism Without Capitalists: The Remaking of the Economic Institutions of State-Socialism”. New Left Review 222(March/April): 60-92. Co-authored with Gil Eyal and Iván Szelényi.

1997 “Time for Life by John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey”. Review. Contemporary Sociology. Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 51-52.

1995 “The Social Composition of the Communist Nomenklatura”. Theory and Society. 24(6): 723-750. Co-authored with Gil Eyal.

1994 “Gender and the Economy”. Pp. 600-619 in Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg, eds. Handbook of Economic Sociology. New York: Russell Sage and Princeton University Press. Co-authored with Ruth Milkman.

1993 “Neighborhood Politics by Robert J. Dilger." Review. American Journal of Sociology Vol. 99, No. 2, pp. 522-524