Wendy Espeland Professor

Area(s) of Interest:  Cultural Sociology

Relevant Link

Science in Human Culture


Professor Wendy Espeland works in the areas of organizations, culture, and law. Her book, The Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality and Identity in the American Southwest was awarded the Best Book Prize by the Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, the Rachel Carson Award from the Society for the Social Studies of Science, and the Louis Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration.

Espeland is currently writing a book about the effects of commensuration, the process of translating qualities into quantities. In it she investigates how media rankings have influenced higher education, how efforts to measure homosexuality have shaped gay and lesbian politics, and the commensurative practices necessary in order to transform air pollution into a commodity that is traded on futures markets.

Courses Taught

SOCIOL 101: Freshman Seminar: Chicago Landscapes

SOCIOL 306: Sociological Theory Syllabus

SOCIOL 376: The Politics of Scarcity

SOCIOL 376: Numbers, Identity, and Modernity Syllabus

SOCIOL 406-2: Modern Theory in Sociological Analysis Syllabus


Fear of Falling: How Media Rankings Changed Legal Education in America (with Michael Sauder). Forthcoming, Russell Sage Foundation.

The Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality, and Identity in the American Southwest
University Chicago Press, 1998


How Rankings Affect Diversity, Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, 2009

Rating the Rankings (with Michael Sauder), Contexts, 2009

A Sociology of Quantification (with Mitchell Stevens), European Journal of Sociology, 2009

The Discipline of Rankings: Tight Coupling and Organizational Change (with Michael Sauder), American Sociological Review, 2009

Rankings and Reactivity: How Public Measures Recreate Social Worlds
(with Michael Sauder); American Journal of Sociology, 2007

Accountability, Quantification and Law (with Berit Vannebo), Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2007