Sarah Zelner

Dissertation Title: 

"The People's Republic of Mt. Airy: Neighborhood Identity and Moral Life in an Urban Community."

Research Interests: 

Urban and community sociology; sociology of culture; qualitative and ethnographic methods; social determinants of health.

Personal Website:
Curriculum Vitae

I am a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. My research is primarily ethnographic and focuses on how social interaction in everyday life gives rise to social inequality. Substantively, my areas of interest are in urban life, community, queer studies, and racial and class inequality. 

My dissertation is a community study of Mt. Airy, a middle class neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia with a longstanding reputation for social and political progressivism. Through four years of in-depth fieldwork, I explore how Mt. Airy's progressive reputation has been sustained in light of social, economic, and demographic changes to the neighborhood's composition, and how this reputation has become integral to the neighborhood's identity, as well as the identities of people who live there.  

Prior to my doctoral studies at Penn, I received an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Kenya. I have an A.B in Sociology from Bryn Mawr College.

Teaching Experience:

2012-2014     Teaching Assistant, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Sociology

Fall 2013: SOC 001, “Introduction to Sociology.” (Prof. Onoso Imoagene).

Spring 2013: SOCI 137, “Sociology of Popular Culture and the Mass Media.” (Prof. David Grazian).

Fall 2012 & Spring 2014: SOCI 112, “Discrimination in the Labor Market.” (Prof. Janice Madden).

2013. Guest lecture, Undergraduate Social Theory, “Interaction Rituals,” Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania.
2012. Graduate Writing Assistant, University of Pennsylvania.

2003-2004. Teaching Assistant, Bryn Mawr College, Department of Sociology.
  • “Society, Culture and the Individual,” (Prof. Judith Porter)
  • “Sociology of Poverty,” (Prof. Judith Porter)

2002-2003   Data Lab Assistant, Bryn Mawr College, Department of Sociology.

Recent Publications:

Zelner, S. 2015. “The Reproduction of Neighborhood Reputation: An Interactionist Approach.” Symbolic Interaction. Forthcoming.

Zelner, S. 2015. "Setting the Stage: The Use of Public Space in Performance of Neighborhood Identity." Revised and Resubmitted at City & Community.

Phelan, JC, Link, BG, Zelner, S, Yang LH.  2013. “Direct-to-consumer racial admixture tests and beliefs about essential racial differences.” Social Psychology Quarterly 77: 296-318.

Burgard, S., Seefeldt, K., Zelner, S. 2012. “Housing Instability and Health: Findings from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study.” Social Science and Medicine. 75 (12): 2215-2224.