Robin Leidner, Ph.D.

Robin Leidner

Associate Professor of Sociology


276 McNeil Building


Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1988
M.A., Northwestern University, 1983
A.B., Radcliffe College, Harvard University, 1980

Research Interests

What accounts for the varying ways work, identity, and gender fit together? Everett Hughes’s 1951 comment that “a man’s work is one of the things by which he is judged, and certainly one of the more significant things by which he judges himself” is a frequent touchstone for me. Hughes’s ambiguous use of the ‘man’ begs the questions of how gender affects the salience of work to identity and how specific work identities come to be gendered. Given the changing conditions and availability of work, when is it a good thing for work to be an important basis of identity, when do workers shield themselves from the identity their jobs imply, and how much room do people have to construct work identities that are positive and meaningful to them? Much of my research concerns the relation between structural conditions of employment and its interactional components, as well as how work arrangements draw on and affect cultural understandings of the ways people do and should relate to each other. In Fast Food, Fast Talk: Service Work and the Routinization of Everyday Life, I examined what happens when organizations try to standardize interactions between workers and customers. The effects of employers’ oversight of many aspects of workers’ selves produces more varied reactions from workers than I expected, based on several kinds of variation: how much their routines constrained them, extended their power, protected them from demands, and allowed room for them to distance themselves from the implications of their interactive roles, or to interpret those roles in ways that preserved their dignity. My current research provides a sharp contrast to that study of low-status jobs in which people had incentives to separate themselves from the identity their work conferred. I’m examining work and identity among stage actors, a group of people who try hard to maintain a usually precarious work-based identity, since few of them make a full time living from theater work. My shorthand description of the project, only slightly facetious, is, “How can you hold on to the idea that you really are an actor when you look so much like a bartender?” Of particular interest is how casting processes strongly shaped by reconceptions about race, gender, and age – or audiences’ perceived preconceptions about them – affect actors’ opportunities and hopes.

Research Projects

  • Structures of employment, occupational community, and self-concept among theater artists.
  • Non-traditional casting in theater: perceptions of salience and malleability of ascribed characteristics.
Courses Taught

SOCI 122 Sociology of Gender: for most recent syllabus, click here

SOCI 300 Senior Thesis Workshop: for most recent syllabus, click here

Selected Publications
  • 2006 “Identity and Work.” In Social Theory at Work, edited by Marek Korczynski, Randy Hodson, and Paul K. Edwards. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 424-463.
  • 2002 “Fast-food work in the United States.” In Labour Relations in the Global Fast-Food Industry , edited by Tony Royle and Brian Towers. London: Routledge, 8-29.
  • 2001 On Whose Behalf? Feminist Ideology and Dilemmas of Constituency." In Identity Politics in the Women’s Movement, edited by Barbara Ryan. NY: New York University Press, 47-56.
  • 2001 “Manufacturing Consent Revisited.” Contemporary Sociology, 30:5, September, 439-442.
  • 2001 “Who Speaks for Women? Racial Exclusivity, Feminist Ideology, and the Dilemmas of Constituency.” In Problem of the Century: Racial Stratification in the United States, edited by Elijah Anderson and Douglas S. Massey. NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 97-114.
  • 1999 “Emotional Labor in Service Work.” Annals, AAPSS: 561, 81-95, January 1999.
  • 1997 Featured review of Who’s Fit to Be a Parent? and Mothers and Their Children: A Feminist Sociology of Childrearing. Contemporary Sociology26:1, January, 10-12.
  • 1996 "Rethinking Questions of Control: Lessons from McDonald's." In Working in the Service Society, edited by Cameron Macdonald and Carmen Sirianni. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 29-49.
  • 1994 "Motherly Concerns." Featured review essay (on Kaplan, Mother's Images of Mothering, Richardson, Women, Motherhood and Childrearing,Walters, Lives Together, Worlds Apart, Lewin, Lesbian Mothers), Contemporary Sociology 23:6, 781-84.
  • 1994 "Response to Gerber's 'Reshaping Democracy' and Sirianni's 'Feminist Pluralism and Democratic Learning'" (essays in Forum on my article, "Constituency, Accountability, and Deliberation: Reshaping Democracy in the National Women's Studies Association"). NWSA Journal 5:3.
  • 1993 Fast Food, Fast Talk: Service Work and the Routinization of Everyday Life, University of California Press. Excerpted in Mapping the Social Landscape, ed. Susan J. Ferguson, Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1996; Working inAmerica: Continuity, Conflict, and Change, ed. Amy S. Wharton, Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1997, 2001; The Transformation of Work in the New Economy, eds. Robert Perrucci and Carolyn C. Perrucci, Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury, 2007. Two Chinese language editions
  • 1993 "Constituency, Accountability, and Deliberation: Reshaping Democracy in the National Women's Studies Association." NWSA Journal 5:1, 4-27.
  • 1993 Review, Making Fast Food by Ester Reiter, and Dishing It Out, by Greta Foff Paules, American Journal of Sociology 98:4, 942-44.
  • 1992 Review essay, Feeding the Family, by Marjorie DeVault, Contemporary Sociology. 21:4, 440-2.
  • 1991 "Serving Hamburgers and Selling Insurance: Gender, Work, and Identity in Interactive Service Jobs," Gender & Society., 5:4, 154-177. Reprinted in: The Sociology of Work, ed. Carol J. Auster, Pine Forge Press, 1996; Feminist Frontiers IV, eds. Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, Nancy Whittier, McGraw-Hill,
  • 1996, 2001; Race, Class, and Gender in a Diverse Society: A Text-Reader, ed. Diana Kendall, Allyn & Bacon, 1997
  • 1991 "Stretching the Boundaries of Liberalism: Democratic Innovation in a Feminist Organization," Signs 16:2, 263-289.
  • 1988 "Home Work: A Study in the Interaction of Work and Family Organizations." In Research in the Sociology of Work, Volume 4: High Tech Work, edited by Ida Harper Simpson and Richard L. Simpson. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 69-94.
CV (file)