Research Clusters

Penn Sociology organizes its research, training, and varied activities through a cluster system, established around 1990 to identify the strengths of the department for both internal and external audiences. Cluster groups evolve according to faculty and student interests, with the establishment and closing of clusters approved by the Chair. Currently, Penn Sociology research clusters include:

  • Culture, Interaction, and Ethnography
  • Education and Inequality
  • Family and Gender
  • Digital Culture and Society
  • Medical Sociology
  • Population Studies
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration

Research Cluster Workshops

Clusters sponsor one or more ongoing workshops. Workshops offer opportunities for students to participate, as audience members and as speakers, in presentations of cutting edge research in cluster areas, by scholars at Penn and visitors.

*Workshops are currently being held on a hybrid schedule*

Cluster Descriptions

Culture, Interaction, and Ethnography

Organizer: David Grazian

Culture is largely instantiated and reproduced through face-to-face interaction. At the same time, culture can be created and transformed in such encounters, when new ideas are infused with significance and old ones are found to be inadequate to the interactional challenges at hand. This workshop brings together faculty and students from Penn and other colleges and universities for informal talks and discussion about culture and interaction, in addition to current research on a variety of issues relevant to contemporary urban life and the culture of cities.

Education & Inequality

OrganizerHyunjoon Park and Emily Hannum

The Education and Inequality Cluster brings together those with a shared interest in stratification and educational inequality, broadly defined. Penn has an active, interdisciplinary group of faculty members and graduate students working on related topics, with particular strengths in the areas of race, class, ethnicity, gender, qualitative and quantitative methods, and comparative international research. The Education and Inequality Cluster sponsors weekly works-in-progress meetings to support the development of grant proposals, journal submissions, and conference and job talks, bi-monthly talks by internal or external speakers, and an annual mini-conference on a theme chosen by participants.

For more information, please visit the Education and Inequality Workshop page.

Family & Gender

Organizer: Jerry A. Jacobs and Pilar Gonalons-Pons

The family is an important institution through which a host of social processes get played out. Thus, understanding family formation and functioning is especially important, particularly given the dramatic demographic changes of the last five decades. This workshop gives faculty members from various departments across the university, as well as graduate students in the Sociology and Demography graduate groups, the opportunity to present ongoing research on families and gender. Occasionally, individuals from outside of the university are invited to present their research. The workshop presentations are generally informal, and presenters are encouraged to leave time for feedback. 

Digital Culture and Society

Organizer: Guobin Yang

This cluster encompasses broadly research interests in the areas of digital culture, digital activism, data justice, social media platform power, digital surveillance, and the sociology of science and technology. Supported by the Center on Digital Culture and Society (CDCS), this cluster aims to create collaborative spaces for discussion and debate among academics, citizens, and activists, develop critical approaches to the study of digital culture and technology, and build local and global networks of researchers in an endeavor to explore new visions of digital futures through scholarship and public communication. The cluster holds a regular colloquium series and an annual symposium. For more information, please see here.

Medical Sociology

Organizer: Jason Schnittker and Courtney Boen

The Medical Sociology workshop gives students the opportunity to expand their understanding of the sociological study of medicine and health. The workshop critically engages students with the social and cultural framing of what is defined as “illness”; the structural factors that may contribute to those illnesses; and the interactive dynamics between healthcare providers and patients. The workshop connects the organization of social groups with the profession of medicine, the practice of medical care, and the social factors that contribute to sickness and well-being. Through both formal presentations and informal discussion, the workshop exposes students to theoretical developments and empirical work from both within and outside the academy around medical sociology. The Medical Sociology workshop continues Penn's long tradition of quantitative and qualitative scholarship on the topic. 


Methodology Working Group

Organizer: Xi Song and Alexander Adames

The Methodology Working Group is a new model of methodological innovation and student training in quantitative methods in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. We believe that this group will accelerate methodological innovation, attract strong students and faculty, and strengthen intellectual exchange across the University. We think that Penn is the ideal place to overcome the limits of conventional class-based models for inquiry and training in quantitative methods, and that a new model based on self-conscious learning will capture the imagination of methodology across the disciplines. While there are other sociology working groups, no other group focuses precisely on the frontiers of methodological innovations. Furthermore, while there are groups that do focus on methodological developments, these groups do not focus on sociology. In turn, our group will bridge the relationship between sociological theory and questions with novel developments in statistics across the social sciences. In doing so, we will contribute to the development of the next generation of sociological methodologists who draw on both insight from sociology and other social sciences to further advance the science of sociology.

Population Studies

Director: Emilio Parrado

The Population Studies Center Colloquium provides a direct link between the Sociology Department and the Population Studies Center. In its original incarnation, population studies mainly concerned demography: the study of the growth and structure of human populations, primarily in terms of fertility, mortality, and migration. As the field of population studies has evolved, so too has the PSC at Penn, which is a major national resource for our understanding of the dynamics of human populations, including health and well-being, human resources, networks, and policy evaluation. For additional information, please visit the Population Studies Center For a full list of presenters please visit the PSC colloquium.

Race, Ethnicity & Immigration

Organizer: Emilio Parrado

Scholars have come to appreciate the complex, dynamic, and fluid nature of the concepts of race and ethnicity and the process of immigration—leaving a field that can seem disjointed, confusing, and at odds with itself. The race, ethnicity, and immigration workshop brings together interested graduate students and faculty to discuss and consider the critical sociological questions with which research continues to grapple in these fields. Through both formal presentations and informal discussion, the workshop strives to challenge assumptions, highlight important work, and engage theory and empirical work from both within and outside the academy on these topics. The workshop hopes to both offer members of the group the chance to present early-stage research and to bring in outside speakers to offer fresh insight from outside the workshop's membership.