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Marjorie DeVault

Marjorie DeVault

Contact Information:

Marjorie DeVault

Professor Emeritus, Sociology Department

Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence



Highest degree earned

Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1984


I am a feminist sociologist, with interests in qualitative and feminist methodologies and the gendered organization of work, including unpaid work in families and elsewhere. My early substantive research dealt with the household labor of “feeding the family,” and the historically female professional field of dietetics and nutrition education. In both areas, I was especially interested in women’s “invisible work” and its significance for social life, as well as how these forms of gendered work are shaped by the social relations of class, race and other dimensions of inequality. 

I’ve also written extensively on research methods, focusing on strategies for interview research, feminist methodology, experimental formats for research writing, and the institutional ethnography (IE) approach associated with Dorothy Smith’s “sociology for women/people.” I participate actively in an informal international network of IE scholars. Published works include, "People at Work: Life, Power, and Social Inclusion in the New Economy," which includes work by several Syracuse University graduate students and others in the institutional ethnography network.

I taught courses on qualitative and feminist research methods; race, class, and gender; and feminist organizations; and advised students using qualitative and IE methods to investigate a range of topics. Like most feminists, I am committed to building more inclusive institutions, in the academy and elsewhere.

My research is concerned with family life outside the home. In a series of studies, I used various methods to investigate the experiences of parents and children in public spaces, and the institutional regimes (of parenting, schooling, commerce and so on) that shape those experiences. 

Areas of Expertise

Gender studies, qualitative methodology, feminist studies, social interaction


Selected publications, books

Editor, People at Work: Life, Power, and Social Inclusion in the New Economy.  New York University Press, 2008.

Feeding the Family:  The Social Organization of Caring as Gendered Work.  University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Editor, A Complex Sorrow:  Reflections on Cancer and an Abbreviated Life by Marianne A. Paget.  Temple University Press, 1993.

Liberating Method:  Feminism and Social Research.  Temple University Press, 1999.

Selected publications, articles and essays

Knowledge from the Field.  Pp. 155-182 in Sociology in America, ed. Craig Calhoun, University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Feminist Interviewing: Experience, Talk, and Knowledge (with Glenda Gross).  Pp. 173-197 in Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis, ed. Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber.  Sage Publications, 2006.

Institutional Ethnography:  Using Interviews to Investigate Ruling Relations (With Liza McCoy).  Pp. 751-76 in Handbook of Interview Research, eds. Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2002. 

Producing Family Time:  Practices of Leisure Activity Beyond the Home. Qualitative Sociology 23 (#4): 485-503, 2000.

Comfort and Struggle:  Emotion Work in Family Life.  Annals of the American Academy for Political and Social Sciences 561: 52-63, January 1999.

Whose Science of Food and Nutrition?  Narratives of Profession and Activism from Public-Health Nutrition.  Pp. 166-83 in Revisioning Women, Health, and Healing:  Feminist, Cultural, and Technoscience Perspectives, ed. Adele E. Clarke and Virginia L. Olesen.  Routledge, 1999.

A Second Generation Story.  Pp. 257-74 in Feminist Sociology: Life Histories of a Movement, ed. Barrie Thorne and Barbara Laslett, Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Ethnicity and Expertise:  Racial-Ethnic Knowledge in Sociological Research.  Gender and Society 9 (#5): 612-31, October, 1995.

Between Science and Food:  Nutrition Professionals in the Health-Care Hierarchy.  Pp. 287-312 in Research in the Sociology of Health Care, Jennie J. Kronenfeld (ed.), JAI Press, Inc., 1995

Talking and Listening from Women's Standpoint:  Feminist Strategies for Interviewing and Analysis.  Social Problems 37(#1): 96-116, February, 1990. 

Novel Readings:  The Social Organization of Interpretation.  American Journal of Sociology 95(#4): 887-921, January, 1990.

Surplus and Scarcity:  Hunger and the Origins of the Food Stamp Program.  Social Problems 31(#5): 545-57, June, 1984.  With James P. Pitts.

Sociology Department
302 Maxwell Hall