I am a sociologist and full professor in the Department of American Studies who studies racialized and gendered inequality In American workplaces.  I am also the past director of the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies and past faculty chair of the Committee on the University of Minnesota Press at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. I received my doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. The past recipient of a Rockefeller Bellagio Center fellowship, I most recently held a Paul W. Frenzel Endowed Chair in the College of Liberal Arts and received a Distinguished Teaching Award in Graduate, Professional and Post Baccalaureate Education.  

I have authored or edited seven books.  My book Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action (Stanford UP 2012) examines the backlash against affirmative action in the 1990s. It focuses not only on the backlash in the print news media and popular films of the era, but also explores how anti-affirmative action narratives played out in a legal office creating a hostile climate for attorneys of color and women.  

In addition, I have published Queer Twin Cities (U Minnesota P; 2010; collaborated with the GLBT Oral History Project); Telling Stories: The Use of Personal Narratives in the Social Sciences and in History(Cornell UP; 2008; co-authored with M.J. Maynes and B. Laslett); Gender Trials:  Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms (UC Press 1996); Narrative Sociology (Vanderbilt UP: 2019: co-edited with L. Irvine and R. Zussman); Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Stories from the Academy (U of Minnesota, 2007; co-edited with H. Aikau and K. Erickson); and Is Academic Feminism Dead? Theory in Practice (New York UP; 2000; co-edited with the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies Social Justice Group).  

My recent International Labor and Working-Class History article, “’We Were Democracy Mad’: Clerical Workers’ Unionism, Anti-Racism, and Feminism at the University of California, Berkeley, 1966-1972,” is part of my current book project:  Working in the Ivory Basement: Clerical Workers and  Social Justice Unionism at UC Berkeley, 1967-2022.  This book project explores a neglected area of labor history, that of clerical workers in the public sector. It also serves as a counter-narrative to the androcentric story of student radicals at Berkeley in the Free Speech Movement and the anti-war movement. The radicals in AFSCME Local 1695 were predominantly female: Black women, white women, Asian American women, single mothers, lesbians, wives, sisters, and student workers who were committed to abolishing sexism, racism, and classism in the university and creating a more democratic, humane, and just world. 

Educational Background & Specialties
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Educational Background

  • PhD: Sociology, University of California at Berkeley, 1991
  • MA: Sociology, University of California at Berkeley


  • Workplace and Labor Studies
  • Affirmative Action
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnography
  • Social theory
  • Feminist theory
  • Sociology of emotions
  • Research using personal narratives