About Me

Greetings! I’m Tim Dowd and, as of August 2015, I am Chair of Emory Sociology.

I came to Emory Sociology after earning a BA in Sociology at Grand Canyon College (1986), a MA in Sociology at Arizona State University (1988) and a PhD in Sociology at Princeton University (1996).

Since arriving at Emory, I’ve gone from being an Assistant Professor of Sociology to a Full Professor. I also have had ongoing affiliations with Emory’s Film and Media Studies, its Graduate Division of Religion (as part of its “American Religious Cultures” course of study), and its Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and I received the Provost’s Emory Williams Teaching Award.

As for some of my additional appointments, I was Erasmus Chair for the Humanities at Erasmus University Rotterdam (2007-2008), Editor-in-Chief of Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts (2010-2014), Fulbright Specialist at University of Amsterdam’s Department of Sociology (2013), Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Culture Section (2014-2015), and Chair of the Laney Graduate School Executive Council (2015-2016).

If pressed to claim a particular theory, I would describe myself as an “institutionalist” — a theory described in my co-authored article in Annual Review of Sociology. In particular, I am fascinated with the processes by which classifications and practices become widely accepted and taken-for-granted (i.e., “institutionalized”), as well as how particular classifications and practices can be “de-institutionalized” and replaced by new ones. I’ve pursued this fascination in three broad ways.

Vinyl RecordsFirst, I have researched evolving aesthetic classifications. This includes publications on those shifting ideas about genre and race that facilitated the rise and expansion of the rhythm and blues market in the early to mid 1900s, the evolving orchestral canon from the early 1800s to the present, the strategies by which critics evaluate music, and the retrospective consecration by which creators and their works are eventually cast as “classic” and “canonical” decades (or centuries) later.

Business ConcernsSecond, I have investigated evolving business strategies and their implications. This includes publications on railroad strategies in pre- and post-antitrust eras that helped build the modern US economy, the growth of decentralized production among multinational record companies that expanded the diversity of music available in the 20th century, and the building of a “do-it-yourself” infrastructure for a global music scene that lacked mainstream attention or support in the 21st century.

Street MusicianFinally, I have studied how evolving classifications and strategies impinge upon creative workers. This includes published and ongoing research addressing how the rise of decentralized production in the US record industry benefitted the success of both African American musicians and women musicians, how connections and generalism help jazz musicians navigate their freelance labor market and also help composers adapt to the world of online music, and how various forms of capital and skills can foster arts-based employment for arts alumni in the 21st century (this last line of research is supported by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts).

This focus on the institutionalization process has led me to emphasize the importance of historical context, the implications of microlevel processes for mesolevel fields, and the utility of bringing multiple theories into dialogue. While much of my research addresses music, my intellectual concerns are much broader than that. As editor of Poetics, for example, I enjoyed featuring cultural sociology that runs the gamut in terms of methodologies, theories and traditions. As a professor, I likewise emphasize to students the diversity that marks the study of culture.

My CV and course syllabi are available on the Emory Sociology website and most of my publications are available at both ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Of course, feel free to contact me if you would like a copy of any publications or syllabus.

Essential tools for this music sociologist

Essential tools for this music sociologist

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