Karin Peterson, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor of Sociology
206 Zageir Hall

Office Hours

  • Mon: 

    • 1 - 3 p.m.
  • Wed: 

    • 2 - 4 p.m.

I discovered sociology when I was an undergraduate at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. My favorite book as an undergraduate was Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (much to the dismay of students in my classical social theory classes). I was intrigued with the idea that religious beliefs could be linked to economic behavior, so intrigued that I integrated the book into papers for other courses.

My interest in the workings of culture was developed further in graduate school. I began my graduate career in France where I studied the Sociology of Art. Learning the discipline in another country taught me that we Americans do not “know it all,” nor do we write all the important books in our field. I conducted two research projects while in France – the first was a project on how women artists manage their reputations as artists; the second was a study of how new art galleries work to create reputations in a competitive art market. When I came back to the United States, I continued my interest in art by studying a new field in sociology called the Sociology of Culture. I also studied the related fields, Sociology of Knowledge, and Sociology of Science. My dissertation explored how marginalized cultural products (things like quilts, African masks, and blown glass) have come to be treated as fine Art during the twentieth century. I have published articles based on my dissertation research, including an article and a book chapter on the patchwork quilt as fine art. I have also co-authored a book chapter with Alice Weldon (Foreign Languages) about women's experiences in the academy. My current research includes a continued exploration of the cultural reception of quilts in the fine art world, as well as an emerging project on textiles more generally. I am also interested in the construct of body image as it relates to women and weight. Finally, along with six other colleagues from across campus, I participate in a “food cluster” – a group of courses that examine issues of food production and consumption.


  • Ph.D., University of Virginia, Sociology
  • Diplôme d’études approfondies, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), Sociology (specialization in Sociology of the Arts)
  • Maîtrise, Université de Paris V, Sociology
  • B.A., Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Sociology

Courses Taught

  • Social and Cultural Inquiry
  • Sociology of Gender
  • Feminist Theory
  • Technology in Everyday Life
  • Senior Seminar in Women, Gender, Sexuality
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Popular Culture/High Culture

Teaching and Research Interests

Culture, Gender, Feminist and Queer Theory, Health and Agency, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Qualitative Methods, Social Theory