About this site

Welcome to my site. My friends and I created this to share some of my work and - more importantly - to invite an exchange of ideas.


I've been a sociologist for a long time. and ventured into a number of different fields over the years: birth and midwifery (which I still think of as my home base); the new genetics and reproductive technologies; medical sociology; bioethics; issues in disability; adoption; race; and now I'm exploring food studies too. Some of you might know my work in one of these areas, others in a different area. What would be really interesting would be to have people talk, with each other and with me, across areas. I've tried, with some success over the years, to talk to midwives about genetics; to encourage people who do new reproductive technologies to think about home birth; to have bioethicists pay more attention to what medical sociology can offer; to get people in Food Studies thinking where midwifery issues overlap with their concerns. These are invariably the most fun and stimulating conversations I've ever been a part of. Connecting people, connecting ideas, weaving the webs that pull us together - nothing could make me happier. So this site, a gift from my friends, is my place to do this kind of weaving.


We've grouped my work by area - but please, if you're here because you have gotten anything useful out of my work in one area, do poke around for a minute in another. Bring your insights and wisdom and experience to a new place, a new issue. Let's see what we can weave together.


- Barbara Katz Rothman

The Eastern Sociological Society

This year I was the president of the ESS, and set the theme for our annual meeting as

My Day Job: Politics and Pedagogy in Academia

For most of us, what we present at meetings like the ESS is our art, our life, our valued work.  And what we do to pay the mortgage, put shoes on the kids, get the money to go to meetings like this, is teach. 

Some of us -- more and more of us -- are doing our teaching as piece work, course by course, and as in pre-union days, without any 'benefits.'  As courses move online, for some that work --like old style garment industry piecework -- is done in our homes, one corner of our living space used for production, providing our own supplies, laptops now rather than sewing machines. For others, luckier, teaching is done as a full time job with full benefits, from a solid college or university base, whether on-line, in person or both, doing our 10 community college courses a year, or our 6 or so undergraduate courses, or even just a lovely one or two doctoral courses, or whatever mix we've worked out for ourselves.  But that teaching, our day job, most often slips under the radar when we meet as professional sociologists.

At this meeting, we can and will talk about our interesting publications and our grant-funded research and all of that -- but let us also talk about our day jobs.  While papers will be welcomed in all areas of sociology, and mini-conferences will address a range of issues and concerns, the theme of the conference will be our day jobs.  What is happening to universities and colleges as America becomes ever-increasingly corporatized and privatized, as more and more of all work is outsourced, as students and their families become 'customers' and faculty are responsible for 'product'?  How are we managing, coping, and rising above all that?   How do we remain dedicated to our craft of teaching, our vocation of transmitting our sociological imagination?

The meeting was a success, thanks to the hard work of the program committee, headed by Vilna Treitler and the wonderful ESS headquarters team headed by Emily Mahon.
Attendance was good, about as good as it has ever been in Boston I’m told, and the panels on the theme were thoughtful, well-attended and addressed the issue.  I’ll be working on turning my Presidential Address into an article for our journal, SOCIOLOGICAL FORUM.  Thanks for all who came and worked on this! 

On Surrogacy

The idea that a pregnant woman is not the mother of the baby in her belly infuriates me, and frightens me with its implications.  So when I saw Jeffrey Kirby's article "Transnational Gestational Surrogacy: Does it Have to be Exploitative?" scheduled for publication in the American Journal of Bioethics, I just had to respond.  It was published with the title "The Legacy of Patriarchy as Context for Surrogacy: or Why are we quibbling over this?" in AJOB, April 2014, Vol. 14, #5,  as one of their 'open peer review commentaries.' 

You can access a copy of the article here.

The other recent piece I have done on surrogacy is another book review. I reviewed Amrita Pande's WOMBS IN LABOR: TRANSNATIONAL COMMERCIAL SURROGACY IN INDIA. You can look at this one, and the older one on Teman's book listed below.

And if you really want a good, insightful, and deeply (and appropriately!) critical look at Indian surrogacy, see the just published DISCOUNTED LIFE: THE PRICE OF GLOBAL SURROGACY IN INDIA, just out from NYU press.

Thoughts on the state of Sociology

I've done two reviews for CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGY, the journal of book reviews published by the American Sociological Association, that seem to go together. They are both reviews of memoir-like compilations of work by two major senior figures in Sociology. It is rather odd, at this stage of things, to be the younger person reviewing the more senior, looking back at a life and a career. One of these was very hard to do: Peter Berger was one of the sociologists whose work shaped me, made me understand the world or maybe more accurately reflected back at me the way I was understanding the world and made that legitimate. Neil Smelser was more of a 'background' figure for me, someone whose work is clearly important in shaping Sociology, but not in shaping my sociology. All in all, reading these books has reinforced my decision never ever to write a memoir!

The Berger review can be found here, and the Smelser review here.