Women and Gender Studies Program

Cheryl Laz

Associate Professor of Sociology

Office

120 Bedford Street, Portland Campus

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-4101

I've been at USM since 1991 as a member of the Sociology Department and the Women and Gender Studies Council. Prior to that, I taught at SUNY Stony Brook, where I earned my PhD. In addition to teaching and research, I currently serve as Chair of the Sociology Department and advisor to the national Sociology Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Delta.  Previously at USM, I worked to promote Writing across the Curriculum, and served on Faculty Senate and the General Education Council.  For the past three years, I've been part of an advisory board working with actor and director, Jennie Hahn, on a theater project called Of Farms and Fables. The original play about family farms in Maine will be performed in September 2011. When I'm not at USM, you might find me digging in the dirt, tending to chickens and dogs, playing with yarn, or reading.  

Research Interests

My current research focuses on broadly on systems of food and agriculture.  I am particularly interested in alternatives to the dominant, industrialized food system.   One project involves interviewing folks who participate in and create such alternatives to understand the motivations for these choices; alternative food practices, organizations, institutions, and networks; obstacles to eating outside of the dominant system; and the implications of alternatives for social movements and social change.  A second project focuses on the gendered dimensions eating locally and sustainably.          

My previous research examined the social construction of age.  In "Act Your Age," I develop a theoretical understanding of age as socially constructed, similar to the ways we construct gender and race. I contribute to the development of a sociology of age, as distinct from the more usual focus on gerontology and old age.  In "Age Embodied," I theorize age and embodiment as mutually constituting accomplishments. Material from interviews with 15 adults over 50 illustrates the utility of this theoretical framework and reveals four main dimensions of embodiment--activity, fitness, and health; energy; appearance; and ailments and illness--that respondents draw on as they consider what it means to be both embodied and aged (i.e., having an age). In addition, the interviews show how respondents make social comparisons and employ age-adjusted standards as they interpret their bodies, activities, and capabilities in relation to age.

Recent Publications

Cheryl Laz.  1998.  "Act your age."  Sociological Forum 13(1)85-113.
Cheryl Laz.  2003.  "Age embodied."  Journal of Aging Studies 17:503-519.