About Susan S. Silbey

Political Science

Susan S. Silbey is Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the former Chair of the Department of Sociology at Wellesley College, where she also directed the Programs in American Studies and Technology Studies. She has written extensively on the ways in which the rule of law has become accepted and taken for granted as part of everyday life in American communities, consumer transactions, schools, and research laboratories. Dr. Silbey attended the New York City public schools, receiving a B.A. with honors from CUNY, Brooklyn College. She received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and completed post doctoral training in social theory and ethnomethodology in the Sociology Department at Brandeis University. She has been a member of numerous research and editorial boards and has served as an advisor to the Massachusetts Supreme Court Race and Bias Commission, the New Jersey Supreme Court Task Force on Minority Concerns, the U.S. Federal Court First Circuit Gender, Race, and Ethnic Bias Task Forces. She has served as President of the Law and Society Association, Chair of the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association, and served for three years as editor of the Law and Society Review (1998-2000). In November 2006 she received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Ecole Normale Superiere Cachan in Paris.

Dr. Silbey has received awards and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, American Association of University Women, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Harvard Law School, National Science Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, United States Department of Justice, State Justice Institute, National Institutes of Justice, W.T. Grant Foundation, and Mellon Foundation. In 2009 she won the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and the Harry Klavern Jr. Prize for advancing the sociology of law.

From 1988-1996, Dr. Silbey co-edited Studies in Law, Politics and Society and is currently one of the editors of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society and is on the Editorial Board for the Annual Review of Law and Social Science, American Political Science Review, and Regulation & Governance. She is the author of dozens of scholarly publications including What the Lower Courts Do: The Work and Role of Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (1979), The Availability of Law (1982),The Consequences of Responsive Regulation (1984), Who Speaks for the Consumer? (1984), The Pull of Policy Audience (1988) (with Austin Sarat),Mediation Mythology (1993), Let Them Eat Cake: Globalization, Post-modern Colonialism and the Possibilities of Justice (1997), Ideology, Justice, and Power(1998), and two volumes of Law and Science: Epistemological, Evidentiary, and Relational Engagements and Regulation of Property, Practices, and Products(2008). Some of her recent work on popular culture and law (with Patrick Ewick) has appeared as Subversive Stories and Hegemonic Tales: Toward a Sociology of Narrative (1995), Common Knowledge and Ideological Critique: The Importance of Knowing Why the “Haves Come Out Ahead” (1999) and The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life (University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Her current research looks at the roles and conceptions of law in scientific laboratories, comparing the place of law in expert communities and popular culture. She is supervising an experiment in ethnographic fieldwork, as well as research on the development of new safety regimes in research labs and the effects of laboratory organization on gender hierarchies in science. In addition, she is conducting a six year longitudinal study of engineering education, following a cohort of students through four different engineering schools.

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