Princeton University Shield Princeton University

Research Clusters

Research clusters provide a framework for research and training at the doctoral level and provide a means of sustaining interlocking communities of professors and students who aspire to the highest scholarly distinction in a particular area of departmental strength. Each cluster is defined by several members of the faculty who have earned national and international prominence as scholars in these fields. 

Clusters organize weekly workshops as a forum for students and faculty to meet on a regular basis and to present work in progress. Courses - ranging from seminars to tutorials - are offered on a regular basis to introduce graduate students to the field and provide them with advanced training such that they can pursue original research. Funded research projects, affiliations with other programs and centers at Princeton and occasional conferences round out the activities of the clusters. The department is thus especially attractive to graduate students who wish to specialize in one or more of these clusters.

Comparative, Regional and Political Sociology
This cluster emphasizes macro-sociological comparisons among the world's leading industrial and developing nations, paying special attention to differences within and among capitalist and socialist nations. This type of analysis is especially effective when students are knowledgeable about two or more regions and have the requisite language skills to do work in these regions. Faculty in the department currently specialize in comparative studies involving Japan, China, India, Korea, Russia, the major western European countries, and Latin America. Students with comparative interests also work with faculty affiliated with East Asian, European, Russian Studies, Near East, and Latin American programs, and are often supported with funds from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies. Princeton also maintains special exchange arrangements with such institutions as Science Po in Paris. Students are eligible to participate in the Global Network on Inequality, a set of research institutions in Western Europe and Japan that have agreed to accept our doctoral students for research internships and whose faculty visit our campus periodically.

This is a cooperative venture between the Sociology department and the Office of Population Research (OPR), a distinguished unit which is one of the oldest and most internationally renowned in its field. OPR offers sociology graduate students a supportive intellectual environment, opportunities to participate in diverse projects either independently or in collaboration with faculty, and exposure to numerous presentations by visiting social scientists. The weekly Notestein Seminar in Demography is a focal point for students and faculty interested in demography. Students specializing in the field normally take an intensive two-semester sequence in population issues and demographic techniques during their first year, the final exam in which composes part of their General Examination. The university also provides a separate Ph.D. program in demography for students who may not be interested in sociology.

Economic Sociology
This cluster focuses on the social institutions and cultural frameworks in which economic behavior is embedded. Research in this area includes such topics as the social meanings of money and work, the social organization of markets and firms, and the dynamics of labor unions. Students interested in this field join the rest of their colleagues in the weekly Economic Sociology Workshop. Several faculty within the department specialize in this area and offer training through a variety of seminars, funded research projects, and cooperative arrangements with such units as the Industrial Relations Section of the Economics Department and the Woodrow Wilson School. An on-going workshop and a series of colloquium speakers that bring leading sociologists and economists to campus from other universities are also part of the training provided in this cluster.

Ethnographic methods have an important role to play in the development and confirmation of sociological theory, as well as the discovery of anomalies and new domains of empirical research. The Princeton Sociology department includes a critical mass of prominent scholars engaged in this approach, making it a leading center of sociological ethnography. Princeton's ethnographers join with their compatriots in other universities in Serving as ambassadors of sociology to the wider public through enduring books of interest to students, laymen, and policy makers. Although many ethnographic studies have focused on life in cities, ethnographers also study rural villages, suburban communities, families, and business firms and nonprofit organizations. The ethnography cluster offers a year-long training course composed of four mini-seminars: The Ethnographic Tradition; The Logic of Inquiry in Ethnographic Research; Fieldwork Methods; and Ethnographic Analysis and Writing.

Migration & Development
This cluster builds on the premise that the study of international development is an intrinsic dimension of population movement, both within and across national boundaries. In addition to the study of immigration to the United States and the adaptation experiences of immigrant groups now and in the past, course offerings and research seminars consider the causes and consequences of population movement in both receiving and sending societies, as well as the policy implications of migration. This cluster is bolstered by a Center on Migration and Development housed in the Woodrow Wilson School in partnership with the Office of Population Research. Course offerings will include: Theories of International Development; Immigration and Ethnicity; and Migration in the Periphery. Related courses include: Urbanization and Development; Population and Development; Demography of International Migration; and Gender and Development. The Cluster sponsors a monthly seminar involving scholars from within and outside the Princeton Campus.

Sociology Of Culture
Students interested in historical and contemporary theories of culture, including both the major American and European schools of cultural theory, will want to participate in the activities of this cluster. Faculty and graduate students in the sociology of culture encourage empirical research involving a combination of quantitative (or survey), ethnographic, historical, and textual methods. Substantive topics of interest to faculty in this cluster include the institutional settings in which culture is produced, symbolic boundaries that define status distinctions, the construction of religious identities and institutions, and the tensions inherent in such contemporary debates as individualism vs. communitarianism. These topics are often subjects of discussion in the department's Weekly Seminar on Culture. Students in this cluster are often associated with the Center for the Study of Religion, the University Center for Human Values, the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, the Program in Political Philosophy, or the Program in European Cultural Studies.

Stratification & Inequality
This cluster emphasizes investigations of differences in wealth, prestige, and power as determined by various dimensions of class, race, ethnicity, and gender. Research in this area encompasses such contemporary issues as poverty, single-parent households, the wellbeing of children, health and education reform, the changing nature of the welfare state, the changing composition of national elites, and the urban environment. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, the African-American Studies Program, and the Industrial Relations Section of the Economics Department are nationally renowned programs that add resources to this cluster. An informal biweekly seminar brings together faculty and graduate students working in this area.