Wendy Espeland, a sociologist from Northwestern University, works in the areas of culture, law, and organizations. She is interested in classification, cognition, and the creation of cultural boundaries. Her work investigates how people in different contexts interpret and enact rationality.
While at the Radcliffe Institute, she will be writing a book that investigates, through a series of case studies, the political and social consequences of quantification, including educational rankings, environmental regulation, college admissions, and measures of sexual behavior.
Espeland received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1992. Her book The Struggle for Water: Rationality, Politics, and Identity in the American Southwest (University of Chicago Press, 1998) was awarded the Rachel Carson Book Prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science, the Best Book Award by the Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, and the Louis Brownlow Book Award by the National Academy of Public Administration. She has received fellowships from the Russell Sage Foundation, the American Bar Foundation, and Australian National University.