Ashley Mears

Associate Professor

PhD, New York University (2009)

Sociology 265 | 617.358.0637 |

Curriculum Vitae


Working primarily at the intersection of economic and cultural sociology and gender studies, I study how societies value people and things. I have examined the cultural and gendered foundations of markets, aesthetic labor, the social foundations of knowledge in the global scouting of models and athletes, zero-priced goods and “free stuff,” consumption and elites, and theoretical implications of qualitative methods in the sociology of culture.

I received my B.A. in sociology from the University of Georgia in 2002, and went to graduate school in Sociology at New York University where I received my Ph.D. in 2009.


See my last interview in Consume This!, the ASA Consumers and Consumption Section, with Kjerstin Gruys in Scholars’ Conversations.

2020    Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit.  Princeton University Press.

My second book is a study of conspicuous consumption among the new global leisure class. It follows the global party circuit to map out the empirical basis of Veblen’s seminal concept and the micro and organizational dynamics that normalize ostentation in the context of extreme wealth concentration. Building upon now classical economic anthropologies of the potlatch and feminist analyses of the traffic in women, the book shows how conspicuous leisure is built upon a gendered economy of labor in which women’s bodies are assessed against men’s money. While critiquing the structures that uphold economic and gender inequality, the book outlines women’s agency and the seductions of inclusion in the exclusive world of elite consumption.

2019    “Des Fêtes très Exclusives. Les Organisateurs de Soirées VIP, des Intermédiaires à la Mobilité Contrariée.” Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales (“Servicing the Rich” Special Issue), 230.

2018   Socio-Economic Review Special Issue, “Elites, Economy, and Society.”  Co-edited issue with Bruno Cousin, Shamus Khan, and Ashley Mears.  Volume 16, Issue 2.

2017    (with Asaf Darr) “Local Knowledge, Global Networks: Scouting for Fashion Models and Football Players.” Poetics 62: 1-14.

2015    “Working for Free in the VIP: Relational Work and the Production of Consent.”  American Sociological Review 80(6): 1099–1122.

2015    “Girls as Elite Distinction:  The Appropriation of Bodily Capital.”  Special Issue on New Forms of Distinction, Poetics 53: 22–37.

2014    “Aesthetic Labor for the Sociologies of Work, Gender, and Beauty.”  Sociology Compass 8(12): 1330–1343.

2011    Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

My first book, based on my doctoral research, investigates the production of value in the fashion modeling market. Using ethnography and interviews, the book reveals gendered forms of labor, social networking, and discriminating logics that form the basis for assessing the value of any given fashion model’s look, while also legitimating the market’s steep inequalities and the precariousness of its labor force. The analyses combine theoretical tools from field theory and Zelizerian economic sociology to bring a sensitivity to the subjective worlds of market participants while critiquing the power structures they reproduce.

2009   (with Frèderic C. Godart) “How Do Cultural Producers Make Creative Decisions: Lessons from the Catwalk.” Social Forces 88(2): 671-692.