Ashley Mears

Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

I study the intersections of culture and markets.  After receiving my B.A. in sociology from the University of Georgia in 2002, I went on to graduate school at New York University for my Ph.D. in sociology in 2009.  In my teaching and research, I explore generally how people assign value to things, and I focus on how gender, race, and class inequalities inform the production and change of culture.

My recently published book, Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model, examines the production of value in fashion modeling markets. Through ethnography and interviews, I traced the backstage work and collaboration behind the fashion “look” in modeling markets in New York and London. I discovered an organized production process that goes into producing something most people take for granted as a natural state: beauty. These production processes are structured along racial and gendered lines, such that markets in cultural production like fashion ultimately become sites for the reproduction of cultural inequalities.

Building off of this research, I am starting a new project on the global context of culture and beauty. I am particularly interested in the cultural and economic underpinnings of the global model scouting industry, which supplies fresh talent, often from the Global South, to fashion cities like Paris, New York, and Tokyo. This research will trace the global flows of value in this culture industry and discover how beauty, race, and gender differences are imagined and produced across and within international borders.