Associate Professor, Sociology
Laura Grindstaff is an Associate Professor who came to UC Davis 10 years ago from the University of Pennsylvania. She teaches in the areas of popular culture, cultural sociology, gender and society, and field methods. Her research focuses broadly on American popular culture and its role in constructing gender, race, and class relations. Her first book, The Money Shot, is an ethnographic account of daytime television talkshows.
Based on interviews and participant observation behind-the-scenes, it explores how the production process works to transform the private experiences of “ordinary”people into extraordinary public performances, and what these performances tell us about class inequality in the US. Currently she is currently writing a second book, on cheerleading in American culture. In this book, she uses cheerleading as a vehicle to examine how and why young people embrace particular cultural scripts regarding gender and sexuality, why they participate in cheerleading when other sports are open to them, and current tensions between the “feminine” realm of cheerleading and the “masculine” realm of sport. Dr. Grindstaff is also publishing a series of articles on reality television, focusing on the constituency most neglected in current studies of reality tv: character-participants. Drawing on in-depth interviews, she explores why people desire television exposure, the contradictions between expectation and reality that participants experience, and the larger sociological implications of the rise of ordinary celebrity. She argues that reality programs, like daytime talk shows before them, are a form of self-service media, and that such media point to an important transformation in public discourse; specifically, they indicate a movement away from the concept of public sphere per se toward more a dramaturgical notion of public stage.