Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Nancy W Hanrahan

Nancy W Hanrahan

Nancy W Hanrahan

Associate Professor

critical theory, cultural sociology, feminist theory, music and the arts

Nancy Weiss Hanrahan is a specialist in cultural sociology, sociology of music, critical theory and feminist theory.  Currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at George Mason University, she received her Ph.D. in 1994 from the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School for Social Research.  She served as Director of Women and Gender Studies at Mason from 2002-2009, and spent the spring, 2011 semester as a Fulbright Scholar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a specialist in feminist theory. 

Dr. Hanrahan's current research focuses on the contradictions at the heart of musical experience in the digital age.  She is working on a new book, Music and Democracy in the Digital Age, with two aims.  The first is to explore the impact of digitization on the aesthetic experience of music, understood broadly as an openness to possibility and to encountering difference.  This part of the project proceeds through an empirically based study of how digital technologies have reshaped the ways in which we discover music as well as the listening experience itself.  The second is to contextualize the contemporary discourse of the 'democratization' of music in debates about music and democracy that have been going on in the US since the 1830's.  This historical account demonstrates the limitations of the current discourse at the same time that it provides important resources for thinking more expansively about aesthetic experience, music and democratic possibility.  

Before embarking on an academic career, Dr. Hanrahan spent ten years in the music business, as a radio announcer in Boston, and as program director of New Jazz at the Public, Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York City. 

Dr. Hanrahan teaches undergraduate courses in classical and contemporary sociological theory and graduate courses in critical theory, feminist social theory and the sociology of culture. She is the author of Difference in Time: A Critical Theory of Culture (Praeger, 2000) and co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Culture (Blackwell Publishers, 2004).

Selected Publications

“La Découverte Musicale en Régime Numérique: Personnalisation, Popularité et Possibilité Esthétique,” In Philippe Le Guern, ed.  Ou Va La Musique? Numerimorphose et Nouvelles Experiences d’Ecoute. (Presses des Mines: Paris) 2016.

Big Data, Little Music”, Public Seminar, March, 24, 2014.

“’If the People Like it, it Must be Good’: Criticism, Democracy and the Culture of Consensus” Cultural Sociology, Volume 7 No 1, March 2013.

Music, or the Triumph of Technics?”  January 19, 2012.

 “Re-Imagining Critique in Cultural Sociology” (with Sarah S. Amsler) in John R. Hall, Laura Grindstaff, and Ming-cheng Lo, eds., Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology (Routledge: London) 2010.

Dissertations Supervised

Nicole B. Hindert, The Jeito of the Brazilian Mulata: Race, Identity, and Distinction in a Racial Democracy (2016)