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Sarah E. Igo

Associate Professor of History
Associate Professor of Law

Sarah Igo’s research interests include modern American cultural, intellectual, legal, and political history, the sociology of knowledge, the history of the human sciences, and the history of the public sphere. Her prize-winning book, The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public (Harvard University Press, 2007), explores the relationship between survey data—opinion polls, sex surveys, consumer research—and modern understandings of self and nation. An Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times and one of Slate’s Best Books of 2007, The Averaged American was the winner of the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association and the Cheiron Book Prize as well as a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award of the American Sociological Association. She is currently completing a history of modern privacy, examined through legal debates, artistic and architectural movements, technological innovations, professional codes, and shifting social norms. 

Professor Igo has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Whiting Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. She has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a visiting fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, and a Havens Center Visiting Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the recipient of the Early Career Award from the Journal for the History of the Behavioral Sciences and the Forum for the History of the Human Sciences and the 2015 best paper award for “overall excellence and relevance to the practice of privacy law” of the Privacy Law Scholars Conference. The holder of a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Professor Igo has recently pursued additional training in sociolegal thought and jurisprudence at University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law and its Center for the Study of Law and Society.  She teaches a wide range of courses in twentieth-century U.S. cultural and intellectual history at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She joined the Vanderbilt history department after seven years at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was associate professor of history and the recipient of the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Research Interests

Modern U.S. cultural, intellectual, and political history; history of the human sciences; sociology of knowledge; history of the public sphere


Representative Publications

  • The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public, Harvard University Press (2007)
  • “Toward a Free-Range Intellectual History,” in The World of American Intellectual History (James Kloppenberg, Michael O’Brien, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen and Joel Isaac, editors), Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
  • “The Beginnings of the End of Privacy,” 17 Hedgehog Review 1 (2015)
  • “Knowing Citizens,” Sensate Journal (2012)
  • “Hearing the Masses: The Modern Science of Opinion in the United States,” in Engineering Society: The Role of the Human and Social Sciences in Modern Societies, 1880-1980 (Benjamin Ziemann, Kerstin Burckweh and Richard Wetzell, editors), Palgrave McMillan (2012)
  • “Subjects of Persuasion: Survey Research as a Solicitous Science,” in Social Knowledge in the Making (Charles Camic, Neil Gross, and Michele Lamont, editors), University of Chicago Press (2011)
  • “Great Expectations, Past Promises, and Golden Ages: Rethinking the ‘Crisis’ of Public Research Universities” in Knowledge Matters: The Public Mission of the Research University (Diana Rhoten and Craig Calhoun, editors), Columbia University Press (2011) (with Gustavo E. Fischman and Diana Rhoten)
  • “Public Opinion Polls” in The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History (Michael Kazin, editor), Princeton University Press (2010). Reprinted in The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, Princeton University Press (2011).
  • “Forum: Is Intellectual History a Neglected Field of Study?” 10 Historically Speaking 19 (2009)
  • “The Kinsey Reports,” Encyclopedia of Women in World History (Bonnie G. Smith, editor), Oxford University Press (2008)