Ivy Ken 2

Ivy Ken

Associate Professor of Sociology
409 H
Address: Phillips Hall
801 22nd St NW
Washington DC, 20052
Phone: 202-994-1886


In her recent scholarship, Ivy Ken considers what characterizes the relationships among race, class, and gender. Unsatisfied with the notion that these mechanisms intersect or interlock, Professor Ken uses food--specifically, sugar--as a metaphor that reveals some of the theoretical characteristics of the relationships among race, class, and gender at the points where they are produced, used, experienced, and digested.

This work has exposed the ambiguity and potential of the concept of mutual constitution in these relationships.  Professor Ken and her colleague Allison Suppan Helmuth explore this potential in the material semiotic realm of actor-network theory, identifying some of  the ways that structural sources of harm are constituted by and with social institutions.
Professor Ken’s conceptual work on food has also blossomed into substantive food scholarship, with school lunch policy as the primary focus. Washington DC is a particularly suitable location for this focus given the city's recent passage of the Healthy Schools Act, one of the country’s most progressive pieces of school food legislation, which strengthens links between farms and schools, and limits corporate influence on children’s diets. 

Professor Ken's studies of the use of research evidence in the implementation of this law reflects the growing emphasis at GW on issues of sustainability, including its robust Urban Food Task Force. Professor Ken, along with a multi-disciplinary group of faculty from that Task Force recently convened a year-long University Seminar on Food, which highlighted issues of food policy such as the Healthy Schools Act and the Farm Bill. This work complements a course Professor Ken teaches on the sociology of food, which has been supported by the GW Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service

Along with this course, Professor Ken regularly teaches classical and contemporary theory, with an eye to disrupting the typical narrative about theory that gets told in the discipline, and a graduate seminar on race, gender, and class. Professor Ken has also taught the department's newest course, The Sociological Imagination, which engages students with the discipline of sociology through service learning and civic engagement projects. Professor Ken is a recipient of The George Washington University's Bender Teaching Award and the Robert W. Kenny Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Current Research

Specifying Mutual Constitution: An Actor-Network Theory Approach to Race-Class-Gender (with Allison Suppan Helmuth)

Intersectionality and Mutual Constitution: The Origin Story in Sociology (with Allison Suppan Helmuth)

What Is a School Meal? Research Evidence in the Implementation of the DC Healthy Schools Act


PhD University of Georgia, 1999


2014. Ivy Ken. "A Healthy Bottom Line: Obese Children, a Pacified Public, and Corporate Legitimacy." Social Currents (June, forthcoming)

2010. Ivy Ken. Digesting Race, Class, and Gender: Sugar as a Metaphor.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

2008. Ivy Ken. "Beyond the Intersection: A New Culinary Metaphor for Race-Class-Gender Studies." Sociological Theory 26:2:152-172.

2007. Ivy Ken. "Race-Class-Gender Theory: An Image(ry) Problem." Gender Issues 24:2:1-20.

2007. Sandra Hanson, Ivy Kennelly, and Stephan Fuchs. "Perceptions of Fairness: Gender and Attitudes about Opportunity and Status among Women Scientists in Germany and the U.S." Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 13:3:231-258.

2007.  Ivy Kennelly. "Time Off as Economic Capital: Thwarting the Traps of the Segregated Occupational Field." Sociological Spectrum 27:183-205. (Awarded the Sociological Spectrum Article of the Year Designation from the Mid-South Sociological Association, 2007.)

2006. Ivy Kennelly and Roberta Spalter-Roth. "Parents on the Job Market: Resources and Strategies That Help Academic Parents Attain Tenure-Track Jobs." The American Sociologist 37:4:29-49.

2006. Ivy Kennelly. "Secretarial Work, Nurturing, and the Ethnic of Service." NWSA Journal 18:2:170-192.

2004. Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ivy Kennelly, and William Erskine. "The Best Time to Have a Baby: Institutional Resources and Family Strategies among Early Career Sociologists." American Sociological Association Research Brief.

2002. Ivy Kennelly. " 'I Would Never Be a Secretary': Reinforcing Gender in Segregated and Integrated Occupations." Gender & Society 16:5:603-324.

2001. Ivy Kennelly, Sabine Merz, and Judith Lorber. "Comment: What is Gender?" American Sociological Review 65:4:598-605. 

2001. Marina Karides, Joya Misra, Ivy Kennelly, and Stephanie Moller. "Representing the Discipline: Social Problems compared with ASR and AJS." Social Problems 48:1:111-128.

2000. Linda Grant, Ivy Kennelly, and Kathryn Ward. "Revisiting the Gender, Marriage, and Parenthood Puzzle in Scientific Careers." Women's Studies Quarterly 28:1&2:62-85.

1999. Ivy Kennelly. " 'That Single Mother Element': How White Employers Typify Black Women." Gender & Society 13:2:168-192.  (Awarded the 2001 Distinguished Article Award from the ASA Race, Gender, and Class Section)  [LINK: 

1999. Irene Browne and Ivy Kennelly. "Stereotypes and Realities: Black Women in the Labor Market." Pp. 302-326 in Latinas and African American Women at Work: Race, Gender, and Economic Inequality. Edited by Irene Browne. New York: Russell Sage Press.

Classes Taught

SOC 1002 - The Sociological Imagination
SOC 2103 - Classical Sociological Theory (WID) 
SOC 2104 - Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOC 2175 - Sociology of Sex and Gender
SOC 6239 - Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOC/WSTU 6268 - Race, Gender, and Class
SOC 6271 - Gender and Society 
SOC 0801 - Sociology of Food (Dean's Seminar, Service-Learning Course)

Digesting Race, Class, and Gender

How are the ways that race organizes our lives related to the ways gender and class organize our lives? How might these organizing mechanisms conflict or work together? In Digesting Race, Class, and Gender: Sugar as a Metaphor, GW Sociology Professor Ivy Ken likens race, class, and gender to foods – foods that are produced in fields, mixed together in bowls, and digested in our social and institutional bodies. In the field, one food may contaminate another through cross-pollination. In the mixing bowl, each food’s original molecular structure changes in the presence of others. And within a meal, the presence of one food may impede or facilitate the digestion of another. At each of these sites, the “foods” of race, class, and gender are involved in dynamic relationships with each other that have implications for the shape – or the taste – of our social order.