Dr. Barber received her Ph.D. from University of Southern California and joined the SIUC faculty in 2011. She has a full appointment in Sociology and is faculty affiliate in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. Her research and teaching focus on issues of gender and social inequalities.
Barber is on the Gender & Society Editorial Board, is an elected member of the American Sociological Association’s council for the section on Sex and Gender —the largest section of the ASA—is past council member for the ASA section on Sociology of the Body & Embodiment, and has served as a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Barber’s book, Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry (Rutgers University Press, 2016), looks at the social relations involved in selling beauty to men. Drawing from ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews with employees and clients at high-service men’s salons, this book shows how women beauty workers use feelings, touch, and appearance as institutionalized strategies to create a classed and heterosexualized space for men's status-enhancing consumer practices, as well as to navigate the gendered and sexualized constraints of their jobs.
In Styling Masculinity, Barber brings together the scholarship on the culture of consumption with the sociology of service work, weaving a story about how classed gender relations are forged during the emergence of a new consumer market. Popular rhetoric suggests that men’s participation in the beauty industry means a closing of the gender gap, with men becoming more like women. Barber shows, however, that men’s consumer experiences are produced within organizations invested in upholding performances of middle-class hetero-masculinity, and with it social differences and unequal relationships between men and women.
Findings from this research were also published in Gender & Society, here.
Barber is working with Sociologist Kelsy Kretschmer to design a study that looks at men’s participation in feminist protest. This continues her focus on gender-boundary crossing and gender in times of change. Using long-running Take Back the Night marches and the more recent SlutWalk events as case studies, this project explores how shifting boundaries around who can participate in these anti-sexual assault protests shape feminist messages about equality. Preliminary work on this project is published in the journals, Mobilization and Contexts.
Other projects Dr. Barber is working on include: 1) how gender, class, and race shape experiences of disaster, especially Hurricane Katrina and the Southern Alberta Flood. See existing work on this topic in Sociological Spectrum and Race, Gender & Class; and 2) the effect of new technologies on multi-sited ethnographic research. See her co-authored work on this in Journal of Contemporary Society.
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION AND INTEREST
- Gender and Sexuality
- Social Inequalities
- Sociology of Culture
- Work and Occupations
- Qualitative Methodology
- Disaster Research
Kelsy Kretschmer and Kristen Barber. Forthcoming. "Men at the March: Feminist Movement Boundaries and Men's Participation in Take Back the Night and SlutWalk." Mobilization.
Kristen Barber. 2016. "'Men Wanted': Heterosexual Aesthetic Labor in the Masculinization of the Hair Salon." Gender & Society 30(4): 618-642.
Kristen Barber and Timothy J. Haney. 2016. “The Experiential Gap in Disaster Research: Feminist Epistemology and the Contribution of Local Affected Researchers." Sociological Spectrum 36(2): 57-74.
Shiloh Deitz and Kristen Barber. 2015. “Geographies of Inequalities: Urban Renewal and the Race, Gender, and Class of Post-Katrina New Orleans.” Race, Gender & Class 134-159.
Kristen Barber. 2015. “Styled Masculinity: Men’s Consumption of Salon Hair Care and the Construction of Difference.” In (Re)Theorizing Masculinities, edited by C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges. Cambridge, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
Ronald E. Hallett and Kristen Barber. 2014. “Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 43(3): 306-320.
Kristen Barber and Kelsy Kretschmer. 2013. “Walking Like a Man?” Contexts: Understanding People in their Social Worlds. 12(2): 40-45.
Kristen Barber. 2008. “The Well-Coiffed Man: Class, Race, and Heterosexual Masculinity in the Hair Salon.” Gender & Society 22(4): 455-476.
SELECTION OF COURSES TAUGHT
- Women & Men in Contemporary Society, SOC 223/WGSS 223
- Elements of Sociological Research Methods, SOC 312
- Sociology of Gender, SOC 423/WGSS 442
Graduate: M.A. and Ph.D.
- Social Research Methods and Design, SOC 512
- Qualitative Methodology, SOC 514
- Gender and Work, SOC 530