Ivy Ken

Ivy Ken
Associate Professor of Sociology
409 H
Phillips Hall
801 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20052
[email protected]

For Ivy Ken, sociology is the study of why things don’t have to be this way.  The discipline contributes to our understanding that Black lives must matter; that women can be paid fair wages; and even that food on children’s school lunch trays can be fresh and tasty.  Like most sociologists, Professor Ken centers her scholarship on the social structures that contribute to problems like these.  In addition, steeped in intersectional theory, she studies what constitutes these social structures as they are.

Professor Ken regularly teaches 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. She also teaches the department's newest course, The Sociological Imagination, which engages students with the discipline of sociology through local 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

In her most recent work, Professor Ken studies "The Missing Memphis School."  The Memphis School comprises a group of sociologists from diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds who wrote and worked together at the Center for Research on Women in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1980s.  These scholars obtained funding to study race, class, and gender, they mentored each other and another generation of scholars, and they produced discipline- and field-shaping scholarship.  Their work, which predated and shaped Kimberlé Crenshaw’s influential law articles on intersectionality, centered the structural locations of Black women in education and work.  Through an examination of their scholarly articles, grant proposals, working paper series, and personal writings, Prof. Ken, along with co-author Allison Suppan Helmuth, highlights the unique qualities and legacy of the Memphis School’s collaborative and novel approach to intersectionality.

Complementing this focus on intersectionality is Prof. Ken's work on state-corporate harm in the meatpacking industry, with Kenneth Sebastian León.  In this work, Ken and León focus on the practices of coercion, confinement, and racialization that render the industry's workforce disposable.  In the moment of COVID-19, these are literally necropolitical practices in which violence against workers is legitimized and their deaths are foreseen.  Further, Ken and León argue that meatpacking companies' state-facilitated move from cities to rural and suburban areas constitutes a form of internal settler-colonialism in terms of land and labor.


PhD, Sociology, University of Georgia, 1999

MA, Sociology, University of Georgia, 1995

Certificate in Women's Studies, University of Georgia, 1995

BA, Sociology and Business, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, 1993


2021.  Ivy Ken and Allison Suppan Helmuth.  “Not Additive, Not Defined:  Mutual Constitution in Intersectional Scholarship.”  Feminist Theory.  DOI 10.1177/1464700120987393

2021.  Ivy Ken and Kenneth S. León.  "Necropolitical Governance and State-Corporate Harms: COVID-19 and the U.S. Pork Packing Industry."  Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime.  DOI 10.1177/2631309X211011037

2019. Kenneth Sebastian León and Ivy Ken. "Legitimized fraud and the state-corporate criminology of food - a Spectrum-based theory". Crime, Law, and Social Change. DOI 10.1007/s10611-018-9787-6

2017.  Kenneth Sebastian León and Ivy Ken.  “Food Fraud and the Partnership for a 'Healthier' America: A Case Study in State-Corporate Crime.”  Critical Criminology DOI 10.1007/s10612-017-9363-x. 

2016.  Ivy Ken and Benjamín Elizalde.  "“ ‘We Began to See that We Were Valuable’:  Rural Chilean Women’s Transformation from Depressed Wives to Organic Farmers.”  Yearbook of Women’s History 36, Special Issue: Gendered Food Practices from Seed to Waste.

2014. Ivy Ken. "Big Business in the School Cafeteria." Contexts 13:84-87.

2014. Ivy Ken. "A Healthy Bottom Line: Obese Children, a Pacified Public, and Corporate Legitimacy." Social Currents 1:2:130-148.

2014.  Ivy Ken. "Profit in the Food Desert: Walmart Stakes its Claim." Theory in Action 7:4:13-32 (Special Issue: Food Justice and Sustainability).

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)

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.

In Progress

Ivy Ken and Kenneth Sebastian León.  "Meatpackers as Settler Colonialists: Land and Labor"

Ivy Ken and Allison Suppan Helmuth.  "The Memphis School"

Ivy Ken and Kenneth Sebastian León.  "Legal Crime in the Meatpacking Industry:  Union Busting, Efficiency, and Consolidation"

Ivy Ken. “What Is School Food? The Academic Achievement Actor-Network”

Blogs, Op-Eds, and Videos

“Caregivers, We See You.”  George Washington University Faculty Association (GWUFA) blog.  Posted 15 July 2020.  Reposted on Women In and Beyond the Global blog 18 July 2020.

“Disney Survey Demoralizes, Glosses Over Faculty Members’ Concerns.”  The GW Hatchet, Op-Ed.  Posted 15 November 2018.

"From Voiceless to Valuable." GW Food Institute commentary.  Posted 22 May 2017.

"Good Food Purchasing Programs." GW Food Institute commentary. Posted 24 January 2017.

"Cultivating Better Urban Food Systems," at the 2015 Food Tank Summit, Washington DC.

“Cheap Food and Women’s Work.” With Benjamín Elizalde. Gender & Society blog. Posted 10 March 2016.

“White Fear of Black Success.” Women In and Beyond the Global blog. Posted 19 June 2016.

“In Chile, Lunch Ladies Beaten and Detained.” Women In and Beyond the Global blog. Posted 16 October 2015.

“Keep Food Companies Out of WHO Policy Making!” Women In and Beyond the Global blog. Posted 4 June 2015.

“No Black Children Allowed.” Women In and Beyond the Global blog. Posted 7 May 2015.

Classes Taught

Undergraduate Courses:
SOC 1000 - Sociology of Food (Dean's Seminar, Service-Learning)
SOC 1002 - The Sociological Imagination (GPAC Local/Civic Engagement & Critical Thinking)
SOC 2103 - Classical Sociological Theory (Writing in the Disciplines) 
SOC 2104 - Contemporary Sociological Theory (GPAC Critical Thinking)
SOC 2175 - Sociology of Sex and Gender
SOC 4195 - Senior Research Seminar (Writing in the Disciplines, GPAC Oral Communication)
HONR 2048 - School Lunch Policy


Graduate Courses:
SOC 6239 - Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOC/WGSS 6268 - Race, Gender, and Class
SOC 6271 - Gender and Society