Andrea Press (1977)

Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Media Studies Department, University of Virgina

I came to Berkeley after being inspired in my undergraduate education (at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges) by some brilliant sociologists and dedicated teachers in sociology and anthropology. The Berkeley program was sufficiently interdisciplinary, and permitted such a degree of intellectual freedom, that it enabled me to learn enough about critical thinking (and a basic amount about research) to allow me to pursue projects that I hope will make a difference in people's lives. I think the program is tough ' but also more rewarding than most, if you survive ' precisely because of the demanding degree of freedom students have, and because the emphasis on innovative scholarship that matters places an enormous responsibility on students to produce work that is not only politically meaningful but also methodologically innovative, challenging categories accepted in the profession. After teaching at several other universities (University of Michigan and now University of Illinois, where I am a Research Professor) I see that most graduate programs are extremely different in precisely these respects, and I've come to value my experience at Berkeley enormously.

In my own work I have used ethnographic and interpretive methods to study media and culture in the U.S., and comparatively, from a feminist perspective. Studying with Todd Gitlin, Michael Burawoy, Arlie Hochschild, and Robin Lakoff : and taking courses in several other fields, allowed by the flexibility of our program : prepared me to use this kind of methodology in an interdisciplinary way. I am now employed primarily in a Communication and Cultural Studies program (Institute of Communications Research), and have always been allied with Women's Studies. My work focuses on examining communities of women and how they use popular culture to make sense of their lives ' my first book, WOMEN WATCHING TELEVISION, looked at women's lives generally, my second book, SPEAKING OF ABORTION, examined their interpretive practices around the issue of abortion. Both emphasize social class and generational comparisons. Currently I am looking at adolescents and the media they use, with an emphasis on internet practices, and also am writing about sexuality and social class in Hollywood film. I am becoming increasingly involved in program development at the University of Illinois, as we expand Media Studies (which I direct), begin a Film Studies curriculum, and produce a yearly film festival. Also I have been co-editing the journal Communication Review and a book series in Feminist Cultural Studies, the Media, and Political Culture.

Dissertation Title: 
Deconstructing the Female Audience: Class Differences in Women's Identification with Television Narrative and Characters
Dissertation Book Title: 
Women watching television : gender, class, and generation in the American television experience