Ann Swidler

Ann Swidler

Ann Swidler

Professor of the Graduate School
444 Social Sciences Building
510 644-0858
Curriculum Vitae
Research Interests
Culture, religion, theory, institutionalization, African responses to HIV/AIDS; social ecologies of religion in Africa; chieftaincy, congregational religion and capacities for collective action

Ann Swidler (PhD UC Berkeley; BA Harvard) studies the interplay of culture and institutions. She asks how culture works–both how people use it and how it shapes social life. She is best known for her books Talk of Love, and the co-authored works Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, as well as her classic article, “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies” (American Sociological Review, 1986).  Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (Chicago, 2001), examines how actors select among elements of their cultural repertoires and how culture gets organized “from the outside in” by Codes, Contexts, and Institutions. Her newest book (with Susan Cotts Watkins) is A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa (Princeton, 2017), which explores the intersection of global and local responses to the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in institutions that can create collective goods has led to work on African chieftaincy, religious congregations, and NGOs, and to her current project on Social Ecologies of Religion in Malawi.  She is studying religious congregations and the networks they form between villages and among pastors and sheikhs, village headmen, and local government officials in order to understand the cultural and religious sources of collective capacities for social action.

Professor Swidler teaches sociology of culture, sociology of religion, and sociological theory. Her interests increasingly touch on political sociology, development, and sociology of science and medicine as well.

Representative Publications


    book cover for Challenging Modernity 2024  Bellah and contributors, Challenging Modernity. Edited, introduction, and conclusion by Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, and Tipton. (Columbia University Press).


  •  book cover for A Fraught Embrace2017 A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa (Princeton University Press) (with Susan Watkins).



  • book cover for Talk of Love2001 Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (University of Chicago Press).
  • book cover for Meaning and Modernity2001 (eds.), Meaning and Modernity: Religion, Polity, Self (University of California Press). (with Madsen, Sullivan, Tipton)
  • book cover for Inequality by Design1996 Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth (Princeton University Press). (with Fischer, Hout, Jankowski, Lucas, and Voss)
  • book cover for The Good Society1991 The Good Society (Alfred A. Knopf). (with Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, and Tipton)
  • book cover for Habits of the Heart1985 Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (University of California Press). (with Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, and Tipton)
  • book cover for Organization Without Authority 1979 Organization Without Authority: Dilemmas of Social Control in Free Schools (Harvard University Press).

Selected Articles and Chapters