Joey Sprague

Joey Sprague
  • Professor Emerita


JOEY SPRAGUE (PhD Wisconsin; Professor) is most interested in the ways gender, class, and race structure knowledge, from what we take to be common sense to the social organization of the academy. Recent publications include Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences (2nd edition, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), “Getting It Right,” in Gender and Peacebuilding: All Hands Required (edited by Maureen Flaherty et al., Lexington Books, 2015), “Economic Sociology vs. Real Life: the Case of Grocery Shopping,” (with Shelley Koch, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2014), and “The Standpoint of Art/Criticism: Cindy Sherman as Feminist Artist?” (with Jessica Sprague-Jones, Sociological Inquiry, 2011). She teaches feminist theory, feminist methodology, sociology of knowledge, and sociology of gender. She is co-editor of The Gender Lens book series (Rowman & Littlefield).



Sociology of Knowledge, Sex and Gender, Methodology, and Social Theory


Sex and Gender, Sociology of Knowledge, Methodology, and Social Theory

My area of expertise is in the Sociology of Knowledge, a field that looks at the impact of social factors on the creation and distribution of knowledge. Some of my work has explored the assumptions underlying what “we know” in the public sphere. For example, I found the Pro-Choice discourse emphasizes the one choice affluent people need to worry about—that to terminate a pregnancy while the Anti-abortion movement represents fetuses out of the context of their total dependency on the body of a woman, thus constructing the two as equals. I have also analyzed the systematic blinders operating in academic discourses. For example the literature on developmental disability emphasizes “self-determination” to the near exclusion of the way social assumptions about what is valuable, normal, and reasonable exacerbate the degree to which cognitive disabilities limit people’s options. The literature on Economic Sociology talks about work and economic activity by marginalizing the work people—mostly women—do to meet the needs of their families. I am revising a book that presents a feminist critique of common assumptions and practices in a range of social research method.

My current focus is moving from how social power gets expressed in the content of knowledge to how social forces influence the production of knowledge. I am particularly interested in formal and informal evaluation practices. I have looked at the way the use of apparently meritocratic practices like the use of student ratings and peer evaluation of teaching actually create gender and probably race biases. I am interviewing sociologists to learn the ways that evaluation practices shape their choices in research, teaching, and service.

Are the ways we make sense of our lives the only ways, or even the best ways to do so?

I want to understand how taken for granted conceptual frameworks, from common sense to professional scholarship, are socially shaped and distorted, particularly by inequalities of class, gender, and race.  While I have analyzed a wide variety of discourses, from public debates over abortion to how disability professionals talk about self-determination, my major focus has been on the social construction of knowledge in the social sciences. 

In Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers, I analyze the hidden assumptions and limitations of both mainstream and feminist discourses about how best to do research and develop guidelines that take into account the workings of social power so as to minimize bias.  I am in the beginning stages of a new project that examines the workings of the social institutions that organize the production of knowledge--the discipline and the academy.


Feminist Theory
Sociology of Knowledge
Research Methodology
Social Psychology

I enjoy teaching at every level of the university. Students bring to my classes a wealth of experience of how society works and I see my role as helping them develop their Sociological Imaginations to see their personal biographies in the context of larger social structures and daily social processes. I think students learn best when they are actively engaged in the process of learning through research and research-like experiences.

Selected Publications

Sprague, J. (in press). Feminist Epistemology, Feminist Methodology, and the Study of Gender. In B. Risman, C. Froyum, & W. J Scarborough (Eds.), Springer Handbook of the Sociology of Gender.

Sprague, J. (2016). The Gender LensFeminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences, 2nd Edition.

Sprague, J. (2015). Getting it Right. In M. Flaherty, J. Senehi, S. Byrne, T. Matyok, & H. Tuso Lexington (Eds.), Gender and Peacebuilding: All Hands Required.

Koch, S. & Sprague, J. (2014). Economic Sociology vs. Real Life: the Case of Grocery Shopping. American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

Sprague-Jones, J. & Sprague, J. (2011). The Standpoint of Art/Criticism: Cindy Sherman as Feminist Artist? Sociological Inquiry 81(4), 394-420.