Erin O’Connor

  • Erin O’Connor
  • Erin O’Connor


Associate Professor of Sociology
Chair, Department of Politics and Human Rights


Department of Politics and Human Rights
Department of Natural Resources, Affiliated Faculty of Environmental Studies



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Erin O’Connor is an Associate Professor of Sociology as well as Affiliated Faculty of Environmental Studies, whose coursework contributes to the college’s BFA in Art. She is a 2023 recipient of the Rakow Grant for Glass Research at the Corning Museum of Glass. Her current project, “Following the Glass: mapping the ‘material life’ of glass batch and its kin” seeks to re-tell the story of studio glassblowing from the vantage of batch-making. 

Dr. O’Connor’s research specializes in art and craft, knowledge and culture, work and labor, materiality and the body, and the environment and elements. Her book manuscript, Fire-Craft: art, body, and world among glassblowers, draws from four years of ethnographic research in a glassblowing studio. Informed by phenomenology, material feminism, critical indigenous theory, and posthumanism, Fire-Craft considers pedagogy and learning, making and knowing, patriarchy and power, language and love, resources and settler colonialism, and the onto-epistemologies of “body” and “materiality”.

In addition, Dr. O’Connor researches the work and life of American Magic Realist painter, Frederick Papsdorf (1887-1978).

Dr. O’Connor has published in the journals Thesis Eleven, Qualitative Sociology Review, Qualitative Sociology, Qualitative Research, and Ethnography as well as numerous edited volumes, including the following: Craftwork as Problem Solving: Ethnographic Studies of Design and MakingStudio Studies: Operations, topologies, and displacements; and Leaving the field? Methodological Insights from Ethnographic Exits. At MMC, Dr. O’Connor serves as a Co-Coordinator of the Social Justice Academy as well as Faculty Co-Advisor of the Bedford Hills Club, which supports the MMC college programs at both the Bedford Hills and Taconic Women’s Correctional Facilities.

Dr. O’Connor enjoys the outdoors, creating, and sharing her interests with her children (while learning a lot about superheroes and Legos along the way). 


Ph.D., New School for Social Research
M.A., New School for Social Research
Honors, B.A., Michigan State University

Recent Work

(Book Manuscript) Fire-Craft: art, body, and world among glassblowers.

(Forthcoming, 2023) “The Tellurian Dimension of Embodied Knowledge in Glassblowing”. In Craft and Design Practice from an Embodied Perspective, eds. Camilla Groth and Nithikul Nimkulrat. London: Routledge.

(In Press, 2023). “Materia Erotica: making-love among glassblowers”. In Leaving the field? Methodological Insights from Ethnographic Exits, eds. Robin Smith and Sara Delamont. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

2017 “Touching Tacit Knowledge: handwork as ethnographic method in a glassblowing studio”. Qualitative Research 17(2), 217-230.

2016 “The Prototype: Problem Work in the relationship between Designer, Artist, and Gaffer in Glassblowing” in Craftwork as Problem Solving: Ethnographic Studies of Design and Making, ed. Trevor Marchand. London: Ashgate.

2016 “Inter- to Intracorporeality: The haptic hotshop heat of a glassblowing studio” in Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies & Displacements, eds. Igancio Farias and Alex Wiley. London: Routledge.

2012 “Cross Disciplinary Literacy in the Age of Apps and Mobile Devices,” with Rebecca Mushtare and Millie Burns, in Emerging Pedagogies for the New Millennium. Network: A Journal of Faculty Development (

2012 “Saber hecho carne: la experiencia dl sentido y la busqueda de expertise en el soplado de vidrio”” in Hacia una nueva sociología cultural: Mapas, dramas y prácticas, ed. C. E. Benzecry. Buenos Aires: Quilmes University Press. 

2009 “The Act of Collaborative Creation and the Art of Integrative Creativity: Originality, Disciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity in Science.” Co-Authored with Diana Rhoten. Thesis Eleven (96(1).

2007 “The Centripetal Force of Expression: Drawing Embodied Histories into Glassblowing.” Qualitative Sociology Review, “Ethnographies of Artistic Work,” eds. Howard Becker and Marie Buscatto.

2007 “Hot Glass: The Calorific Imagination of Practice in Glassblowing.” In  Practicing Culture, eds. Craig Calhoun and Richard Sennett. London: Routledge.

2007 “Embodied Knowledge in Glassblowing: meaning and the struggle towards proficiency (modified reprint).” In Chris Shilling (ed.), Embodying Sociology: Retrospect, Progress and Prospects, The Sociological Review Monograph.

2006 “Glassblowing Tools: Extending the Body towards Practical Knowledge and Informing a Social World.” Qualitative Sociology 29(2).

2005 “Embodied Knowledge: Meaning and the Struggle Towards Proficiency in Glassblowing.” Ethnography 6(2).


Art, Craft, Work, Labor, Body, Knowledge, Ethnography, Culture, Social Theory, Environment, Elements, Ethno-Mineralogy, Settler Colonialism, Phenomenology, New Materialism, Material Feminism, Posthumanism


Anthropology at Museums in NYC

Art, Politics & Society (Art Activism)

Radical Labor and Artisan Movements

EcoCulture & Sustainability (Queer Ecologies)

Environmental Justice

Material Culture

Culture & Ideology

Foundations of Social and Political Inquiry

Introduction to Sociology


Great Social Thinkers

Professional Experience

As Chair of the Department of Politics and Human Rights in the context of Covid, Professor O’Connor is actively working with her colleagues in PHR, International Studies (IS), and across the college to develop online programming. Some events are open to the public. Please inquire.

Fall 2020: PHR/IS Event Series, Racial Justice

PHR/IS Fall 2020 Event Series

PHR/IS Fall 2020 Event Series

PHR/IS Fall 2020 Event Series


Spring 2021: PHR/IS Sojourner Truth Suffrage Academy

PHR/IS Sojourner Truth Suffrage Academy Spring 2021


The Suffrage Academy 2021, Opening Week


Suffrage Academy February Suffrage Academy 2021, March Suffrage Academy 2021, April


Fall 2021 Course Offerings

Spring 2022 Course Offerings

Spring 2022 Course Offerings The Spring 2022 PHR Social Justice Academy: The “New” New York, Organized by Dr. Marnie Brady, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Politics & Human Rights

New New York Academy 2022, February New New York Academy 2022, March Summer 2022 classes Fall 2022 Course Offerings Fall 2022 Course Offering Quick Guide January 2023 Course Offering

Office Hours


Professor O’Connor is on sabbatical for the Fall 2022-Spring 2023 academic year.
For administrative questions, please contact Samantha Prosser at Queries concerning the Politics and Human Rights program should be sent to Dr. Marnie Brady at Questions concerning class schedules, teaching opportunities, student internships, or the Spring 2023 Social Justice Academy should be sent to interim PHR Chair, Dr. Jessica Blatt at Requests for substitutions should be sent to Dr. Manolo Estavillo at The Chair of the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Jen Brown at, is also available to assist with any of the above.


Carson Hall, Room 202