Isaac Ariail Reed

Associate Professor of Sociology

Since my own first year of college (a long time ago!), I have always been drawn to the life of the mind. The purpose of that life, in my view, is to create a learning environment where students can become clear and careful thinkers, active and engaged citizens, and responsible and caring people. In the engagements, we have the opportunity to reconsider and reconstruct how we educate young people and prepare them to navigate the world outside of Grounds. My own research in historical sociology considers how humans have, in different times and places, enhanced their capacity to flourish by constructing complex and interconnected forms of social, technical and economic organization, democratic republics, and ethical traditions; yet simultaneously we have reproduced, and even introduced new forms of, disempowerment, domination and moral destruction. In the engagements, I draw on my research experience to teach students to think comparatively about society and history, and to venture outside their own experience so as to better understand the world and how to act ethically within it. I ask students to learn about the tremendous variation in how the interconnected societies of the globe are organized, connect the long arc of human history to the concerns and struggles of their own generation, and write with rigor, clarity, and courage in the pursuit of truth.

The grandson of Jewish refugees, I was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. I received my Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University in 2007, after which I taught for nine years at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2016 I moved to Charlottesville with my wife Jennifer and daughter Hannah. My first book, Interpretation and Social Knowledge: On the use of theory in the human sciences, proposed a framework for bringing the humanities and social sciences closer together. My current book project examines authority and power in the history of the American republic.