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Sociology and Anthropology

Holly Swyers

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Chair, Urban Studies Program


US culture: American adulthood, 20th-21st century US education, sports, community development and maintenance


PhD The University of Chicago (2003)
AM The University of Chicago (1999)
AB Ripon College (1994)
International Baccalaureate Waterford Kamhlaba UWC (Mbabane, Swaziland)

Additional Training:
NSF Short Course in Research Methods: Statistics in Ethnographic Methods (2013)
NSF Short Course in Research Methods: Ethnoecology (2011)

Courses Taught

Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology
Domains of Human Evidence
Anthropology of Sports
City, Space, and Place
Anthropology of Education
Medical Anthropology
Social Research: Qualitative Methods
Anthropology of Automobility
Love in a Time of Capitalism
War and Conflict
Senior Seminar: Social Explanation and Theory
Social Memory, or True Story? (First-Year Studies - Truth Pod)
Second City, Second Nature (with Davis Schneiderman)

Current Projects

From Adulthood to Adulting: Coming of Age in the U.S. 1865-2015
Built from over 900 interviews, an archive popular commentary on adulthood in the 20th and 21st centuries, and a review of literature in multiple disciplines, From Adulthood to Adulting describes the evolution of the U.S. life course over the past 150 years. From this historical and cultural context, it becomes clear that the experiences of young Americans in the 21st century are adaptive responses to the changing conditions of American life, and rather than experiencing an erosion of adulthood, the U.S. is providing many more of its citizens with the opportunity to be regarded as fully adult.

See a video presentation on the Adulthood Project here.

Beyond the Political Divide: Americans in their Own Words
Using the work of Studs Terkel as a model, this project collects oral histories from Americans across the political spectrum, seeking to engage them in discussions that avoid political jargon and talking points around questions of work, family, charity, and civic engagement, among others. The goal of these interviews is to assemble a portrait of the ways in which Americans continue to share many values, enabling people to see past polarizing rhetoric and find common ground with people who they might otherwise perceive as “the enemy.” The end product will be a book in the Studs Terkel vein with one important difference: the political affiliations of each interviewee will only be available in the appendix. This will allow readers to connect with interviewees without a preconceived notion of who they are.

Recent Project 

Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers
Set in the bleachers of Wrigley Field in Chicago, this ethnographic monograph considers the daily practices that allow people to constitute themselves as a community.  Rather than follow the current trend of quantitatively arguing the fate of community in the 21st century United States, I am working from the premise that humans find ways to craft a feeling of community under almost any conditions.  The question we need to answer are what conditions and behaviors help create and sustain that feeling.  Using the self-described community of bleacher regulars as a case study, I am seeking to answer this question. The book, published by the University of Illinois Press in 2010, is currently available through on-line retailers.


Succeed Anyway: Life and Lessons in American High Schools
 Based on ethnographic and archival research, this dissertation studies the way that American philosophies of liberal democracy become encoded into the everyday social life of adolescents, shaping and limiting the ways in which American teenagers understand their life experiences.  From this base, it considers how education as practiced in the United States has operated and continues to operate as an adaptive system for social continuity and change.
Committee:  John L. Comaroff (chair), John Kelly, Susan Gal


2016 - “Rediscovering Papa Franz: Teaching with Anthropology and Modern Life. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 6(2): 213-231.

2016 - “How Waiting 108 Years Makes the Good Life.Sightings. 27 October.

2016  - “Collaborative Anthropology as Classroom Teaching: The How and the Why.” Collaborative Anthropologies 9(1/2): 21-39.

2016 - “‘FIVE MORE OUTS’: How Chicago Cubs Magic and Superstition Build Community.” Guest essay. Sociology Toolbox. September 15. https://thesocietypages.org/toolbox/chicago_cubs_superstition/

2015 - Book Review: Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb. By Rachel Heiman. North American Dialogue 18(2): 77-78. 

2015 - Book Review: Beyond Post-Traumatic Stress: Homefront Struggles with the Wars on TerrorBy Sarah Hautzinger and Jean Scandlyn. North American Dialogue 18(1): 28-29.

2015  - “Starship Troopers, School Shootings, and September 11.” in The War of My Generation. Ed. by David Kieran. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. pp 17-38.

2014 - Book Review: Rooting for the Home Team, Ed. by Daniel NathanJournal of Sport History 41(2): 358-359.

2013 - “Collaborating with Undergraduates.” Anthropology News. October 15.

2011 (manuscript) - “The U.S. and the People Without Culture: A Call for Anthropological Engagement with American Coming-of-Age Studies.”

2010 - Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers. University of Illinois Press.

2009 (with Linda Horwitz) - “Why are All the Presidents Men? A Feminist Critique of the West Wing.” in You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics and Popular Culture. Ed. Lilly Goren. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. pp 115-135.

2008 - “Scoring at Home” in Northsiders: Essays on the History and Culture of the Chicago Cubs.  Ed. By A. Hazucha and G. Wood.  McFarland Press. pp 149-158.

2007 - “The Opposite of Losses: Wherein Lies the Soul of American Sports?” International Journal of the History of Sport 24(2): 197-214.

2005 - “Who Owns Wrigley Field?”  Sport in American Society - Past and Present, a special issue of the International Journal of the History of Sport 22(6): 1086-1105.

2000 - “We’re Not the Police:  Batman, the State of Cynicism and the Revisionist Future.”  Chicago Anthropology Exchange, 30 (Winter).

1999 - (with Dorothy Shipps and Karin Sconzert)  “The Chicago Annenberg Challenge: The First Three Years.”  Improving Chicago’s Schools: A report of the Chicago Annenberg Research Project.  March.

1997 - (with Priscilla Ellington)  “School-based Centers:  Advocates for Successful School Reform.”  National Elementary School Networks Newsletter, Spring.

Invited/Interviewed Expert

2017 - “‘Adulting School’ Can’t Short-cut the Hard, Self-taught Work of Growing Up.” (written by Jennifer Anderson). Quartz, March 8. https://qz.com/922289/adulting-school-will-never-be-able-to-teach-us-the-art-of-being-a-grown-up/

2017 - “Adulting School Teaches Young Adults Grown-Up Skills.” (written by Patty Wight). Morning Edition. NPR Radio. 21 February.

2016 - “A New Class in Portland Teaching Adult Skills They Don’t Teach in School.” (written by Patty Wight). Maine Public Radio, November 14.

2015 - Cub-Struction. Outside the Lines. ESPN Television, May 31. 

2015 - “Chicago Cubs to start baseball season, missing beloved bleachers.” (written by Mary Wisniewski). Reuters, April 2.

2014 - “Mo’ne Davis: Is she great only by defeating boys?” (written by Philip Hersh). The Baltimore Sun, August 21.

2013 - “What Makes an Adult?” (written by John Keilman). Chicago Tribune, July 8.

2011 - Teaching on Snow Days.  Quad Cities Today. KWQC Television. February 8.

2010 - Author Segment.  Midday News. WGN Television, September 3.

2010 - “Brotherhood in the Baseball Bleachers.”  Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg. WGN Radio, August 24.

2008 - Outside the Lines. ESPN Television, May 18.

2007 - “Champions of a Lost Cause.” (written by Kathleen McGowan). Psychology Today. March/April.

2005 - “Ivy Leaguer.” (written by L. Jon Wertheim). Sports Illustrated. June 27.

Invited Lectures

2018 - “From Adulthood to Adulting: Understanding Adulthood in the 21st Century.” Guest Seminar, Newberry Teachers’ Consortium. The Newberry Library, Chicago, IL; February 28.

2017 - “When You Are Is Who You Are.” Local Q Talk, Q Commons. Lake Forest, IL: October 26.

2017 - “The End of the Cubbie Blues: What Happens to Lovable Losers When They Win?” Speaker Stage Lecture at Hot Dog Fest, Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL: August 12.

2017 - “The End of 108 Years of Bleacher Futility.” Invited Lecture, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL; July 24.

2016 - “Bigger Than a Game: How Sports Inform World Politics.” Guest Seminar, Newberry Teachers’ Consortium. The Newberry, Chicago, IL; March 3.

2014 - “Completely Useless By September and Other Stories of Belonging among Cubs Fans.” Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL: April 18.

2014 - “There Are No Grown Ups Here: In Search of a New Adulthood.” Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ: March 27.

2010 - “Community in Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville.”  Associated Colleges of the Midwest Chicago Programs, Chicago, IL; September 10.

2010 - “Wrigley Regulars”  Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; June 23.

2007 - “Sports Fans and Community”  The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; January 23.

2006 - “‘Yuppie on the Phone!’: Defining Community Boundaries.”  The Chicago Seminar on Sport and Culture, The Newberry Library, Chicago, IL; April 28.

2006 - “Who Owns Wrigley Field?”  Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA; March 27.


2016 - “Emerging Adulthood, or How Privileged Classes Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Neoliberalism.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting. November 19, Minneapolis, MN.

2014 - (with Linda Horwitz) “Balancing Acknowledging and Distancing the Past: Opening the Vaults Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair and the Field Museum of Natural History.” The National Communication Association Annual Meeting. November 21, Chicago, IL.

2014 - “Adulthood and American Patterns of Culture.” Central States Anthropological Society Annual Meeting. April 12, Normal, IL.

2011 - “You’re Growing Up Wrong! Emerging Adulthood and the New Normative Order.” (poster). American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting. November 17, Montreal, Quebec.

2011 - “Learning by Doing: Service Learning in Methodology Classes.” Central States Anthropological Society Annual Meeting.  April 8, Iowa City, IA.

2011 - “Metacognition in Liberal Education: A Report on Student Learning” (Panel Participant).  Association of American Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting.  January 28, San Francisco, CA.

2010 - “The ‘Pod’ Project.”  Understanding Student Learning: ACM-Teagle Collegium Closing Conference.  October 2, St. Paul, MN.

2010 - “Burnham’s City Beautiful Tour of Chicago.”  Midwest Sociological Society/North Central Sociological Association Joint Annual Meeting.  April 1, Chicago, IL.

2009 - “If 30 is the New 20, Is 20 the New 13?” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.  December 4, Philadelphia, PA.

2009 - “Developing Classroom Research Projects in Teaching and Learning.”  The Many Levels of Assessment: Making Connections (ACM Colleges).  September 11, Ripon, WI.

2008 - “Classrooms without Walls: Tips and Tricks for Hands-On City Experiences.”  ACM FaCE Teaching the City Workshop.  April 12, Appleton, WI.

2008 (with Linda Horwitz) - “From Fantasy Sports to Fantasy Congress: Shifting Terrains and Values of Spectatorship.” Central States Anthropological Society Annual Meeting. March 29, Indianapolis, IN.

2007 (with Linda Horwitz) - “As the Centuries Turn: Sports as Training Ground for Manhood.”  Midwest Popular Cultural Association/American Culture Association Annual Meeting.  October 14, Kansas City, MO.

2004 - “Superman vs. the President of the United States” Central States Anthropological Society 81st Annual Meeting.  April 17, Milwaukee, WI

2003 - “This is Not Your Father’s Protest Movement: Post Cold-War Youth vs. War.”  American Anthropological Society 102nd Annual Meeting.  November 19, Chicago, IL.

2003 - Gary Stu Doesn’t F*** Here: The Panache of ‘Slash.’”  Digital Genres Conference.  May 30, Chicago, IL.

2003 - Dr. Goodschool, or How Education Policy Learned to Stop Worrying about Race and Class and Love the Suburbs.”  Central States Anthropological Society 80th Annual Meeting.  April 18, Louisville, KY.

2002 - The Generation of Worldviews:  September 11, School Shootings and Starship Troopers.”  Central States Anthropological Society 79th Annual Meeting.  March 8, East Lansing, MI.

2000 - The Way God Intended: Moral Purity in the Bleachers.”  Presented at the Central States Anthropological Society 77th Annual Meeting.  April 23, Bloomington, IN.

1999 - Wait ’til Next Year for the Sign of the Apocalypse: Reckoning Time in the Bleachers.”  Presented at the American Anthropological Association 98th Annual Meeting.  November 17, Chicago, IL.

1999 - The Three Rs (Rights, Responsibility and Reform):  The Progressive Education Association, the Coalition of Essential Schools, and the Crisis of the Nation-State.”  Presented at the Central States Anthropological Society 76th Annual Meeting.  Chicago, IL.

1996 - Measuring the Success of the NESN Project.”  Presented at the National Elementary School Networks Networking Institute.  New York, NY.

Awards And Honors

Great Teacher Award, Lake Forest College, 2014.

William L Dunn Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarly Promise, Lake Forest College, 2009.

Commitment to Student Development Award, Lake Forest College, 2009.

Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, The University of Chicago, 2005.

Katharine Graham Fellowship Society of Fellows at The University of Chicago, 2004.

Harper Fellowship Society of Fellows at The University of Chicago, 2003.

Doolittle Fellowship, The University of Chicago, 2003.

Dissertation Teaching and Research Fellowship, The University of Chicago, The Division of the Social Sciences, 2002.

Finalist, National Postdoctoral Fellowship In the Humanities, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 2001.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, US Department of Education, 1998.

University Unendowed Fellowship, The University of Chicago, 1997.

Phi Beta Kappa, Ripon College, 1994.

Senior Achievement Award in Anthropology, Ripon College, 1994.

Pickard Scholarship, Ripon College, 1991.

Millennium Society Scholarship, Millennium Society, 1989.

Teaching Experience

2012-present - Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lake Forest College

2006-2012 - Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Lake Forest College

2003-2006 - Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division, The University of Chicago

2002 - Teaching Assistant, The Development of Social and Cultural Theory, part 1 (“Systems”)  — First year graduate course in the Department of Anthropology, The University of Chicago

2001-2002 - Course Intern, Self, Culture and Society, parts 1-3
Core course in Social Science at the College, The University of Chicago

2000-2002 - Multidisciplinary tutor, Ivy League Tutoring

1999-2000 - Classroom aide, Chicago Public Schools

1998 - Classroom teacher, Institute for Reading Development

Additional Professional Experience

1995-1997 - Assistant National Director, National Elementary School Networks Project, The Center for Collaborative Education, New York, NY

Research Experience

2011-present - Team research on adulthood, including interviewing, on-line questionnaires, and media analysis.

2009-2010 - Research on the effectiveness of cross-class collaboration and co-curricular support services for improving first years study experiences in college.  Lake Forest, IL.

2007-present - Archival research and popular culture analysis on sports and the political process in the U.S. (in collaboration with Linda Horwitz)

2007-2010 - Preliminary research toward team ethnographic procedures for project on the social definition of adulthood in the U.S.

1997-2007 - Participant observation in Wrigley Field bleachers, focusing on issues of community formation and maintenance

2003 - Participant observation, surveys and text interviews of an on-line community

2000-2002 - Participant observation in high schools as well as interviews and archival work for dissertation project 

1997-1998 - Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data on Chicago Annenberg Challenge for the Consortium for Chicago School Reform 

1994 - Archaeological research and artifact analysis for Ceresco historical archaeology project, sponsored by the Ripon Historical Society 

1993 - Archival research for the Goodman Theatre dramaturg team 

Professional Affiliations

American Anthropological Association
Central States Anthropological Society
Council on Anthropology and Education
Council on Contemporary Families
Society for Applied Anthropology
Society for Anthropology of North America
Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology