Sociology and Anthropology

Holly Swyers

Holly Swyers

Professor of Anthropology

Sociology and Anthropology


21st century US families, late 19th-21st century US adulthood, sports fandom, 20th-21st century US education, 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
Social Research: Qualitative Methods
Anthropology of Education
Medical Anthropology
Becoming Adult: Liminal States (First-Year Studies)
Domains of Human Evidence
Anthropology of Sports
City, Space, and Place
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)
Introduction to Disability Studies
Family and Kinship
Decolonizing Bodyminds and Their Relations

Current Projects
Defining Family
The 21st century United States has seen deep complications to 1950s notions of family as a result of the commonality of divorce and remarriage, the widespread use of assistive reproductive technology, the growing prevalence of multigenerational homes, and the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ households. Launching in 2024, the Defining Family project seeks to explore how contemporary US Americans decide whom they include among those they consider family, as well as what responsibilities people attach to different members of the group they call family.

From Adulthood to Adulting
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 US 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 US is providing many more of its citizens with the opportunity to be regarded as fully adult.

Past Projects
Mapping Diversity: Strategies for Analyzing Campuses as Lived Spaces Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation via the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, the Mapping Diversity project was a collaboration between Lake Forest College and two other small liberal arts colleges. While campuses have recently been focusing on creating "safe spaces," there has been less work focused on how, when, and why spaces are experienced as "unsafe" for some members of a campus population. This project used map-based interviews of students to analyze how different members of our campus communities experience the same spaces differently. The goal of the project was to recognize how and why spaces are unwelcoming and unsafe to members of our communities, with a focus on getting this information to people who can strategize solutions. While many of the findings of the project were idiosyncratic to each individual campus, the project revealed five consistent dimensions students used to describe a sense of welcome and belonging: the sensory comfort of a space, signs of inclusion in the space, occupants in a space, associations and experiences within a space, and familiarity with a space.

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.

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 


2021 - Beyond Political Divides: Americans in their Own Words.

2019 (ms) - From Adulthood to Adulting. Cornell University Press.

2019 - Book Review: A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle. By Rand Roberts and Johnny Smith. Journal of Sport History 46(1): 127-128.

2019 - “How Waiting 108 Years Makes the Good Life.” Sightings: Reflections on Religion in Public Life. Ed. by Brett Colasacco. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. pp 206-207.

2018 - “Murderbot Pronouns: A Snapshot of Changing Gender Conventions in the United States.” Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture 3(3): 271-298.

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.

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.

Interviewed Expert

2018 - “I Took ‘Adulting School’ for Millennials.” (Written by Andrew Zaleski). CityLab, October 29.

2017 - “‘Adulting School’ Can’t Short-cut the Hard, Self-taught Work of Growing Up.” (written by Jennifer Anderson). Quartz, March 8.

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.

Invited Lectures

2023 - “The Mapping Diversity Project” (with Char Kunkel and Georgeanna Robinson). Associated Colleges of the Midwest “Empathetic Designed for Equitable Civic Engagement” workshop. November 4, Lake Forest, IL.

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.


2018 - Roundtable Panelist: “Undergraduate Research With/In Communities.” Society for Applied Anthropology. April 6, Philadephia, PA.

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.

Awards and Honors
Christopher Mojekwu Recognition Award (for dedication to and/or worth in cultural understanding), Lake Forest College, 2022.

FaCE Andrew W Mellon Foundation Grant via the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, with Luther College and Grinnell College, 2020.

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

2019-present - Professor of Anthropology, Lake Forest College

2012-2019 - 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

Additional Professional Experience

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

Research Experience

2023-present - Preliminary research using networking software to produce visual maps of how US Americans understand family in the 21st century

2021-2023 - Team research using a map-based interview protocol to collect data and analyze how students respond to qualities of campus spaces

2017-2019 - Team research collecting oral-histories from individuals across the political spectrum

2017-2019 - Textual analysis and archival research on mainstream American acceptance of transgender and nonbinary individuals as manifest in pronouns

2011-2015 - 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 US (in collaboration with Linda Horwitz)

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

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

Professional Affiliations

Council on Contemporary Families
Society for Applied Anthropology