Hannah Wohl

Hannah Wohl
Associate Professor
PDF icon CV

Office Hours

On leave 23/24

Office Location

SSMS 3427


Creative industries, culture, markets, valuation, sociological theory, ethnography


Ph.D., Northwestern University


For the 2023-2024 academic year, I am on fellowship leave as a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

My research explores how individuals make judgments. In particular, I use primarily qualitative methods to study how aesthetic judgments interact with other kinds of judgments, such as economic and moral judgments. I focus on creative industries, including contemporary visual art, literature, and academia, to examine how individuals experiment to produce new creative works and how others choose which works to distribute and consume. In my book, Bound by Creativity: How Contemporary Art is Created and Judged (University of Chicago Press, 2021), I draw upon my ethnographic research of the New York City contemporary art world to examine how contemporary artists make creative decisions in an absence of agreed upon standards, and how their participation in the art market shapes this process. By analyzing the creative process as a sequence of judgments directed toward objects that is oriented by social values, I advance a new approach to studying creativity.

In addition to collaborative projects, I am currently collecting and analyzing data for two major sole-authored projects. Through an archival dataset of tenure files, I examine how faculty evaluate candidates’ academic worth and conceive of their own objectivity and ability to judge. My next book project is based on an ethnographic study of the Los Angeles pornography and adult content creation industry. I explore how industry members navigate unstable and charged symbolic meanings in their daily work as they strive to make pornography that is deemed interactionally acceptable, while also working to create organizationally passable products that meet the demands and regulations of consumers, corporations, and the state.

My research has won awards from the Theory Section, Culture Section, and Consumers and Consumption Section of the American Sociological Association, as well as from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. It has been published in Socio-Economic Review, Sociological Theory, Poetics, Qualitative Sociology, Qualitative Research, Teaching Sociology, and other venues. I am a council member for the American Sociological Association Culture Section and Consumers and Consumption Section, and I am an editorial board member of Sociological Theory and Poetics. I hold a B.A. from Brown University and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Before coming to UCSB, I was a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University.

Selected Publications


Wohl, Hannah. 2021. Bound by Creativity: How Contemporary Art is Created and Judged. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Wohl, Hannah. 2022. “Innovation and Creativity in Creative Industries.” Sociology Compass. DOI: 10.1111/soc4.12956.

Wohl, Hannah. 2021. “Mapping Multivocality: How Critics Communicate Complex Meaning Through Metaphor.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology (accepted).

Gary Alan Fine, Hannah Wohl, and Simone Ispa-Landa. 2020. “Reading Routines: Strategies of Recall in Graduate Education.” Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education. DOI 10.1108/SGPE-12-2019-0086.

Buchholz, Larissa, Gary Alan Fine, and Hannah Wohl.* 2020. “Art markets in crisis: how personal bonds and market subcultures mediate the effects of COVID‑19.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology. DOI: 10.1057/s41290-020-00119-6.

Wohl, Hannah. 2020. “Performing Aesthetic Confidence: How Contemporary Art Collectors Maintain Status.” Socio-Economic Review 18(1): 215-233

Wohl, Hannah. 2019. “Creative Visions: Presenting Aesthetic Trajectories in Artistic Careers.” Poetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.poetic.2019.03.003.

Wohl, Hannah, and Gary Alan Fine. 2018. “Reading and Reputation: Sense, Sensibility, and Status in Graduate Education.” Qualitative Research 18(5): 554–564.

Wohl, Hannah, and Gary Alan Fine. 2017. “The Active Skim: Efficient Reading as a Moral Challenge in Post-Graduate Education.” Teaching Sociology 45(3):220-227.

Wohl, Hannah. 2017. “Somatic Security: Negotiating Appropriateness in Sexualized Interactions.” Qualitative Sociology 40(2):237-257.

Wohl, Hannah, and Gary Alan Fine. 2017. “Reading Rites: Teaching Textwork in Graduate Education.” The American Sociologist 48(2):215-232.

Mosser, Gianna, Hannah Wohl, and Gary Alan Fine. 2016. “Alone in Publand: Leaving Academics to Themselves.” The American Sociologist 47(2):238-252.

Wohl, Hannah. 2015. “Community Sense: The Cohesive Power of Aesthetic Judgment.” Sociological Theory 33(4):299-326.

Griswold, Wendy, and Hannah Wohl.* 2015. “Evangelists of Culture: One Book Programs and the Agents who Define Literature, Shape Tastes, and Reproduce Regionalism.” Poetics 50:96-109.

*Denotes equal authorship


My main teaching areas include courses on creative industries, culture, qualitative methods, and sociological theory. I am the current Honors Program Director.