Kate Cairns is an Associate Professor in the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University. Her work brings a feminist perspective to the politics of childhood, with particular focus on how young people are positioned as the promise or threat of collective futures. She has investigated this dynamic across multiple realms, including neoliberal education reform, maternal foodwork, and youth urban agriculture. Kate is the coauthor of Food and Femininity (Bloomsbury 2015) and Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life (Routledge 2017). Her current research examines efforts to connect children and young people with their food, feminist theories of social reproduction, and youth struggles for environmental justice.
Kate is a member of the Common Worlds Research Collective, and serves on the editorial boards for Contemporary Sociology, Curriculum Inquiry, and the Critical Perspectives on Youth series with NYU Press.
New article published in Gender, Place & Culture: “Caring about water in Camden, New Jersey: Social reproduction against slow violence” (Dec 2021)
New article published in Curriculum Inquiry: “Feeling environmental justice: Pedagogies of slow violence” (Oct 2021)
Quoted in The Hechinger Report on middle-schoolers’ experiences of the pandemic (Oct 2021)
Coauthored article with David Backer in the British Journal of Sociology of Education: “Social Reproduction Theory Revisited” (July 2021)
Microblog for the Common Worlds Research Collective: “How to notice the potholes without falling into them?” (April 2021)
Article on the “organic child” reprinted in The State of Families: Law, Policy, and the Meanings of Relationships, edited by Jennifer A. Reich (Jan 2021, Routledge)
Interview with Denmark’s Oxy Magazine about Food and Femininity (Dec 2020)
Review of Reclaiming Community: Race and the Uncertain Future of Youth Work by Bianca Baldridge published in Contemporary Sociology (Sept 2020)
“Assignment: Earth — Children as agents of environmental change” – Changing Childhoods journal post. (July 2020)
Comment on Newberry and Rosen in Focaal forum on theorizing social reproduction: “Children, reproductive labor and intergenerational solidarity.” (Mar 2020)
Coauthored piece with Norah MacKendrick and Josée Johnston in Aeon: “The ‘organic child’ ideal holds mothers to an impossible standard.” (Feb 2020)
New article with David Backer on social reproduction in social movements, published in n+1. (April 2019)
Blog post with Norah MacKendrick: “Born pre-polluted: Mothers and environmental risk.” (Feb 2019)
Coauthored article with Norah MacKendrick in Signs: “The Polluted Child and Maternal Responsibility in the US Environmental Health Movement.” (Winter 2019)
New article in the Harvard Educational Review: “Beyond Magic Carrots: Garden Pedagogies and the Rhetoric of Effects” (Winter 2018)
Microblog for the Common Worlds Research Collective: “What happens in the garden?” (October 2018).
Coauthored article with Josée Johnston in Agriculture and Human Values: “On (not) knowing where your food comes from: Meat, mothering and ethical eating.” (August, 2018)
New article out in Antipode: “Youth, Temporality, and Territorial Stigma: Finding Good in Camden, New Jersey.” (July, 2018)
New article in Children & Society: “Relational Foodwork: Young People and Food Insecurity.” Part of a special issue on “Children’s and young people’s food practices in contexts of poverty and inequality,” edited by Wendy Wills and Rebecca O’Connell. (May 2018)
Article on children and food insecurity featuring Kate’s research with youth in Camden, NJ. Published in Slate and Civil Eats. (March-April 2018)
SNJ Today on Kate’s research exploring how youth support mothers in the context of food insecurity. (January 26, 2018)
Coauthored piece with David I. Backer in Viewpoint Magazine, Movement Pedagogy: Beyond the Class/Identity Impasse. (December 2017)
Coauthored piece with Josée Johnston and Merin Oleschuk on the Gender & Society blog, “Calibrating Extremes: The Balancing Act of Maternal Foodwork.” (October 2017)
French article featuring Kate’s research on gendered inequities in foodie culture, published in the Montreal magazine, Gazette des Femmes (Feb. 3, 2017).
Blog post about the new textbook Kate coauthored with Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann, Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life. (Jan. 4, 2017)
Article in Huffington Post Canada on the inequities of holiday foodwork, coauthored with Merin Oleschuk and Josée Johnston. (Dec. 20, 2016)
Interview on Racist Sandwich, a podcast that explores how food intersects with race, gender, and class. (June 29, 2016)
Feature in the Children and Youth Section Newsletter of the American Sociological Association.
Interview on WHYY’s NewsWorks Tonight, discussing her coauthored book, Food and Femininity. (Dec. 24, 2015)
Rutgers Today Feature on the pressures mothers face when feeding children. (Dec. 11, 2015)
Interview with Slate’s “Mom and Dad Are Fighting” about her research on the “organic child” (segment begins at 14:05).
December 2018: Read the Department of Childhood Studies Faculty Statement in Support of Graduate Students