Wade M. Cole portrait
  • Professor, Sociology Department


  • Ph.D., Sociology, The Leland Stanford Junior University
  • B.A., Political Science, Western Washington University


(NB: This isn't a "biography" so much as a critical self-reflexive autoethnographic narrative vignette. It is nevertheless written in the third person to give it the pretense of objectivity.)

Wade is a sociologist because he wasn’t smart enough to be a real scientist. Although he warns students that sociology is more difficult than physics because people, unlike atoms, don’t obey the universal and immutable laws of nature, he knows that physics is actually the harder of the two.*

To say that Wade is a sociologist means very little, given the extremely fractured and incoherent state of the field (the term "discipline" seems not to apply). He is, more concretely, a political sociologist, albeit one who doesn’t study capitalist exploitation. His inattention to the causes and/or consequences of class conflict in advanced capitalist societies, in conjunction with his reluctance to use the term “Global South” for all other societies, often leads other sociologists to accuse Wade of being a bourgeois apologist, a Durkheimian, or perhaps a political scientist. He’s pretty sure most political scientists would categorically reject the latter characterization.

When he's feeling pretentious, Wade considers himself macrophenomenological institutionalist. He doesn't study flesh-and-blood people and has never undergone IRB review.

Wade is a misanthrope who studies human rights and a white cishet mxn (he/him/his) who researches minority-serving and women’s colleges. The irony is not lost on him. An inveterate pessimist, Wade fails to see much decolonizing potential in his research; he regards emancipatory projects as secularized salvation schemes and eschews considerations of praxis in favor of the value-neutral pursuit of basic academic knowledge for its own sake. His least favorite academic term—apart from “Global South”—is “intersectionality,” even though he fully understands that various marginalized, stigmatized, colonized, pathologized, minoritized, orientalized, Otherized, or otherwise subaltern socially constructed sociocultural identities combine in ways that exacerbate the pernicious effects of systemic oppression and hegemonic domination.

Wade teaches a variety of courses, including Introduction to Sociology (where he tries to convince students that sociology is a coherent discipline, harder than physics, and a viable path to gainful employment), stratification (sexily titled “Race, Class, and the American Dream” in a marginally successful attempt to put tuition-paying butts in seats), social movements (where he occasionally inspires students to rabble-rouse on campus), political sociology (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, again with a de-emphasis on capitalist exploitation), and classical sociological theory (a graduate seminar that serves, if nothing else, to perpetuate the inaccurate and indefensible myth that a unified sociological Canon exists). He peppers his lectures with references to Seinfeld, Ice Cube, George Carlin, The JeffersonsThree's CompanyRambo (the third installment in particular), Rocky (installment four), and other pop-culture allusions most millennials don’t understand.

When Wade isn't busy professoring, he enjoys spending time with his family; hiking in the Wasatch Mountains; consuming animal flesh and gluten; and wallowing in existential ennui, contemplating the utter futility of a postmodern life bereft of meaning.

Fun fact: Wade Cole's homonymic name is "the measurement, at some point in time before the present, of the force generated by the gravitational attraction of the earth on a given mass of decayed plant matter metamorphosed by heat and pressure over geologic time into combustible carbonaceous sedimentary rock"—i.e., Weighed Coal.

* For an opposing view, see Tyson (2016). Wade may have to reconsider his position on this matter. Either that or add lots of quadratic terms to his regression models.

Tyson, Neil deGrasse (@neiltyson). 2016. “In science, when human behavior enters the equation, things go nonlinear. That's why Physics is easy and Sociology is hard.” Tweet, February 5, 2016, 4:03 p.m. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/695759776752496640 (accessed February 6, 2016).