Jennifer C. Lena

Jennifer C. Lena

Research Interests


Jennifer C. Lena is an Associate Professor and Program Director of Arts Administration at Teachers College, Columbia University and a faculty affiliate in the Department of Sociology. She is co-editor (with Frederick Wherry) of a book series, Culture and Economic Life, published by Stanford University Press. She is past Chair of the Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, and former co-editor of the journal Poetics. Lena holds an MA, MPhil, and PhD in Sociology from Columbia University and a BA from Colgate University.

Lena currently serves on the editorial boards of DIY, Alternative Cultures and Society, and Poetics. Her term as Vice President of the Eastern Sociological Society ends in 2023, and she is an elected member and chair of the Academic Personnel Sub-Committee of Teachers College’s Faculty Executive Committee. Lena is also serving a one year term (2022-23) as a member of the Columbia University Press Faculty Publication Committee.  She is also a member of the Research Advisory Committee for the Social Science Research Council’s Fellowship Program on Arts Research with Communities of Color.

Her research focuses on understanding processes of classification, particularly the organizational and institutional conditions for the creation, modification, or elimination of cultural categories like “genre” and “art." She is the author of three books: Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music (Princeton University Press, 2012), which was named one of Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012; Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts (Princeton University Press, 2019); and Measuring Culture (Columbia University Press, 2020). Her research has been published in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Poetics, and American Behavioral Scientist, among other peer-reviewed journals, and has been reprinted in texts dedicated to highlighting excellence in social science methods, hip-hop scholarship, and the sociology of culture. 

She is a past fellow of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University, and the Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and held faculty positions at Vanderbilt University and Barnard College.  Lena is reputed to be the first sociologist to commission a Grammy-nominated album: Hilos (composer: Gabriela Frank; performed by ALIAS Chamber Ensemble; released in 2010 by Naxos Records). Her current work includes a collaborative project with Léonie Hénaut (Sciences Po, CRNS) on polyoccupationalism in the arts, and a book project with Terrence McDonnell (Notre Dame) on junk drawers.


John Mohr, Christopher Bail, Maggie Frye, Jennifer C. Lena, Omar Lizardo, Terence McDonnell, Ann Mische, Iddo Tavory, and Frederick Wherry. 2020. Measuring Culture. Columbia University Press

Lena, Jennifer C. 2019. Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts. Princeton University Press.

Lena, Jennifer C. 2012. Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music. Princeton University Press.