Alvaro Santana-Acuña

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Maxey 240


PhD and MA, Sociology, Harvard University
MA, Social Sciences, The University of Chicago
DEA and BA, History, University of La Laguna

Areas of Interest

Cultural sociology
Comparative and historical sociology
Political sociology
Sociology of art and literature
Sociology of science, knowledge, and technology


I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Whitman College. I received my PhD in Sociology from Harvard University (2014). At Whitman, I teach courses in Cultural Sociology and Classical and Contemporary Social Theory with a particular emphasis on visual pedagogy.

In my research, I study political and cultural objects, their role in producing collectively shared meanings, and their contribution to the maintenance of long-lasting social orders.

My research agenda relies primarily on qualitative and historical methods and has two distinct foci. First, I study the emergence of cultural objects (such as literary works) and the processes by which they attain long-lasting value; and second, I study the ways in which politicians and scientists collaborate to create objects of knowledge (such as maps and surveys) aimed at controlling populations and their surrounding environment. Papers coming out of this research agenda have received awards from the American Sociological Association.

I am finishing a book on García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. My book seeks to answer the question of how a novel that met all the conditions to be a complete failure became a global literary classic. By answering this question, the book addresses broader sociological and historical questions about how cultural objects are born, rise to prominence, and attain long-term success after the individuals and organizations responsible for their production and initial diffusion are gone.

I am also the coeditor of the volume Para una nueva sociología de las artes (2017) [Toward a New Sociology of Art] published by Gedisa.

With Whitman students and the support of the Abshire Research Award, I am working on a project that georeferences over 2,000 land-surveying maps made in France between 1802 and 1807. Not only are these the first land-surveying maps produced in Europe at a full national scale, but also analyzing them could greatly enhance our understanding of the process leading to global spread of the nation-state as the dominant form of governance in the last two centuries.

I grew up in the Canary Islands (Spain) and have also lived in United Kingdom, France, and United States. I enjoy reading literature (especially discovering underappreciated masterpieces). I am actively engaged in heritage protection in the Canary Islands. This archipelago is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. But it also has four world heritage sites, four national parks, and seven biosphere reserves. Hence, it is a major laboratory to understand the clash between the devastating environmental effects of mass tourism and the need for fully inclusive heritage protection.