Photo of Joshua Gamson

Joshua Gamson

Professor of Sociology

Department Chair


Joshua Gamson has been teaching at USF for more than 20 years, having previously taught at Yale University. His research and teaching focus on the sociology of culture, with an emphasis on contemporary Western commercial culture and mass media; social movements, especially on cultural aspects of contemporary movements; on participant-observation methodology and techniques, particularly as applied in urban settings; and on the history, theory, and sociology of sexuality. The author of four books, his published scholarly work also includes studies of sex scandals, popular culture and LGBTQ people, sexualities and qualitative research, the political pitfalls in the pursuit of media visibility, exclusion processes in sex/gender movements, organizational aspects of collective identity construction, dilemmas in identity-based movements, and sex education and online sexual learning. He is currently working on a cultural historical biography, The Ballad of Teena Marie: Life, Soul, and Music Across the American Color Line, to be published in 2026.

Research Areas

  • Sociology of culture, with an emphasis on contemporary Western commercial culture and mass media
  • Social movements, especially on cultural aspects of contemporary movements
  • Participant-observation methodology and techniques in urban settings
  • History, theory, and sociology of sexuality


  • Associate Dean of Social Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Academic Assistant Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Co-Chair, Faculty Development Fund Award Committee
  • Co-Chair, Teaching Development Fund Award Committee


  • MA, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • BA, Swarthmore College

Awards & Distinctions

  • Sylvester Community Pillar Award, Positive Resource Center, San Francisco, 2023.
  • Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellowship in Communication at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 2015-16.
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2009.
  • Stonewall Book Award (Israel Fishman Book Award for Nonfiction), American Library Association, 2006.

Selected Publications

  • Gamson, J. (Forthcoming) The Ballad of Teena Marie: Life, Music, and Soul Across the American Color Line. Under contract with 37 Ink Books / Simon & Schuster.
  • Gamson, J. (2023) ““But everything else, I learned online”: School-based and Internet-based sexual learning experiences of heterosexual and LGBQ+ youth,” with Rosanna Hertz. Qualitative Sociology.
  • Gamson, J. (2015). Modern families: Stories of extraordinary journeys to kinship. New York: New York University Press.
  • Gamson, J. (2005). The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, The Music, The Seventies in San Francisco. New York: H. Holt/Picador USA.
  • Gamson, J. (1998). Freaks talk back: Tabloid talk shows and sexual nonconformity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gamson, J. (1994). Claims to fame celebrity in contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press.