Terry McDonnell is associate professor of sociology and Director of Graduate Studies and a concurrent faculty member of the Keough School of Global Affairs. He is a cultural sociologist (Ph.D. 2009, Northwestern University) who studies objects and media in everyday life. McDonnell has been a Kellogg Institute faculty fellow since 2011.

McDonnell’s book, Best Laid Plans: Cultural Entropy and the Unraveling of AIDS Media Campaigns (University of Chicago Press) develops the idea of ‘cultural entropy’ to explain how best practices and evidence-based HIV/AIDS media campaigns in Accra, Ghana often fail to change peoples’ belief and behavior. He finds that as modernization and globalization makes culture more complex, the chances for misinterpretation increase and international health NGOs find it difficult to control their messages. This book won an honorable mention for the Sociology of Development's Best Book Award. His research has been published in numerous sociological journals including The American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Theory, Qualitative Sociology, Theory and Society, and Poetics.


ISP Advisee:
Anna KulczyckaAudriana Palacios

Thematic Interests

Culture and media; HIV/AIDS and public health; social movements; gender and sexuality; urban studies, theory, methods

Current Research

Terry’s recent research explains why HIV/AIDS media campaigns often fail to change peoples’ belief and behavior in response to the disease. Understanding people’s creativity is at the core of this work. He finds that communities often use AIDS campaigns in unexpected ways—women reconstitute female condoms as bangle bracelets and people decorate their homes with AIDS advertisements. Work from this project was recently published in the American Journal of Sociology and won an honorable mention for the Geertz Prize in Cultural Sociology. For his next project Terry turns his attention to developing a sociology of misinterpretation.

Other Accomplishments & Recognitions
  • Kellogg Institute's Undergraduate Mentoring Award 2020-21
  • Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching - 2018-19
Mon, Aug 30, 2021
Kellogg Undergraduate Student Programs Open House
Ellis Adjei Adams, Edward (Ted) Beatty, Paolo G. Carozza, Michael Coppedge, Abby Córdova, Diane Desierto, Eva Dziadula, Anne Foley, Mariah Horvath, Erin Metz McDonnell, Terence McDonnell, Paul Perrin, Patrizio Piraino, Aníbal Pérez-Liñán
Apr 17 to 19, 2016
From Aid to Accompaniment
Jaimie Bleck, Matt Bloom, Paolo G. Carozza, Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC, Paul Farmer, Rev. Daniel G. Groody, CSC, Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, Matthew Hing, Terence Johnson, Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, Tracy L. Kijewski-Correa, Erin Metz McDonnell, Terence McDonnell, Carolyn R. Nordstrom, Steve Reifenberg, Sara Sievers