Terry McDonnell is an Associate Professor of Sociology 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’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.
Culture and media; HIV/AIDS and public health; social movements; gender and sexuality; urban studies, theory, methods
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.
Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching - 2018-19