Kristen Barber (she/her)

Kristen Barber
Chair and Associate Professor
Humanities and Social Sciences

Contact Info
Haag Hall 204G
Gender inequality; Masculinities; Work and employment; Consumption; Culture; Race, Ethnic and Gender Studies


Kristen Barber is Associate Professor and Chair of Race, Ethnic, and Gender Studies. She is the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Distinguished Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at UMKC. Having earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from University of Southern California, Barber’s research and teaching focus on issues of gender inequality through labor and consumption, with a focus on cultural representation, masculinities and privilege, and intersecting identities of race, gender, class and sexuality.

Barber's work focuses on the mechanisms that perpetuate gender inequalities with a focus on norm violation. That is: what can we learn when people cross culturally established boundaries around gender, race, class, and sexuality? Topics she has researched include service work, consumer identities, the beauty industry, feminism, protest, and media representation. A secondary area of research focuses on disaster studies, and Barber has published on Hurricane Katrina and COVID.

Her Rutgers University Press book, Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry, investigates how the woman-dominated service industry of cosmetology supports men’s purchase of beauty services and products—with an outcome that shores up inequalities amongst men as well as between men and women. Her work is published in the academic journals, Gender & Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Sociological Perspectives, Canadian Review of Sociology, and more.

Barber is also co-author of the Oxford University Press textbook, Gendered Worlds, 4th Edition, and is currently working on a Masculinities Studies primer for the press. She has served as an Editor for the journal Men and Masculinities since 2020 and is past Editor for the Culture Section of Contexts, the public-facing journal published by the American Sociological Association. Barber has appeared as a guest expert on podcasts, in news articles, and on public radio for outlets including The New York Times, Louie Radio in Paris, and NPR’s Marketplace.

Research Interests

  • Gender
  • Social Inequalities
  • Work and Organizations
  • Politics of Consumption
  • Disaster Studies
  • Qualitative Research Methods

Academic Credentials

Ph.D., Sociology, University of Southern California
M.A., Sociology, Tulane University
B.A., Sociology/Anthropology, Albion College