Noah McClain

  • Assistant Professor of Sociology

Noah McClain joined IIT in fall, 2012 as Assistant Professor of Sociology. His Ph.D. research examined dilemmas associated with security efforts in the New York Subway system, as they manifest in the work of subway employees, in organizational processes, and in light of the arcane technology of a century-old underground railroad with millions of daily passengers. The project encapsulates McClain's central interests: life in cities, work practices, formal organizational contexts, and human interaction with material and technical instruments. Through these themes, McClain's past and ongoing research also examines social inequality, everyday life in prison and out, the ways that rules are used in organizations, and transactional systems of shared or free goods. Before coming to IIT, McClain was a post-doctoral research fellow and faculty member of the Bard Prison Initiative, and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.


Ph.D., New York University, Sociology (2011)
M.A., New York University, Sociology (2007)
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College

Research Interests

Urban sociology




Objects and Technology



2012 with Ashley Mears. “Free to Those Who Can Afford It: the Everyday Affordance of Privilege.” Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media, and the Arts 40 (2): 133-149.

2012 with Harvey Molotch. "Below the Subway: Taking Care Day in and Day Out." in Harvey Molotch, Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

2008 with Harvey Molotch. “Things at Work: Informal Social-Material Mechanisms for Getting the Job Done.” Journal of Consumer Culture 8: 35-67.

2003 with Harvey Molotch. “Dealing with Urban Terror: Heritages of Control, Varieties of Intervention, Strategies of Research.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27: 779-98.