Bearman, Peter 1956-

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Bearman, Peter 1956-
(Peter Shawn Bearman)


Born 1956. Education: Brown University, B.A., 1978; Harvard University, M.A., 1982, Ph.D., 1985.


Home—New York, NY. Office—Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy, Columbia University, 420 W. 118th St., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10027. E-mail—[email protected].


Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, lecturer, 1985-86; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, assistant professor, 1986-91, associate professor, 1991-96, professor of sociology, 1996-97; adjunct professor, 1998-2001; Columbia University, New York, NY, professor of sociology, 1998—, Paul F. Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences, director, 1999—, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, director, 2000—, chair, Department of Sociology, 2001—. Eric Voegelin Guest Professor, University of Munich, 1997; visiting professor of sociology, University of Genova, 2002-03.


Relations into Rhetorics: Local Elite Social Structure in Norfolk, England, 1540–1640, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1993.

Doormen, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

Author of articles for scholarly journals, including the Journal of Adolescent Health, American Journal of Sociology, and the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Peter Bearman is a sociologist known for his research regarding adolescent sexuality, whose first major book, Doormen, ventured into a completely different territory. Doormen is a quasi-sociological study of doormen in New York City, in which Bearman investigates the social relationship between doormen and tenants, initially because he suspected the inequity between the two groups resulted in tenants becoming arrogant in their dealings with others after getting used to the polite deference offered by their doormen. Though his ethnographical study ultimately discredited such a theory, it did reveal information about a subgroup of the population that has never before been studied.

According to Bearman, doormen are in the unique position to know many intimate details of their tenants' lives without having anything near an equal social status with them, and because of this, an uneasy protocol surrounding such issues as privacy, the Christmas bonus, and small talk has risen. Nick Paumgarten, writing in the New Yorker, quoted Bearman's explanation of the social inequity between doormen and tenants: "Occupational prestige is associated with ritual purity … doormen have lower prestige than others because their job is defined as one that absorbs impurities by mediating the relationship between the street and the tenant." Alexandre Frenette, reviewing the book for the Canadian Journal of Sociology Online, wrote that "Doormen provides a solid contribution to the study of social interaction, exemplifying the way sociology can make the mundane quite interesting. By paying systematic attention to the interactions of doormen and tenants Bearman captures the processes whereby each group negotiates its respective roles and responsibilities."

Prior to Doormen, Bearman wrote Relations into Rhetorics: Local Elite Social Structures in Norfolk, England, 1540–1640, which sought to shed new light on why England's landed gentry chose the positions they did during the English Revolution and the country's subsequent civil war. Bearman suggested that concepts of kinship were more important to individuals than their connections to the king, at least until around 1600, when those kinship alliances were weakened by the political maneuverings of the crown as well as the gentry's increasing tendency to marry into families outside their home counties. Reviewing the book for the journal Social Forces, Richard Lachmann commended Bearman's research and conclusions. "Bearman's methodological precision and theoretical clarity provide a model for sociologists and for historians," he wrote.



Bearman, Peter, Doormen, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.


New Yorker, October 10, 2005, Nick Paumgarten, "Doctor Doorman," p. 32.

Social Forces, September, 1995, Richard Lachmann, review of Relations into Rhetorics: Local Elite Social Structure in Norfolk, England, 1540–1640, p. 353.


Canadian Journal of Sociology Online, (January-February, 2006), Alexandre Frenette, review of Doormen.

Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy, Columbia University Web site, (April 29, 2006), "Peter Bearman."