Assistant Professor of Sociology
PhD, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
MA, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
MA, Education, Stanford University
BA, Mathematics, University of Oregon Honors College
Focus of Research
Motherhood, Gender & Work, Gender & Education, Identities, Presentation of Self
Ana Villalobos’s work introduces new conceptual frameworks to the understanding of family and gender. For example, she conceptualizes mothers not simply as attachment objects whose mothering is geared around the needs of children, but as attachment subjects whose own needs come into play in and through the acts of mothering. This allows her to see mothers’ own stakes in an intensive mother-relationship, something which has not previously been explored. In other work, she shows how young girls’ broader socialization almost perfectly matches models of success in the elementary classroom to create a “strategic alignment” that overly rewards them in early math education (often algorithmic and rules-based). However, she shows how strategic alignment creates obstacles to higher-level math (involving risks and frequently failed methods) which could contribute to female underrepresentation among college math majors and in the technical professions.
Villalobos is currently completing work on her book, Motherload, under contract at the University of California Press, which looks at how families cope with societal insecurity by relying on intensive mothering as their individualistic solution. The book develops her concept of the motherload which is the assumption that “correct mothering” can, in fact, remedy economic, physical and emotional threats. However, Villalobos documents how the pressure of a whole society's worth of security-needs falling on the backs of mothers creates a backfire which paradoxically undermines security within families.
Her new research is an exploration of two-dimensional presentations of self in families. She is particularly interested in how teenagers present themselves in social media, digital photography, and in the college application process. Each of these represents a variant of what she calls the “packaged self,” and she is investigating how these two-dimensional representations affect people’s lives and identities.
Along with her dedication to innovative scholarship, Villalobos is firmly committed to the classroom. She is a multiple award-winning teacher and has garnered top departmental and university teaching honors at U.C. Berkeley, as well as a national teaching award.