My primary passion and life-activity is the exploration, cultivation, and exchange of ideas through my educational and scholarly work as a sociologist. With a background in rhetoric cultivated by my first intellectual mentor, Cynthia Willis-Chun, I was ushered into the symbolic interactionist, phenomenological, hermeneutical, and existential perspectives on life and society largely through my training at The New School for Social Research, where I was mentored by political and cultural sociologist Jeffrey Goldfarb and earned my doctorate in 2021. I also studied with such scholars as Benjamin Lee, Elzbieta Matynia, Virág Molnár, Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Terry Williams, and Deva Woodly during my time at that historic institution.

My work is most profoundly influenced and inspired by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, Albert Camus, Erving Goffman, Jeffrey Goldfarb, George H. Mead, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I can also point to Hannah Arendt, Roland Barthes, Howard Becker, Pierre Bourdieu, Lewis Coser, Thomas DeGloma, Émile Durkheim, Michel Foucault, Arlie Hochschild, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Donald Levine, Robert Merton, Rachel Sherman, Georg Simmel, Ann Swidler, Iddo Tavory, Max Weber, and Eviatar Zerubavel as minds who have significantly stimulated my own.

I am convinced that the purpose of the intellectual is to generate original insights that stimulate informed thought about pressing issues of the human condition. To that end, I'm most passionate about my public engagement - in the classroom, and through my writing. This space will house information about and links to my works as they become available.


"White allyship" is at the forefront of reignited, extended, and intensified debates about the future of racial progress. But as scholars and activists have long recognized, it comes with a set of personally destabilizing challenges that are at least as likely to turn whites away from anti-racism as they are to inspire them to participate in social change. 

Dilemmas of Allyship investigates the contemporary phenomenon of social justice allyship from a novel perspective. Departing from evaluative analyses, in which only "success" or "failure" can be seen, Zachary Sunderman argues that today’s movement is best understood as a set of socially mediated dilemmas, involving contradictions between mutually exclusive sets of motivations and interests. Based on interviews with American activists, Dilemmas uncovers how allies experience, understand, and manage these difficulties, and explores the ways in which they can both threaten and strengthen the project of white anti-racism. 

In a world where allyship discourses inspire everything from deeply transformative personal journeys to repressive state-level reactions, Dilemmas makes it possible to understand and discuss the movement’s most controversial aspects, and it will be of interest to any reader who is concerned about racial justice and the many debates to which it has given rise.

“Through a rich depiction of the lives of White allies in a moment of race reckoning, Sunderman shows that to be an ally is to acknowledge and work through a set of predictable dilemmas—to be simultaneously morally upright and inherently suspect, both knowledgeable and ignorant, both protagonist and antagonist. While not giving us any easy answers, Sunderman provides us with a template for White participation in anti-racist action, as well as a sophisticated theory of what allyship means.”
- Iddo Tavory, Professor of Sociology, New York University; Editor, Sociological Theory

“In Sunderman’s revealing interviews with whites in the anti-racism movement, he explores the process of moving from ‘bystander’ to ‘ally’ in the struggle for racial justice. Am I self-protective or open? Is shame or guilt part of this work or does it get in the way? Sunderman takes a deep dive into the emotional issues that arise in addressing an urgent issue: how do we scale up and move toward?”
- Arlie Russell Hochschild, Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of California Berkeley; Author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right


On Dylan Anxiety (Public Seminar, October 16, 2016)
Commentary on the controversy over Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Disability Paradox (Public Seminar, October 14, 2015)
Analysis of discourses of disability vs. work in NYSED public messaging.

The Utopia of Art (Public Seminar, July 5, 2015)
An examination of the relevance of the distinct ontological status of the work of art as it relates to the social world.

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"Dilemmas" publisher pre-order now live

In addition to being available from online retail stores, my book can now be preordered directly from the publisher. Follow this link: "...