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Sarah Igo

Andrew Jackson Chair in American History
Professor of Law, Political Science, Sociology; Dean of Strategic Initiatives

Sarah E. Igo is the Andrew Jackson Chair in American History. She received her A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University.  As Dean of Strategic Initiatives for the College of Arts and Science, she led and implemented a far-reaching curricular reform that will launch in Fall 2025: the A&S College Core.  She also co-directs the Open Dialogue Visiting Fellows Program. Igo was the inaugural Faculty Head of E. Bronson Ingram College and is a former director of Vanderbilt’s Program in American Studies. 

Professor Igo teaches and writes about modern U.S. cultural, intellectual, legal and political history, with special interests in the human sciences, the sociology of knowledge, and the public sphere.  

Igo’s most recent book, The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2018), traces U.S. debates over the meaning of privacy, beginning with “instantaneous photography” in the late nineteenth century and culminating in our present dilemmas over social media and big data.  Winner of the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History from the American Philosophical Society, the Merle Curti Award for Intellectual History from the Organization of American Historians, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society, The Known Citizen has been warmly reviewed in venues such as The New YorkerHarper’s MagazineThe NationDissent, and the New York Review of Books.  The book was honored for “Exemplary Legal Writing” from the Green Bag Reader & Almanac and named one of the “Notable Non-Fiction Books of 2018” by the Washington Post

Igo's first book, The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public (Harvard University Press, 2007), explores the relationship between survey data—opinion polls, sex surveys, consumer research—and modern understandings of self and nation.  An Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times and one of Slate’s Best Books of 2007, The Averaged American was the winner of the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association and the Cheiron Book Prize as well as a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award of the American Sociological Association.  In addition to these books, Igo is a co-author of Bedford/St. Martin’s American history textbook, The American Promise.

Igo has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Whiting Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In 2012-2015, Igo was awarded a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to pursue training at U.C. Berkeley's Law School and Center for the Study of Law and Society.  Igo has been a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, a visiting fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale, and a Havens Center Visiting Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the recipient of Vanderbilt’s Chancellor’s Award for Research, the Early Career Award from the Journal for the History of the Behavioral Sciences and the Forum for the History of the Human Sciences and the 2015 best paper award for “overall excellence and relevance to the practice of privacy law” of the Privacy Law Scholars Conference.  

Professor Igo co-directed a multi-year project, the National Forum on the Future of Liberal Education, funded by the Teagle Foundation. She has been a fellow of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a member of the Social Science Research Council Working Group on the Transformation of Public Research Universities, and a participant in the National Young Faculty Leaders Forum at Harvard University’s Center for Business and Government.  Igo teaches a wide range of courses in modern U.S. history at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  She joined the Vanderbilt history department in 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was Associate Professor of History and the recipient of the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching.