Skip to main content

Richard A. 'Pete' Peterson

Professor of Sociology Emeritus

Richard A. “Pete” Peterson earned his PhD in sociology at the University of Illinois. He arrived at Vanderbilt in 1965. He served in numerous administrative positions over the years, including chair of the Department of Sociology and director of Vanderbilt-in-England during the 1980s. He also was a Mellon Research Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. Peterson was the founding chairman of the American Sociological Association’s culture section.

His wide-ranging research interests included the music industry, popular culture, musical genres, and the aging arts audience. When he arrived in Nashville, Peterson discovered that the center of country music production was just a few blocks from campus. He began to explore the development of country music and the reasons Nashville was chosen over other cities as the center of the industry. This research culminated in his book, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity published by the University of Chicago Press in 1997. Peterson also co-authored “Age and Arts Participation, 1982-1997” and “Classification as Culture: Types and Trajectories of Music Genres” in the American Sociological Review in 2008.

He also served as editor or associate editor of several journals and publications, including International Journal of Empirical Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts. In addition, he was a former consultant to National Public Radio.

Peterson passed away on February 4, 2010 at the age of 77. More can be read about his personal and professional life here