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Sociology: People


M. Angélica Thumala Olave

M. Angélica Thumala Olave
Dr M. Angélica Thumala Olave
Lecturer in Global Sociology-Programme Co-Director, MSc Sociology and Global Change
1.02 21 George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 6631
Research Interests
Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Religion, Consumption, Catholicism, Secularisation, Elites, Culture and society in Latin America, Sociology of reading and writing, Books

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Tuesdays 11:00-1:00, by appointment. Please email me to arrange a time.


Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Cambridge

M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Warwick

B.A. in Sociology, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Research interests and Current projects

Fotos libros

My work in cultural sociology explores how cultural resources are mobilised in the search for justification and self-worth. I look at how individuals and groups draw upon (and also transform) cultural codes when constructing their life stories, how they produce meaningful accounts of their situation for themselves and others, and how these accounts are located within historical moments and wider cultural structures.

My first exploration of these themes was a study in the sociology of religion. In the monograph Wealth and Piety. The Catholicism of Chile’s business elite (2007, Santiago: Debate) (Riqueza y piedad. El catolicismo de la elite económica chilena) and several articles and book chapters, I examine the ethos of Chile’s economic elite. Critiquing simplistic versions of secularisation theory, this work traces the economic elite’s conservative reappropriation of Catholicism through discourse and ritual practice in the context of modernisation and pluralisation. (Cited in the press as one of the key texts for understanding the country's elite.) Later on, I turned the cultural conceptual lens upon a different phenomenon: the normative justifications for the consumption -and the refusal to consume- security products such as CCTV in England (in collaboration with Ian Loader and Ben Goold at the University of Oxford). The articles resulting from this research reveal how competing cultural representations of community, civil life and personal safety shape the individual and institutional choices between state and market provision of security as well as the justifications of these choices. The tensions between political ideals and market logics emerge also in a more recent cultural analysis of Chile’s civil sphere (in The Civil Sphere in Latin America, Cambridge University Press , 2018). In this research-based book chapter I explore the applicability of Alexander’s civil sphere theory to the case of the public’s reaction to a series of collusion scandals in the retail industry. The cultural codes mobilised in support of a range of protests, boycotts and legal actions indicate the situated instantiaton of some of the republican ideals at the core of the civil sphere.

I have also worked as a consultant for the World Bank on the cultural and normative basis of gendered relations within households and labour markets. On Norms and Agency. Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries.

A cultural sociology of books, reading and writing

In recent years I have been interested in the role of reading and books in the formation and expression of accounts of self and the justification of action. I explore the personal and political significance of reading and books in Latin America and the UK. This work is divided into three streams:

  1. The aesthetic, ethical and existential dimensions of reading for pleasure (fiction and non-fiction)
  2. The links between reading and critical capacity, utopian thought and political awakening and radicalisation 
  3. The process of self-justification in autobiographical writing among elites

Edinburgh Research Explorer

Academia. edu

I am co-Editor of the journal Cultural Sociology  (with Nick Prior). 

I am Programme co-Director of the MSc in Sociology and Global Change (with Sophia Woodman).



In preparation. The Love of Books. Attachment to a changing cultural object. (Under contract)

(2012) with Muñoz-Boudet, A.M; Petesch, P.; Turk, C. On Norms and Agency. Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Washington DC: IBRD/The World Bank.

(2007) Wealth and Piety. The Catholicism of Chile’s business elite. (Riqueza y piedad. El catolicismo de la elite económica chilena.) Santiago: Debate.

Peer-reviewed articles

(2020) "Book love. A cultural sociological interpretation of the attachment to books" Poetics Online First

(2018) "Reading Matters. Towards a cultural sociology of readingAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology  6(3): 417-454

(2015) with Loader, I., Goold, B. "Grudge spending: the interplay between markets and culture in the purchase of security” The Sociological Review 63(4):858–875

(2015) with Goold, B. and Loader, I. “Tracking devices: On the reception of a novel security good” Criminology and Criminal Justice 15 (1): 3-22 

(2014) with Loader, I. Goold, B. “The moral economy of security” Theoretical Criminology 18(4): 469–488

(2013) with Goold, B., Loader, I. “The Banality of Security. The Curious Case of Surveillance Cameras” British Journal of Criminology 53 977–996

(2012) “The aristocracy of the will: a critique of Pierre Bourdieu with illustrations from Chile” Social Compass 59 (1): 52-68

(2011) with Goold, B. and I. Loader (2011) “A tainted trade?: Moral ambivalence and legitimation work in the private security industry” British Journal of Sociology  62 (2):283-303

(2010) with Goold, B., I. Loader “Consuming security? Tools for a sociology of security consumption” Theoretical Criminology 14 (1): 3-30

(2010) “The richness of ordinary life. Religious justification among Chile’s business elite”  Religion, 40 (1): 14-26

(2007) “Notions of Evil, the Devil and Sin among Chilean Businessmen” Social Compass, 54 (4): 613-632

Special Issues

(Forthcoming, 2021) Introduction. Special Issue on The Cultural Sociology of Reading. American Journal of Cultural Sociology

(2020) with Mc Cormick, L and Prior, N. “Editors’ Introduction" Special Issue on Nathalie Heinich’s Sociology of Values. Cultural Sociology 14(3)

Chapters in books

(2018) "Civil indignation in Chile: Recent Collusion Scandals in the Retail industry" in The Civil Sphere in Latin America  Jeffrey Alexander and Carlo Tognato (Eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 66-92.

(2013) “El error de Milton Friedman: justificaciones religiosas y morales de la empresa en Chile”, in Adaptación, la empresa chilena después de Friedman (Eds.) José Ossandón and EugenioTironi. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales.

(2011) “Distinción de base religiosa en la elite económica chilena” in Alfredo Joignant and Pedro Güell (Eds.) Notables, tecnócratas y mandarines. Elementos de sociología de las élites en Chile, 1990-2010. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales.

(2009) “Cultura Militar y Demandas de Mercado: La Modernización de la Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil de Chile” in Alejandro Portes (Ed.) Las Instituciones en el Desarrollo Latinoamericano: Un Estudio Comparado. México: Siglo XXI.

Book reviews

(2018) "American Guides: The Federal Writers’ Project and the Casting of American Culture by Wendy Griswold,"  American Journal of Sociology  123 (4): 1238-1240

(2004) “El imperio del Opus Dei en Chile by María Luisa Mönckeberg"  Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions 128 (35):106-107

Reports and other publications

(2018) “La fuerza ética de la crítica liberacionista permanece intacta” in Origen y Futuro de la Teología de la Liberación Online Forum about the future of Liberation Theology in Intersecciones. Foro, Ideas y Democracia. 

(2012) Aspirations on hold? Young lives in the West Bank and Gaza World Bank

(2012) “West Bank and Gaza: knowledge as a pathway for dignity” Blog for The World Bank’s Voices and Views: Middle East and North Africa, November 14

(2010) “Transición religiosa” Seminario Una mirada al alma de Chile. Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario Universidad Católica - Adimark 2009 36: 39-43.

Topics interested in supervising

I would welcome proposals from research students with interests in the sociology of culture broadly understood, culture and society in Latin America, elites, religion, and the sociology of literature, books, reading and writing.

If you are interested in being supervised by M. Angélica Thumala Olave, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology