Sheila Bock

Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Expertise: Folklore, Vernacular Health Beliefs


Sheila Bock is an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies in the department of interdisciplinary, gender, and ethnic studies. She is a folklorist, which means she studies traditional, informal culture – the expressive forms that emerge from the ground up and communicate the beliefs and values of individuals and communities.

While folklorists do study what people recognize to be more profound genres, like creation myths and religious rituals, they also take seriously those things that many people write off as trivial, including jokes, contemporary (urban) legends, memes circulating on the Internet, and decorated mortarboards.

Bock’s diverse research interests include the contested domains of illness experience, vernacular health beliefs, material/digital enactments of personal and community identities, and the intersections between folklore and popular culture.


  • Ph.D., Ohio State University, English
  • M.A., Ohio State University, Comparative Studies
  • B.A., University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology

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Sheila Bock In The News

The Good Men Project
For college students across the country, commencement formally marks the transition from student to graduate. Per tradition, most schools feature speakers, give out awards, organize departmental dinners – and, of course, designate caps and gowns for students to wear when they receive their diploma.
Washington City Paper
D.C. is growing wealthier and whiter every year. Is a conspiracy theory to blame?
The Boston Globe
It’s commencement season in Boston, a city that boasts almost 30 colleges and universities. On any given weekend, you’re almost as likely to catch a glimpse of someone wearing a cap and gown as you are to see a fan in a Red Sox hat. But the caps and gowns worn by graduates have a much longer history. In recent decades, caps even have become space for graduates to express their individuality.
The New York Times
"What happens in ... stays in ...."

Articles Featuring Sheila Bock

photo illustrations representing death across cultures
Campus News | December 9, 2022

From a new-found obsession with true crime podcasts to mourning rituals across cultures, this class examines the ways in which death captivates our attention.

petri dish and beakers containing liquids
Research | December 26, 2018

In 2018, faculty and students collaborated with one another and international colleagues on scientific exploration that sought to help people make sense of themselves and the world around them.

decorated commencement cap
People | April 26, 2018

The emerging tradition of DIY decorated mortarboards offers professor insight into current day culture.