Headshot of Michael Ian Borer, Ph.D.

Michael Ian Borer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology
Department(s): Sociology
Office: CBC-B 204
Email: michael.borer@unlv.edu


Michael Ian Borer joined the faculty at UNLV in 2008 after teaching at Dartmouth College and Furman University. The prospect of exploring the social worlds beneath and beyond the neon lights that dominant city’s skyline and reputation drew him to Las Vegas and has proven both prosperous and puzzling. His specializations include urban and community sociology, popular culture, religion, and qualitative methods. Dr. Borer is primarily interested in the creative ways that people make sense of their social and physical environments through their interactions and experiences with people, places, and things. He has authored, co-authored, and edited a number of books about urban culture and everyday life. His work has been published in City & Community, the Journal of Popular Culture, Social Psychology Quarterly, Symbolic Interaction, and the Journal of Urbanism, among others journals and edited books.

Dr. Borer is an award-winning scholar, teacher, and mentor. In recent years, he was the recipient of the 2011 Maines Narrative Research Award—granted by the Ethnography Division of the National Communications Association—for his article “From Collective Memory to Collective Imagination: Time, Place, and Urban Redevelopment.” He was awarded the UNLV Graduate and Professional Student Association Outstanding Mentor Award in 2012 and the College of Liberal Arts William Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014. In 2015, he was presented with the Early-in-Career Award by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

As a public sociologist, Dr. Borer regularly is interviewed and quoted about research on cities, urban culture, popular culture, social interaction, religion, and identity politics for local, national, and international media including National Public Radio, CNN, Fox News, ESPN, Univision, Boston Globe, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly, Jerusalem Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, mlb.com, and Penn & Teller’s Showtime Show “Bullshit.”

Recent Courses Taught

  • SOC 414/614 — Popular Culture
  • SOC 474/674 — Sociology of Religion
  • SOC 461/661 — Self & Society
  • SOC 496 — Capstone in Sociology
  • SOC 756 — Urban Theory
  • SOC 757 — Urban Field Method
  • SOC 766 — Sociology of Culture
  • SOC 767 — Visual Sociology: Image, Media, Culture

Current Research Projects

  • The Intoxication of Craft: Las Vegas, Beer, and the (R)evolution of Taste (under contract with NYU Press)
    The burgeoning craft beer scene in Las Vegas, which now supports about a dozen independent breweries and a growing number of festivals throughout the year, provides a rich case for uncovering the creative and imaginative processes necessary for fostering a locally grown and supported urban culture that is distinct from the corporate-driven neon spectacle that most people recall when they think of Las Vegas. The discrepancy and conflict between “top down” and “bottom up” popular culture—what Georg Simmel referred to as the “tragedy of culture”—is perhaps nowhere more evident than in and about Las Vegas. This ethnographic study explores the ways popular culture can be produced and consumed through local scenes that express and cater to contemporary individuals’ sensuous cravings for novelty, local identity, and a buzzed escape from the often banal routines of everyday life within a cosmopolitan, culturally omnivorous, lowbrow-collides-with-highbrow, tourist city.
  • Exploring City Life: A Qualitative Field Methods Reader (under contract with SAGE)
    The social dynamics and contours of urban culture are often confusing. To uncover the way the work requires a methodological tool-kit comprised of both traditional and nuanced techniques. Tyler Schafer (UNLV PhD Alumnus; Asst Prof at CSU-Stanislaus) and I are compiling a collection of methodologically instructive articles by some of the most cogent and innovative scholars of cities and the ways people live in them. Our book will feature “reflection essays” by some of the authors of the selected articles that provide first-hand accounts and further demonstrations of their preferred methods.
  • Clowns Unmasked: A Red-Nosed Tale of Folly and Fear
    In many guises, clowns have existed in many cultures across many regions and time periods. In contemporary American culture, they embody a paradoxical status as both friend and foe, as someone to laugh at and someone to run from. In this study, I try to uncover the constructed symbolic boundaries between the good (e.g., hospital clowns), the bad (e.g., “coulrophobia” and the “creepy clown” craze of 2016), and downright bizarre (e.g., singer Puddles Pity Party, Baskets).