Kyle Knight is Department Head and Professor of Sociology.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
I’m an environmental sociologist. I primarily research the human dimensions of environmental change, which includes the social causes, consequences, and responses to environmental problems. Besides introductory, statistics, and methods courses in sociology, I’ve also taught courses on environmental sociology, environmental justice, and society and climate change. My research has lately focused on social patterns in climate change public opinion. For example, my most recent publication examined how outdoor recreation, such as hiking and birdwatching, might foster greater concern for climate change. My initial interest in sociology was motivated by questioning the centrality of materialism and consumerism in our society, and that blossomed into a drive to understand how we might achieve a more sustainable and equitable future.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
One book I’ve used in my classes for a while now is Andrew Szasz’s Shopping Our Way to Safety, which I think provides an excellent illustration of how treating systemic social problems as individual-level issues to be solved by consumers not only doesn’t solve these problems but actually makes them worse. One of the biggest challenges in teaching environmental sociology is to get across the point that environmental problems are, at their root, social problems, and this book usually does the trick.
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
While working on my Ph.D. at Washington State University, I co-authored and published an article with a fellow sociology graduate student and we received a departmental award for it. It was at this moment that I began to feel like a real scholar, and I continue to be proud of the work we did on our own to make it happen.
Tell us about a book you’ve read recently, a movie you’ve seen recently, or another work of art or media you’ve engaged with recently that you really enjoyed and would like to recommend.
I am a big music nerd and love all kinds of genres and traditions. I listen to music all day long, especially while working in my office, and enjoy reading album reviews. My musical tastes run the gamut – some of my favorite musical artists lately are Jake Xerxes Fussell, Yasmin Williams, Madlib, Cassandra Jenkins, Ben Chasny, Julian Lage, and Protomartyr. Right now, I’m fascinated by Marina Herlop’s new album titled Pripyat, which is named after the Ukrainian city abandoned in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Herlop is a classical pianist and experimental producer from Barcelona, and this album creates a wordless, other-worldly soundscape that is just completely captivating. My favorite track is “Shaolin Mantis” but the choir version of “Miu” is a close runner-up.
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that Mines students might not already know?
I’m pretty boring and just enjoy spending time with my family outside of work. We especially like to hike, camp, and ride bicycles. We’re very excited to get to know the Black Hills and to eventually ride the Mickelson Trail when it’s not so hot!