Thomas Macias, Associate Professor

Area of expertise
immigration, race and ethnic relations, consumerism, environmental justice
Contact Information
Phone: (802) 656-2141

Website: Faculty website
My interest in sociology most likely began during my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica and Argentina.  There, I was struck by the socially constructed nature of everything around me.  Living outside the United States for a few years drew my attention to how things such as race and ethnic categories, social class status and consumer-based lifestyle expectations are inseparable from the particular histories, social relations, and cultures in which they’re found.  Even within the U.S., the social, economic and political contrasts between Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up, and Burlington, Vermont where I work and live, are striking. 
            My sociological research began in the Southwest where I’ve written about environmental justice issues surrounding forest management in northern New Mexico, and the multigenerational context of ongoing Mexican immigration in Santa Clara County, California and Maricopa County, Arizona.  In each of these three contexts, Mexican-origin identity means something very distinctive, ranging from long established rural communities with claims to centuries-old Spanish land grants to recent arrivals and the targets of heated anti-immigrant politics in a sprawling desert metropolis.
            Since my arrival in Vermont, my research interests have shifted somewhat with a stronger focus on the effect of consumer behavior on environmental outcomes.  I am particularly interested in how efforts at conservation might reduce human impacts on the natural environment.  My more recent publications concern the role community social ties, sometimes referred to as social capital, work to support local agriculture and alternative forms of transportation.  An underlying theme in my research is that in a world where market forces see individuals in society as primarily a consumer source of profit, people fare much better when they have a variety of people to rely on for information, friendship and mutual support.
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS Macias, T., Nelson, E. “A Social Capital Basis for Environmental Concern: Evidence from Northern New England.”
Rural Sociology, December 2011, v. 76, pp. 562-81. Macias, T., “Working Towards a Just, Equitable and Local Food System: The Social Impact of Community-based Agriculture.” Social Science Quarterly, December 2008, v. 69, pp. 1086-1101. Macias, T., “Conflict over Forest Resources in Northern New Mexico: Rethinking Cultural Activism as a Strategy for Environmental Justice.” The Social Science Journal, March 2008, v. 45, pp. 61-75. Macias, T., Mestizo in America: Generations of Mexican Ethnicity in the Suburban Southwest, 2006, Tucson: University of Arizona Press.