The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and American Everyday Life was originally published in 2012 (and rereleased in paperback in 2016). The Slumbering Masses focuses on sleep science and medicine in the United States over the course of the 19th through early 21st centuries, and was based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in a series of sleep clinics in the American Midwest. That fieldwork focused on clinical decision making among sleep specialists, as well as research with local and national patient support groups. My guiding interest in the project was to see how modern sleep (i.e. 8 hours of nightly, consolidated sleep) developed, how it affects clinical practice and the everyday lives of individuals, and how “normal” sleep upholds particular ideas about whiteness, especially as it is related to the spatiotemporal ordering of US society. In addition to ethnographic work on these questions, The Slumbering Masses focuses on a wide variety of media (memoirs, science fiction, children’s book, parenting manuals, etc.); many of the chapters take a mixed methods approach to a question (e.g. sleep & the family, sleep & school, sleep & sports) and draw from ethnographic and textual material to demonstrate the resonance of particular ideas about sleep, how these ideas shape American institutions, and how they inform daily life for individuals with sleep disorders.

The cover of The Slumbering Masses, which depicts a pillow with the title printed on it. The pillow is rumpled (maybe to indicated a poor night’s sleep?).

In addition to the book, there are a number of articles related to sleep, most of which aren’t integrated into the book (although small snippets are). These include:

“Human Nature” and the Biology of Everyday LifeAmerican Anthropologist 121.2.

with Celina Callahan-Kapoor. Chronic Subjunctivity, Or, How Physicians Use Diabetes and Insomnia to Manage Futures in the United StatesMedical Anthropology 36.283-95.

Can we Ever Know the Sleep of Our Ancestors? Sleep Health 2.1: 4-5.

Biomedicine, the Whiteness of Sleep and the Wages of Spatiotemporal NormativityAmerican Ethnologist 42.3: 446-458.

Myths of Modern American Sleep: Naturalizing Primordial Sleep, Blaming Technological Distractions, and Pathologizing Children. Science as Culture 24.2: 205-226.

Disclosure as Method, Disclosure as Dilemma In Disclosure in Health and Illness, edited by Lenore Manderson and Mark Davis. New York: Routledge, 104-119.

Therapy, Remedy, Cure: Disorder and the Spatiotemporality of Medicine and Everyday Life. Medical Anthropology 32.6: 1-16.

What’s So Natural About Sleep? Anthropology Now 5.3: 9-17.

Where Have All Our Naps Gone?, Or, Nathaniel Kleitman, the Eclipse of Napping, and the Historiography of Emergence. Anthropology of Consciousness 24.2: 96-116.

Natural Hegemonies: Sleep and the Rhythms of American Capitalism. Current Anthropology 52.6: 876-895.

The Nature of Sleep. Comparative Studies of Society and History 53.4: 945-970.

Fantasies of Extremes: Sports, War and the Science of Sleep. Biosocieties 4.2: 257-271.

Precipitating Pharmakologies and Capital Entrapments: Narcolepsy and the Strange Cases of Provigil and Xyrem. Medical Anthropology 28.1: 11-30.

Sleep, Signification, and the Abstract Body of Allopathic Medicine. Body & Society 14.3: 93-114.

You can also read some blog posts I did for Psychology Today, as well as other sundry sleep-related material on Somatosphere.

The Slumbering Masses has been reviewed by a number of outlets, and there have been some profiles of me and the book. You can access them through the following links (which I try to keep updated):


American Ethnologist

Book News Inc.

Bulletin of the History of Medicine

Canadian Bulletin of Medical History

Contemporary Sociology

Current Anthropology

Journal of American History

Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal

Los Angeles Review of Books

Medical Anthropology Quarterly


New Scientist’s CultureLab

The New Yorker


Santa Cruz Weekly

Sophisticated Dorkiness

Standard Living NYC

University of Minnesota Business Blog

Radio/TV Interviews

To the Best of Our Knowledge

Take Two on KPCC

CBC’s The Current

The Dr. Don Show

Against the Grain on KPFA

Forthright Radio on KZYX

HuffPost Live

Nice Try! (2021)

The Michelangelo Signorile Show

The Art of Manliness (2015)

Sleep Junkies with Jeff Mann (2021)

Excerpts & Related Writing

Complete Wellbeing

In These Times (Dec 4th, 2012 issue; paragraphs from Chapter 2)

Psychology Today Blog

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