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Corey M. Abramson is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. His research examines the connections between inequality, health, and culture. His comparative ethnography on this topic, The End Game: How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years, dissects how persistent class, racial, and gender divisions in America structure the lives of the elderly. Corey’s work in ethnographic methodology has two main strands: (1) articulating the value of ethnographic pluralism (Beyond the Case, co-edited with Neil Gong) and (2) developing strategies for integrating computational social science techniques to improve scalability, transparency, and replicability for multi-site projects conducted in accordance with realist principles (see “The Promises of Computational Ethnography,” 2017).
Corey's current book project draws upon two-decades of participant observation in multiple social settings, including cancer centers, cage-fighting gyms, state-subsidized housing for older adults, weight -loss programs, dementia facilities, emergency departments, and neighborhood bars. The book combines ethnographic narrative with visualizations of patterns in the text data to produce cross-case insights into the connections between contemporary American inequality and its “bodily cultures.”
Prior to becoming an ethnographer, Corey grew up in an impoverished Los Angeles exurb, played at the Whisky-a-go-go with his band, was a first-generation college student at Berkeley, taught English in Korea, earned a black belt in judo and sold all his stuff to move onto an old sailboat which he sailed down the California coast. He currently enjoys making electro-indie music with his daughter, photography, and getting DOS to run on all his electronic devices. Corey enjoys humor, but finds writing about himself in the third-person awkward.
ELIJAH ANDERSON teaches sociology at Yale University, where he directs the Yale Urban Ethnography Project. Trained by luminaries of the Chicago School, Elijah had always been interested in people and he became intrigued by the idea that he could build a career out of talking to folks and researching their lives and experiences in their own terms and milieu. His first book, A Place on the Corner (1978), is a study of the social organization of Black street-corner men in the ghetto centered on a liquor store on Chicago’s South Side he calls Jelly’s. Drawing on the microsociology of Erving Goffman, the book traces how “regulars,” “winos” and “hoodlums” create an interactional order that allows them to craft and maintain a social identity and position. It has served as the germ for a body of work examining the lives, sociability, and local knowledge of urban Black America.
Elijah is best known for Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City (1999). Based on extended fieldwork in Philadelphia, he counters the stereotype of the ghetto as a place of random violence and disorganization by showing how street interaction and aggression is regulated by an informal but well-known code that dictates when, how, why and who resorts to violence. He shows that residents of the inner city gravitate toward two competing cultural orientations, "decent" and "street," that guide their social strategies and aspirations. Elijah’s edited volume Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black, and Male (2009) further explores the predicament and prospects of inner-city black men after the ebbing of the Civil Rights Movement.
Elijah’s latest book, Black in White Space: The Enduring Impact of Color in Everyday Life (2021), draws a picture of twenty-first century race relations. In it, he describes the unique social stigma Black people have carried since the days of slavery, and the way the inner-city ghetto, “the place where the Black people live,” has become an iconic image that follows Black people as they make their way through the White spaces of the larger society. Away from the field and the lecturing room, Elijah likes to take photographs and to practice his jazz flute.
Nafeesa Andrabi, UNC-Chapel Hill
Health disparities, measurement of race & ethnicity in US, Muslims, population health, inequality
Nafeesa Andrabi is a Sociology PhD student at UNC-Chapel Hill and a predoctoral fellow in the Biosocial Training Program at Carolina Population Center. She was born in Claremont, CA and spent several childhood years living in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her curiosity and excitement for sociology and ethnography are provoked by her positionality as a Muslim, Pakistani-American woman who grew up straddling cultures, religions, structures of inequality, manifestations of White supremacy and national boundaries. Her work is particularly informed by her grandparent’s retelling of the India-Pakistan partition and the end of British colonial rule, her family’s painful departure from Indian occupied Kashmir and her parent’s formative experiences with Zia ul-Haq’s military coup, shifting gender and religious norms, and the hanging of Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The multiple layers of migration and identity formation that took place in her own home, and the experience of being the eldest child of highly educated immigrants are both central to how she thinks about this world and her experiences with structures of oppression.
Nafeesa's primary research interest is understandings of race among Muslims in the United States and the mental and physical health consequences of Muslimness at the intersections of race and migration. Her dissertation explores U.S. birth outcomes (as a proxy for maternal and intergenerational stress) of women born in Muslim-majority countries, and the role of “on-the-ground” race in moderating the effect of Muslimness from 1990 to 2019. She integrates multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches to better understand health disparities beyond traditional racial categories. Nafeesa is also part of a collaborative team that is studying the historical and contemporary measurement of race and ethnicity in population health research (for example, who is systematically excluded across population health research because of our measures, and how do different measures of race and ethnicity change our findings?). When she’s not getting giddy about sociological research, you can find her trail running, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, banging on the piano or making lopsided ceramics.
Sneha Annavarapu, National University of Singapore
Social change, class inequality, gender relations, South Asia, governance
Sneha Annavarapu is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Yale-National University of Singapore College. Sneha’s love for ethnography started in 2013 while doing a MA thesis in Development Studies in Chennia, India. For her doctoral dissertation, she zoomed in on the figure of the “typical Indian driver” and the emergence as driving safety as a pressing public health hazard to be resolved by state action. In her book project Driving Towards Development, Sneha draws on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2017-2019 in the southern Indian metropolis of Hyderabad to explore how efforts at reforming driving habits are being conceptualized and implemented by state agencies like the traffic police, and how these attempts resonate with motorists. As a transnational migrant, Sneha spends all her spare time trying to keep up with friendships and kinships across the globe.
Michel Anteby, Boston University
Work, occupations, field resistance, organizations, economic sociology
Michel Anteby teaches at Boston University. His research examines how individuals relate to their work, their occupations, and the organizations they belong to. What primarily drives his inquiries is a desire to melt down various forms of field resistances and surface the unspoken or the concealed. His first book project looked at illegal production in a French factory and was published under the title Moral Gray Zones: Side Productions, Identity, and Regulation in an Aeronautic Plant (2008). It showed how managerial tolerance for illegal behaviors served as a regulating mechanism within workplaces, fashioning workers' identity and self-esteem while allowing management to maintain control. Since then, he has studied many other worlds of work, ranging from those of clinical anatomists and ghostwriters to puppeteers. Most of these studies examine the practices people engage in at work that help them sustain their chosen cultures or identities. In doing so, his research contributes to a better understanding of how these cultures and identities come to be and manifest themselves.
As a strong believer in the benefits of bringing one’s own experience to the analysis of a given field, he wrote an ethnography of faculty socialization at the Harvard Business School while on its faculty—published under the title Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in Business School Education (2013)—and has advocated in an article titled “Relaxing the Taboo on Telling Our Own Stories” for scholars not to shy away from their own stories. Also, from 2009 to 2019, he co-organized with a few colleagues and several doctoral students a recurring professional development workshop on ethnography at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting. Outside of academia, Michel is a fan of all the Muppets movie (even the bad ones), enjoys Klezmer music, and has hiked most trails around Boston.
Javier Auyero, University of Texas-Austin
Poverty, violence, police-trafficker collusion, the state, politics
JAVIER AUYERO was born in Lomas de Zamora in the suburbs of the city of Buenos Aires, where he is always returning (alone or, increasingly, assisted by younger ethnographic partners) to conduct fieldwork. He teaches in the Sociology Department at the University of Texas-Austin. Since he wrote his first book, Poor People’s Politics, he has been trying to make sense of the many dimensions of politics among the urban poor, mainly through ethnographic fieldwork. Almost a decade ago he founded the Urban Ethnography Lab, a collaborative space where faculty and graduate students do “all things ethnographic.” It was in the lab where the collective book Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City was born and raised.
Javier writes and teaches about urban poverty, political ethnography, and collective violence. Since the mid 2000s he conducts collaborative ethnography: first with anthropologist Débora Swistun (Flammable. Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown), then with elementary school teacher, María Fernanda Berti (In Harm’s Way. Interpersonal Violence at the Urban Margins), and now with anthropology student Sofía Servían (a book in progress, tentatively entitled Overwhelmed. How do the urban poor keep surviving?). His latest book is based on an analysis of court cases and dissects the dynamics of police-drug trafficker collusion (with Katherine Sobering, The Ambivalent State).
When he is not reading or writing, Javier is taking walks in Austin's many hiking trails with Gabriela Polit, swimming, or watching re-runs of Leo Messi’s goals for the Argentina national team (narrated by Argentine “relatores”).
Chiara Bassetti, University of Trento
Everyday life, embodiment, performance, sociability, workplace
CHIARA BASSETTI teaches Qualitative Methods at the University of Trento and is a researcher of the Italian National Research Council (CNR). An ethnographer and ethnomethodologist, she focuses on on everyday social interaction, with particular attention to embodied, rhythmical and affective aspects, and to the role of artifacts and technologies, particularly in the workplace. She conducted ethnography and video-based field studies in medical emergency and surveillance rooms; theatres, open-air festivals and rehearsals studios; living rooms, bedrooms and balconies.
Empirically, Chiara’s inquiries range from the performing arts (Genesi dell’opera d’arte. Fare danza assieme, 2019; Corpo, apprendimento e identità, 2021) to complex sociotechnical systems (“Airport security contradictions”, Ethnography, 2018; “The tacit dimension of expertise”, Discourse Studies, 2021), to the home (“Im/moralità delle emozioni”, Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, 2014;). She recently co-edited a special issue (in English) of Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa on “Ethnography in and of the age of Covid-19” which Gary Alan Fine and Cheris Shun-ching Chan, 2020, in the Special Issue on).
Methodologically, she has engaged in “traditional” solo ethnographies, employing both participant observation and observing participation (or “enactive ethnography”, in Loïc Wacquant’s terms), as well as team ethnographies. Her most recent work, in collaboration with Kenneth Liberman, concerns simultaneity and rhythm in mundane, sociable conversation (e.g., "Making talk together", Language and Communication, 2021). She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa - the Italian journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research, which publishes articles in both Italian and English.
Stéphane Beaud, ENS-Paris and Science-Po Lille
working class, immigration, schooling, generations, social mobility
STÉPHANE BEAUD teaches sociology at the École normale supérieure in Paris and at Science-Po in Lille. He first studied law, got bored and moved to political science, got horrified and found his true vocation in sociology. His work relies on long-term field oberservation and in-depth ethnographic interviews to chart the transformation of the French working class in its relation to work, the school, and the neighborhood, with a special focus on the experiences of the second generation of immigrants from North Africa into France.
Stéphane’s first major book (with Michel Pialoux) is an ethnography of the fabled automobile factory of Peugeot in Sochaux tracing the un-making of the French working class after Fordism (Retour sur la classe ouvrière, 1999). The second tracks the ambiguities and the disillusions caused by the state policy of universal access to college among students of lower-class and immigrant origins (80 % au bac » et après ? Les enfants de la démocratisation scolaire, 2002). His Guide de l’enquête de terrain (4th edition, 2010), co-authored with Florence Weber, has helped train generations of young ethnographers in France. He has also collaborated with the journalists Jade Lindgaard and Joseph Confavreux to draw a multi-voice portrait of La France invisible (2006).
Stéphane’s latest book, La France des Belhoumi. Portraits de famille (1977-2017), follows the eight siblings of a working-class Algerian family over a five-year period to sketch a microsciology of the slow-moving process of immigrant incorporation and mobility into the middle class over three decades. But his true passion is soccer, about he has written extensively, and which he still practices at every opportunity.
Beth Bechky, Stephen G. Newberry Chair in Leadership, Graduate School of Management, University of California, Davis
work, occupations, organizations, technology, science
Beth Bechky is a professor at the University of California, Davis. Beth is interested in work practices, and studies how workers collaborate to solve problems, struggle to coordinate, and manage the challenges of technological change at the workplace. Her recent book, Blood, Powder, and Residue: How Crime Labs Translate Evidence into Proof (2021) shows how the work of forensic scientists is fraught with the tensions of serving justice—constantly having to anticipate the expectations of the world of law and the assumptions of the public—while also staying true to their scientific ideals. In previous projects she has learned how to sell Xerox equipment, locked up sets and made copies as a production assistant in the film industry, assembled semiconductor equipment in a clean room, and assisted technicians in a biotech lab. In addition to being in the field, Beth also enjoys teaching field research methods. Outside of academia, Beth watches a lot of Under-12 tennis tournaments.
Claudio E. Benzecry, Northwestern University
Culture, craft, commodity chains, embodiment, global ethnography
Claudio E. Benzecry teaches Communication and Sociology at Northwestern University. His new book, The Perfect Fit. Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry is based on a five-year ethnographic research on fashion, creativity, and globalization, following how shoes are imagined, sketched, designed, developed, and produced in between the US, Europe, Brazil, and China. The project started as an ethnography of designers in NYC and how they produced patterns of innovation while copying, but in following the process of creation became a research project on what happens when craft is done as a global scale, as well as on the techniques, devices, and careers that make globalization a quotidian ongoing accomplishment.
MAX BESBRIS was born and raised in Los Angeles and is currently an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He researches housing, residential mobility, discrimination, economic transactions, and, more recently, how climate change is affecting patterns of stratification in the U.S. Max's first book, Upsold: Real Estate Agents, Prices, and Neighborhood Inequality (2020), is a multi-method—though mostly ethnographic—examination of how New York City real estate agents affect home buyers’ perceptions of neighborhoods and valuations of housing.
Upsold shows that individual preferences are situationally contingent and highly influenced by interactions with market intermediaries as well as how agents push prices upward in certain parts of the city. While observing interactions between agents and prospective homebuyers, Max saw that agents were quite adept at getting buyers to raise their price points. That is, buyers often began the search for housing with a price ceiling but after interacting with their agents decided to spend above that ceiling. This pattern became the core finding of the book. Such a discovery could not have occurred without ethnographic observation--no administrative data set contains information on the prices homebuyers consider or the houses they view but do not buy.
Max’s next book, Soaking the Middle Class (coauthored with Anna Rhodes), follows 59 households that flooded during Hurricane Harvey for two years after the storm and shows how climate disasters are driving inequality in seemingly homogeneous places. Max is committed to the idea that analyses of demographic behaviors (e.g., residential mobility) are much improved when they incorporate ethnographic evidence.
Timothy Black, Case Western Reserve University
Marginalization, capitalism, poverty governance, incarceration, sociological storytelling
Tim Black teaches sociology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in a hard-living working class family in central Illinois. He went to college to play basketball but left years later with a Ph.D. in sociology. Tim’s work examines the intersections between larger social structures and personal lives. He attempts to identify the processes and mechanisms through which social and economic marginalization is (re)produced and to show how life in marginalized spaces is negotiated and contested. He advances what he calls sociological storytelling to illustrate how social structures are lived.
Tim is best known for his first book, When a Heart Turns Rock Solid (2009), an 18-year ethnography in a Puerto Rican community in Springfield, Massachusetts. Tim’s ethnography is ongoing in Springfield and has now entered its third decade. His more recent book, It’s a Setup: Fathering from the Social and Economic Margins (2021), co-authored with one of his research assistants, Sky Keyes, illustrates the lived experiences of job precarity, welfare cuts, punitive child support courts, public housing neglect, and the criminalization of poverty among 138 low-income fathers from Connecticut. Tim’s current writing is from a four-year study at an alternative incarceration facility in Cleveland, Ohio, which draws on ethnographic research inside the facility as well as a series of interviews with 75 men after their release. The study focuses on the issues of masculinity, fatherhood, incarceration, and citizen reentry. Tim keeps the old chassis tuned through biking and yoga and is a Cleveland sports enthusiast.
Yuna Blajer de la Garza, Loyola University Chicago
Democracies, socio-political inequalities, belonging, emotions, everyday politics
Yuna Blajer de la Garza is a political theorist and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago. Always interested in the ways in which formal institutions and abstract principles are (mis)translated into everyday politics and interactions among ordinary citizens, she studies the stickiness of social inequalities and the side-effects of democratic institutions.
Her current book manuscript focuses on belonging as a concept that is simultaneously widespread in everyday speech and relatively absent from democratic theory, even though faltering belonging undermines the possibilities of robust democratic equality. What is required to belong as an equal member of the political community? Besides mapping the general intuition about the insufficiency of formal citizenship for belonging, ethnographic fieldwork unveils two core insights: that belonging need not require the affirmations of esteem that often characterizes discussions on inclusion and recognition, and, second, that otherwise well-meaning institutions and actions can undermine belonging.
Yuna has also written on the unexpected trust between informal car parkers in Mexico City and their wealthy clients, and the emotional discourses deployed to justify oppressive structures. She credits her Mexican roots for her interest in ethnographic methods: growing up in Mexico City, the gaps between legal institutions and their practical reality sustain a simmering irony about Mexican democracy shared by the population. In her spare time, she reads omnivorously and has developed a bit of a fascination with neuropsychology. She enjoys baking and eating said baked goods, and has a unreasonably high number of plants per square foot. She has also repeatedly tried and failed to get into running, but has not yet lost hope.
Philippe Bourgois, UCLA
Inequality, urban apartheid, substance-use disorders, continuum of violence, racism
PHILIPPE BOURGOIS is a Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Social Medicine in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. He has been working at the interface between anthropology and social medicine in medical schools since 1998. He has been conducting fieldwork on US inner-city apartheid focusing on street-level drug markets, law enforcement violence, homelessness and most recently the hyper incarceration of people with psychosis. With his colleagues in social medicine he attempts to bring critical theoretical insights from the social sciences and humanities to bear practically and theoretically on the toxic effects of social inequality.
Philippe is currently co-authoring Cornered, on the carceral and psychiatric mis-management of US urban poverty and segregation (with Laurie Hart, George Karandinos and Fernando Montero). Together they are building a “theory of predatory accumulation” working with the social medicine concept of “structural vulnerability” to bring Marx’s 19th century conception of “primitive accumulation” into our 21st century, highly corporately-profitable and violent, contemporary dystopia. They are drawing on too many years (2007-present) of team-based participant-observation fieldwork in the open air narcotics markets dominating Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican hyperghetto.
Philippe is simultaneously conducting fieldwork with multiple collaborators in the mental health units of the Los Angeles County Jail and the sewage canals of Tijuana along the US border wall (where deported Los Angeles gang members take refuge to escape police and cartel violence and inject methamphetamine and fentanyl). He returned to California after a decade in Philadelphia so that he could indulge in his passion for surfing.
Bryan Boyle, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
elite service, labor, class distinction, skill, carnal ethnography
Originally from Birmingham in the UK, Bryan has somehow ended up in Brussels in Belgium, where he is working towards his PhD thesis and teaching sociology. Given his previous stints as laborer, it is maybe not a surprise that he was drawn to ethnography which allows him to continue to get involved. As a sociologist, he finds ethnography to be one of the most "truthful" ways to test and refresh sociological theory and debate.
Bryan’s thesis is on ‘the butler’, a profession that has been experiencing a surprising revival for the last thirty years. In the spirit of carnal ethnography, Bryan apprenticed as a butler by attending butler school and working as a butler in private homes and at exclusive events in the UK. From the embodied skills of managing discrete presentation-of-self, to ironing table cloths for dinner, to tasting and selecting wine, Bryan hopes to document the plethora of ways butlers produce and reproduce the distinction of their elite employers through their labor. He is now in the stage of writing up his thesis, drawing insights from cultural, labor, economic and elite sociology.
BENJAMIN H. BRADLOW is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. He is trained as both a sociologist and urban planner, and received a PhD from Brown University and a Masters in City Planning from MIT. Ben’s first ethnography-adjacent engagements were as a journalist in Johannesburg during South Africa’s 2009 national election campaign, where he followed the field operations of three leading political parties in the city’s informal settlements. A series of activist organizing and academic research projects in informal settlements in Johannesburg and Cape Town over the subsequent five years led him to conceive of a comparative investigation of the politics of urban inequality in two global “mega-cities” after transitions to democracy: his family’s home of Johannesburg and São Paulo, Brazil.
This book project, Urban Power: Democracy and Inequality in São Paulo and Johannesburg, is now under contract with Princeton University Press. Here, Ben asks why some cities are more effective than others in reducing inequalities to urban public goods. He traces three policy arenas across both cities: housing, sanitation, and public transportation. The book takes readers inside the political and professional conflicts within and between movements, bureaucratic agencies, private corporations, and political parties to illustrate how they have changed over time in the governance of each of these goods.
Ben lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, where he is also a founding trustee of a new municipal government institution for financing affordable housing. He believes that such practice-based engagements are critical for enriching a comparative perspective that is sensitive to local context.
Sarah Brayne grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, did her doctorate in sociology at Princeton, and is now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She researches the social consequences of data-intensive surveillance practices. Her first book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion and the Future of Policing (2021), draws on ethnographic research within the Los Angeles Police Department to understand how law enforcement uses predictive analytics and new surveillance technologies. Sarah was surprised to learn that a lot of new surveillance tech puts the police themselves under increased surveillance by their managers and that cops get free burgers when they go to the In-N-Out drive thru.
In other work, Sarah follows police tech into the courts and analyses the relationship between contact with the criminal legal system and involvement in medical, financial, labor market, and educational institutions. She is currently writing about the transfer of surveillance activity from state operations to individual community members. Sarah has been teaching college classes in prisons for almost a decade, and founded the Texas Prison Education Initiative in 2017.
Andrea Mubi Brighenti, University of Trento
urban cultures, graffiti writers, visual culture, public space, social theory
Andrea Mubi Brighenti. They dub me ‘Mubi.’ I am based at the Department of Sociology at the University of Trento, Italy. I have an interest in social theory and urban ethnography. Nearly everything around issues of space and society fascinates me. My ethnographic inquiries deal with urban cultures and the uses of public space. What is public in public space? This is the deceivingly simple question I seek to tackle.
Ethnography, for me, is more than a method for acquiring data – it’s a whole way of thinking, as well as a way of experiencing the city. Through ethnography, I puzzle about visibility and inter-visibility relations. This has led me to research urban art, graffiti writing, graffiti writers, and related debates. My latest book is co-authored with the Swedish architect Mattias Kärrholm, titled Animated Lands. Studies in Territoriology (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). I animate the journal lo Squaderno, and sit on the board of the journal Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa / Ethnography and Qualitative Research, published in both Italian and English. Send us your best paper!
I can hardly draw a line between my research interests and the rest of my life; research to me is not so much academic stuff, but something most people are normally engaged with in some form or another. What I find interesting is that there are so many, almost endless, ways of inquiry -- as many as there are modes of being: my child is 5 and teaches this to me every single day.
Sarah Brothers, Pennsylvania State University
Medical sociology, expertise, substance use, health, overdose
SARAH BROTHERS grew up in the great post-industrial mill city of Paterson, New Jersey, and then moved around a great deal. After doing her doctorate at Yale, she is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Pennsylvania State University. Her ethnographic work emerged from her experiences as a site supervisor and volunteer at a San Francisco syringe exchange program. People were bringing hundreds, and sometimes thousands of used syringes to the exchange for other people, and she wondered why they were engaging in this illegal, and rather risky practice. During one of her first interviews of people who exchange syringes for others, she asked the man what else he did for people. He said, “well, I’m a doctor actually.”
Sara decided to learn more about “hit doctors,” who are skilled injectors who provide injection assistance for a fee, by talking to them and watching them work. Her current ethnographic work examines how “hit doctors” construct and perform uncredentialed expertise in their practice, and how their recipients evaluate their expertise. In addition to this research, she has studied methadone treatment during COVID-19, issues facing youth experiencing homelessness, and patient perspectives on HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) treatment. When she is not reading or typing, she is usually traveling or wandering in the woods.
Eliza Brown, UC Berkeley
Reproduction, medicine, patient-provider interaction, comparative ethnography
ELIZA BROWN is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her doctorate in sociology from New York University in 2021. After many years using in-depth interviews as her primary method, she developed a keen interest in ethnography because of her preoccupation with the role of interaction in shaping life course trajectories. She is currently working on her first academic book based on her dissertation research, Double Trouble: Uncertain Futures, Risk Negotiations, and Solving the Problem of Twins in Fertility Treatment, a comparative ethnography of three fertility clinics. Her research documents how medical interactions lead to demographic changes, connecting the worlds of ethnography and population. She argues that fertility providers transform uncertainty into known risks through interaction in order to promote particular treatment approaches to patients that align with their clinic’s position in the fertility field. As a former member of NYLON workshop at NYU and the Urban Ethnography Lab at the University of Texas-Austin, she is interested in building ethnographic links across institutions.
Emma Bunkley, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Medical anthropology, women’s health, embodiment, metabolic illness, Senegal
Emma Bunkley is a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. As a medical anthropologist and public health researcher, she is interested in women’s health, global health, noncommunicable diseases, and embodiment. Her research focuses on Senegalese women’s experiences with metabolic diseases to better understand changing social networks and kinship relationships.
Blending a background in political science with sociocultural anthropological studies, Emma examines top-down structures, such as national level statistic-making and global health systems, alongside daily experiences of women in and out of biomedical and traditional health establishments. Her research seeks to challenge the conflation of “women’s health” with reproductive and maternal health by highlighting the often-overlooked gendered aspects of chronic illness in both clinical settings and in public health. She is interested in using speculative fiction, especially afrofuturism and Africanfuturism, to imagine a more equitable future in global health. At Washington University, Emma is working on Dr. Jean Hunleth’s research, Caring for Caregivers, at a pediatric hospital in Zambia.
MICHAEL BURAWOY teaches in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley where he has trained generations of ethnographers, as evidenced by Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Metropolis (1991) and Global Ethnography:Forces, Connections, and Imaginations (2000). Michael used to be an overt Marxist, but then he had a scientific epiphany and became a covert Bourdieusian. He is now immersing himself in the life and scholarship of W.E.B. Du Bois, himself a keen field observer in The Philadelphia Negro (1899).
Michael has conducted fieldwork in the copper mines of Zambia after independence and among factory workers in Chicago at height of monopolistic Fordism, Hungary just before the collapse of the Soviet empire, and Russia just after the same collapse, as explicated in
The Extended Case Method: Four Countries, Four Decades, Four Great Transformations (2009). He is now conducting ongoing fieldwork in that most treacherous of field sites, the neoliberal university. Michael is an advocate of the “extended case method” originating with the Manchester school of anthropology which he has himself extended to emphasize the role and goal of theory refutation and reformulation in fieldwork. He has built on his fieldwork to clarify and codify the tenets of “Reflexive Ethnography” and the “Ethnographic Revisit.”
Michael is a rabid fan of the Manchester United soccer team, although his own soccer prowess is far below average. He is known in Berkeley for his snazzy dress, as evidenced by the picture above. When he is not reading or writing, he likes to dance through the night.
Maristella Cacciapaglia, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”
Welfare, labor market policies, lower classes, peripheries, basic income.
Maristella CACCIAPAGLIA is an economic sociologist. After travels and between one travel and another, she decided to come back home: Taranto, a Mediterranean steel city in crisis. For her PhD research, she is completing a critical ethnography of the Italian "citizen’s income" as experienced by its recipients facing a double marginalization – personal and spatial. When she is not trying to catch trains, she also works in the field consulting institutions, enterprises, NGOs, and schools on civil economics.
Sally Campbell Silverman, U-Mass Amherst
Preschool ethnography, gender diversity, anthropology of childhood, comics-based research, arts-based ethnography
Sally Campbell Galman is Professor of Child and Family Studies at the University of Massachusetts,Amherst. As a working artist, ethnographer, and anthropologist of childhood and education, her research focuses on the arts-based study of families, early schooling, childhood and gender diversity. Her recent work with young children who are transgender or otherwise gender diverse has been supported with a grant from the Spencer Foundation. She served as Editor-in-Chief of Anthropology and Education Quarterly along with colleague Dr. Laura Alicia Valdiviezo, and is currently an editor for the international childhood studies journal, Jeunesse. Publications from her work in gender and childhood have appeared in Ethnography and Education, Shima, Childhood, Boyhood Studies and Gender and Education, to name a few. Dr. Galman is author of the award-winning Shane series of qualitative methods texts, including a third volume specifically focusing on ethnographic research methods for studying young children in school and home contexts. She has served as Coordinator of the Children, Families and Schools Concentration and its associated graduate programs in the University of Massachusetts College of Education, and is a frequent provider of gender diversity support for area schools, family courts, and the Department of Children and Families.
Jenae Carpenter, Berkeley
Settler colonialism, hyperincarceration, neocolonial penality, structural ethnography, Native Americans
JENAE CARPENTER hails from Melbourne, Australia, and is in the third year of her PhD at UC Berkeley. She caught the ethnographic “bug” when completing her master’s at the University of Cambridge, where she undertook a study of everyday nationalism in the former Yugoslavia. It was an interest in the ethnographic craft that drew her away from Australia (a country that lacks a strong ethnographic tradition) and to the United States, and to Berkeley specifically.
For her PhD research, Jenae plans to combine the historical and ethnographic methods to parse hyperincarceration in settler colonies, where different mechanisms and forces have produced similar spikes in criminal confinement (eg, Aboriginals in Australian, Native Americans in the US, métis in Canada). While currently locked out of Australia due to COVID-19, she hopes to return home soon and begin an ethnographic study of a small town on the Northern tip of Australia, following public defenders and using the court as a window onto the penal state. In the interim, she is conducting interviews tracing the genesis of the criminal defense attorney in Australia. She is interested in how one can develop a structural and relational approach to ethnography, without compromising the fine-grained and granular detail that is the hallmark of ethnographic method.
Sébastien Chauvin, University of Lausanne
gender, sexuality, labor, racism, superbourgeoisie
Sébastien Chauvin is an associate professor at the University of Lausanne’s Institute for Social Sciences. Before moving to Switzerland, he taught at the University of Amsterdam, the Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne and the University of Chicago. He is interested in inequality, power and difference with a wide array of foci, including international migration, citizenship and illegality, labor and employment, race and racism, gender and sexuality, class structure and social theory.
Sébastien began as an ethnographer with a senior thesis on queer minority youth in Oakland, California, then conducted his first extensive fieldwork as part of his PhD dissertation on temporary agency work and labor organizing in the Chicago region. Back in France, he completed a collective study exploring the labor-market experience and chronicling the union-supported mobilization of undocumented immigrant workers in the Paris region (On bosse ici, on reste ici !, 2011, with Pierre Barron, Anne Bory, Nicolas Jounin and Lucie Tourette). Meanwhile, he has continued publishing extensively on issues of gender and sexuality (Introduction aux études sur le genre, 3rd edition 2020, with Laure Bereni, Alex Jaunait and Anne Revillard; Sociologie de l’homosexualité, 2nd edition forthcoming in 2022, with Arnaud Lerch).
Since the early 2010s, together with Bruno Cousin, Sébastien has been expanding a multi-sited research program on social and symbolic capital and the cultural sociology of economic elites. In particular, Bruno and Sébastien have conducted fieldwork in St. Barts in the Caribbean and studied the high-end servants of the ultra-rich. Starting in February 2022, Sébastien will be the PI of a large ethnographic study on the private worlds of international economic elites in Switzerland, with a special focus on American, French, Russian and Emirati residents. When he is not busy doing sociology, he is taking care of two young land tortoises with his partner.
TONY CHENG is an Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law & Society and (by courtesy) Sociology at UC Irvine. He researches how criminal justice experiences shape inequality in America. He has developed several projects looking at the intersections between criminal justice administration and social stratification, especially in policing, city government, and violence prevention as key contexts where legal actors and institutions shape local life.
Tony is currently working on a book project called Machine Policing and the Illusion of Public Input, which examines how America’s largest police department is navigating intensifying public scrutiny over police practices. It argues that police may seek public legitimacy, but not at the expense of organizational independence. The pursuit of these institutional imperatives promotes practices that challenge us to rethink the value of public input in achieving democratic governance over police departments. The book combines ethnography with innovative data sources collected as the NYPD denied Tony access to its data. Having spent his entire life in the tri-state area of the East coast, Tony is excited to explore everything there is to the fabled West.
Hae Yeon Choo, University of Toronto
Intersectionality, migration, labor, citizenship, critical social theory
Hae Yeon Choo is from Seoul, South Korea, and is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research centers on gender, labor, citizenship, and transnational migration to examine global social inequality. In her empirical and theoretical work, she employs an intersectional approach to social inequalities, integrating gender, race, and class in her analyses. She has also translated Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider and Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Feminist Thought into Korean.
Hae's book Decentering Citizenship: Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea (2016) and related articles offer an account of how inequalities of gender, race, and class affect migrants’ practice of rights through a comparative study of three groups of Filipina women in South Korea—factory workers, wives of South Korean men, and hostesses at American military camptown clubs. Based on 18 months of multi-sited ethnographic research, this research delves into the marginal spaces in which non-citizen migrants negotiate their rights, entitlements, and belonging in South Korea in the absence of shared ethnic nationhood, and develop an understanding of citizenship, not as a simple legal category, defined in top-down fashion for an individual by a nation-state, but rather as an interactive accomplishment involving both the host society and the migrants as active agents constrained by the structures of law and policy. Her current book project examines social activism in contemporary South Korea as sites of emergent critical social theory and new political imagination. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the city and trails on a bike, and learning to cook new dishes.
Angèle CHRISTIN is an Assistant Professor of Communication and (by courtesy) Sociology at Stanford University. She grew up in Paris before moving to California. She studies how algorithms, analytics, and digital technologies are changing professional practices, hierarchies, and identities. She examines these questions through several ethnographic sites. In a first project (Metrics at Work. Journalism and the Conflicted Meaning of Algorithms, 2020), she compared how web journalists in New York and Paris used and made sense of web analytics. In a second study, she examined how judges and prosecutors used predictive risk-assessment tools in U.S. criminal courts (revisiting some of the questions at the center of her first book, Comparutions Immédiates: Enquête sur une Pratique Judiciaire, 2008). She is in the middle of a new book project on the contradictions of platform labor, where she draws on digital fieldwork conducted with influencers and influencer marketers on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok (which means that she spends A LOT of time on social media these days).
MATTHEW CLAIR is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) Law at Stanford University. His scholarship examines how cultural meanings and interactions reflect, reproduce, and challenge various dimensions of social inequality and state violence, particularly within the law. His first book, Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court (2020), reveals how race and class inequalities in the criminal legal system are embedded in and reproduced through attorney-client interactions. The book shows how lawyers and judges often silence, coerce, and punish disadvantaged defendants who attempt to advocate for themselves in court but reward privileged defendants who trust in and defer to their lawyers' legal expertise. These dynamics reveal a paradox of legal control: striving to exercise one's legal rights often backfires for the poor and people of color.
Matt's work draws on in-depth interviews as well as ethnographic fieldwork, which allows him to compare how people make meaning of the social world and move through it. With a group of graduate students, he is currently conducting a comparative ethnographic study of courthouses in the Bay Area called The Court Listening Project. Through fieldwork in courts and their surrounding communities, this research seeks to describe and explain how system-impacted communities imagine and build alternative futures beyond the courts and the broader legal system. In his personal time, Matt enjoys skiing, tennis, painting, and traveling.
JEAN COMAROFF teaches in Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She was born in Scotland and raised in South Africa, where she took her first degree at the University of Cape Town. A PhD followed at the LSE in the swinging 1960s (Mick Jagger had just quit the place for a day job when I got there). Jean’s formal fieldwork has taken here to South Wales, the North-West Province of South Africa, and Botswana, but she has also done long stints of “ethnography in the archives” (as in Of Revelation and Revolution, 1991) and tends not to make sharp distinctions between the everyday world and the field.
Jean’s research has focused on many things: religion and medicine, magic and materiality, ritual and embodiment, law and disorder, the interplay of capitalism, colonialism and modernity. Much of her writing has been done with John Comaroff, and is primarily concerned with theorizing the contemporary world from beyond its established centers, as represented by Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa (2012). Their current projects include a book in preparation, After Labor, which explores the changing nature of work – and political economy, sui generis – in the twenty-first century. Oh, and they are fervent supporters of Manchester United, while abhorring the US capitalist interests that own the for-mega-profit club.
Randol Contreras was born in the South Bronx to Dominican immigrant parents. He came of age during the Crack Era and when the South Bronx was riddled with arson and abandonment. As a drug market dropout, and with nothing else to do, he attended college to figure out his next step. Fortunately, he joined a student group that challenged racism and social inequality, and put him on a path to sociologically understand his community. He fell in love with ethnography since it allowed him to hang out (sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) and observe how people make sense of their lives. As a student of New York’s public university system, he attained a community college degree in Social Science, then a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and then a Ph.D. in Sociology from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. For his first ethnographic project, which became the book, The Stickup Kids (2012), he stayed right in his South Bronx neighborhood, where he studied his Dominican childhood friends who graduated from being drug dealers to violent drug robbers.
Since relocating to in Angeles after a stint at the University of Toronto, Randol has been researching the ethnoracial tension between Mexican and Black lower-class men in South Central and Compton, a tension he feels as a Dominican stuck between those two worlds. He focuses in particular on how residents make sense of ethnic spaces and how they navigate ethnic gangs. He is now completing field research on aging Maravilla gang members in East Los Angeles. His book manuscript entitled, The Marvelous Ones: Gangs, Drugs, and Violence in East Los Angeles, documents their struggles with substance abuse, homelessness, family, and work. The main theme in all of his research is the intersection of history, social structure, and biography, which sheds light on how social phenomena emerge and shape people.
Outside of the academy, Randol enjoys dancing reggaeton, merengue, and bachata, and he often reads epic novels that link historical events to complicated characters.
Benoit Coquard, INRAE, Dijon
Rural sociology, class consciousness, kinship, working-class masculinities
Benoit Coquard is a sociologist at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. He is the author of Ceux qui restent. Faire sa vie dans les campagnes en déclin (2019). Those who stayed. Everyday life in the declining countryside). This book is based on ten years of ethnographic research conducted among the working classes of the industrial countryside of Eastern France, where he is originally from. Beginning with the last wave of deindustrialization in the late 2000s, up to the yellow vests movement in 2018, Benoit’s investigation details the everyday life in these rural and working class areas undergoing the fastest demographic decline in the country and characterized by a shrinking local labor market. Benoit is particularly interested in the importance of reputation and how new forms of solidarity emerge in these close-knit yet strongly fragmented contexts. His work shows how class consciousness has been reshaped through selective solidarities and allows us to understand more specifically how these eastern rural areas “en déclin” (as opposed to the growing, more economically dynamic rural west) have been successful breeding grounds for extreme right-wing politics.
Benoit has also conducted research on marital separations and on incarcerated minors. He recently began a new ethnographic project on wild boar hunters.
Ugo Corte specializes in creative work, risk-taking, and the lifecourse. He has worked across several areas including the history and future of parliamentary democracy, music and sport subcultures, and collaborative work in art, science and sport. His 2017 paper with Patrik Aspers on the meaning of “qualitative” in research has sparked abundant academic discussions. As an ethnographer, and as a person, Ugo is primarily driven by curiosity, and loves immersing himself in different social worlds and networks, from punkrock to fine-dining. He has been trained and worked across several institutions in Italy, Poland, Sweden, Finland, North Carolina, Hawai’i, California, and Norway. His first ethnographic book is Dangerous Fun: The Social Lives of Big Wave Surfers, University of Chicago Press, June 2022.
Christel Coton, University of Paris 1
class, social mobility, military institutions, inequality, participant observation
Christel Coton is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and researcher at the CESSP (European Center for Sociology and Political Science). Her research focuses on the French Army and the French belief in military meritocracy, leading to her book Officiers. Des classes en lutte sous l'uniforme (2017). As she does not have any particular inclination for the martial way of life, explosions, and military parades, she is not the kind of sociologist who only pays attention to the military aspects of the life experienced under the uniform. She follows Pierre Bourdieu’s form of sociology in her observations of the way social order, and class divisions in particular, can spread, cover up, or rephrase military hierarchies. She shows how cultural capital and academic competences are both central to reaching the highest ranks of the military, while being denied by the institution itself.
Christel is the kind of sociologist who cannot stop being an ethnographer, wherever she is. For instance, when she is teaching sociology to her students, she cannot help but observe the way social order invades her classroom, as well as the relationships between students, professors, and administrative staff. In the army as at university, her sociological eye takes pleasure in looking for the social magic tricks that can always be found in the institutions that highlight the belief in meritocracy.
Bruno Cousin, Sciences Po
Super-rich and upper classes, forms and institutions of sociability, urban segregation, inequalities, multi-method research
Bruno Cousin is an assistant professor of sociology at Sciences Po, in Paris, where he is affiliated with the Center for European Studies and Comparative Politics and the research program of the Urban School. He discovered ethnography and started to be trained in it while an undergraduate student (he holds a B.A. in anthropology). Since then, he has conducted several ethnographic and interview-based research projects among the upper classes, doing fieldwork on topics like urban self-segregation, class prejudice, forms of bourgeois sociability (like social clubs and informal networks), corporate boards, elite transnationalism and labor relations within super-rich households.
Bruno is the author or coauthor of papers about Italy (“Old money, networks and distinction,” 2017), France (“Globalizing forms of elite sociability,” 2014; “Refounded neighbourhoods and spatial justice,” 2017), the Caribbean island of St. Barts (“Islanders, immigrants and millionaires,” 2013), the United States (“Entraîner les dominants. Tennis, yoga et service des ultra-riches,” 2019) and of a comparative book about Paris, São Paulo and Delhi (Ce que les riches pensent des pauvres, 2017). He often tries to combine ethnography with other approaches within multi-method research designs and regularly experiments the heuristic virtues of doing fieldwork as a duo – mainly with Sébastien Chauvin and Jules Naudet. It really helps for reflexivity. Otherwise, in his spare time, Bruno enjoys hiking, running and reading fiction.
Ben Crewe, University of Cambridge
Prisons, punishment, penal policy, comparative penology, long-term imprisonment
Ben Crewe is Deputy Director of the Prisons Research Centre and Professor of Penology & Criminal Justice at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. He is interested in almost all aspects of prison life, and has drawn on a range of methods, including the particular forms of ethnography that is feasible within prisons, to try to understand the ‘texture’ of imprisonment: the flow of power, and how its different dimensions are subjectively experienced. His first major study of prisons – which formed the basis of The Prisoner Society (2009) – was based on sustained fieldwork over a ten month period in a medium-security prison in England & Wales, where he was granted full access to the establishment.
His recent research projects include a five-year project titled 'Penal policy making and the prisoner experience: a comparative analysis', which involved extensive fieldwork in England & Wales and Norway, and an ESRC-funded study – now longitudinal – of prisoners serving very long sentences from an early age (with Dr Susie Hulley and Dr Serena Wright). His most recent book (with Hulley and Wright) is Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood (2021), and he is about to begin writing up Deep-End Imprisonment, a study of super-secure prison units within the England & Wales prison system.
He is one of the founding editors of the journal Incarceration, and is an International Associate Board member of Punishment and Society and Theoretical Criminology. He is also one of the series editors of Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology (with Yvonne Jewkes and Thomas Ugelvik) and a Trustee of the UK’s Prison Reform Trust. Away from work, Ben has two young children, and enjoys eating, drinking and socialising.
Muriel Darmon, CNRS and CESSP, Paris
Socialization, habitus, health, body, elite education
Trained only in qualitative sociology with no ability to use any sophisticated quantitative techniques, Muriel Darmon practiced amor fati and convinced herself that ethnography is a superior method, especially better at answering questions that statistics can only raise: how come anorexics are chiefly young women from the middle and upper classers (see “The fifth element: Social class and the sociology of anorexia, » Sociology, 2009)? How can a once-a-week 45-minute session in a commercial weight-loss group actually transform individuals (“A people-thinning institution: Changing bodies and souls in a commercial weight-loss group,” Ethnography, 2012), and in what ways do two years spent days and nights in the French “preparatory classes” achieve a similar transformation (European Societies, 2018)? What accounts for inequalities in rehabilitation after a stroke between women and men, and between the working class and the middle and upper classes (Qualitative Sociology, 2020)?
Muriel even believes one can do an analytical ethnography of invisible processes of socialization, habituses or dispositions. Apart from her research, she has occupied her free time with chairing the French Sociological Association for two terms and invented the tradition of the Sociological April Fools’ day. She also invented the Sociological Pictionary game (drawing and guessing names, book titles, and notions) and forced the members of the CESSP research team to play it each year when they convene in June--so maybe a new career as a game inventor is waiting for her as soon as she is too old for fieldwork, or bored by it, like this is ever going to happen.
Mark de Rond, Cambridge University
Organisational ethnography, ethics, teamwork, phenomenology, embodiment
MARK DE ROND is Professor of Organization Ethnography at Cambridge University. Put simply, fieldwork is what keeps him sane -- the challenge of understanding how people live life differently yet meaningfully (or apparently so). How do people carve out a life worth living from the cards they were dealt? How do people collectively solve problems when the proverbial hits the fan? And how do we, as ethnographers, reconcile ourselves to the ambiguities and moral challenges of our (sometimes sordid, sometimes benevolent) enterprise? As Janet Malcolm memorably put it: “Every (ethnographer) who is not too stupid or full of himself (herself) to notice what is going on knows that what he (she) does is morally indefensible."
Over the past 15 years, Mark’s fieldwork has included prolonged stints with Boat Race crews in Cambridge (recounted in The Last Amateurs: To Hell and Back with the Cambridge Boat Race Crew, 2005), doctors and nurses at war in Afghanistan (Doctors at War: Life and Death in a Field Hospital, 2017), adventurers on the river Amazon, stop-the-war activists en route from Berlin to Aleppo and, for the past 31 months, paedophile hunters. This last project is designed in part to help police understand how to best engage with those they cannot be seen to legitimize, yet must somehow “control” to contain the harm caused by their extreme practice of “tarring and feathering” suspected predators.
Faith Deckard, University of Texas at Austin
Networks of support, penal state, time, money, risk assessment
FAITH DECKARD is a fourth-year doctoral student at UT-Austin. While her initial graduate training and projects were quantitative in nature, the spaces and books she has sought out in her free time and that stayed with her were almost always qualitative. Matt Desmond’s Evicted and Megan Comfort’s Doing Time Together called out to her in particular -the former for its focus on people and interactions within a shared sphere who differ in power/social position (relational ethnography), and the latter for artfully showing the stickiness and spillover of institutional logics and rules into peoples’ every day lives and relations. Drawn to this way of knowing and method of producing and crafting data, Faith’s dissertation project is an ethnographic and interview-based study of “Doing Bond Together.” Specifically, she is using the process of bonding a loved one out of jail after arrest and detention, via commercial bail agents, as a window to examine how state agents evaluate networks and subsequently displace work, in addition to how burden (and conflict) flows through networks, potentially altering support and relational dynamics over time.
Faith is currently in the joys and throes of carrying out this research project and gaining first-hand experience of what it means to actually do ethnography. In her free time, you can find her playing board games, watching baking shows (that hopefully translate into actual baking skills one day), and letting loose on the dance floor.
Jason De León, UCLA
Clandestine migration, forensic science, archaeology of the contemporary, necropolitics, analog photography
I am an anthropologist who freely steals from any and all disciplines as a way to better document, understand, and raise awareness about the experience of clandestine migrants around the globe. My book The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail (2015) mixes ethnography, archaeology, forensic science, and linguistics to chart the "hybrid collectif" that both deters and funnels unauthorized migration in the desert along the US-Mexico border and absolves the US government from blame for the deaths and trauma occurring within these spaces of exception. I currently take a lot of photographs and moonlight as an exhibition curator.
Matt Desmond, Princeton
Urban poverty, housing insecurity, racial domination, organizations, social theory
MATT DESMOND teaches at Princeton University where he also direct the Eviction Lab. He did his undergraduate stint in communications and justice studies close to home at Arizona State University, serving at the same time as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Tempe and working summers as a wildland firefighter. He was drawn to sociology by its ability to probe into causes and consequences of inequality and to ethnography by its capacity to show how people make sense of their world. After immersing himself deep into Bourdieu’s work at Madison, he returned to the countryside of Arizona and joined a crew of firefighters to probe the formation and meshing of the country-masculine and organizational habitus of firefighting, taking the reader On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters (2007).
In 2007-2008, Matt carried out fieldwork on housing precarity in Milwaukee, shadowing four white residents of a trailer park and four black women teetering on the edge of homelessness in the inner city, combining ethnography with a survey of housing and a study of housing court cases. This is how he discovered that eviction is not just a consequence but also a cause of entrenched poverty. But the biggest surprise of this fieldwork, reported in Eviction: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), was that eviction is to black women what incarceration is to black men.
Matt is an advocate of « relational ethnography » and public sociology and so he spends way too much time trying to convince politicians to improve American social policy. His current ethnography is a study of the functioning and impact of child protective services in Eastern City. When he is not reading or writing sociology, Matt tends to the sheep, goats pigs, and ducks he raises on his farm with his wife and two sons.
Michaela DeSoucey, North Carolina State University
Culture, consumption politics, food, moral markets, responsible sociality
Michaela DeSoucey is Associate Professor of Sociology at NC State University in Raleigh, where she now regularly teaches the graduate course in Qualitative Methods & Analysis. She grew up on Long Island and attended Swarthmore College and Northwestern University for her PhD. Her ethnographic (and other qual method-based) dissertation on the controversies over the morality and legality of foie gras, the liver of a force-fed duck or goose which is also a prized ingredient in French cuisine, became the award-winning Contested Tastes: Foie Gras and the Politics of Food (2016). For this comparative ethnographic project, Michaela did research in France (and learned French to do it) and the United States at restaurants, farms, animal rights protests, and Chicago City Council meetings. Her concept of ‘gastronationalism’ came out of this project and has taken off among scholars across disciplines interested the recent uses of food by diplomatic interests and nationalist movements around the world.
Matías Dewey, University of St. Gallen
Economic sociology, illegal markets, informal economy, garment industry, app-based drug dealing
MATIAS DEWEY was born and raised in the Great Buenos Aires, the Conurbano, Argentina. After receiving a degree in sociology, he migrated to Germany for writing his PhD. He is currently a sociologist and senior researcher in the Institute of Sociology at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Previously, he worked at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG) in Cologne. At the MPIfG, he wrote his “habilitation” based on fieldwork conducted in the Buenos Aires marketplace called “La Salada”.
Matías recently published Making it at Any Cost: Aspiration and Politics in a Counterfeit Clothing Marketplace (2020), an ethnography about people’s aspirations and struggles to make a living selling counterfeit clothing at La Salada. Drawing on seven months of field observation and over one hundred interviews, the book shows that aspirations for a better future shape garment workers’ everyday practices, from their home-based sweatshops to the market stalls. The book also unearths a new configuration of garment production and commercialization detached from global supply chains, submerged in the shadows of informality and illegality, and rooted in aspiration and opportunity. When he is not reading or catching up with work, Matías engage in other rewarding activitie such as astrophotography or birdwatching- photography.
Samuel Dinger is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at NYU. He grew up in a very small and very conservative town in western Pennsylvania. As the weird outspoken left-wing atheist in his public high school who nonetheless managed to make some friends, Sam figured out early on that he could learn fascinating stuff while embedded in a community as an insider/outsider. It was inevitable that he would grow up to become an ethnographer. After studying Arabic as an undergraduate and living in Egypt on the eve of the revolution, he decided to someday conduct fieldwork on youth and masculinity in Arab-majority societies.
Sam’s dissertation research follows the everyday lives of a group of young Syrian men from the urban outskirts of Damascus as they work to build and sustain lives in exile in Lebanon’s central Beqaa valley. He uses life-history interviews and ethnographic methods to explore how forced migration and exile reconfigure their gendered definitions of self and morality, experiences of agency, and orientations towards the future. He conducted two years of fieldwork that began in 2018 and ended abruptly at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, he has followed from afar as the Lebanese economic collapse displaced his friends once again from their precarious country of refuge. The endless sahras––long nights listening to and telling stories––in the house he shared with his friends and interlocutors was his favorite part of fieldwork.
Sam is currently writing up his dissertation and teaching at NYU Gallatin while living in Brooklyn with a cat, a dog, and a kid. His greatest ambition in life is to someday read all the NYRB classics.
Vincent Dubois, University of Strasbourg
Public policy, bureaucracy, welfare, surveillance, lower classes
VINCENT DUBOIS is Professor of sociology and political science at the University of Strasbourg (Institute for Political Studies) in France, and belongs to the SAGE research unit. His research proposes a sociological approach to public policy, based among other methods on ethnography. He coined the expression “critical policy ethnography” to describe the uses of ethnographic fieldwork to unveil structural features and domination relationships in public policy processes.
Vincent taught himself ethnography while conducting field research on the encounters between clients and street-level bureaucrats in two French welfare offices, combining the frameworks of Pierre Bourdieu, Erving Goffman and Michael Lipsky. The book was translated as The Bureaucrat and the Poor: Encounters in French Welfare Offices (Routledge, 2010). After numerous works on cultural policy and cultural sociology, he is currently working on surveillance and sanction policies in the contemporary social state and on the relationship between the lower classes and public institutions.
Jan Dittrich, Universität Bremen
Instructions, affordances, situated cognition, design, creative methods
JAN DITTRICH came to ethnography by doing applied qualitative research for the design of apps and websites. One book, conversation, conference, etc. led to another. From their work in design, Jan took along that people accomplish a lot by interpreting the environment, guessing forward and messing around. In their PhD research they try to learn more about how people use instructions to learn new skills by comparing their use for baking and for learning programming. Aside from talking and observing Jan also gathers data by trying instructions themselves. So far they produced some cakes, dinners and code (which had low nutritional value).
Guillaume Dumont, Emlyon Business School
Work, social impact, entrepreneurship, drugs, digital ethnography
Guillaume DUMONT is from a small village in southern Belgium where he cultivated the dream to live as a native American. Discovering that ethnography might be one way to achieve this goal professionally, he studied anthropology in Brussels, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lyon, France, and now works as an assistant professor at Emlyon Business School.
Driven by a passion for rock climbing and intensive fieldwork, Guillaume spent multiple years conducting fieldwork with elite professional climbers in the USA and Europe, leading to the publication of his first book, Grimpeur professionnel. Le travail créateur sur le marché du sponsoring, 2018). From 2017 to 2019, he moved to Barcelona and spent 18 months at a business accelerator for social impact start-ups to study how social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and corporations collaborate to create social and economic value.
In June 2021, Guillaume started a new project on the narcotics market in Barcelona to help explaining this phenomenon by studying multiple ongoing processes and actors, among which the growth of the “narcopisos”, strong local social movements, supervised drug consumption rooms, activist initiatives to help drug users (e.g., peer-driven drug user, safe supply), and gentrification pressures.
Dilan Eren, Boston University
Post-industrial work, labor, software developers, inequalities, inclusion in Tech
Dilan EREN is a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at Boston University. She received her B.A. and M.A. in sociology from Bogazici University, Turkey. She is particularly interested in postindustrial work formation. Her previous projects have focused on care work, and currently, she studies aspiring software developers.
Dilan's dissertation research concerns people who use online tools to learn to code in order to build a software development career. Her research aims to understand mechanisms and processes that create (dis)advantages in this process of becoming software developers without a CS degree. As part of her multi-method design, Dilan conducts digital ethnography at self-taught coder communities and also learns to code --well, at least she tries! Recently, Dilan took the advice of her informants and did something she would never do, decided to give her newly acquired coding skills a try by helping to build BU's Precarity Lab and Ethnographic Café websites! Lots of field notes are emerging out of these experiences, for sure!
Jason Ferguson, UCLA/Harvard
Sexuality, law, global and transnational sociology, political sociology, social theory
JASON FERGUSON is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University. His research focuses on the elaboration and evolution of laws governing sex and sexuality in the global environment, as well as the intensifying struggle over sexual rights unfolding within and across diverse national contexts. As a doctoral student, Jason spent over two years in Dakar, Senegal, investigating conflicts over the precedence of local claims versus international ones as they pertain to the criminalization of homosexuality and the struggle for gay rights. His fieldwork used ethnographic and interviewing methods and encompassed multiple institutional sites, including Western and local rights-based organizations, the Ministry of Justice, and the local courts.
Paco Ferrándiz, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Body, memory, violence, Spanish Civil War, mass graves
Paco Ferrándiz is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Language, Literature and Anthropology (ILLA) at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). His research on the anthropology of the body, violence and social memory encompasses two main ethnographic objects. He wrote his dissertation at Berkeley on the cult of María Lionza in Venezuela, where in the 1990s he spent a year living with mediums and visiting spiritist shrines in the shantytowns of Caracas.
Since 2003, Paco has been doing research on the politics of memory in contemporary Spain, focusing on the exhumation of mass graves from the Civil War (1936-1939). In addition to cooperating on site with archaeologists and forensic pathologists, he has traced the afterlives of the corpses in forensic laboratories, the media (both as a witness and as a participant in news-making) in “dignifying” political rituals, ceremonies returning corpses to their communities, reburials, DNA sample-taking rituals, demonstrations and teach-ins, book presentations, academic conferences and debates, political acts, more informal talks in neighbourhoods and retirement homes, documentaries, social networks, and artistic exhibits. Paco reflects on these two field projects in Contemporary Ethnographies: Moorings, Methods, and Keys to the Future (2020.
Paco has also carried out a parallel ethnography of power by engaging in institutional memory policymaking. In 2011 he participated in the governmental “expert commission” appointed to consider the fate of Franco’s body and mausoleum, and he is currently a senior advisor to the Secretary General of Democratic Memory in the Spanish government.
Daniel Fridman, University of Texas at Austin
economy and culture, valuation, neoliberalism, money, gifts
Dani Fridman is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at UT-Austin. He studied sociology at Columbia University and the University of Buenos Aires.
Before moving from Argentina to the US for graduate school in 2003, he didn’t know he would become an ethnographer. But after using historical sources to study how economic subjects were made in 1970s Argentina, he really wanted to see economic subject-making with his own eyes. So he went out and did ethnographic fieldwork with people who read popular best-sellers on how to become rich, and who join groups of fans of the genre. This work resulted in Dani becoming a decent Cashflow player (a board game popular with these fans) but did not lead him to become rich. Most important, this effort allowed him to write the book Freedom from Work: Embracing Financial Self-Help in the United States and Argentina (published also in Spanish as El sueño de vivir sin trabajar: una sociología del emprendedorismo, la autoayuda financiera y el nuevo individuo del siglo XXI).
In his current projects, he has been looking at questions of value and valuation, money, gifts, markets, and expertise in Argentina and Mexico. He insists in talking to people in order to learn about their worlds and to illuminate social processes; he now interviews therapists, psychoanalysts, architects, cultural heritage conservationists, economists, and museographers.
Outside of work, Dani aspires to be a better handyman. More often than not, he wastes valuable time and resources before having to call a real one, but his limited handyman skills are still more than enough to impress some fellow sociologists. He also likes making pizza, empanadas, and barbecue, all Argentine-style.
Neil Gong, UC San Diego
power and social control, libertarianism as cultural practice, mental health, violence, comparative ethnography
I teach sociology and field research methods at UC San Diego. My research uses diverse empirical cases to study power and social control in modernity, with a particular interest in understanding American libertarianism. Rather than address the big questions of freedom, state and subject, and domination from a normative perspective, I approach these topics ethnographically: how do people resolve the practical dilemmas that arise when individual freedom is ostensibly sacrosanct?
My book pursues this by studying how community psychiatric programs manage madness in an era of client empowerment, when the law protects a person’s “right to refuse” care in the hospital system yet routinely incarcerates people with psychiatric disabilities in the criminal justice system. Earlier I investigated the maintenance of social order in a fight club that claimed to have no rules. There I asked how participants produce and sustain the experience of laissez faire violence while minimizing the possibility of injury and death.
So why these topics, aside from the theoretical justification? Well, I worked in psychiatric services after college, found it inspiring and soul crushing, but wasn’t sure how to improve our broken public mental health system. Similarly, I was deeply drawn to combat sports, but found violence and hypermasculinity troubling, and wasn't sure what to do about it. I wanted to figure out what I actually think, and then try to make those worlds better.
And that's where ethnography comes in. For challenging one's own presumptions and generating original insights, I think long-term fieldwork offers a discipline like no other. The surprises, frustrations, and people who talk back means that theories and wishful thinking are subjected to persistent pressure testing. It turns out the world is somehow both weirder and more mundane than whatever some old dead intellectual says, but that’s what makes research fun and worthwhile.
In my early 20s, while working as a research assistant on a poverty alleviation program in Cairo, I learned that people liked talking about their lives. I learned too that I loved listening to them. “Ethnography,” a method that would allow me to listen and observe (as a job!) became my dream.
My work, which is global and comparative, examines how low-income people traverse social services, immigration laws, and their associated bureaucracies, while grappling with gender and racial inequalities.. My first book, Refuge: How the State Shapes Human Potential (2022), tracks down families of refugees from Syria as they find their way into US, German, and Canadian society. My current project, The Cost of Borders, theorizes borders as a costly, and often deadly, transaction.
Ethnography has taken me to beautiful places--to live in a small village in Bavaria, and another in Umbria. It has brought me the joy of dancing at a wedding celebration in Connecticut for a bride and groom in Syria, and the sorrow of sitting across from man who had lost home, freedom, and family because of who he loved. I have come to recognize that it’s not just that I like talking to people, but that I believe in talking to people. I believe we don’t know ex ante the questions that need answering; we can only learn them from listening to people who invite us into their social worlds.
When I’m not travelling for research, I like to travel for fun. And when I’m not travelling at all, I’m at home cooking from my many cookbooks, preferably for friends, reading novels, and sipping a bourbon-based cocktail.
Michael Gibson-Light, U of Arizona
Punishment, prisons, labor, culture, inequality
Michael Gibson-Light was raised in the city of St. Louis. He began his post-secondary education in creative writing but was quickly drawn to sociology through the art and science of ethnography. While a graduate student at the University of Arizona, he honed his gaze by observing dumpster divers, independent hip-hop artists, migrant laborers, and others. This training prepared him for his first large-scale fieldwork project: an 18-month ethnography of contemporary US prison labor.
Michael’s first book (Orange-Collar Labor, under contract with Oxford University Press) draws on his fieldwork in a medium security men's prison to illuminate ground-level disparities tied to systems of labor behind bars. It reveals that while the majority of American prisoners work in some capacity, not all prison jobs are equal, nor are all incarcerated laborers accorded the same opportunities. Instead, Michael outlines how this system privileges those already endowed with valued forms of capital, inequitably distributed along racial and ethnic lines. Subsequent variations in internal labor outcomes have implications for prisoners’ social and economic positioning, understandings of punishment and self-worth, and preparations for release. In this way, social barriers are reproduced not between the poor and rich or the incarcerated and free, but within the narrower range of social class occupied by the carceral population.
Outside of research, Michael is an avid reader and writer. He also recently developed a card game called Dead Theorists in which individuals play as the ghosts of Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, Simone De Beauvoir, or Michel Foucault, who have arisen to train one final protégé. Beyond competing with one another, players must withstand other specters (Frantz Fanon, Antonio Gramsci, Ruth Benedict, and others) while also resisting the forces of neoliberalism on campus.
Markus Hällgren, Umeå University, Sweden
Extreme contexts, leadership, organizational routines, sense-making, teamwork
Markus Hällgren is a professor of management at Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics, Umeå University, Sweden. Markus is fascinated by how people go about their lives in so-called extreme contexts, that is, settings where they may get hurt or killed. A tricky question to answer, but Markus thinks the fascination originates in the human ability to handle impossible or at least difficult things and how surprisingly ordinary such settings are.
Markus has done ethnographic fieldwork with two Mount Everest expeditions and the surrounding industry, the Swedish police, indoor climbing, and less extreme environments such as diesel power plant construction. His current ethnographic interests include two studies of back-country ski guides in Norway to understand what influences guides' choice of the tour (with two doctoral students). Over 18 months, one project explores the formation and use of organizational routines in the Swedish police's response to COVID-19. With colleagues, Markus is also working on using (zombie)fiction as a proxy-ethnographic approach.
Peter Francis Harvey was born in rural Alberta, Canada but grew up in Cornwall, England (like the Shire in Lord of the Rings, but more boring). He completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Inequality in America Institute at Harvard.
Peter was first knowingly drawn to ethnography through the readings he was assigned during his undergraduate years at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Chicago. At the latter, he conducted a mini ethnography during a Sociology of Dis/ability class with a sled hockey team. He was gripped by the depth, richness, and empathy that ethnography could build and transmit to the reader.
Peter’s current ethnographic project examines the reproduction of class, race, and gender inequalities amongst 9-11 year-olds via socialization in two elementary schools. His first solo-authored article from this research was published in the American Journal of Sociology. It examines the processes by which children’s bodies become classed. When not working, Peter is usually in a cycle of playing squash, getting injured, returning to the court with grand ambitions, and getting injured again.
Manata Hashemi is Associate Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Her research centers the everyday lives and emancipatory projects of marginalized Middle Eastern groups living in economic insecurity. She is drawn to ethnography for its ability to capture lived experiences in ways that provide a counterpoint to conventional images. Her first book Coming of Age in Iran: Poverty and the Struggle for Dignity (2020), looks at how poor working-class youth in Iran struggle to conform to social norms to save face. In the process, some young men and women are able to leverage community judgments for material rewards while others fall further behind. These findings reveal some of the micro systems of inequality that work to bolster the exclusion of the most economically disadvantaged.
Manata’s current book project “Tarnished Labor” draws from in-depth interviews and participant observation to examine how socially stigmatized service workers in Iran construct dignity in the face of growing economic decline. Broadly, she is interested in how stigmatized identities are created, contested, and reproduced in efforts to claim recognition and belonging. When she is not working, Manata loves to travel, play tennis, and read cozy mysteries.
Chris Herring, UCLA/Harvard
Criminal justice, welfare, urban sociology, homelessness, engaged scholarship
CHRIS HERRING is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA and Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard’s Inequality in America Initiative. After completing a bachelor’s in economics and working in housing finance in Bloomberg’s NYC government, he landed at Central European University in Budapest to study urban political economy. He had no intention of becoming an ethnographer, but quickly became enamored with the craft thanks to the university’s combined sociology and social anthropology department and has practiced it ever since.
Chris’ first ethnographic fieldwork, embedded for three months in the tent-cities of Fresno California in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to complement an interview and policy analysis. The discoveries from that fieldwork, not only convinced him of the unique analytic powers of ethnography but motivated his current ethnography of managing homelessness in San Francisco. Chris’ forthcoming first book Cruel Streets, explains how San Francisco, a city at the vanguard of progressive urban politics, intensified punishment towards the unhoused amidst initiatives of criminal justice reform and shelter expansion through gentrified-fueled policing and sanitation efforts. Drawing on observations embedded with those living on San Francisco’s sidewalks, parks, and underpasses and shadowing police officers, social workers, government officials, and advocates vividly illustrates how criminalization shuffles homelessness across neighborhoods, city agencies, and institutions of welfare, medicine, and criminal justice.
What Chris relishes about ethnography is learning about a social universe in situ: sharing the space, time, and conversation with those you are trying to understand on their own terms and the intimate relationships that such a process affords. Chris is a scholar activist who argues that deep, long-term, committed engagement with community organizations during the course of ethnographic research not only makes one’s research far more effective in advancing social justice, but also enhances the analytic scope and rigor of that research. When he is not working, he enjoys long-distance trail runs.
ANNIE HIKIDO is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She grew up in San Jose, California, listening to her grandparents’ stories of Japanese-American incarceration during World War II. This grounded her concern with race, space, and multicultural narratives. After studying whiteness in the California Bay Area, she transported her interests to Cape Town, South Africa, during her first year of graduate school at UC Santa Barbara. Her book project focuses on Black South African women in township tourism. This compelled her to investigate how her initial research areas intersected with gender, intimacy, and global capitalism. Her study illustrates how Black women generate racialized projections of post-apartheid development through global tourism.
Demond Hill, Jr., Berkeley
Black children/youth development, play, self-transcendent emotions, criminalization, critical ethnography
Demond Hill Jr. is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Social Welfare. His research interests are at the intersection of race, child and youth development, and families utilizing ethnographic methodologies.
For his doctoral research, drawing on Black studies, critical studies, and theories of education, Demond intends to utilize critical ethnographic methods to analyze the role of play in the self-transcendent experiences and emotions of Black children, especially within a world that has disrupted their childhood through punishment and structural, as well as gratuitous, violence. For Demond, ethnography offers an opportunity to understand the richness and beauty of the everyday lives of Black children and their families along with highlighting the strength of Black people. As a developing ethnographer, Demond is interested in learning about other scholars’ ethnographic approaches and how field work can lead to direct change in the lives of Black people.
ARLIE HOCHSCHILD received her BA from Swarthmore College (1962), her MA and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley (1965, 1969), and has long explored and practiced ethnographic methods. Across a range of concerns, populations and geographic areas, she has tried to practice what Herbert Blumer once called “exploratory hypothesis-generating research” with a focus always on various aspects of emotion.
For her doctoral research on the social experience of residents of a low-income housing complex for the elderly, Arlie took a job as a recreation director’s assistant and put out a newsletter that recorded residents’ life histories (The Unexpected Community, l973). For her second book, she observed in the Delta Airline Stewardess Training Program in Atlanta, Georgia (The Managed Heart, 1983). For her third book, she observed and interviewed in two-job homes, tracing typical days for working mothers and fathers who were initially chosen from a list of employees in a large Bay Area company (The Second Shift, 1989). Other projects have taken her to the work places a wide range of service employees—from an eldercare facility in Boston to a fertility clinic in Anand, Gujarat, India, to talk with commercial surrogates (The Outsourced Self, 2012) and to the site of a Fortune-500 company offering family-friendly policies (The Time Bind, 1997).
Arlie’s last fieldwork focused on the current political divide and based in observations and qualitative interviews with people living in the shadows of the Louisiana petrochemical industry (Strangers in Their Own Land, 2016). She is currently collaborating with Christopher Scott on a documentary based on Strangers and focused on race. She is also waiting for a break from Covid-19 to continue her current project.
Audrey Holm is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Human Resources Department at HEC Paris. She grew up in the Paris area and moved to Boston in her early thirties to shift careers from business practitioner to academic. She discovered ethnography when working with Michel Anteby on her first project, studying how the meaning of expertise among U.S. puppeteers changed as they shifted from stage work (in theaters and schools) to screen work (on TV and movie sets). Having puppetry festivals and shows as field work during her PhD was definitely a highlight of her doctoral years! Thinking about dissertation topics, she then decided to tackle a question that felt especially relevant being in the U.S. considering the high rates of incarceration: the employment reentry of former prisoners. In her dissertation, she studied the work of counselors who support formerly incarcerated jobseekers. Amidst a variety of questions, she especially aspires to learn about and advance our understanding of how people relate to their work and occupations, what helps or hinders social justice and labor market (in)equality, and how norms circulate in society and organizations. She loves spending time with her daughter and husband, singing Jazz, doing both simultaneously, and community-building initiatives like the Ethnographic Café.
I am an anthropologist and physician working to confront the ways social and health inequities come to be understood and responded to as legitimate, justified or natural. I pay attention especially to the engines that produce social and health inequity, particularly capitalism and racism, as they affect labor and bodies. My work focuses on two primary areas: the bodily experiences and resistance of binational indigenous migrant farmworkers in the US, Mexico, Europe and South America as well as the means by which medical professionals perceive and respond to social difference in their clinical training and practice. My work is becoming increasingly collaborative; for example, making a participatory film with indigenous Oaxacan binational youth (www.firsttimehomefilm.com), giving lectures and presentations with farmworker families, and developing critical social medicine frameworks for clinical training with the Structural Competency Working Group (www.structcomp.org).
I fell in love with ethnography before I took my first anthropology course – while in medical school, reading medical anthropology and finding critical and creative perspectives on health and health care while memorizing anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology. Since then, I’ve found the method of ethnography – that takes me out of my usual perspective and challenges my received knowledge and bodily understandings of the world – to be an important and vibrant way to come to new conceptualizations, collaborations, and solidarities.
Even though I live in cities and welcome all that cities have to offer, I grew up on a farm outside a large town and need to get into the wilderness regularly to hike, kayak, rock climb, or just relax.
Cathy Hu, Berkeley
Punishment and society, social movements, criminal courts, symbolic power, relational ethnography
CATHY HU is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Her work sits at the intersection of punishment and society, social movements, and political sociology, and she is currently working on a project examining the criminal court as a new site of community organizing. Specifically, she explores how local activists conceptualize the court as a key juncture in the criminal legal process; intervene in this traditionally insulated social space; and struggle for the symbolic power to define a new vision of justice within it.
Over the past year, Cathy has conducted online participant observation and interviews with a group of community organizers to understand how they construct and counter the problem of the criminal court. In this work, she takes a participatory action research approach with the goal of co-constructing knowledge about the court in order to change it. In this ethnographic project and beyond, she aims to do research that contributes to shifting the paradigm of justice and exploring lasting alternatives to carceral punishment.
Nicole Iturriaga, University of California, Irvine
Ethnography, social movements, human rights, science and technology, gender
NICOLE ITURRIAGA is from Southern California and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and Sociology. She is a political sociologist with a focus on science and technology, social movements, collective memory, gender, and human rights.
Nicole's book manuscript, Exhuming Violent Histories: Forensics, Memory, and Rewriting Spain’s Past (Columbia University Press), explores how human rights activists use forensic interventions to challenge dominant histories of violence, thereby contesting the state’s claims over historical memory, notably memories of the authoritarian period under general Franco. It proposes that, by grounding their claims in science, human rights activists presented themselves as credible and impartial rather than as partisan and biased.
Exhuming Violent Histories reveals that human rights activists, using what Nocile calls a “depoliticized approach,” can meaningfully change dominant narratives of violence, shape transitional justice efforts, as well as use international advocacy networks and law to achieve their goals and restitute the identities of missing persons. Additionally, she shows that this transnational movement’s sovereignty and legitimacy, have risen—in many cases—above that of the nation-state. Outside of work, she is an avid potter, climber, hiker, and TikTok enthusiast!
FLORIAN JATON is a postdoctoral researcher at the STS Lab at the University of Lausanne. Ethnography “happened” to him at the end of his Master in political science. While he was planning to go gentle into the philosophy of science, a fortuitous encounter with the ethnographic works of Lucy Suchman and Bruno Latour on science and technology prompted him to give it a try for his Master's thesis. Bingo: his study documenting the daily work of an architects' office in Switzerland made him realize that staying for long periods of time in unfamiliar communities of practice in order to awkwardly document their mundane actions was what he had to do for a living, somehow.
The following year, an interdisciplinary doctoral fellowship allowed him to tackle the topic of algorithmic development. By spending two years in a computer science laboratory specialized in image processing, Florian showed that algorithms are made of very material elements embedded in concrete situations that can be thoroughly documented. After a short stint at UC Irvine, Florian then worked at the Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation at Mines ParisTech where he could finish writing his first book The Constitution of Algorithms (MIT Press, 2021). While trying to get another research grant to launch his next ethnographic expedition into computer science in the making, he is now working as part of an interdisciplinary project at the University of Lausanne on the development of precision medicine in Switzerland. He also teaches sociology of science and technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL).
When he is not reading, writing or teaching, Florian plays basketball and takes care of his daughter Marlo.
Katherine Jensen, UW-Madison
Racial domination, political ethnography, asylum, forced migration, Brazil
KATHERINE JENSEN is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and International Studies at UW-Madison, and Faculty Affiliate of Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies. Her interest in Latin America was first sparked in high school when she learned about the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and solidified when she discovered they had the same birthday.
Katherine’s her first experience with fieldwork was in Argentina in 2007, over what people wanted to do with the torture centers from the last military dictatorship -- turn them into museums, libraries, schools, dog parks? – and what that tells us about the politics of memory. In the years since, her ethnographic research has come to focus on how the state racializes and racially dominates forced migrants in Brazil and Latin America, particularly in the face of highly lauded, formally progressive policies. When not working on the book, tentatively titled The Color of Asylum: The Racial Politics of Safe Haven in Brazil, under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press, she is often dog walking along Madison’s many lakes, having a pint, growing vegetables, or puzzling.
Hakan Kalkan, Roskilde University
Disadvantaged neighborhoods, ethnoracial minorities, marginalization, violence, illegal economy
Hakan Kalkan is an assistant professor in social science at Roskilde University, Denmark. Born in a small Kurdish village in Turkey, he moved to Denmark at the age of 8, where he started studying sociology, after his friends went to prison for robbing banks, at the age of 18. His former experiences and sociological interests eventually led to his 9-year long ethnographic fieldwork on the everyday life and culture among a large multiethnic community of young men, in the public “street” spaces of a partially disadvantaged district of Copenhagen.
Within this Hakan has analyzed why and how these young men (“shabad”) become participants in this street culture, analyzing, inter alia, their school life, exclusion from mainstream society, family life, and street socialization. It turns out that their participation hinges on the alternative recognition criteria and the illegal economy that the street sphere affords. He has further analyzed these two phenomena – the former, through subanalyses of the prevalent masculinity, violence, and the social (interaction) order on the street, and the functioning of the latter, through subanalyses of burglary, street robbery, commercial robbery, the dealing of hashish and the dealing of cocaine. Hakan is currently conducting research on how and why individuals stop participating in the illegal aspects of street life.
Frans Kamsteeg, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
multi-species research, sense-making, South Africa, higher education, multi-sensory team ethnography
I learned Spanish and the basics of ethnography among the cowboys of the Spanish Pyrenees, but the really liminal period of fieldwork I did in Southern Peru where I spent my days in Pentecostal churches in Arequipa’s slums and on the Peruvian Altiplano. Following my nose and the local pastors I learned a lot about life at the margins of urban settlements and isolated mountain villages, and more in particular about how Western style Pentecostal slang can be merged with Quechua and Aymara spirit beliefs.
Years later, I conducted doctoral research in the local churches of Chile’s capital Santiago that took sides with the anti-Pinochet movement in the late 1980s and early 90s. By that time, my colonial Spanish had been replaced by the argot of Chile’s working-class, but my command of the Pentecostal glossolalia was still rudimentary. After a period of fieldwork at home – in the Netherlands – a dear colleague seduced me to study the transformation of South Africa’s all-white Afrikaner universities after the fall of apartheid.
After ten years traveling in the same time zone – very practical for research – I was finally ready to embrace the ultimate challenge and embark in multi-species, multi-sensory fieldwork in a small estate forest 300 meters behind my house. So my fieldwork career is a constant swing between long distance and at home ethnography, that slowly but surely moved away from humans and spirits to animals, trees and fungi.
Laura D. Keesman, University of Amsterdam
micro-sociology of violence, policing, embodiment, occupational hazards, emotions
LAURA KEESMAN is a former social worker in the Red Light District of Amsterdam who transformed into a scholar in the field of violence, antagonism, micro-sociology and police-civilian interactions. As an almost finished PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam, she is particularly interested in how people in caregiving occupations deal with tense and escalating interactions, specifically on an embodied level. Previously, Laura has studied how social workers are mentally, physically, and emotionally affected by verbal- and physical assaults. She is currently finishing her thesis on how Dutch police officers attempt to control potentially violent interactions as well as regulate themselves within them.
Given her social work experience, specifically within the homeless community but also a domestic violence shelter in South Dakota, she is particularly drawn to ethnographic work which allows her to be there and acquire a feel for the daily life of those involved. As a sociologist, she feels that ethnography offers voices of dissent which is relevant in times of increasing pressures to measure, determine, and fix ‘truths’, ‘factors’, and ‘outcomes’ of complex everyday practices. She likes to be attentive to unintended findings and surprising observations. Hence, she works inductively which has led to new theoretical conceptualizations of the freeze-fight-flight response, the showability of policing through videos, and the meaning of neuro-biological narratives in police discourse.
Laura has lived and worked in numerous place such as the US and South Africa, but now lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, together with her Sphynx cat and partner. Next to her teaching, she makes an effort to engage with public debates on violence matters, for example urging those in leadership roles to protect their staff. She is also part of a theatre show that is intended to make kids excited for doing science. However, and unfortunately for her, kids are more interested in questions about the earth, wind, and fire, or the classic ‘which came first the chicken or the egg?’, than they pose social science questions.
Heba M. Khalil, Nebraska Wesleyan University
precarity, lawyering, courtroom ethnographies, rural politics, social change
Heba M. Khalil is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She has done her first Ethnography in a revolutionary village in the Nile Delta of Egypt; a village that declared administrative secession from the local government in 2012 and continues to fight against marginalization to this day. Witnessing the Egyptian Revolution* firsthand in 2011 has cultivated in her an organic ethnographer well before she delved into the lifeworld of Ethnography in her graduate program, which she started in 2015 in Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an ethnographer, she joined movements, including anti-eviction and labor movements in Egypt and environmental movements in Tunisia, and attempted to grasp the operations of power, resistance, and conflict as movements stretched out into periods of despair, boredom, and abeyance. But then, Lawyers haunted her ethnographies. Every ethnography she conducted featured lawyers: poor, precarious but knowledgeable community lawyers that mobilized alongside their communities. For her Ph.D. project, she turned to these lawyers, exploring the making of a precarious class of professional lawyers in Egypt, who live through subaltern lives, sharing slum-dwelling and working-class lifestyles with the subaltern. Through a multi-sited ethnography, she followed lawyers in their daily chores in courts at day and hung out with lawyer-led street movements in the evening. In the end, she conducted an 18-months ethnography of Egyptian lawyers. Where did that lead? well, her book project of course, but also another exciting finding on gender conflicts in family courts.
*Don’t fight her over this. It was her revolution.
Carter Koppelman, Florida Atlantic University
Housing, the state, cities, gender, contentious and everyday politics
Carter M. Koppelman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida Atlantic University. He first dipped his toes into ethnography while pursuing an undergraduate thesis project at Tufts University. Grappling with historical shifts of popular organization in Latin America’s urban peripheries from contentious mobilization to service delivery, he went into the field to examine routine relations between local governments, neighborhood organizations, and international NGOs in poor neighborhoods of Santiago, Chile, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This tentative foray into fieldwork cultivated an enduring passion for up-close observation of social and political life.
As a Ph.D. student in Sociology at UC Berkeley, Koppelman became interested in broader questions of how individuals and movements pursue dignity in unequal societies, and how everyday engagements with the state shape people’s sense of themselves as citizens. His book project, Becoming Homeowner Citizens, is a comparative political ethnography of poor city-dwellers’ struggles for dignified homes and urban inclusion in Santiago and São Paulo. In these cities, market-driven housing policies have fostered segregated and stigmatized forms of peripheral homeownership, galvanizing challenges from program clients and urban movements who seek to reshape the terms of inclusion in social housing. While similar policies of privatized housing delivery have spread across the Global South, Koppelman draws on three years of fieldwork to show how they interact with local dynamics of state-citizen engagement in two Latin American metropolises, producing divergent modes of urban struggle, material conditions of homeownership, and lived meanings of social citizenship.
Koppelman currently lives in sunny South Florida, where he refuses to let the heat and humidity stop him from taking long, daily runs.
Jeff Lane, Rutgers University
Communication and technology, inequalities, social media, urban life, the digital street
Jeff Lane is from New York City where he lives now in the Bronx with his wife Emily and son Vincent (pictured). He is an Associate Professor of Communication and a Graduate Faculty Affiliate of the Sociology Department at Rutgers University. He fell in love with ethnography as a college freshman in an Intro Soc class that Charles Lemert taught at Wesleyan University. At Rutgers, Jeff is the co-convenor (with Melissa Aronczyk) of the Digital Ethnography Working Group. Jeff has published books on race and basketball (Under the Boards) and street life and the Internet (The Digital Street). He’s interested in how the online and offline worlds fit together, the role of communication and technology in social inequalities, and how ethnographic, community-centered research can further integrate the fields of sociology and communication.
Armando Lara-Millan, UC Berkeley
Urban ethnography, comparative-historical, economic sociology, law and society, medical sociology
I teach sociology and field methods at UC Berkeley. When it comes down to it, I use ethnography and history because I am fascinated by how small but powerful groups of people use language to reshape material resources; that is, use culture to recast what things are worth, how much money is in their budget, and “magically” create resources where none existed before. For me, such meaning-making carries great consequences and shapes the life chances of thousands who are none the wiser.
I have pursued this agenda in the context of poverty management in our jails and public hospitals, as reported in my book Redistributing the Poor: Jails, Hospitals, and the Crisis of Law and Fiscal Austerity (2021), which shows how certain forms of social suffering — the premature death of mainly poor, people of color — are not a result of the state’s failure to act, but instead the necessary outcome of so-called successful policy.
I am now now turning my attention to our gigantic American healthcare system. In my free time I am huge fan of strength sports, basketball, and low-rider culture.
Julie Laursen, University of Copenhagen
Prisons, comparative penology, the phenomenology of punishment, morality, sex offender
Julie Laursen is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. She was advised to study anthropology rather than psychology as she originally intended, a decision she wholeheartedly believes is the best thing that ever happened to her (perhaps just after becoming a mom).
Julie lived The Dream for the past 8 years where she spent most of her time doing ethnographic fieldwork and a great many in-depth interviews in prisons. After she finished her PhD in Denmark, she went on to a four-year postdoctoral position in a research project based at the Prisons Research Centre, University of Cambridge. The research project compared the experience of imprisonment in Norway and England & Wales and involved four inter-related studies of (a) penal policy-making and the penal field; (b) the experience of entry into and release from custody; (c) the daily experiences of female prisoners and imprisoned sex offenders; and (d) prisoners in the most secure parts of each jurisdiction’s carceral system. Julie spent the years going back and forth between Norwegian and English prisons, fueled primarily by cinnamon buns from Oslo and coffee.
Julie is currently busy with an exploratory study of indeterminate sentences in Denmark. The research project provides an in-depth examination of the experience of being indeterminately sentenced by a court and of serving an indeterminate sentence in prison. Usually, there is a sharp distinction between the allocation and the delivery of punishment; the first happens in courts and the second in penal institutions. Using ethnographic methods (participant observation, in-depth interviews, and a dialogue group), Julie addresses this gap in the scholarship by focusing on the experiences of the indeterminately sentenced in the two arenas of punishment. Julie has conducted some of the ethnographic fieldwork for this study, which she will now pause for a little while to have her second baby (in two years, phew).
Tyler Leeds, UC Berkeley
Political sociology, conservatism, journalism, theory, knowledge
TYLER LEEDS is a PhD candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. He spent 18 months studying a rural right-wing activist group in far northern California. At rallies, strategy meetings, and bars he had many conversations with activists concerning the finer points of unincorporated zoning regulations, the Second Amendment, and their plans to form a rural-majority 51st state. He turned that experience into a 2020 article published by Qualitative Sociology titled “The State Schema: Seeing Politics Through Morality & Capacity.” The article argues the activists’ perceptions of government are colored by a cognitive schema that assigns assumptions of (im)morality and (in)capacity to different levels of the government. This argument explains how the activists are willing to model dedicated civic engagement at the local level but embrace conspiracy theories concerning the state and federal governments. For his dissertation, Tyler is studying transformations in the journalistic field and their impact on partisan debates over American history.
Both projects are rooted in Tyler’s past career as a journalist in Central Oregon. His interest in right-wing activism was sparked by his coverage of the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge led by Ammon Bundy. It was there that Tyler first saw the green and yellow flag for the State of Jefferson, the 51st state his ethnographic subjects continued to agitate for a few years later. Those years also gave Tyler a first-hand look at how changes in the commercial viability of newspaper journalism were changing how the profession relates to politics in an increasingly polarized country.
As for his love of ethnography, Tyler has his 11th grade social science teacher, Rob Summers, to thank. Rob assigned Tyler to read Philippe Bourgois’s In Search of Respect and, very quickly, Tyler knew what he wanted to do with his life.
Jaqueline Lepe, Berkeley
Race, gender, juvenile justice, punishment, organization
JAQUELINE LEPE is a sixth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Her interest in social science stems from wanting to understand the structures of inequality that shaped her family's and community's experiences with poverty, racism, and political disenfranchisement. Making it to college was practically a miracle for her and her desire to understand the workings of these structures of inequality only intensified as the differences between her and her peers grew starker as she advanced her my educational trajectory. She specifically wanted to question why many youth from neighborhoods like the one she grew up in were direly under-represented in higher education and massively over-represented in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Jaqueline grew interested in ethnography because this methodology allows her to capture the close-up trajectories and lived experiences of justice-involved youths. Her first experience with fieldwork was in 2018 while working for Professor Sandra Smith on a study of pretrial diversion programs and low-level criminal justice contact. During this time, Jaqueline spent two months observing the interactions between correctional officers, pretrial diversion staff, and incoming defendants on the booking floor of a Louisville County jail.
For her doctoral project, Jaqueline will be conducting fieldwork at two juvenile institutions in California, a juvenile detention facility and a pretrial diversion program. She hopes to combine this method with interviewing to understand how these institutions create, maintain and reinforce the categories of ‘suitable’ female subjects for which to target for their specific ‘care’/punishment and discipline, and how girls’ experiences vary within these two institutions. Jaqueline’s interest in juvenile justice stems from her own experiences growing up in the pre-gentrified neighborhood of Inglewood, California, where contact with police and the juvenile/criminal justice systems were regular occurrences. In her free time, Jaqueline like to indulge her artistic side by making resin crafts, scrapbooking, drawing, and coloring. She also enjoys practicing yoga and taking long walks with her dogs.
ZACHARY LEVENSON is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and a Senior Research Associate in Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. He began his first major ethnographic project in 2007 while pursuing his PhD at UC Berkeley: a study of forced relocations in Yangon, Myanmar. After a Burmese uprising cut that project short, he shifted focus to South African cities. Myanmar was less of a puzzle: of course authoritarian states shift “their” surplus populations around at will. But South Africa remained an enigma: why did the post-apartheid government, intent as it was on remedying centuries of racialized dispossession, continue to evict squatters on a regular basis? And given that some new land occupations were cleared whereas others secured official toleration, on what basis were eviction decisions made?
Levenson addresses these questions and more in his forthcoming book Delivery as Dispossession: Land Occupation and Eviction in the Post-Apartheid City, out in Spring 2022 with Oxford University Press. Based on a decade’s worth of fieldwork in Cape Town, it charts the genesis of two massive land occupations, one of which was ultimately evicted. The book forces us to rethink ethnographic studies of “the state,” rejecting the notion that it is a self-enclosed set of institutions hovering above civil society; instead, putting social theory to work, he demonstrates the extent to which civil society struggles play a central role in governmental decision-making. This framework is developed in a 2021 co-edited special issue of Qualitative Sociology called “The Social Life of the State.” His writing on the politics of eviction in the global South has appeared in Urban Studies, the Journal of Agrarian Change, Contexts, International Sociology, and Qualitative Sociology, among other venues. Currently, he is trying to conceptualize urban life in the post-apartheid city using theories of racial capitalism developed under apartheid. He is working on a co-edited special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies along these lines. More broadly, he is interested in synthesizing long-term ethnography with historical sociological approaches to research.
Eldad Levy, University of Texas- Austin
Violence, urban sociology, security, professionalism, technology
Eldad Levy is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Raised in both Mexico and Israel, he is fascinated by a variety of sociological themes including economic sociology, collective memory, political violence, and urban insecurity. His research takes place primarily in Mexico.
Eldad’s concern with the meaning of social violence has been deeply impacted by works such as Vadim Volkov’s Violent Entrepreneurs and Teresa Caldeira’s City of Walls. His doctoral project looks into the securitization of civil life in Mexico. By employing a sorely needed ethnographic approach to the study of private security, Eldad examines the industry as not merely a rapidly expanding market but also as a new global force that introduces technologies and ideals of professional security to regulate class differences and reshape labor, space, and life in the global city. He also reveals the ways in which private security actors have become important new brokers between political and economic elites and the state in their efforts to mitigate and manage security risk.
WILFRIED LIGNIER is a Junior research sociologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. His research has two foci: the ethnography of childhood as the founding moment in the forging of habitus and medicalization and the social uses of clinical knowledge, especially psychology and neuroscience.
Since the mid-2000s his has been observing smaller and smaller children, first in middle school, then in elementary school, and now in daycare. If you ask him why he does that, he will give you credible scientific reasons. He will tell you that only ethnography gives access to people’s ordinary practice, and that it is indeed this ordinary practice that we must analyze if we want to understand the early formation of habitus. The truth is that, for him as for most researchers, the object we pursue and the methods we deploy are not entirely the result of a well thought-out choice.
Wilfried does ethnography because it has allowed him to achieve a balance between work and home, the demands of ethnography and the obligations of parenting. He does ethnography because it is a way to regularly escape from academic life. He observes children in particular because, if they are not at all as nice as the recognized specialists (psychologists) say, they are surprising changeable and open to novelty. Moreover, they are ideal subjects of social inquiry inasmuch as they love to participate, to exchange with those who propose to take them seriously, to listen to them carefully, to scrutinize exactly what they are doing (something that adults cannot do full time). But, then, children grow up, they forget you, you have often not really existed for them--except if they recognize themselves, one day, in an article or a book you wrote.
You will encounter some of these children in L’Enfance de l’ordre. Comment les enfants perçoivent le monde social (with Julie Pagis, 2017), and Prendre. Naissance d’une pratique sociale élémentaire (2019), an ethnography of two-year olds in a daycare disclosing the social genesis of the appropriation of objects at the very moment when social life emerges.
Yan Long, UC Berkeley
Global health, transnational social movements, technology, authoritarian state, gender/sexuality/bodies
YAN LONG is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research analyzes how globalization sustains and expands authoritarian power across three empirical areas: activism, public health, and urban development. She is currently working on her first book, Authoritarian Absorption: The Transnational Making and Unmaking of AIDS Politics in China (Oxford University Press). Combining archival and longitudinal ethnographic research, this book analyzes how transnational organizations helped to formulate the infectious disease control system in China that drastically improved the authoritarian state’s infrastructural power in regulating bodies between 1979 and 2018.
Yan's ongoing data collection focuses on the rationalization of authoritarian governance by examining how the Chinese state employs and upgrades technocratic tools originated in the Global North—such as evaluation, ranking, certification, quantification, and big data among others—to grow a “state optic” in seeing and managing its populations while projecting a favorable image on the world stage. For instance, part of this research examines the assemblage of digital surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born and raised in Southern China, Yan is an introvert. The only time she stops being shy and self-conscious is when she conducts fieldwork. In her spare time, she loves to daydream, to cook spicy food, and leading a transnational feminist initiative to cultivate community activists.
MONA LYNCH teaches at in the Criminology, Law and Society at the UC Irvine. A social psychologist by training, her current research is on plea bargaining, criminal sentencing, and punishment processes, with a focus on institutionalized forms of bias within the criminal legal system.
Despite being a social psychologist, Mona has been using ethnographic methods as one of her research toolkits since she was a graduate student. Her first ethnographic project was on parole supervision practices during the height of the “war on crime” era in the 1990s. Since then, she has used various ethnographic tools to examine contemporary execution practices; extreme penal practices in Arizona; the social life of punishment in the virtual world; and, most recently, federal criminal legal processes, focusing especially on how federal prosecutors wield their considerable punitive power in plea bargaining. Her recent books on punishment include Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment (2009) and Hard Bargains: The Power to Punish in Federal Court (2016). One surprising finding from that Hard Bargains was how many creatively distinct ways that legal tools were wielded to obtain harsh punishments in each of the four jurisdictions she studied, despite the longstanding efforts of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to standardize sentencing in the federal system.
Mona used to be an obsessive people-watcher, especially in places that are supposed to be fun but end up generating conflict (like amusement parks), but since the pandemic she has taken to long hikes in the hills behind the coastline, away from people.
Mariana Manriquez, University of Arizona.
Gig-labor, urban space, Mexico, participant observation, relational ethnography.
Mariana Manriquez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and now lives in the desert lands of Tucson, Arizona where she is completing her fifth year as a PhD student in sociology at the University of Arizona. In 2017, she traveled to the city of Monterrey, Mexico, her former hometown, to conduct an ethnography of Uber drivers. As she navigated the deindustrialized city alongside drivers, she learned about their past labor experiences, their motivations for logging in to the application, and their perspectives of having an Internet-based platform as a boss. She published her ethnography in the journal of Research in the Sociology of Work in 2019.
In the summer of 2021, Mariana started a new field project ethnography of state policies directed at street vendors in Mexico City during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was intrigued by the prevalence of food delivery gig workers carrying big green backpacks either walking or riding bicycles and motorcycles. She soon discovered that most travelled long distances from working-class municipalities to work in these high-class consumer spaces. As a result, she switched to studying the relationship between urban space and gig-labor, with the intention to demystify technocratic narratives that portray the annihilation of space by technology.
Amy Andrea Martinez, City University New York
Carcerality, settler colonialism, mexican/chicano gangs, colonial-carceral apparatus
AMY ANDREA MARTINEZ is a doctoral student in criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. She as born in Orange County in Southern California to immigrant parents from Tzacapu, Michoacán, Mexico in the early 1990’s. As a working-class first-generation Xicana, she found refuge in immersing herself in books at an early age. Upon graduating high school, she went on to pursue higher education at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Four months into her first year as an undergraduate, a team of police officers barged into her parent’s home with a search warrant for her brother’s arrest (in relation to gang-related charges). Subsequently, her family endured a yearlong court battle that they lost. Shortly after she was notified of her brother’s attempted suicide and the culmination of this family trauma pushed her to the pursuit of knowledge production.
As a Ronald E. McNair scholar, Amy Andrea has dedicated her scholarship to the study of and experiences of Mexican/Chicano gang-involved boys whose lives have been mangled by criminal/juvenile legal systems. As a Mellon Foundation and Inter-University Program for Latino Research Fellow, she has secured funding to complete her dissertation, Santa Bruta—Home of El Indio Muerto: The Colonial-Carceral City and the Criminalization of Mexican/Chicano Boys and Men,” in which she examines how the social structuring of colonial America shapes the criminalization and policing of Mexican/Chicano boys and men in Santa Barbara, California.
In her work, Amy Andrea focuses on social constructions of self- and state- identified gang members. Specifically, she examines how tattooing practices among gang members tell a story of resistance, a counter-hegemonic consciousness that exposes the colonial-carceral practices of the city. She posits that these tattooing practices among Mexican/Chicano gang members serve as a form of self-preservation against a colonial gaze that attempts to deny them both agency and personhood.
Chris McMorran, National University of Singapore
Work, tourism, gender, hospitality, critical geographies of home
CHRIS MCMORRAN is a Geographer based in the Department of Japanese Studies at the National University of Singapore. He grew up in a small town in Iowa but has lived outside the U.S. for much of his adult life, including Japan and Singapore, which he calls home.
I became an ethnographer because I fell in love with a landscape. That may sound strange, since ethnographers should probably care more about people than the built and natural environment. I fell in love with a hot springs village in Japan, which drove me to ask locals too many questions about how it developed, how it worked, and what it meant. The answers me led to the backstage areas of traditional inns (ryokan) and the people whose emotional and physical labor makes guests feel at home. To learn more, I spent a year washing dishes, scrubbing baths, carrying luggage, and interpreting my work and the work of my colleagues and bosses. The result is a study of hospitality that tries to capture both the rewards and humiliations of service work (Ryokan: mobilizing hospitality in rural Japan). The politics of family succession, the exclusionary power of a rural landscape, the dead end nature of service work, the gendered labor of hospitality and the (im)possibility of its professionalization: ethnography allowed me to experience and reflect on so many things that matter to my coworkers and bosses. It also led me to care more for those people than the landscapes they produce and maintain.
I also think a lot about home. This includes teaching about home and training students to think like ethnographers about their own (multiscalar) homes. One result is a podcast, co-produced with students and full of student voices and perspectives on what home means to them: Home on the Dot. We use objects and locations (from sewing machines to “void decks”) to tease out the complex social and political meanings of home on the little red dot of Singapore. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/homeonthedot/
Finally, I maintain a comprehensive online list of ethnographies of Japan written in English. It’s part database, part grad student cheat sheet; all with the aim of encouraging more ethnography: https://blog.nus.edu.sg/mcmorran/2018/12/12/japan-ethnographies/
Ashley Mears is Associate Professor of Sociology and a core faculty in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Boston University. Working in economic sociology, cultural sociology, and gender, she studies how societies value people and things. She has written on the cultural and gendered foundations of markets, aesthetic labor, “free stuff,” and status dynamics among the leisure class. Right now she's researching the labor and economics behind virality: how do things go viral online? Based on digital and in-person ethnography and interviews, she documents the practices and careers of content creators as they go viral on Facebook and other platforms. There are tremendous economic rewards of high reach, but there are also social risks in the form of status loss and context collapse. This ethnography rethinks fame versus attention, and re-imagines the field of cultural production in a digital age. Mears has two young children, Luka and Nola, and they are all spending the year in Budapest this year while she's a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at CEU.
Ekédi MPONDO-DIKA is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. Beginning in July 2024, she will be Assistant Professor of Sociology at Berkeley. She uses ethnography to research how social forces shape the most intimate aspects of our lives — our relationships, our emotions, and our sense of self.
While in graduate school, she conducted two fieldwork projects. The first was a year-long ethnography of a Massachusetts funeral home, in which she attended meetings between funeral directors and bereaved families, stood at wakes, sat in church, and rode along to the cemetery and the crematorium. Out of diverse situations of bereavement, funeral directors created a surprisingly reliable process, characterized by moments of high and low emotional intensity, colored by the bittersweet idealization of the deceased's familial bonds, and effective in channeling ritual sympathy to some mourners rather than others. Ekédi sees funeral direction as a strategic case for theorizing the role of institutions not only in maintaining emotion norms, but also in actively setting the tone, tempo, and distribution of emotional experiences.
The second project was a study of intimate relationships under economic duress and involved following a network of low-income people for over three years, chronicling the making, unmaking, and rekindling of their bonds as they navigated both everyday troubles and acute crises such as incarceration or eviction. Ekédi argues that poverty is a source of cyclicality and ambivalence in intimate bonds and uses theses insights to critique the cultural and political construction of the family as ultimate source of support and solidarity.
ÉTIENNE OLLION is a sociologist hailing from Paris. He is a professor of sociology at l’École polytechnique, as well as a senior research fellow at CNRS. Trained as a qualitative researcher, Étienne ethnographically researched various sites where politics happens, among which states institutions, international summits, and social movements. More recently, he spent months roaming the premises of the French parliament after the 2017 elections, when hundreds of candidates without any political experience where being immersed into national politics and policy. Navigating this peculiar ecosystem, he uncovered the texture of contemporary politics: a constantly shifting pace of life meshing hectic moments filled with adrelin with long periods of waiting (and boredom); the permanent tension due to the exchange of blows on social media or behind the scenes; the loss of anonymity and the need for policians to dissociate one’s public persona from their proper self.
Over the past few years, Étienne has increasingly integrated digital data and machine learning into his own research practice. His work demonstrates how the growing availability of information in a digital format (be they numbers, text, images), as well as the existence of new tools to analyze them, can be instrumental for ethnographers. He also shows how an ethnographic engagement with the object is often necessary to use these new methods in a way that is truly productive.
Brian F. O’Neill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Critical policy ethnography, visual ethnography, environmental politics, environmental justice, financialization
BRIAN F. O’NEILL is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a particular interest in the social dynamics of climate-change adaptation strategies (“public” policies), i.e., how they are made viable and why they are so contentious. He began his journey into sociology as a research assistant to Franck Poupeau (who introduction him to the thought of Pierre Bourdieu) working on the comparative politics of water, as reported in the collective book, The Field of Water Policy: Power and Scarcity in the American Southwest (2019).
Brian’s work has been inspired by a number of contemporary ethnographers : he strives to bring together the perspectives of the extended-case method ( Michael Burawoy), as it applies to environmental injustice questions (Zsuzsa Gille), with that of critical policy ethnography (Vincent Dubois). Brians’s current project investigates the “unconventional,” but nonetheless increasingly prevalent, industrial practice of seawater desalination. Although he prefers his sports on land, Brian’s fieldwork required him to learn how to surf to understand his interlocutors’ connection to the field site. The main argument developed in this project is that, contrary to recent enthusiasm for this seemingly obvious approach to “the water (scarcity) problem,” such industrial programs are riven by class bias and create enduring conflicts among local communities, ultimately making purified ocean water a luxury commodity.
Brian’s ethnographic practice increasingly draws from the tradition of visual ethnography and documentary photography. Recently, he had the good fortune of learning from visual studies pioneer Frank Cancian, who was a long-time ethnographer working mainly with the Zincantecos of the Chiapas Highlands. "Outside of research, Brian enjoys running, photographing (and photo-books), watching movies, and reading noir fiction.
Timothy Pachirat, U-Mass Amherst
violence, distance-deceit-denial, critical animal studies, ethics of ethnography, political ethnography
I went to study with James C. Scott in order to write about labor and environmental movements in Thailand. Instead, I ended up working on the kill floor of a US cattle slaughterhouse. This resulted in a book, Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight (2011), that asks how massive violence is normalized in so-called “civilized” societies through an exploration of industrialized killing from the vantage of those who carry it out most directly. I have also written a play, Among Wolves: Ethnography and the Immersive Study of Power (2018), featuring three anthropologists, three sociologists, three political scientists, a journalist, and a one-eyed wolf-dog conversing at length about the-this and the-that of ethnography. I am happy to report that there is no imminent danger of this play being produced, whether on or off Broadway. I’m a proud founding member of the UMass Ethnography Collective and its WTF (What—The Field?) panel series.
I fix and write on old manual typewriters and would love to do an ethnography of one of the last surviving typewriter repair shops once I complete the two or three or four other, less felicitous book projects with which I’ve already entered into emotionally complicated relationships. (“There are places we don’t choose to visit, and yet something draws us to them. Possibly that something is Dread.”) Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Leslie Marmon Silko, Carolyn Forché, Jack Gilbert, and Anne Sexton. The most recent book I read is Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. I have a huge crush on the book’s main character, an ex-bridge architect named Janina Duszejko. Janina is the source of the parenthetical quote three sentences back. But please don’t call her Janina, she really doesn’t like it.
Photo credit: Alvin Ong, In My Head (I took this photo at the Armory art show recently.)
Joshua Page, University of Minnesota
Law, punishment, justice, politics, labor
JOSHUA PAGE is an associate professor of sociology and law at the University of Minnesota. He has conducted a wide range of research on the penal state and politics of punishment, with a particular focus on front-line workers and the organizations that represent them. His first book, The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officers Union in California dissected the rise, strategies, and impact of the prison guards union on the structure and functioning of California’s penal field.
Josh recently completed an immersive ethnographic study of the bail bond industry. While working as a bail agent, he learned that incarcerated individuals’ friends and family members (especially mothers, sisters, and wives) undergird the entire bail industry; they pay the premiums and co-sign the contracts. Low-income women of color who are not accused or convicted of crimes are the main source of bail profits. With Joe Soss, Josh is currently writing a book, Preying on the Poor: Criminal Justice as Revenue Racket, that uses the ethnographic data for a case study of criminal justice predation in action.
When Page isn’t studying or teaching about incarceration, bail bonds, or related issues, he’s practicing aikido, editing Meal Magazine (an independent print mag about food and people that he co-founded), or nesting at home with his wife (and editor extraordinaire) Letta and their dog Penny (his profile picture features Jasper, a wily Italian Greyhound that recently passed away at the ripe old age of 19).
Julie Pagis, CNRS-Paris
Childhood, habitus, political socialization, biography and activism, team ethnography
Julie PAGIS is a Junior research sociologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. Her investigations concern in two main domains: the social life of children and the activist trajectories of May 68 militants. Her dissertation, published in English as May 68: Shaping Political Generations (2018), draws on ethnographic interviews over two family generations to trace the biographical consequences of the « events of 1968 ».
Julie was drawn to ethnography by the obvious methodological limitations of carrying out interviews with children. Since 2010, she has been studying the political socialization of children as it happens, as an ongoing practical achievement, through field observation and repeat interviews with children in two primary schools. Because she cannot bear political scientists and, even less, children, she never sets out for the field on her own, but accompanied by her acolyte Wilfried Lignier, with whom she has dissected children’s contruction of the social world in their book L’Enfance de l’ordre (2017). A few years later, she tracked the 2017 presidential campaign through the eyes of children; she teamed up with comic strip artist Lisa Mandel, with whom she has published what is by far her funniest book : PréZIZIdentielle (2017, « zizi » means willy). In it, you will discover that a certain « Donald Trunk » has a big willy and that this can be analyzed in terms of « symbolic recycling, » a process central to the early formation of habitus.
When she cannot put up with children any more (which is quite often) and with old soixante-huitards (« okboomers »), she grabs her trumpet and plays New Orleans Second line music in the Barbecue Brass Band.
Leslie PAIK, Arizona State University
Institutional ethnography, families, juvenile justice, monetary sanctions, social control
Leslie PAIK is a professor of sociology at Arizona State University. After working in public policy settings for 6 years, she went to graduate school to learn ethnography to capture the complexity of the interplay between social control institutions and the people (both staff and clients). In particular, she looks at everyday work practices that inform staff decision-making processes on one hand and on the other, the clients’ perceptions of the staff and institutions that shape their actions regarding their cases. Leslie has studied these processes mainly in justice-related settings such as mandated drug treatment for adults on parole, a juvenile drug court, and mainstream juvenile court.
Based on 7 years of fieldwork and interviews with 63 families in New York City, Leslie’s latest book, Trapped in a Maze (2021) studies how families’ multi-institutional involvement with public institutions serving the poor perpetuates poverty and inequality. Her current research is on monetary sanctions in the justice system, using interviews with youths with delinquency cases, their families, and victims to explore how the “mundane” aspects to the bureaucratic processes-- not the youth’s “bad behavior”--foster and increase those monetary sanctions, which can drive the families deeper into poverty with prolonged involvement with the justice system and delay justice to victims who do not receive the financial restitution in a timely or meaningful way. In her free time, Leslie likes to hike, cook for friends, and travel.
Z. Fareen Parvez, U. Massachusetts-Amherst
Islam, politics, debt, popular resistance, comparative ethnography
Z. Fareen Parvez is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a member of the UMass Ethnography Collective. Her ethnographic work and inquiries have been eclectic. She has investigated the relationship between religion and politics, the social consequences of financial debt, and different ways that communities and social movements resist domination. Her first book, Politicizing Islam: the Islamic Revival in France and India (2017), is a comparative ethnography of Muslim communities living under the War on Terror. She conducted two years of participant observation in Hyderabad, India, and Lyon, France, where she wandered around the streets (not recommended) until she found her field site at a mosque in the banlieue of Vénissieux.
Since then, Fareen has conducted ethnographic work in India on household debt under financialized capitalism, observing pawn shops and low-income Muslim and Dalit families struggling to juggle their debts with predatory lenders. Turning to medical anthropology and religion, she spent a few months observing the field of ruqya (Islamic healing) and spirit possession in Fez, Morocco, where she has tried to understand the state’s regulation of Islam, the relationship between patients and healers, and how possession can be a way of coping with trauma and making peace with one’s demons.
It was in Fez that Fareen most encountered some of the occupational hazards of ethnography when a powerful local healer insisted on battling her demon. As a longtime activist, Fareen also collaborated in a project observing La ZAD, a major land occupation struggle in western France, to see how the movement survives after brutal police repression. As she tells her students, no other method but ethnography forces us to confront the practical, theoretical, ethical and political dilemmas inherent to all forms of social research. When not pondering these matters, Fareen plays guitar, gardens, and dreams of her Arctic travels.
PAUL PASQUALI is a junior researcher in sociology at the French CNRS who mixes longitudinal fieldwork, interviews, and archival research. A first focus of his work is on the mechanisms and experience of social mobilities (especially upward mobility, through the French grandes écoles), from an intra- and intergenerational point of view, scanning several universes: family, school, couple, peer groups. His first book, based on his dissertation, Passer les frontières sociales (Crossing Social Frontiers, 2014), tracked the fate of students who entered elite schools through a class- and place-based program of “affirmative action.”
A second focus of Paul’s work is the history of the social sciences, the historicity of their concepts and methods, the division of scientific work and dynamics of careers. This includes the historical sociology of French fieldwork in the 1960s and 1970s, which has led him to retrace the making and posterity of Bourdieu, Chamboredon and Passeron’s The Craft of Sociology, and to edit a collection of essays of Jean-Claude Chamboredon, Jeunesse et classes sociales (2015). He also recently edited a critical anthology of Michel Pialoux, Le Temps d’écouter (A Time for Listening, 2019), another collaborator of Bourdieu and a pioneer of French sociological ethnography.
When he is not doing sociology, Paul enjoys walking through unknown landscapes, urban or rural, where one can detect social boundaries better than in any book. He also loves swimming, watching old movies, listening to music (rap, jazz, classical, electro, variety... so long as it’s good...), and especially reading great novels that stir his guts.
Silvia Pasquetti, Newcastle University
Forced displacement, militarism, political ethnography, urban marginality, emotions
SILVIA PASQUETTI is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Newcastle University in the UK. Before joining Newcastle she was postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge University and spent a year in the bucolic quiet of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She uses ethnography, especially multi-sited and comparative ethnography, to interrogate histories, structures, and experiences of forced displacement.
Silvia has conducted ten years of ethnographic fieldwork across the Occupied West Bank and urban Israel. She first became interested and moved to this troubled area of the world from Italy, her home country, as a naïve graduate in Political Science interested in “conflict resolution.” Seeking a decolonial mode of knowledge production, she moved away from international relations and turned to sociology, and especially ethnographic sociology, to better understand how the Israeli security state distributes forms of control over Palestinians along the axes of legal status (citizens and non-citizens), place (camps and cities), and class (the poor versus the elites). Ethnography has helped her examine how, in its interaction with other ruling actors, including global humanitarian agencies, the security state builds in differences among Palestinians under its rule and naturalizes borders dividing them. She reports on this research in Citizens and Refugees: A Comparative Ethnography of Palestinian Marginalities, forthcoming with Oxford University Press.
Recently Silvia has extended her ethnographic focus to forced migrants in the urban Mediterranean. She hopes to supplement her ongoing fieldwork in borders towns and asylum reception centers in Sicily with fieldwork in urban Tunisia, and to write her second ethnographic monograph on intersecting experiences of displacement in colonial and postcolonial times.
BOWEN PAULLE teaches sociology at University of Amsterdam. As an observant participator, he has studied overwhelmed, non-selective urban schools on both sides of the Atlantic, as reported in Toxic Schools: High-Poverty Education in New York and Amsterdam (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Surprising finding: even the so called “thugs,” with the most violent of dispositions, tend to be quite conventional when they’re not triggered. Situations matter, because they destroy schools and lives. Also somewhat surprising: while Northern European welfare states take the edge off, in comparison with the US, youngsters in high-poverty secondary schools in cities like Amsterdam also often find themselves exposed to toxic levels of stress in and out of their schools. My findings suggest, also, that the youngsters who “make it (out)” of the neighborhood are, above all, surrounded by exceptionally stable adults who regulate their everyday involvements and facilitate body-based self-disciplining practices.
As head of a non-profit, Bowen studies ongoingly a “high-dosage” math tutoring program that has consistently generated breakthrough outcomes for kids forced to attend high-poverty schools. Surprise: there is no one silver bullet, but there are a hundred 1% solutions. Excellent implementation on the ground, in high poverty schools, is incredibly difficult, but it can be achieve. And we know from Randomized Controled Experiments that this form of tutoring can be offered on a large scale even in places like the South and West Sides of Chicago.
Bowen continues to study a prison-based rehabilitation program that is presently spreading through California’s carceral system.The healing the program facilitates is based on series of extremely powerful face-to-face encounters in which prisoners become deeply interconnected (i.e., part of a ‘tribe’). In this tribe, after a few months of meeting regularly, they can process – bodily, emotionally, cognitively – the childhood traumas that contributed to them ending up in prison. They can become whole again after being forcibly cut off, often for many decades, from the (overpowering) emotions emanating from their lived bodies. If they can “do the work,” what’s stopping us?
Virgílio Borges Pereira, University of Porto
Social classes, spatial inequalities, Bourdieu, political activism, revisits
VIRGÍLIO BORGES PEREIRA is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Porto, where he teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Architecture. Based on a conception of social space derived by Bourdieu’s sociology, he has developed in-depth research on social classes and symbolic inequalities in urban and rural contexts, combining, ethnographic work, archival research, and quantitative approaches (including Multiple Correspondence Analysis). He views mapping the objective regularities that constitute social and symbolic spaces as the foundation of fieldwork.
Virgílio’s first book, Classes e Culturas de Classe das Famílias Portuenses (2005), is a multi-method application and extension of Bourdieu’s Distinction to the city of Porto, in which he tracks the differentiation of lifestyles and social strategies down to the neighborhood level. A focus of his recent work is the genesis and sociosymbolic effects of housing policies, tracing ethnographically the conjoint trajectory of places, classes, and individuals. Another is the collective work of a multidisciplinary and multigenerational team of social researchers that revisits Fonte Arcada, an emblematic site in the formation of Portuguese sociology, carried out with João Ferreira de Almeida and José Madureira Pinto (one of the researchers who took part in the original study 30 years ago), entitled Ir e Voltar. Sociologia de uma colectividade local do Noroeste português, 1977-2007 (2021).
Ana Portilla, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Migration, inequality, social capital, ethnoracial categorizations, urban ethnography
Ana Portilla received her PhD in sociology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 2021. Her dissertation titled “The capital effects of ‘small’ resources among working class immigrants in the United States” studies how “small” differences in material, social and symbolic resources tied to different class positions in the country of origin, different forms of employment precarity in the United States, and status positions within peer groups, create inequalities within Mexican et Central-American immigrant groups. Ana uses ethnography to analyze more specifically how this heterogeneity among immigrants shape group dynamics, interpersonal relationships and result in unequal access to collective social capital.
Starting 2022, she will be conducting post-doctoral research on immigration to rural France. Ana was raised in Mexico City and in Los Angeles. She earned her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University. She has a two-year old and just finished her dissertation, so she can’t remember what her hobbies were back when she had a life
Franck Poupeau, CNRS-Paris and La Paz
Space, water, urban marginality, popular auto-organization, Bolivia
FRANCK POUPEAU is senior researcher at the CNRS. He was trained in philosophy (with a special interest in Merleau-Ponty) and in sociology by Pierre Bourdieu (he was his last assistant at the Collège de France). His work has tackled a variety of topics, from spatial inequalities to schooling, knowledge and intellectuals, the politics of water, and popular mobilization in the global South.
For the past twenty years, Franck has shared his time between Paris and La Paz (he is happy married to a Bolivian) and carrying out fieldwork on social marginality, space, and politics in Bolivia. His last book, Altiplano. Fragments d’une révolution (Bolivie, 1999-2019, 2021), examines the effects of a political transformation he calls “democratic revolution,” from the social mobilizations of the 2000’s to the election (and reelections) of Evo Morales as president of the country until 2019. Based on extended and extensive field research on inequalities in access to water (complementing multi-sited observation with surveys), this work tracks the survival strategies developed by families of the urban periphery in order to plumb the social, economic, and symbolic determinants of popular forms of auto-organization.
Pearl Phaovisaid, Cambridge Judge Business School
Gender, intersectionality, emotions and institutions, embodiment, extreme context
Pearl Phaovisaid is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in Organizational Theory and Information Systems (OTIS) at Cambridge Judge Business School and a lecturer at Thammasat University (Thailand). She warmed up to ethnography by way of several serendipitous conversations with Mark de Rond, now her Ph.D. supervisor. Pearl is a product of the east and west, having grown up in Thailand's southern province and Chicago's south side. In addition to this multicultural upbringing, her previous career in the US military immersed her in unique institutions and organizational set-ups and fostered an appetite for adventure.
Pearl’s ongoing Ph.D. research focuses on organizational silence in total institutions as illuminated through qualitative interviews with women veterans, autoethnographic analysis, and archival data. She is also conducting pandemic-resistant netnographic research in extremist online communities. Finally, to fully embrace the ethnographer identity and slay imposter syndrome for once and for all, Pearl is preparing to study emotions and embodiment through fieldwork in a Shaolin monastery. She has a budding interest in gender, intersectionality, emotions and institutions, and embodiment and hopes to explore extreme contexts where sane scholars would rather not go. Outside of research, Pearl enjoys exploring new landscapes, engaging in sports and physical training, reading, creating spreadsheets, and playing with new tech gadgets.
Annick Prieur, University of Aalborg
Sex/gender/sexuality, class/marginalization, social control, human trafficking, Bourdieu
Annick Prieur teaches sociology at Aalborg University in Denmark, but was born in France and grew up in Norway. She got her MA in criminology on a study of clients of prostitutes in Norway. The next research concerned HIV and homosexual men’s challenges in changing sexual habits, for which she went to a conference in Mexico on HIV/AIDS education to present her work in 1988. There she met Gerardo Ortega AKA Mema, a peer educator among sex workers in Mexico City.
Mema invited her for a short visit, which initiated the fieldwork behind her PhD in sociology and the book Mema’s House, Mexico City (1998). Annick didn’t know for sure at first, but gradually discovered she was hosted in a gay/transgender community of sex workers, hustlers, hairdressers, thieves, teenage runaways and their macho-style lovers. The book is about their challenging and violent, but also joyful lives, and strives to give meaning to their unorthodox gender constructions.[See the capsule of the book in the Café’s Book Nook]
After translating a couple of Bourdieu’s works into Norwegian, Annick received an invitation to his lab in Paris. The inspiration from Bourdieu increasingly marked her sociology, first of the meaning of migration history for descendants of immigrants in white-dominated Norway, thereafter on the subtle meanings of class in egalitarian Denmark. Moving slowly back to ethnography with a short fieldwork in the Danish police within a broader investigation of the significance of social and emotional competencies in today’s society, she has also drifted slowly back to criminological subjects like human trafficking and sexual violence.
Annick is currently observing how expressions of anger are justified in court cases on threats and violence. Covid-19 paused the plans for a study of ageing transgender people in Mexico, but let’s see what future brings. Always tempted by new subjects, even at 60+ she is still too curious to pass the marshmallow test.
Romain Pudal, CNRS, France
Firefighters, political ethnography, working class, class contempt
Romain Pudal is a junior research sociologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), in Paris. In his mid-20s he was called up for military service in the Paris Fire Brigade just as the draft was about to be abolished in France, so that he was basically the last conscript in the Paris Fire Department. This first experience in uniform did not end with his return to civilian life. While pursuing his doctoral research on the sociology of philosophy and intellectuals (his thesis focuses on American pragmatist philosophy and its reception in France), he decided to join, as a volunteer, a firefighter brigade in a Paris’s suburb and became firefighter for 15 years. Living only an academic life is probably too quiet and muted for ethnographers. Romain's long-term ethnography of firefighters yielded the book Retours de flammes (2016). His current work is increasingly concerned with political ethnography and focuses on public services and the question of class contempt as a central element of social relations. Although he no longer wears the uniform, Romain is still sensitive to the blue flashing lights and continues to talk regularly with former colleagues about their lives, work, and worldviews.
GRETCHEN PURSER, originally from Chicago, is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She studies work and labor market transformation, the housing struggles of the urban poor, and the practices and policies of neoliberal poverty management in the U.S. She has long been committed to deep immersive ethnography and worked as a day laborer over the course of three years to investigate the social production of “on demand” labor and the working conditions at the bottom of the labor market.
Presently, Gretchen is completing a book (with Brian Hennigan) entitled Learning to Labor on “job readiness” programs for the poor. Anchored around four ethnographic case studies, the book examines the practices and ideologies that animate these programs, a topic all the more relevant in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the nation-wide handwringing over the “labor shortage.” She is also working on a collaborative ethnographic, community-based project on tenant organizing. Gretchen feels fortunate to be able to train graduate students in the craft of ethnography. She has recently taken up downhill skiing—a very good thing, given the long update New York winters--and plays the keyboard in a band.
Khoi Quach, Berkeley
Habitus, identity, videogames, digitality, virtual ethnography
KHOI QUACH is a graduate student in the sociology department at UC Berkeley. His interest in ethnography as a tool for relational understanding was deepened by, and during, the pandemic in 2020. He was unable to conduct a planned ethnographic project on the personal and communal realities of higher-education participation for formerly incarcerated people on college campuses. Instead, he soon found himself grappling with how to conceptualize and analyze the dynamics of extensive virtual interaction, when he became a student athlete in a collegiate esports team.
Khoi’s current project parses the identity and sociality associated with college students who participate in student-run, campus clubs and organizations centered around videogames. He hopes to contribute analytical nuance to current understandings of videogame culture–and of digitality, more generally–by taking into prime consideration the roles of personal biographies and sociotechnical affordances in shaping the (video)gaming habitus and the ‘gamer’ identity. While the interview component of the project is proceeding virtually, a full deployment of the field component is pending the lifting of current Covid restrictions.
Danielle Raudenbush, UC San Diego
urban poverty, health disparities, access to care, African American health, immigrant health