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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
elite service, labor, class distinction, skill, carnal ethnography
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.
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.”
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 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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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
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)?
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."
Faith Deckard, University of Texas at Austin
Networks of support, penal state, time, money, risk assessment
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
Cathy Hu, Berkeley
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hakan Kalkan, Roskilde University
Disadvantaged neighborhoods, ethnoracial minorities, marginalization, violence, illegal economy
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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).
Tyler Leeds, UC Berkeley
Political sociology, conservatism, journalism, theory, knowledge
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.
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?
Eldad Levy, University of Texas- Austin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ».
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Ana Portilla, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
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.
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.
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.
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.
Danielle Raudenbush, UC San Diego