The Café meets monthly to debate a recent book with its author and a discussant. Participants are expected to have read the book (or chapters available in the announcement). The author gives a ten-minute presentation, the discussant has ten minutes to offer comments, and the author another ten to respond. This is followed by an hour of open discussion. Come join the fun!
**Café sessions take place on Zoom, on select Fridays at 12 noon-1:30 pm PT/ 3-4:30 pm ET/ 9-10:30 pm Europe, unless otherwise noted.
Friday, May 12, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
Ethnographic Café Special Panel: Emotions in Fieldwork*
*See recommended readings here.
Meeting Passcode: 1234
Two Ethnographies about Social Movements in South Africa
Delivery as Dispossession: Land Occupation and Eviction in the Postapartheid City
Zachary Levenson in conversation with Fareen Parvez
Fractured Militancy: Precarious Resistance in South Africa After Racial Inclusion
Marcel Paret in conversation with Zine Magubane
Friday, April 28, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
Zachary Levenson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a Senior Research Associate in Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, and for the current academic year, a Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Delivery as Dispossession: Land Occupation and Eviction in the Postapartheid City (Oxford University Press, 2022) and co-editor of the forthcoming volume The South African Tradition of Racial Capitalism: From Margin to Center (Routledge, 2023). He has also recently edited special issues of Qualitative Sociology (2021) and Ethnic and Racial Studies (2023, forthcoming).
Z. Fareen Parvez is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her work uses ethnographic and other qualitative methods to explore the political, economic, and religious lives of working-class communities. Parvez is the author of Politicizing Islam: the Islamic revival in France and India (2017, Oxford University Press) and was a 2019-20 fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she worked on her new project on predatory lending and household debt in urban India.
Marcel Paret is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah and Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of Fractured Militancy: Precarious Resistance in South Africa After Racial Inclusion (Cornell University Press, 2022). He is also the co-editor of the volume Building Citizenship From Below: Precarity, Migration, and Agency (Routledge, 2017).
Zine Magubane is an Professor of the Sociology at Boston College. She also holds a courtesy appointment in the department of African and African Diaspora studies at Boston College. Her areas of specialization include social theory, sociology of post-coloniality, race and ethnicity, globalization, race and popular culture, gender and sexuality, and the sociology of African societies. Professor Magubane is the author of Bringing the Empire Home: Race, Gender and Class in Britain and Colonial South Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2004). She is the editor of two other books – Postmodernity, Postcoloniality, and African Studies (Africa World Press, 2004) and, with Reitu Mabokela, Race, Gender and the Status of Black South African Women in the Academy (UNISA, 2005). Her work has appeared in Signs, Gender and Society, and Critical Sociology. She is currently working on a book: Slavery, Colonialism, and the History of American Sociology.
Friday, March 31, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
Kimberly Kay Hoang
in conversation with Bruno Cousin
Spiderweb Capitalism: How Global Elites Exploit Frontier Markets*
*Read the chapters here
Kimberly Kay Hoang is Associate Professor of Sociology and the College and the Director of Global Studies at the University of Chicago. Dr. Hoang is the author of two books based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork: Spiderweb Capitalism: How Global Elites Exploit Frontier Markets (Princeton University Press 2022) and the award-winning Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work (University of California Press 2015).
Bruno Cousin is Associate Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po (France), where he holds the Endowed Chair on Cities, Housing & Real Estate. He has conducted several ethnographic and interview-based research projects among the upper classes, on topics like urban self-segregation, class prejudice, forms of bourgeois sociability, corporate boards, elite transnationalism, and labor relations within super-rich households. He often combines ethnography with other methods and regularly experiences the heuristic virtues of doing fieldwork as a duo – mainly with Sébastien Chauvin (University of Lausanne) or Jules Naudet (CNRS & EHESS).
Friday, February 17, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
in conversation with Nicole P. Marwell
Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Development, and Inequality in Boston*
*Read the chapters here
Jeremy Levine is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Sociology (by courtesy) at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on questions of inequality and public policy, especially in cities. His first book, Constructing Community, was published in 2021 with Princeton University Press, and he has additionally published articles in the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces, among other outlets. His newest work analyzes the historical development of crime victim policy and its effects on racial and gender inequality.
Nicole P. Marwell is Associate Professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago, where she is also a faculty affiliate of the Department of Sociology and the Data Science Institute. Her research examines urban governance, with a focus on the diverse intersections between nonprofit organizations, government bureaucracies, communities, and politics. Current projects include: a book about how the rise of randomized controlled trials threatens the responsiveness, diversity, and inclusivity of the nonprofit sector; and a study of the structure and performance of internet infrastructure across urban neighborhoods in the U.S.
Friday, December 16, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
in conversation with Alison Gerber
Blood, Powder, and Residue: How Crime Labs Translate Evidence into Proof*
*Read the chapters here
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.
Alison Gerber is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Lund University in Sweden. Gerber's research is focused on culture, science, and public life, with a special emphasis on new kinds of evidence: algorithmically generated images and emerging digital 3D methods for documentation, visualization, and analysis as they move between science and the law. From 2021-2025 Gerber is leading a project called Show & Tell: Scientific representation, algorithmically generated visualizations, and evidence across epistemic cultures, funded by the European Research Council.
Friday, November 18, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
in conversation with Annie Hikido**
A Man among Other Men: The Crisis of Black Masculinity in Racial Capitalism
*Read the chapters here
**watch the event video here. ( Passcode: =iv6J+zu )
Jordanna Matlon is an Assistant Professor at American University’s School of International Service and an urban ethnographer interested in questions of race and belonging in Africa and the African diaspora, and the ways “Blackness” operates as a signifier, intersects with gender norms, manifests in popular culture, and illuminates our understanding of political economy. Her book, A Man among Other Men, is a historically grounded ethnography of the livelihoods and lifestyles of men in the informal economy of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. This book offers an empirically rich and theoretically innovative account of Black masculinity that demonstrates the sustained power of imaginaries – even as capitalism affords a deficit of material opportunities.
Annie Hikido is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colby College. She uses ethnographic methods to examine how intersections of race, class, and gender function in dialogue with globalization, especially in urban environments. She is working on a book about Black South African women offering tourist accommodation in Cape Town. It explores how Black women generate racialized projections of post-apartheid development through global tourism.
ETHNOGRAPHIC CAFÉ SPECIAL PANEL
Bit of a Mess & Bit of a Miracle:
Problems and Promises of Organizational Ethnography
Nov 11, 12 p.m. PST, 3 p.m. EST
Check the event details here
Friday October 28, 12 – 1:30pm (PT)
in conversation with Iddo Tavory
Dangerous Fun: The Social Lives of Big Wave Surfers
*Read the chapters here.
Ugo Corte is professor of Sociology at the University of Stavanger in Norway. His latest work has addressed small group creativity across fields, fun and cruelty, and the qualitative methodology. This work has been published in journals like Sociological Theory, Sociological Forum, The Social Psychology Quarterly, and Qualitative Sociology.
Dangerous Fun: The Social Lives of Big Wave Surfers (University of Chicago Press, 2022) is Corte´s ethnography based on the North Shore of O´ahu. He argues that fun is a quintessentially social phenomenon, a pathway to solidarity rooted in the delight in actualizing the self within a social world of risky interactions with uncertain outcomes. Corte provides an understanding of collective effervescence, emotional energy, and the interaction rituals leading to fateful moments in the Goffmanian sense—moments of decision that, once made, transform one’s self-concept irrevocably.
Iddo Tavory is Professor of sociology at NYU, and editor of Sociological Theory. He is broadly interested in the interactional and experiential patterns through which people come to construct and understand their lives across situations. His books Abductive Analysis and Data Analysis in Qualitative Research (both with Stefan Timmermans) provide a pragmatist account that allows researchers to make the most of the surprises that emerge in the process of research. His book, Summoned, is an ethnography of a Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles as well as a treatise on the co-constitution of interaction, identity and social worlds. His book (with Sonia Prelat and Shelly Ronen) Tangled Goods explores the relationship among goods in pro bono advertising, and theorizes the coordination of different forms of worth in action. Iddo is currently writing a theoretical manuscript on something he is calling cultural interactionism as well as writing a book based on an ethnography of an advertising agency in New York. Among other awards, Iddo has received the Lewis A. Coser Award for theoretical agenda setting in sociology.
Friday September 30, 12 – 1:30pm (PT)
in conversation with Danilo Mandić
Refuge: How the State Shapes Human Potential
*Read the chapters here.
Heba Gowayed is the Moorman-Simon Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University.
Her research, 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. Her book Refuge is based on three years of fieldwork documenting the strikingly divergent journeys of Syrian families from similar economic and social backgrounds during their crucial first years of resettlement in the United States and Canada and asylum in Germany. Their experiences reveal that these destination countries are not saviors; they can deny newcomers’ potential by failing to recognize their abilities and invest in the tools they need to prosper.
Danilo Mandić is Associate Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Harvard University. His first book, Gangsters and Other Statesmen (2022), received awards from the Eastern Sociological Society and the American Sociological Association. His second book, The Syrian Refugee Crisis: How Democracies and Autocracies Perpetrated Mass Displacement (2023), presents rare refugee data collected by a research team he led into fieldwork in five countries in the Middle East and Europe.
May 20, 10 a.m. PST, 1 p.m. EST
ETHNOGRAPHIC CAFÉ SPECIAL PANEL: Ethnography in/of the Global South: Critical Reflections
A half century ago, Manuel Castells posed an existential question for urban sociologists: does the subfield constitute sociology in the city, or does urban space play a defining role, producing a sociology of the city? This panel poses a comparable question to ethnographers carrying out fieldwork in the global South: do they study sociological phenomena that just happen to occur beyond Euro-America, or is there something distinctive about the majority of the world’s surface that we call “the global South,” home to more than 85 percent of the global population? Scholars working on Africa, Asia, and Latin America discuss the meaning and limits of the concept and its significance for their work. Should southern ethnography be considered a distinct enterprise, or does this contribute to self-marginalization within an already notoriously parochial discipline?
Moderator: Zachary Levenson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Levenson studies the politics of eviction in postapartheid South Africa. His work is based on a decade of fieldwork in land occupations and informal settlements in Cape Town, and his book Delivery as Dispossession was released in April 2022 on Oxford University Press.
Presenter: Elena Shih, Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University
Trained as a sociologist, Shih studies the transnational social movement to combat human trafficking in China, Thailand, and the US. She works at the intersection of ethnography and critical humanitarianism studies. Her book Manufacturing Freedom is under contract with UC Press.
Presenter: Oluwakemi Balogun, Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Oregon
Balogun’s research focuses on gender, globalization, and nationalism in the context of the Nigerian beauty pageant industry. Based on years of fieldwork, her book Beauty Diplomacy was released by Stanford University Press in 2020.
Presenter: Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Professor of Individualized Studies and Sociology, New York University
Baiocchi is interested in questions of politics and culture, critical social theory, and cities. He has cultivated a distinctly political ethnography, which he has deployed in his fieldwork in Brazil, the US, and elsewhere. He is the author of numerous books, the most recent of which, co-authored with Jake Carlson, is Housing Is a Social Good, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.
April 29, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
In conversation with Rosana Pinheiro-Machado
The Perfect Fit: Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry
**Read the preface and chapter 1 here.
Claudio E. Benzecry is Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and a sociologist interested in culture, arts, knowledge, and globalization. He is the editor of three volumes on theory, culture, and knowledge, and the co-Editor in Chief of Qualitative Sociology. His book The Opera Fanatic. Ethnography of an Obsession (University of Chicago Press, 2011) received the Mary Douglas Award for best book in the Sociology of Culture (2012), and an Honorable mention for the ASA Distinguished Book award (2014). His new book, The Perfect Fit. Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry (University of Chicago Press) is based on a five-year ethnographic research on fashion, creativity, and globalization, following how a shoe is imagined, sketched, designed, developed, and produced in between the US, Europe, Brazil, and China.
Rosana Pinheiro-Machado, an anthropologist, is Assistant Professor of International Development in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath (UK) and a fellow of the British Higher Education Academy. Her research deals with the topics of authoritarianism, labour, consumption, and poverty. She seeks to gain a longitudinal, local understanding of the major processes of world-making and world-ordering that have transformed emerging countries in economic and political terms. She has conducted multi-scalar and multi-sited ethnographic projects in the Global South (e.g., China and Brazil) over the last 20 years. She has recently been laureated by the European Research Council with a Consolidator Grant to lead the comparative and multi-methods transnational project "Flexible Work, Rigid Politics" in Brazil, India, and the Philippines.
March 18, 12-1.30 pm (PT)
In conversation with Florian Jaton
Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams
**Read chapters here. (password for the drive folder: cafe22)
Janet Vertesi is Associate Professor of Sociology at Princeton. She is an expert in the sociology of science, technology, and organizations. Her past decade of research, funded by the National Science Foundation, examines how distributed robotic spacecraft teams work together effectively to produce scientific and technical results. Vertesi is the author of two books about NASA science teams, and has also produced edited volumes with colleagues on the topic of images and representation in science, and studying digital environments and interactions. She also studies digital technologies and personal data privacy.
Florian Jaton is a sociologist of science, technology and computing, currently senior researcher and lecturer at the STS Lab, Lausanne, Switzerland. He has researched algorithmic finance, personalized medicine, and is the author of The Constitution of Algorithms: Ground-Truthing, Programming, Formulating (MIT Press, 2021), based on four years of ethnographic study of a computer science laboratory that specialized in digital image processing.
Nicholas Rush Smith
February 25, 12- 1.30pm (PT)
Nicholas Rush Smith
In conversation with Javier Auyero
Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa
**Read chapters here.
Nicholas Rush Smith teaches Political Science at CUNY-City College. Based on 20 months of ethnographic and archival research in two townships outside Durban, Contradictions of Democracy reveals that, in the context of densely networked neighborhoods, poor citizens often interpret the technical success of legal institutions—say, the arrest and subsequent release of suspects on bail—as failure and work to correct such perceived failures through extra-legal violence. When viewed through the eyes of young Black men on South Africa’s margins, vigilantism emerges as a reaction, not to state failure, but to democratic state-making.
Javier Auyero teaches sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, where he founded and directs the Ethnography Lab. His work deals with poverty, violence, the state, and politics at ground level. His latest book, The Ambivalent State (with Katherine Sobering) draws on court cases to dissect the dynamics of police-drug trafficker collusion in the Argentine periphery. His is currently at work (with Sofía Servian) on a book tentatively entitled Overwhelmed. How do the urban poor keep surviving?
January 28, 11am-12:30pm (PT)*
Danielle T. Raudenbush
in conversation with
Health Care Off the Books: Poverty, Illness, and Strategies for Survival in Urban America
*Please note the earlier time
**Read the introduction and methods chapters here.
Danielle Raudenbush is Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC San Diego. In Health Care Off the Books: Poverty, Illness, and Strategies for Survival in Urban America (University of California Press, February 2020), she draws on three years of fieldwork in a Chicago community to examine the health care practices of the urban poor, and specifically the informal network strategies that low-income African Americans develop in attempts to treat health problems when they face barriers to accessing formal health services. Currently, she is working on a project in which she investigates how living in the San Diego, California border region shapes the health care experiences of Mexican immigrants, including how members of this group strategically use health services in Mexico to meet their health care needs and goals.
Armando Lara-Millán is Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. He uses ethnography and historical methods to study powerful organizations. He examines how these organizations use culture and cognitive processes to recast the economic worth of resources that many people depend on, purchase, or are subject too (e.g. jail and hospital space, crime, advanced medical technology, or even property value). He is the author of Redistributing the Poor: Jails, Hospitals, and the Crisis of Law and Fiscal Austerity (OUP, 2021).
December 10, 2021
In conversation with Vincent DUBOIS
Trapped in a Maze: How Social Control Institutions Drive Family Poverty and Inequality
Leslie Paik is Professor in the Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with 10 families, and interviews with another 53 families, her book Trapped in a Maze: How Social Control Institutions Drive Family Poverty and Inequality traces how low-income families navigate complex and multiple institutions –such as courts, hospitals, housing, schools, and welfare. The book reveals how the formal rationality by which these institutions ostensibly operate undercuts what they can actually achieve. And worse, it demonstrates how involvement with multiple institutions can perpetuate the conditions of poverty that these families are fighting to escape.
Vincent Dubois is Professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of Strasbourg (France) and the author of The Bureaucrat and the Poor: Encounters in French Welfare Offices (2017, Routledge). He works on surveillance and sanction policies in the contemporary social state and the relationship between the lower classes and public institutions. He will lead us in discussion.
November 19, 2021
In conversation with Sarah BRAYNE
Click to read the Introduction and Methods chapters.
Angèle Christin is Assistant Professor of Communications and (by courtesy) of Sociology at Stanford University. Her book Metrics at Work draws on four years of fieldwork in web newsrooms in the United States and France, including more than one hundred interviews with journalists. It uncovers crucial and paradoxical differences in how American and French journalists understand audience analytics and how these affect the news produced in each country.
Sarah Brayne, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UT-Austin, will lead us in discussion. Her research examines the social consequences of data-intensive surveillance practices and she is the author of Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing.
Special Event, Oct 29
October 22, 2021
Tahseen SHAMS in conversation with
Chapters 1 and 2 available here.
Tahseen SHAMS is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her award-winning book, Here, There, and Elsewhere: The Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World (2020), uncovers how different dimensions of the ethnic and religious identities of immigrants connect them to, not just to their homeland and hostland, but to different "elsewheres" around the planet, making immigrants prime agents of globalization.
Hajar YAZDIHA, Assistant Professor of Sociology at USC, will lead us in discussion. Her work focuses on the Muslim diaspora and develops a comparative Du Boisian framework for the study of immigrant incorporation and ethnic identity formation. She is also working on a book entitled The Kingmakers: Making and Mobilizing the Collective Memory of the Civil Rights Movement in American Politics.
Sept 24, 2021.
Matthew Clair in conversation with Mona Lynch
Matthew Clair is Assistant Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) Law at Stanford University. His award-winning book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court (Princeton University Press, 2020) examines how racial and class inequalities are embedded in the attorney-client relationship. Based on fieldwork and interviews in the Boston court system, Clair found that attempts to exercise legal rights often backfire on the poor and on working-class people of color, and that effective legal representation alone is no guarantee of justice.
Mona Lynch, Chancellor’s Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine and the author of Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court (2016), will lead us in discussion.