Past CES Fellows


2021-2022 CES Fellows

David Showalter

U.C. Berkeley, Sociology

David Showalter is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Their research addresses topics at the intersection of health, law, and politics, particularly drug use and drug policy, and has been published in International Journal of Drug PolicyTheory & SocietyMobilization, and elsewhere.

David’s dissertation, Going Nowhere: Life with Opioids in Backcountry California, is a multisite ethnographic study of opioid use and opioid-related services in several remote counties. The ongoing overdose crisis has affected communities across the United States, from the largest cities to the most rural areas, but research on opioids has typically focused on urban populations. David uses in-depth interviews and participant-observation fieldwork with people who use drugs, service providers, and local officials to reveal how geographic isolation, scarce resources, and tight-knit social networks in small towns shape drug use and efforts to address its consequences. By combining immersive fieldwork with rigorous social theory, David offers unique insights on the links between place, politics, health, and wellbeing in nonurban settings.

Originally from Oklahoma, David holds a master’s degree in Sociology from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in Tutorial Studies from the University of Chicago. In addition to their academic work, David serves as President of the Board of Directors for NEED, a harm reduction organization based in Berkeley.

Teona Williams

Yale University, History and African American Studies

Teona Williams is a doctoral candidate in History and African American Studies at Yale University. Her work revolves around U.S environmental history, political ecology, race and ethnic studies, environmental justice, digital humanities, and African American history. Her current work explores Black women agrarianism and the struggle for land reparations from the New Deal era to the Black Power Movement.

Before Yale, she completed a master’s degree in Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. There she researched how African American college students navigated the outdoor recreational landscape. In 2017, she won the Clyde Woods Prize for best graduate paper in Black Geographies, for her paper "Build A Wall Around Hyde Park: Race, Space and Policing on the Southside of Chicago 1950-2010," which is currently under review for The Antipode. You can access her article on Police Violence and Environmental Justice here.

She is the author of the essay “Islands of Freedom: The struggle to desegregate Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1936-1941” in the forthcoming edited collection Not Just Green, Not Just White: Race, Justice, Environmental History.

Jennifer Zelnick

UC Irvine, Anthropology

Jennifer’s dissertation, “Life and Death After America: Deportee Transnationalism Among Cambodian American Refugees,” examines the deportation process and lifeworlds of deported and deportable Cambodian American refugees. Drawing on over two years of multi-sited transnational ethnographic fieldwork in Cambodia and California, her dissertation challenges extant binaries of migrant il/legality and refugee “deservingness” while simultaneously destabilizing ideas about diasporic belonging, US militarism and empire, and the homeland. Jennifer argues that deportee transnationalism reveals the sociopolitical and legal complexities surrounding declining liberal humanitarianism’s acceptance of refugees, alongside the expansion of the US deportation regime.

Jennifer’s project emerges from deep commitments to research in service of social justice. Her work is grounded in direct service to deportees, deportable refugees, and deportee-serving organizations through pro bono legal and policy support to assist individuals and families fighting deportations.  

Jennifer’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (#1823363), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Fellowship Program, the Center for Khmer Studies, and the University of California, Irvine (Anthropology Department, Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies, Center for Asian Studies, and Christian Werner Fellowship). She received her BA in Anthropology from Haverford College, and her MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Tiana Wilson

UT Austin, History

Tiana U. Wilson's broader research interests include Black Women’s Intellectual History, Black Women’s Internationalism, Women of Color Organizing, and Third World Feminism.

Her dissertation, “Liberation for All: Recovering the Lasting Legacy of the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA), 1968-2012,” offers the first comprehensive study of the group and traces the intellectual genealogies of a “women of color” feminist praxis rooted in the Women’s Liberation Movement(s) of the 1970s and still used today for political activity. Through an organizational approach, Wilson explores the intellectual history of the TWWA. Wilson’s previous activism with Black women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault continues to shape her interest in social justice through the lens of intersectionality.

Drawing on political speeches, newsletters, articles, pamphlets, and travel logs, “Liberation for all” examines Black women's contributions to women of color groups in the U.S. from the 1960s to the present. She argues that members’ theorization of the Third World Woman allowed for a successful multiracial feminist coalition that expanded nationally and internationally. By centering working-class women’s issues related to reproductive health, socio-economic disparities, and state violence, the TWWA coalesced Black, Latina, Asian, and Indigenous women under one collective.

At UT, she led the anti-racism committee in her home department, served as the 2019-2020 Graduate Research Assistant for the Institute for Historical Studies, and was a research fellow for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy between the years of 2017-2020. Her dissertation has been supported by the Sallie Bingham Center; the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics; Smith College Libraries; and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, among others.

Liang Wu

The Graduate Center, City University of New York, Anthropology

To shed light on systematically invisibilized and immobilized seafarers who are the 1.6 million essential workers transporting 90% of world trade including everyday goods and products, Liang Wu has been studying the international shipping industry and seafarers' lives since 2006. Through working at various seafarer centers in Asia and North America, Wu has been directly involved in welfare provision and labor advocacy, and has melded his firsthand experiences in the field with participant observation, carrying out hundreds of ship visits and ethnographic interviews with seafarers as well as representatives of various organizations such as maritime ministries, trade unions, education and training institutes, shipping companies, port authorities, and logistics centers.

With the tentative title of “Contained at Sea: Multinational Seafarers, Mobility Politics, and the International Shipping Industry,” Wu’s dissertation project is situated at the intersection of anthropology, oceanic, critical mobility, and science and technology studies. It examines the meanings and lived experiences of contemporary seamanship, including the techno economic, infrastructural, and legal developments of shipping in the postwar era, the concomitant changing society and culture of port cities and shipboard communities, politics of mobility generated by the global expedition of materials, and the mechanisms and mediations through which multinational seafarers navigate their overseas relationships, job conditions, state administrations, and international law such as maritime security and environmental protection.

At the dawn of what is touted as the 4th Industrial Revolution that prioritizes technological communication, connectivity, and circulation, Wu’s work on seafarers as vanguard transport workers not only serves as a reference for other laborers of material delivery and social sustenance in the larger US society, but also offers critical insights into the future of labor conditions and industrial relations that undergird logistical processes of societies and economies around the globe.

Justine Modica

Stanford University, History

Justine Modica is a PhD candidate in U.S. History at Stanford University, and a PhD minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She researches the history of women's labor and care work in the 20th century.

Her dissertation is a historical analysis of child care as a labor issue. The United States experienced a dramatic growth in maternal labor force participation in the second half of the twentieth century but remains one of the only industrialized nations without a comprehensive approach to child care.

Justine's dissertation examines how various groups of Americans built and shaped a waged child care workforce to replace the unwaged labor of mothers caring for children in the home. She examines this history on the levels of both grassroots action and governmental policy, exploring how the approaches of workers, families, municipal governments, federal agencies, and labor unions intersected. Central to her study are the ways that ideologies and practices of race, gender, class, and citizenship shaped the demographics of the childcare workforce, conditions of employment, and the social and monetary value of caring labor.

Justine holds an MA in History from Stanford University and a BA in History from Dartmouth College.

2021-2022 Honorable Mentions

Elan Pochedley

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Anthropology

Elan Pochedley is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he has earned dual graduate minors in American Indian & Indigenous Studies (AIIS) and Heritage Studies & Public History (HSPH). He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Elan’s dissertation, “Contemporary Neshnabék Territoriality: A Study of Connections and Obligations to Waters, Lands, and Nonhuman Relatives,” analyzes how obligations to nonhuman relatives, popularly categorized as “natural resources,” are actively practiced by Potawatomi and Ojibwe nations. In this multi-sited ethnography, Elan collaborated and conducted ethnographic research with four sovereign Neshnabék nations: the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, and the White Earth Nation (Ojibwe).

By studying these nations’ obligations to nonhuman relatives alongside their present-day territorial claims, his dissertation is comprised of relational analyses of environmental ethics across Neshnabék nations, reservations, and homelands typically perceived as isolated from one another. Elan studies how these nations navigate emerging technologies, legal approaches, and U.S.-sponsored ecological restoration projects while maintaining specific ethical commitments. His research investigates Potawatomi and Ojibwe nations’ efforts to restore wild rice, rehabilitate eagles and sturgeon, protect bodies of water, and contest infrastructure projects that threaten the health and livelihoods of their human and nonhuman kin. This ethnographic research was conducted with the consent and approval of these nations’ respective tribal councils and/or research review boards.

As the Research Fellow in Geography and Cartography at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center, he is currently utilizing ArcGIS software to spatially map historic Potawatomi homelands, presences, inter-species relational networks, and place names in Indiana. The resulting maps are the basis for an article he recently authored for the Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community journal.

His dissertation research has been supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP), the Mellon Foundation, the University of Minnesota Diversity of Views & Experiences (DOVE) Fellowship, and the Beverly & Richard Fink Summer Research Fellowship. He recently accepted the Charles Eastman Fellowship at Dartmouth College, which he will begin in the fall of 2021. In 2016, he received his B.A. in Native/Indigenous Studies (Ethnicity & Race Studies) from Columbia College, Columbia University, where he served as Co-President of the Native American Council and was a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF).

Sabrina Dycus

New York University, Sociology

Sabrina’s research interests include law and society, the sociology of expertise, and social theory.  Sabrina’s dissertation research uses qualitative and quantitative data (observations, interviews, archival analysis, and a large administrative database) to understand immigration removal proceedings as sites of state social control.  Immigration removal proceedings are the primary mechanism that state actors use to deport people, and people undergo the same process whether an immigration judge ultimately orders them deported or not.

Sabrina’s dissertation will deepen our understanding of the state’s social control capacity vis-à-vis its immigration law and enforcement apparatus. Additionally, executive branch court proceedings are understudied in the literature (immigration courts are located within the U.S. Department of Justice). Providing an interior account of how immigration court proceedings operate as modes of state social control is an important step towards understanding how courts throughout the federal executive branch—around 450 in total—extend the state’s social control capacity deeper into our lives.

Sabrina has a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and a JD from Yale Law School.  Before beginning graduate school, Sabrina practiced law for a number of years.  Sabrina is the proud daughter of Haitian immigrants and mother to three young children.  She lives in New York City.

Yoav Hamdani

Columbia University, History

Yoav Hamdani is a PhD candidate at Columbia University History Department, where he studies violence, slavery, and military history. His principal focus is the intersections between territorial expansion, slavery, Native-American removal, resistance, and military violence.

His dissertation, Uncle Sam’s Slaves: Slavery in the United States Army 1797-1865, reveals the history of military slaves in the first decades of the American Republic. The dissertation argues that thousands of enslaved persons served as officers’ servants, becoming an integral part of the U.S. Army.

By probing the history of military slaves, Hamdani demonstrates how the “Old Army,” the key instrument of statecraft in the early United States, evolved as a national institution that condoned and promoted slavery in its ranks. The dissertation investigates the origins of slavery within the army, the political economy of military slavery as well as the legal, fiscal, and violent mechanisms that sustained it, and the ways in which it influenced the lives of slaves and soldiers. It emphasizes the national dimension of slavery and the government’s commitment to it, by unearthing the role of previously unregarded men and women in the nation’s military history and their involuntary participation in the building of an American Continental Empire.

Originally from Ashdod, Israel, Yoav graduated from Tel-Aviv University’s Multidisciplinary Honors B.A. Program in Humanities and Arts. He started his studies at Columbia University in 2015.

Brian Walter

UC Santa Cruz, Department of Anthropology

Brian’s research explores how the impacts of climate-change-driven sea-level rise are compounded and racialized by infrastructure and heritage preservation in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Lowcountry is a region shaped by two histories: slavery and the tidal flow of water. With four consecutive years of hurricanes and 89 days of tidal flooding in Charleston in 2019, the Lowcountry’s relationship with the ebb and flow of the tides has become central in a new way, as a harbinger of future destruction. As local governments forge new tidal relations by building and adapting infrastructure, the preservation of antebellum heritage landscapes and everyday flooding of Black communities reveal enduring racial geographies. While officials in city meetings argue that “water knows no boundaries,” residents understand that the infrastructures underpinning the dispersal and management of floodwater enact a racialized politics of emplacement, inclusion, and exclusion.

Brian’s research is situated in this and other spaces where global climate change and water infrastructure become entangled with what Saidiya Hartman calls the afterlife of slavery. His dissertation offers new formulations of coastal resiliency and provides empirical support for local environmental justice organizations in their urgent claims for reparative flood mitigation.

Brian’s research is based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork and collaborative community-led research with Charleston flood activist groups.

He received his B.A. in Anthropology and Philosophy from the Honors College at the University of Georgia, and his M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Samuel Maull

Stanford University, Department of Anthropology

Sam’s dissertation, Carceral Logics: Race, Responsibility, and Family in a San Francisco Jail, is one of the only ‘prison ethnographies’ to have been conducted in the US in half a century. Sam’s work investigates the intersection of anti-blackness, responsibility, kinship, and carcerality and emerges from 3 years of ethnographic research with incarcerated people and the families of incarcerated people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Approaching incarceration from the perspective of families with incarcerated members de-centers the presumptively male subject of carceral violence and instead shows us the networks through which penal harm are transmitted across intimate relationships and broader communities. It also highlights the ways that discourses of family failure and dysfunction, ubiquitous in the criminal justice system, have positioned black families as responsible for the incarceration of their own kin.

His commitments to abolitionist movements ground Sam’s work. Originally from the UK, Sam studied anthropology at UCL before moving to the US to complete his dissertation at Stanford.

An experienced teacher and organizer, his work has been supported by the Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, the Wenner Gren Foundation, and others.


2020-2021 CES Fellows

Isaac Jabola-Carolus

Department of Sociology, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Isaac’s research focuses on paid in-home care work and policy efforts to raise labor standards within this rapidly growing sector. Through survey and interview methods, his dissertation examines how regulatory bodies and labor organizations affect work conditions across U.S. cities. This project emerged from Isaac’s past research on social movement outcomes and from a commitment to developing research questions in dialogue with those in the field. The issue of labor standards implementation has gained particular salience in recent years, as a surge of mobilization and policy change produced Domestic Worker Bills of Rights, minimum wage increases, and greater unionization in this sector. Isaac’s dissertation studies whether and how such developments impact the lives of in-home workers and those in their care.

Isaac has published articles in New Political Science and Social Movement Studies. Previously he served as the New York Chapter Graduate Fellow for the Scholars Strategy Network, taught sociology at Lehman College-CUNY, and worked at the Participatory Budgeting Project. His dissertation research has been supported by the Labor Research and Action Network, the Center for Equitable Growth, and the National Science Foundation. He received his B.A. in development studies from Brown University.

Jessica Katzenstein

Department of Anthropology, Brown University

U.S. policing has faced a mounting legitimacy crisis over the past several years, from Ferguson’s 2014 protests to the rise of the Movement for Black Lives. While police officials insist that unjust killings are the fault of “bad apples” in the force, critics argue that addressing police violence requires massive structural reform. Yet previous attempts at reforming the police have left untouched the institution’s foundational mandates, leading to recurring crises of legitimacy.

Jessica’s dissertation, “Reforming U.S. Police: Crisis, Labor, and Moral Legitimacy in Maryland,” explores why reforms fail to fulfill their promises.

Drawing on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in 20 departments across Maryland, this project examines how police officers absorb and resist reform efforts by translating them into police terms. It traces how police subjects are produced, how they negotiate institutional strictures and working conditions, and how they conceptualize care for their communities. Marrying the insights of critical race studies and American studies with the anthropology of work, ethics, and the state, Jessica’s dissertation interrogates how the everyday labor of policing renders reform into a kind of “productive failure.”

Jessica’s project emerges from a commitment to studying up, or studying the powerful, as a necessary supplement to research with oppressed communities. Her work is grounded in sustained engagement with Baltimore, where she has worked for various human rights and social justice nonprofits. Her research has been supported by multiple National Science Foundation fellowships. Jessica received a BA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA from Brown University.

Micah Khater

Department of African American Studies and History, Yale University

Micah Khater’s dissertation, "'Unable to Find Any Trace of Her’: Black Women, Genealogies of Escape, and Alabama Prisons, 1920–1950,” examines how black women negotiated encounters with and contested the violence of the carceral state by running away from prisons, jails, and police. She came to her work after finding a series of fragile twentieth-century prison escape notices stored at the Alabama Department of History and Archives. Her involvement in prison abolition guides her project and informs how she thinks and writes about carceral spaces.

Khater’s dissertation sits at the juncture of carceral state studies, social history, cultural studies, and black feminist theory. Using a broad range of archival sources—including handwritten letters, fire insurance maps, jail records, escape notices, bureaucratic correspondence, newspaper articles, court dockets, photographs, and architectural drawings — Khater’s work centers black women’s attempts to reclaim social identities in the “free world.” Her project identifies the act of running away, or transgressively moving through space, as both a rhetoric of protest and an articulation of desire. In this way, “‘Unable to Find Any Trace of Her’” renders alternative narratives of insurgency that acknowledge how kinship, grief, longing, and loss were always bound up with resistive action.

Khater's work has been supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration; the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; and the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South, among others. She earned her B.A. in History and French from North Carolina State University in 2015.


Lucia Leon

Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies, University of California Los Angeles

Lucia Leon grew up in Orange County, California where she began organizing with undocumented youth and their families in the mid-2000s.

Her commitment to social justice and research interest on migration is profoundly shaped by her family’s experience with the family reunification process and her own political and intellectual trajectory as an undocumented immigrant of nearly 20 years. Her dissertation, “Intersectional Illegalities: Latina/o Undocumented Young Adults and the Marriage-Based Legalization Process,” combines a legal consciousness and intersectional framework to examine how discrete, yet intersecting markers of race, gender and sexuality interact to shape the legalization process for undocumented migrants in Los Angeles, California. Her research provides an empirical examination of a high stakes process to demonstrate how young adults interpret, comply with, or challenge a complex immigration system that can propel them into a path to citizenship or further their vulnerability for detention and deportation.

Lucia is currently co-creating a collaborative and community space with fellow scholars of migration through the founding of the Undocumented and Formerly Undocumented Migration Working Group. Through multi-authored papers, projects, and gatherings the workgroup addresses the unique challenges in the research process for current and formerly undocumented scholars who draw on their experiences with migration when theorizing and working with undocumented communities.

Sadé Lindsay

Department of Sociology, Ohio State University

Sadé’s research interests broadly include racial inequality, prisoner reentry and employment, incarceration and health, and drug use and policy.

Her dissertation, Effects of Contradictory Signals on Post-Prison Labor Market Outcomes, draws on a field experiment conducted in five states and 100 qualitative interviews with employers and formerly incarcerated men to examine whether and how certifications obtained in prison programs reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by returning citizens in the labor market. Her dissertation has received an award from the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Corrections and Sentencing and is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Sociology Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Sadé’s dissertation research is informed by her direct service to incarcerated youth. She spent three years preparing young men in a juvenile correctional facility for reentry through financial and career goal planning and resume-building activities in addition to other activities on fatherhood, education, and health and wellness. Sadé continues work and advocacy surrounding issues of incarceration and reentry through her involvement with local reentry organizations and coalitions.

Sadé received her bachelor’s degree in Criminology and master’s degree in Sociology at the Ohio State University in 2015 and 2017, respectively. She is a Ruth D. Peterson Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, a Center on Democracy and Organizing Fellow, and an Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Doctoral Summit Scholar

Elizabeth Hanna Rubio

Department of Anthropology, UC Irvine

Elizabeth’s dissertation, “Contentious Solidarities,” explores how undocumented Korean American organizers conceptualize and navigate solidarity building with Black and Latinx counterparts as they develop visions for immigrant justice that extend beyond legalization and other forms of state recognition.

Responding to the rapid growth of undocumented Korean and other Asian American populations in the US, Korean Resource Center (KRC) and the National Korean American Services and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) have become influential players in the Southern Californian and national immigrant justice movements, respectively. Yet Korean Americans’ complex positioning in U.S. racial imaginaries as both victims of white supremacy, and beneficiaries of anti-Blackness gives rise to discursive, ideological, and material contradictions in KRC and NAKASEC’s work.

The resurgence of more overt forms of white supremacy, urgent calls to center anti-Blackness in racial justice work, and social media’s role in mainstreaming and intensifying debates about effective anti-racist praxis combine to create urgent re-conceptualizations of what constitutes a “progressive” stance, and by who and for whom such stances should be elaborated. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Southern California, New York City, and Washington D.C., “Contentious Solidarities” follows KRC, NAKASEC, and the organizers with whom they ally and diverge to show how progressive Korean Americans navigate and respond to the contradictions that arise from shifting conceptualizations of racialized power and privilege.

A decade of organizing in national and local immigrant justice movements motivated Elizabeth to examine the internal racialized politics of immigrant justice worlds and the ways racialization informs how different organizers conceptualize justice for immigrants. A lifetime of navigating her identity as a mixed-race Korean American informs her exploration of the racialized contours of immigrant justice work.

2020-2021 Honorable Mentions

Isabel Gil Everaert

Department of Sociology, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Isabel is interested in broader understandings of the impacts of restrictive migratory policies in the lives of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Her work focuses on the experiences of Central American migrants and refugees in Mexico, her home country.

As conditions in Central America deteriorate, more and more people have left their homes, in many cases, fleeing life-threatening situations. This situation has led to the consolidation of a narrative of a migrant and refugee crisis. This, however, has not led governments in the region towards policies aimed at protection, inclusion, and social justice. Instead, discourses of crisis have become the backbone of increasingly restrictive migratory and asylum policies, aimed at managing and controlling migratory movements, along with a systematic violation of human rights and deterrence strategies that deny protection to refugees. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in a strategic site in Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, Isabel’s dissertation uncovers unexplored dynamics between mobility, time, and power.

Through a comprehensive empirical analysis of this reality, her research has three main objectives. First, to contribute to current scholarly discussions on mobility/immobility, migration, refugee and human rights, power and inequality. Second, to engage in methodological explorations of and debates over how to study these mobile populations in a way that is ethical, systematic, and broadly sociologically relevant. Third, to engage with debates on who has the right to move and who doesn’t, as well as of who controls these movements and in what ways.

Abel Gomez

Department of Religion, Syracuse University

Lineages of Abel’s family migrated from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area, the traditional territory of the Ohlone peoples.

Abel’s dissertation examines place-based belonging and movements to protect sacred sites by diverse Ohlone tribes of the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, even as they are without federal recognition and their territories are sites of major urban centers, migration, and gentrification. Drawing on ethnographic research and insights from religious studies, anthropology, geography, and Indigenous feminisms, Abel’s research engages the meaning of land as a site of ceremony, belonging, political activism, and futurity. These lands embody what Charles Long (1999) describes as “orientation in the ultimate sense,” sites of profound existential meaning.

Abel’s dissertation argues that to varying degrees, these lands are also sites of spiritual presences, transnational relationships, and contested narratives where Ohlone peoples participate in what Mishuana Goeman (2013) describes as “(re)mapping” of traditional and contemporary land relations. Such analysis seeks to support contemporary political movements to protect sacred sites in Ohlone territories such as the burial site at the West Berkeley Shellmound led by the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Ohlone and work of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to defend a ceremonial site called Juristac. In the wake of Standing Rock and Mauna Kea, Abel’s dissertation also situates Ohlone sacred sites protection efforts in the context of global indigenous movements defending land, water, and culture.

Abel earned a BA in philosophy and religion from San Francisco State University and an MA in religious studies from the University of Missouri.

Mo Torres

Department of Sociology, Harvard University

Mo’s research explores questions of racial capitalism and political economy.

His dissertation considers the case of the U.S. Rust Belt, where cities like Detroit and Flint have long suffered the effects of post-industrial decline. The project explores the rise (and ultimately fall) of Michigan’s controversial “emergency financial management” (EFM) legislation. EFM laws allow Michigan’s governor the ability to appoint an “emergency manager” to assume total control of any city deemed to be in a state of financial emergency. These laws have disproportionately restricted local control in majority-Black cities, and ultimately played a key role in producing Flint’s water crisis. Using archival and interview methods, this project seeks to understand how and why EFM came to be by considering the logics and strategies employed by those with political power - especially state lawmakers and political operatives - at the expense of those without.

Mo lived in Detroit and taught in the Detroit Public Schools district while both the city and district were under state control, thus sparking an interest in EFM in particular, and state-urban political tensions more broadly.

Originally from Sacramento, Mo has a master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s in history and Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Davis. At the Harvard Kennedy School, he is a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy, and at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance. He is a first-generation college student and a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Brazil.

2019-2020 CES Fellows

Minju Bae

Department of History, Temple University

Minju’s dissertation, “One Rise, One Fall: Labor Organizing in New York’s Asian Communities since the 1970s,” investigates how Asian/Americans navigated the politics of work, racial difference, and the radical restructuring of the urban-based global economy. Through an ongoing oral history project that records and amplifies the voices of Asian/American labor organizers and rank-and-file activists, her research comes from listening to the experiences and concerns of many Asian/American New Yorkers. “One Rise, One Fall” travels through multiple industries. Opening with a study of Asian/American building tradesmen and their fight for community control and affirmative action on construction sites in the mid-1970s, her research examines organizing strategies in midst of Asian/American laborers’ varied circumstances of citizenship, race, class, and gender. She also travels to the Chinese restaurant industry where organizers attempted to unionize new immigrants in the service economy in the 1980s, as well as to the garment industry where garment workers’ demanded fair piece rates despite the logics of a global supply chain in the early 2000s. Her research reveals the capacities and tensions of labor activism in grassroots organizations and worker centers, as well as labor unions, since the 1970s. Her work has been supported by the Center for the United States and the Cold War, the Mellon Foundation, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Minju is also a Visiting Scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University.

Jasmine H. Benjamin

Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana and her dissertation interests were shaped watching media portrayals and delayed government response during Hurricane Katrina. Her dissertation uses Angela Onwuachi-Willig's (2016) theory of "trauma of the routine" to examine how events of police misconduct in Chicago impact Black political attitudes towards local government officials in Chicago.

She previously served as the Justice Fellow at the Field Foundation of Illinois where she assisted with the grant-making process, she evaluated grants, conducted site visits, and made recommendations for funding in the Justice portfolio. She was a UChicago Urban Doctoral Fellow and also part of the University of Pennsylvania Predissertation Fellowship for the Summer Institute on Inequality. Jasmine has worked to improve programming and resources available for graduate students of color at her university. For three years she served as a Higher Education Intern for Diversity and Inclusion at UChicagoGRAD and was part of the leadership of the Diversity Advisory Board at UChicagoGRAD. During her time as a higher education intern, she was one of the founders and lead organizers of the Transcending Boundaries Research Symposium held at the University of Chicago in 2016 and 2017.  She was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and participated in the Leadership Alliance. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Politics and Justice Studies from Claflin University in 2013 and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2016.

Chryl N. E. Corbin

Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley

As an urban environmentalist and political ecologist, Corbin examines the relationships between society and nature within the built environment by investigating the concept of the green city within the context of the United States. Her dissertation focuses on how the relationships between race, class, and access to green space have changed from 1960—prior to the Civil Rights Acts—to 2019, after Oakland, California began establishing its sustainability agenda and during an intensifying gentrification process. Corbin questions how environmental policies and practices in green cities are impacting the lived experiences of low-income residents and communities of color and their access to public green spaces today and what that could mean for future populations living in green cities. As the chair of the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) Corbin serves her community through civic engagement by researching, reporting, and making recommendations to City Council on Park and Recreation policies and as the PRAC liaison to three Recreation Advisory Councils, the local community park stewards. Corbin is also an executive committee member of the California Outdoor Engagement Coalition focused on getting youth who reflect the overall demographics of California into the outdoors by providing transformational experiences.

Sonia Grant

Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Sonia Grant studies the relationship between oil and gas extraction and settler jurisdiction in northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Basin. In this region, a recent fracking boom has brought extraction deeper into the Greater Chaco landscape, held sacred by Diné (Navajo) communities living in the area and by Pueblo Nations throughout New Mexico. The legacies of the Allotment Era have produced a highly-fragmented pattern of jurisdiction over both surface land and subsurface minerals in this checkerboard landscape, where alternating tracts of land are complexly administered by federal, tribal, state, and private entities. Jurisdiction not only has profound implications for where, how, and if extraction takes place: it also affects who gets to have a say in the process. Drawing on two years of ethnographic and archival research in northwestern New Mexico and in Eastern Navajo Agency, Sonia’s research analyzes how different jurisdictions parse out components of the region’s ecology for management purposes. She attends to both the extra-local and large-scale cumulative effects of extraction that are not contained by the jurisdictions that exist to manage them. Sonia’s dissertation traces how relations of sovereignty, territory, and ordinary life are shaped in part through frictions engendered in contests to control energy extraction. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sonia earned a BA in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University and an MA in Geography from the University of Toronto. She came to her dissertation research through her involvement in the climate justice movement.

Joss Greene

Department of Sociology, Columbia University

Joss studies state punishment of gender and sexual variance, with a focus on transgender experiences with the criminal justice system.  His dissertation traces prison regulation of gender-nonconformity in California from 1941-2018, drawing on archival research, oral histories, and 13 months of ethnography in trans prisoner advocacy organizations.  By situating contemporary struggles over transgender prison policy within this longer lineage of gendered penal control and prisoner resistance, Joss contextualizes our current moment and invites us to learn from successes, setbacks, and unintended consequences of the past.

In addition to his sociological training, Joss has developed his analysis of state violence against trans people based on his own experiences doing trans prisoner advocacy since 2013.  He has been a regular volunteer with organizations in the Bay Area, including the Transgender Gender variant Intersex Justice Project, and most recently served as a core collective member with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.  His relationships with organizers and currently incarcerated people motivate him to understand changes in carceral control and how people resist it.

Joss believes that engaged scholarship is a politically powerful tool.  To this end, he supports organizations in designing and implementing their own research, leads community workshops based on his data, and has presented his findings to California government officials at the city, county, and state level.  He is currently collaborating with a community organizer on the first national research looking at transgender women of color's experiences in the labor market.

Salvador Rangel

Department of Sociology, University of California Santa Barbara

Salvador Rangel came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant. After various years working in the construction and manufacturing sectors, he made his way into higher education, first obtaining a GED and then attending community college. He went on to obtain a BA from Eastern Kentucky University and an MA at the University of Kentucky. His previous hands-on experience animates and informs his current research. His dissertation, “La Jungla: Globalization, Transnational Migrant Labor, and the Meatpacking Industry,” combines ethnographic methodology with macro-level analysis of the changing conditions under global capitalism. His research interests include global political economy, globalization, race, immigration and citizenship. Salvador is a fellow of the American Sociological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. Outside the academy, Salvador strives to engage in public sociology by publishing analytical and opinion pieces in mass media outlets, such as Truthout and Counterpunch, that aim to make his research accessible to a broader public.

2019-2020 Honorable Mentions

Robert Chlala

Department of Sociology, University of Southern California

To many, the initial unfolding of cannabis legalization in the United States appeared to be a typical case of relentless commodification privileging mostly-white elites. But then came California. Among other progressive cannabis-related policies, state regulations for the industry have enshrined stringent labor and environmental protections. Los Angeles, the U.S.’s largest cannabis market, is pioneering a social equity program guaranteeing cannabis licenses and jobs for those from neighborhoods hard-hit by the “war on drugs.”

These transformations raise critical questions that animate my dissertation: how do social movements shape the socio-spatial organization of markets? How are these processes entwined with socially-constructed, place-based relations of difference?

To answer to these questions and explore the progressive potentialities they can inform, I engaged in more than four years of participant observation with Angeleno labor and racial/economic justice groups in cannabis and conducted 75 semi-structured interviews with workers, owners, and organizers.  Bridging feminist political-economic geography and economic sociology, my data suggests movements are more than external forces to markets. They operate within and affect daily practices in markets — remaking transactional forms, industrial knowledge and labor relations. Crucial to the influence of movements is the ways organizations confront power relations, anchored in place and constructions of difference (i.e. race, gender, sexuality), that underpin markets. As part of my commitments as a scholar from affected communities, I have published this data in reports and media/films with movement organizations and worked to help shape social equity policies in ways that foreground the experiences of low-income, communities of color at the front lines of cannabis-work - and a changing carceral landscape.

2018-2019 CES Fellows

Deisy Del Real

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles

Deisy Del Real analyzes how the Latin American nations belonging to Mercosur—a regional trade agreement—developed policies to protect citizens who migrate from one Mercosur nation to another.  She shows how these agreements provide greater protection to transnational migrants than the rules in place in the U.S. or the European Community.

Idit Fast

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Idit Fast studies three public elementary schools in New York City that are implementing a new ‘diversity initiative’ designed to reverse the pattern of continuing school segregation by race and class.  Her focus is on what works to overcome the distrust that exists between parents of different races and different social classes.

Chris Herring

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Chris Herring is currently writing a study of the three key aspects of homelessness in the US metropolis: the streets, the shelter, and the policies pursued by city government.  He analyzes the factors that determines who sleeps in the street or in shelters, and he provides a powerful critique of existing government policies.

Madeleine Pape

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madeleine Pape analyzes how governing bodies reassert sex as binary and biological despite alternative notions becoming more credible as a result of transgender, intersex, queer, and feminist activism and scholarship.  She focuses on how the governing organizations in track and field establish the criteria for deciding who is eligible to compete as a woman.

Nantina Vgontzas

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, New York University

Nantina Vgontzas investigates the organization of work in the fulfillment warehouses of large online retail firms.  By comparing both work organization and resistance in warehouses in the U.S. and Germany, she is illuminating how new technologies constrain workers. Yet she is also looking for strategies through which these employees could exert pressure for better compensation and working conditions.

2018-2019 Honorable Mentions

Kaisha Esty

Department of History, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

‘A Crusade Against the Despoiler of Virtue’: Black Women, Social Purity and the Gendered Politics of the Negro Problem, 1840-1920

My research explores how the sexual ethics of black women shaped women’s rights activism and Progressive moral reform in the United States. Covering the period between 1840 and 1920, it charts the rise of the Social Purity movement, from its grassroots origins to state power, and argues it was sustained by discursively naturalizing the sexual exploitability of black women.

The Social Purity movement – a euphemism for sexual purity – emerged during Reconstruction as white anxieties over a society facing moral decline intensified. Mobilized by middle-class white women, purists campaigned to ban prostitution, raise the age of sexual consent and eradicate the sexual double standard. Yet, despite their extreme vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse, black women were marginalized from the movement. Paradoxically, mainstream women’s rights rested on white women’s defenselessness as it was constructed upon racialized ideas of who qualifies for female political empowerment and sexual protection, and who does not.

My dissertation highlights this crucial tension point in US women’s history. Beginning in slavery it argues that black women fashioned a moral tradition and mode of gendered activism around chastity that achieved mainstream political urgency by the late nineteenth century. Unlike their white counterparts, enslaved and free black women applied ideals of chastity to their strategies of resistance and struggles for sexual self-sovereignty in a society that denied them sexual moral agency, the expectation of patriarchal protection, and access to ideals of womanhood.

My project thus highlights the racialized dichotomy upon which social purity rested. It recovers the role that black women’s struggles for sexual self-sovereignty played in this movement, and fundamentally reveals how disenfranchised female communities have deployed gendered conservative ideals for radical ends.

Rhea Myerscough

Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Regulating Poverty: Race, Business, and the Politics of Payday Lending, 1990-2015

Faced with welfare retrenchment, rising income volatility, and an exponential increase in housing costs, the U.S. working class relies on credit to make ends meet. For millions with no or low credit scores, this credit comes in the form of high-cost cash advances such as payday or auto-title loans. When these products are loosely regulated, borrowers—who are disproportionately poor and Black or Latina/o—experience extended periods of indebtedness that exacerbate existing racial wealth inequalities.

The regulation of markets that low-income households rely on to survive financially is an overlooked political arena with significant consequences for inequality. Policies such as payday lending regulation straddle two different domains—regulatory policy and welfare policy. In policy-making processes, borrowers’ preferences compete against concentrated business interests and racialized stigmas associated with debt and financial hardship.

My dissertation identifies the conditions under which state-level payday lending regulation changes in ways that reduce inequality. To analyze these dynamics, I construct an original dataset of payday lending regulation across all 50 states from 1990 through 2015. I also generate a novel measure of the financial risk faced by borrowers under different regulatory configurations. Using in-depth interviews, public hearing transcripts, roll call voting records, and demographic data, I examine the advocacy strategies, policy discourse, and patterns of political support in cases of attempted and successful policy change across place and time.

This project identifies the racial and social dynamics that shape the politics of payday lending regulation. More broadly, the project speaks to the challenges and possibilities of policy-making when target populations are affected by stigmatized experiences such as debt, addiction, or incarceration.

Elsa Noterman

Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vacant Geographies: (Dis)possession, Resistance, and Speculative Futures in Philadelphia’s Abandoned Properties

Abandoned lots and buildings are a ubiquitous feature of post-industrial U.S. cities, markers of the recent housing crisis, and perennial sources of concern for policymakers, researchers, and residents alike. In Philadelphia, where some neighborhoods are currently experiencing a development boom, properties deemed to be ‘vacant’ are increasingly contested as residents challenge prevailing understandings of ‘highest and best use.’

Using archival, legal, and participatory research, my research examines emerging conflicts over the use, value, and ownership of these spaces. In doing so, it puts forward a politically productive framework for considering geographies of vacancy, which recognizes that not only are vacant properties not empty or stable, but they do critical work.

These properties reflect the violent processes that produce them, but also reveal the limits to these processes – limits that offer analytical openings for destabilizing normative notions of law, private property, and urban commons.

Angela M. Simms

Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Power, Privilege, and Peril: The Politics of the Black Middle Class in a Majority-Black and Majority-Middle Class Suburban County

To understand how Blacks’ politics shape and are shaped by the contemporary political economy, I ask the questions: In a suburban county where Blacks are the population majority, and where they have significant legislative and executive authority, how is the political agenda developed? What are the policy priorities? Who benefits from these priorities? I focus on three domains: (1) budget development, (2) land use policy and economic development, and (3) public schools.

My data are ethnographic, including direct observation of policy and budget deliberation processes and interviews with people involved in Prince George’s County (PGC), Maryland, politics. I also interview non-politically-engaged residents.

PGC is a majority-Black and middle class suburban county of just under one million residents. It borders Washington, D.C., and has the largest concentration of middle-class Blacks in the United States.

2017-2018 CES Fellows

Michael D. Aguirre

PhD candidate, Department of History, University of Washington Seattle

Michael Aguirre explores the aftermath of the guest worker Bracero Program that brought Mexican farm workers to the U.S. between 1942 and 1964.  Focusing on the Eastern California borderlands of Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, he shows how policymakers and business people on both sides of the border strategized to create new agricultural and industrial regimes that continued to disempower working people.

Brian Callaci

PhD candidate, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Brian Callaci uses a unique, original, hand-collected data set of five hundred and thirty franchise contracts in one state to understand the relationship between big restaurant chains and their franchisees.  This is important since the big restaurant chains have insisted that the franchise owner is the employer for the purposes of labor law, forcing any potential union drive to organize one fast food outlet at a time.

Daanika Gordon

PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Daanika Gordon analyzes policing in a large Midwestern city to show the relationship between residential segregation and policing practices.  Through extensive fieldwork that included ride-alongs with police officers, she shows how police react to and help create segregated spaces, producing racialized outcomes even in the absence of racial intent.

Yasmeen Mekawy

PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

Yasmeen Mekawy examines how emotion works to either mobilize people to participate in high-risk protest, or conversely, keep people in their homes.  Through an in-depth examination of the use of social media in the 2011 uprising in Egypt, she shows how emotional responses to events can help explain why groups mobilize when they do or fail to mobilize at other times.

Adam Mertz

PhD candidate, Department of History, University of Illinois, Chicago

Adam Mertz’s research seeks to understand rural/urban political polarization by examining the rise of Wisconsin teacher unions during the 1970s. He argues that Wisconsin’s previous farmer-labor coalition was disrupted as rural voters felt that Democratic politicians were unresponsive to their concerns over taxation. By examining this history, Adam seeks to illuminate the possibilities for reconstituting a progressive farmer-labor alliance.

2017-2018 Honorable Mentions

Trish Kahle

Department of History, University of Chicago

As we contend with the dual threats of economic crisis and climate disruption, historians have begun to ask new questions of the past—in particular, how and why the United States became a high-energy society. By considering the related question—how is high-energy capitalism contested and renegotiated—this project offers a new perspective on the decline of working-class power and the transformation of the American energy regime in the mid-twentieth century. Miners suggested that an energy regime in crisis was in need of a stronger contract with the workers who produced the nation’s power. This contract, they believed, would not be forged in the voting booth or at the diplomatic table, but in the workplace.

This dissertation illuminates a new understanding of the energy crisis that so profoundly shaped miners’ workplace activism since the early 1960s, when the growing discrepancy between apparently peaking energy production and skyrocketing energy consumption became a central concern for both industry and government. By conceptualizing energy politics as extending beyond the realm of politics and into the sphere of work, this dissertation reframes both the problem of decline in the power of the American workers on the job, and the meaning of the energy crisis, which extended far beyond the problems of consumption, culture, and international politics. Indeed, the energy crisis cut to the heart of the American social contract. The crisis and transformation of the American energy regime is essential in explaining the emergence of a series of upheavals in mining workplaces across the Appalachian coalfields over health and safety, environmental degradation, and union democracy.

Energy regime transformation undermined traditional social relations between miners, operators, and the state, on which the UMW had built its power. Across the long 1970s, workers, the new energy companies, and the state renegotiated the bounds of workplace action, democratic politics, and environmental exploitation in the face of an uncertain energy future.

Katrina Quisumbing King

Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

In 1901, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its colonies would be classified as “foreign in a domestic sense,” institutionalizing a legal ambiguity.

Contrary to prevailing work that locates state control in legitimacy, I analyze how ambiguity shaped U.S. relations with the Philippines between 1901 and 1947. I focus on three key moments: (1) the simultaneous classification of Filipinos as citizens, nationals, and aliens under U.S. law; (2) the revocation of military benefits from Filipinos who served on behalf of the U.S. in WWII; and (3) the almost immediate cession of Philippine sovereignty to the U.S. after formal independence. In each of these moments, because of the polysemy of U.S.’s relationship to the Philippines and Filipinos, U.S. elites were able to secure a neocolonial relationship that continued to exploit Filipino labor and resources whilst erasing colonization and responsibilities to colonial subjects from national memory. In each case, the United States made and then revoked promises of juridical citizenship, social welfare benefits and sovereignty.

My study reveals the political consequences of ambiguity, namely that it allows states to skirt political obligations and preserve global supremacy in ever-shifting political climates. By making promises of incorporation, the U.S. could control the terms of inclusion and ultimate exclusion. While the Philippine case is a critical part of U.S. political history, it also demonstrates the broader significance of studying ambiguity as a function of statecraft.

Mary Elizabeth Schmid

Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky

Over the last four decades, farming families throughout North America have suffered from volatile crop prices and increasing input costs. The number of family farms drastically decreased in the U.S. during this period. However, the number of latin@-owned farms in the U.S. significantly rose, in western and southern states.

This dissertation explores the context in which one Mexican-U.S. family group contributes to this unprecedented change. Members of this kin group contribute to multiple agri-food systems in North America as producers of basic grains in the Mexican Bajío and fresh-market produce in southern Appalachia. Through multi-sited ethnographic research, this dissertation brings together diverse voices and examples of strategic uses of time and collaborative agro-food enterprise practices used by structurally marginalized women and men in working families.

The findings lay at the intersections of political debates concerning im/migration, agri-food system policy, rural development, food security and perishable crop agriculture. The dissertation argues that with political economic support cooperative enterprises can strengthen rural economies and democratize globalized agro-food systems.

Our Inaugural CES Fellows (2016-2017)

George Aumoithe

PhD, Department of History, Columbia University, New York

George Aumoithe’s research shows how the AIDS epidemic should be understood in the context of 1970s austerity, which exacerbated inequality and undermined the nation’s disaster preparedness.  His study analyzes public policy, health institutions, and grassroots advocacy to assess healthcare’s tenuous place within the nation’s quite limited welfare state.

Megan Brown

PhD, Department of Geography, University of Washington, Seattle

Megan Brown’s study investigates the strategic and practical mechanisms through which labor unions, worker and community organizations, and policy makers advanced the $15/hour minimum wages across the U.S.  She examines the locally-based strategies employed by labor organizations and the ways these strategies varied across locations so that we can understand how this significant change occurred.

Juyoung Lee

PhD, Department of Sociology, Brown University, Rhode Island

Juyoung Lee contributes to research on environmental inequalities by examining large-scale determinants of local environmental outcomes.  She uses sophisticated quantitative techniques to explore the consequences for local communities of decisions made at corporate headquarters.

Ayca Zayim

PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Ayca Zayim focuses on the relationship between central banks in emerging economies and the financial community to reveal how financial power operates.  Through a study of central banks in Turkey and South Africa, she illuminates both the degrees of maneuver and the constraints on economic policy in these emerging economies that contend with the danger of sudden outflows of capital.

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