I am focused primarily on three projects.
(1) The Sociology of Social Action
I am working to understand the nature of social action through an investigation of contemporary social justice organizing in New York City. This project combines in-depth interviews with network analysis and spacial mapping in order to understand (1) what sets of understandings and practices distinguish the most effective organizers from others and (2) how organizers in the city are connected with one another.
This project is a part of my broader commitment to connect academic research with social justice work. As a part of this broader commitment, I am also working to revive the Revson Fellowship at Columbia. Historically, this fellowship provided ten local social justice leaders per year with the chance to take classes at Columbia, reflect on their work, and connect across different fields of social struggle.
(2) The New Convergence: How Criminal Justice Policy is Changing in the 21st Century
For the first time in two generations, there is widespread agreement that the criminal justice system is in need of dramatic reform. This convergence has been driven by concerns that range from states’ fiscal health, to the size of government, to high rates of recidivism, to the short and long-term effects of criminal justice systems on the people and communities most affected by it. Nevertheless, across the board, there is growing disillusionment with high rates of incarceration, and a new willingness for experimentation and change. Even more surprisingly, underlying contemporary reform efforts are some strikingly common assumptions, ideas, and prescriptions. Through interviews with criminal justice administrators, scholars, and activists across the country, this project examines both the possibilities and perils of this new convergence.
(3) Voices of Walmart
I am the faculty director of a collaborative project between Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) and the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). Over the summer of 2014, 20 students spent nine weeks organizing and conducting oral history interviews with Walmart workers, customers, and community leaders in five regions of the country. The project website is here.
The academic research emerging from this project is twofold. First, with Terrell Frazier and Mary Marshall Clark of Columbia’s Center for Oral History, I am investigating and anthologizing the oral histories that students have collected. Second, with Peter Bearman, Noam Zerubavel, and Kevin Oschner, I am working to understand the effects of intensive organizing on the individuals and groups of students who have participated in the project.