Below you will find an alphabetical list of the Graduate Fellows of the Urban Ethnography Lab with information about their research and areas of interest. To learn more about UEL’s Graduate Fellow Alumnae/i, please scroll below.
Marta Ascherio is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include immigration, identity, and crime.
Riad Azar is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology. His research interests are in the intersection of political and economic sociology, informal governance, and organized crime.
Anna Veronica Banchik is a Sociology doctoral student interested in science and technology studies (STS), human rights fact-finding and advocacy, expertise, and visual culture. Her dissertation draws on ethnographic methods to examine the processes and techniques by which human rights practitioners evaluate open source and social media data linked to claims of human rights abuse. Previous work focused on how cultural scholarship and courtroom actors in the context of Freedom of Information Act disclosure disputes differently approach and esteem the probative value and prejudicial impacts of graphic visual media. Anna is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Fulbright scholar. She received a M.A. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Economics at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.
Nino Bariola is a Ph.D student in the Department of Sociology. His research interests include the political and cultural dynamics of markets, institutional emergence, organizational change, and inequality. Nino’s dissertation research is about the emergence and socio-economics of the Peruvian gastronomic boom.
Caitlin Carroll is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. She is interested in gender and politics, sexual violence, and immigration in Western Europe. She has an MA in Political Science from UW-Madison, where her research focused on feminist organizing in Tunisia during the Arab Spring.
Hyun Jeong Ha is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin.
Maricarmen Hernandez is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology.
Kathy Hill is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Katherine Hill is interests lie at the intersection of economic and organizational inequality, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality. Katherine is currently working on a project examining legal financial obligations in Texas and how these impositions reproduce inequalities for the poor.
Katherine Jensen is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include race/racism, the state and immigration. Her dissertation, “Worthy of Safe Haven: The Politics of Asylum in Contemporary Brazil,” is an ethnographic study of the asylum-screening process in Brazil. She is interested in how the state decides asylum, and with what consequences for those who apply. Her work has been published in such venues as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Qualitative Sociology, Social Currents, City & Community, Contexts, and the Huffington Post. Katie is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. She is a former Fulbright Fellow (2015-2016) and P.E.O. Scholar (2016-2017). Learn more about her work here.
Cassandra Knaff is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her work intersects sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and the sociology of language. She is interested in the sociocultural predictors, meanings, and impacts of Spanish/English language choice in Austin. She is particularly concerned with the ways in which Spanish dominant and bilingual speakers use language in institutional and public spaces to reflect, (re)create, and contest ethnolinguistic, racial, and socioeconomic hierarchies, processes, and boundaries.
Shannon D. Malone is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include race and ethnicity, gender, class, state violence and social policy. Her current research analyzes the intersection of gender, race and class in the police experiences of black women and the role of social policy in the lives of foster youth girls. Shannon currently works on a interdisciplinary research team at the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing at the School of Social work where they are researching the integration of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Informed Care into medical practices. She has a M.S. in Nonprofit and NGO Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in English from Tougaloo College.
Vrinda Marwah is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at UT Austin. Her research interests are in reproductive health and technologies, state and civil society in contemporary India, and gender and sexuality. She has worked previously at CREA and Sama, Delhi, and has studied at the Universities of London and Delhi.
Corey James McZeal is a doctoral candidate in the sociology department at the University of Texas at Austin. His M.A. thesis was an ethnographic study of the rock climbing culture in Austin, exploring the meaning climbers attach to their activity and the processes that lead them into and keep them involved in the sport. Corey’s dissertation research focuses on the unpaid caregiving of elderly or infirmed family members. The study explores the transformations in role expectations and family dynamics that take place during this progression and how families readjust and adapt to these changes.
Jamie O’Quinn is a PhD student in the Department Sociology. Her research interests include sexualities, gender, and social inequality. Jamie has an MA in Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University, where her research explored the entanglement of the limitations of LGBTQ-inclusive sexuality education and the possibilities it imagines for students’ sexual subjectivities.
Emily Allen Paine is a Ph.D. student studying the interplay among sexual, racial, and gender identities, social institutions like the healthcare system, stress and health. Specifically, she is currently working to: identify barriers and facilitators to healthcare among sexual and gender identity minorities in the U.S. and Canada; examine how organizational settings structure the ways in which multiply marginalized LGBTQ individuals experience and make decisions about healthcare; compare how midlife transitions shape experiences of sex and sexuality among women in same-sex and different-sex marriages; and understand how gender and acculturation relate to health behaviors among Latino couples in Texas.
Ruijie Peng is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Ruijie’s research interests are in the sociology of economic development & inequality, work and organization, and immigration. Particularly, she is interested in investigating these issues in the context of the impressive scientific and technological advancement our society has made, and the impacts on the intersection of work and immigration both in the U.S. and China. Ruijie’s master thesis, Constructing Hydropower: Labor Control in Chinese Transnational Hydroelectric Projects in Ecuador, examines labor rights and work experiences of both Chinese and Ecuadorian construction workers working on the largest ongoing hydroelectric project in Ecuador under construction by a Chinese state-owned company. Ruijie received her B.A. in English Language and Literature in Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and her M.A. in Latin American Studies from the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
Alejandro Ponce de León is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. His work is concerned with the entanglements between armed violence and everyday life. His Master’s dissertation, “Que la muerte se haga esperar” is an ethnographic account on everyday life in Villa Amor, a poor and marginalized community in Medellin (Colombia) where armed confrontation has been routinized across various domains of both public and private life. Alejandro has also worked as Chief Researcher for a human rights initiative sponsored by the Colombian Livestock Federation on a program aiding cattle ranchers in suing the Colombian state for moral and material damages caused by decades of armed conflict. Building on this experience, his most recent research examines rebel and paramilitary violence against Colombian cattle ranchers in order to explore individual violent interactions as a way to understand the patterns for differentiated use of violence in war zones.
Beth Prosnitz is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary research interests are in the relationships between property rights, citizenship, and social movements in South Asia. Beth earned her BA in Religion from Smith College and MA in International Affairs from the New School.
Katie K. Rogers is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research involves qualitative studies of gender and sexualities, masculinities, and race and ethnicity using critical race, feminist, and queer theoretical paradigms. Her research examines the experiences of women who work in the legal cannabis industry in the United States. Katie earned her M.A. in Sociology from UT Austin and her B.A. in Sociology from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.
Vivian Shaw is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department at the University of Texas at Austin and a Visiting Scholar at Sophia University (Tokyo). Her research interests are in the areas of race & ethnicity and gender, focusing especially on these issues in science/technology, culture, and human rights. Her dissertation, “Human Fallout: Post-Disaster Citizenship in Anti-Nuclear and Anti-Racism Collective Action in Japan” involves an ethnographic study of anti-nuclear and anti-racism social movement networks in Tokyo and Osaka, capturing a yet unexplored dimension of the 2011 disaster by examining how the political crisis of nuclear disaster has set the stage for emerging anti-racism politics. Vivian’s dissertation research is funded by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Postdoctoral Fellowship, the latter of which is a joint award with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). For more information about Vivian and her work, see her website.
Samantha Simon is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include gender, workplace inequality, labor policy, and sexuality. Samantha’s master’s project examined gender and racial inequality in Hollywood talent agencies. Samantha is also working with Dr. Jennifer Glass on a project investigating the low retention rates among women and racial minorities in STEM employment. Samantha and Dr. Harel Shapira are working together on an ethnographic study investigating gun schools in Texas and how the notion of self defense and the training provided by these schools is shaping American democracy. Samantha has a particular interest in how gun schools instruct women in gender-specific ways.
Ilya Slavinski is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. He is also a graduate trainee in the Population Research Center. Ilya received his MS in Non-Government Organizations and Development from the London School of Economics and his BA in Philosophy from Rutgers University. He studies the field of carceral policy decisions in Texas and how these decisions lead to unequal outcomes along class and racial lines. He is currently working on a research project with Dr. Becky Pettit documenting the scope and unequal distribution of Legal Financial Obligations in Texas counties.
Emily Spangenberg is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests are in environmental justice, human rights, critical development studies, and political sociology. Her work focuses on how environmental and rights conflicts take shape during boom and bust cycles of extractive activity. Since 2009, she has worked with communities affected by lead, silver, and lithium mining in northern Argentina, particularly in areas where raw materials are transported and processed. Emily’s dissertation analyzes how environmental conflict in these sites is embedded in daily routines, politics, and power dynamics.
Katherine Sobering is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. She is interested in how inequality is produced and contested in alternative workplaces, and the political and economic constraints of such efforts. Her current research focuses on worker-recuperated businesses in Argentina, where she is examining how thees alternative organizations affect the labor and livelihoods of their workers. Her work has been published in The Sociological Quarterly, Sociology Compass and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Katie is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. She has been awarded a dissertation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Fulbright Award in Argentina. Learn more about Katie and her work here.
Mary Ellen Stitt is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include race and racism, neoliberalism, and the assignment of guilt and punishment.
Kara Takasaki is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. She is also a graduate trainee in the Population Research Center, and a graduate student affiliate of the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. Kara studies how paid and unpaid labor is stratified by gender and race. For her dissertation, Kara studies the meaning of work and family for U.S. born Asian American men in professional occupations. Kara also works as a research assistant for an NSF grant in the PRC, studying the transition experiences and different attrition rates of men and women STEM graduates out of STEM careers.
Amy Velchoff is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin.
Maro Youssef is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests focus on gender, the state, and political systems in the Middle East and North Africa.
Graduate Fellow Alumnae/i
Kate Averett received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. She is an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York at Albany. She studies gender, sexuality, and the social construction of childhood in the U.S. Her dissertation research is on discourses and practices of homeschooling in Texas, specifically examining how gendered beliefs about childhood impact what we think children need out of education – and who can best provide it. She is a recipient of the 2014 Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Award from the ASA Section on Sociology of Sexualities, and her paper “Queer Parenting at the Gender Buffet: LGBTQ Parents Resisting Heteronormativity” won the 2015 Norval Glenn Prize.
Shantel Gabrieal Buggs received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 2017 and is joining the Florida State University as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies. Her research interests are in race and ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, with a focus on intimate relationships, multiracial/mixed-race life course processes, and popular culture. Her dissertation, “Utopic Subjects, Post-Racial Desires: Mixed-Race, Intimacy, and the On-Line Dating Experience,” investigates the impact of racial identity and the notion of the “post-racial” on the dating experiences of multiracial and multiethnic women in Central Texas as a means of illuminating the shifting meanings of race, sex, and gender within relationships that initiate through the online dating platform, OK Cupid. At UT, Shantel was also the editor of UTAustinSOC, the official blog of the graduate program in the Department of Sociology. For more information about Shantel and her work, see her website or follow her on Twitter.
Caitlyn Collins received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 and joined the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis as an Assistant Professor of Sociology. She studies gender inequality in the context of families and the workplace, both in the US and abroad. For her dissertation, she is conducting a comparative study of working mothers’ experiences in Germany, Sweden, Italy, and the United States. She examines how working mothers negotiate motherhood and employment in different work-family policy regimes, seeking to better understand the relationship between the welfare state, policy, and social inequality. Her research has been published in Social Science and Medicine, the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Michigan Family Review, and in the book Childhood and Consumer Culture. Caitlyn is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. She has received fellowships from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others. Learn more about Caitlyn’s work here.
Jacinto Cuvi received his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2017. He specializes in mixed-methods research on urban informal economies in Latin America, especially Brazil. His interests include informal economy, urban policy, social inequality, and development. Jacinto’s work has been published in Social Problems (forthcoming) and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He is also a contributor to Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press) edited by Javier Auyero. Jacinto has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others. For more information about his work, please visit Jacinto’s website.
Jorge Derpic received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 2017. He is examining state-civil society relations through the analysis of what precedes and follows the lynching of alleged criminals in marginal urban areas of El Alto, Bolivia. His work has been published in the Population Research and Policy Review and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, as well as featured in the digital magazine Revista Anfibia. He is a recipient of dissertation fellowships from the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies (FURS), Oxford University as well as the Inter-American Foundation (IAF).
Jessica Dunning-Lozano received her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and is now an Assistant Professor at Ithaca College. Jessica’s research interests are in race, education, incarceration, and class inequality. Her dissertation investigates the intersection of the criminal justice system with public schooling through a 27 month-long ethnography of a public Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) in Texas. She examines the on-the-ground enforcement of zero tolerance school policies with a specific focus on the form, variation, extent, and effects that school discipline assumes in punitive schooling spaces. For more information, see her website.
Erika Denisse Grajeda received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the City University of New York. Her research interests are in gender, immigration, race and intimate labor. Her dissertation, “On the Corner: Gender, Immigrant Illegality, and the Making of Informal Day Labor Markets,” examines migrant women’s participation in informal day labor markets in New York and San Francisco, as well as day labor organizing. As a comparative ethnography of an informal street-corner market in south Williamsburg, Brooklyn and a day labor center in San Francisco’s Mission District, her dissertation examines how the street corner emerges as a social institution, and how these labor markets are produced and maintained through a multiplicity of state and non-state actors, social relations, and arrangements. Her research shows that although these markets have become the object of community battles over the appropriate use of public space, and a target of immigration control and police harassment, they are also spaces where migrant workers seek out daily survival and subsistence.
Kristine Kilanski received her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2015. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She uses mixed methods, including ethnography, interviews, and survey data, to study gender, work, and poverty. Specifically, her research focuses on gender and racial inequality in the labor market, changes to the configuration of work and workplaces, and poverty. For her dissertation, she completed fieldwork in an oil and gas “boom town.” Her work has been published in such journals as Gender & Society and Work & Occupations. Kristine is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. She was a recipient of the 2014 UT Women’s and Gender Studies Dissertation Fellowship.
Megan Tobias Neely received her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 and will join the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University as aPostdoctoral Fellow. Her research interests are in gender, race, and class inequality in the workplace and political systems. She is currently working on her dissertation research on gender, race, work, and organizations, in the finance industry. Using the hedge fund industry as a case study, her dissertation examines how workplace conditions in the new economy have changed from the point-of-view of high-wage workers and how their workplaces influence relations of inequality among workers.
Pamela Neumann received her Ph.D. from UT Sociology in 2016 and joined the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans as a Postdoctoral Fellow beginning in July 2016. Her current research examines women’s experiences navigating the judicial process in Nicaragua in cases of domestic violence. She is especially interested in the ways in which both local officials and women’s organizations shape women’s experiences in such cases. Her work has been published in Gender & Society, Social Problems, Qualitative Sociology, and Latin American Politics and Society. Pamela is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information about that project. Her paper “‘We are not retarded’: Explaining Collective Inaction in a Company Town” won the SSSP’s Conflict, Social Action, and Change Graduate Student Paper Award.
Marcos Pérez received his Ph.D. from the UT Department of Sociology in 2016. His main areas of interest are social inequality and social movements. He uses participant observation and life-history interviews to study the experiences of activists in a poor people’s movement in Argentina. He explores the ways in which the background of each participant interacts with his or her involvement in collective action, seeking to understand the process by which people develop commitment to an organization or cause. Marcos is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. He was a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his dissertation research in Argentina. His article “Becoming a Piquetero: Past, Novel and Current Routines in the Development of Activist Dispositions” won the Mayer Zald Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award from the Collective Behavior and Social Movements section of the American Sociological Association. For more information, visit his website.
Jen Scott received her Ph.D. from the UT School of Social Work in 2016. She is now Assistant Professor in the College of Human Sciences & Education School of Social Work at Louisiana State University. Her research interests include poverty, labor and immigration. She currently focuses on how people deal with economic hardship, and particularly how they work collectively to improve their situations. Her dissertation project focuses on these experiences for undocumented immigrants in Austin, Texas. Jen is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project. She has received awards and fellowships from the Society for Social Work & Research, the National Association of Social Workers, the P.E.O. International, the American Association of University Women (Austin Branch), and the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis.
Esther Sullivan received her Ph.D. from the UT Sociology Department in 2015, and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Denver. Her interests include urban sociology, poverty, and housing insecurity. For her dissertation she conducted a two-year comparative ethnography living within and being evicted from closing mobile home parks in the U.S. in order to examine how low-income residents individually and collectively respond to their forced relocation and how their eviction is managed under different state and local regulatory regimes. She is an American Association of University Women (AAUW) Fellow, A UT Powers Fellow, and a Hogg Foundation Moore Fellow. Her research has been published in Law & Social Inquiry, Urban Studies and Habitat International. For more information, see her website.
Maggie Tate received her Ph.D. from the UT Sociology department in 2016. She is interested in qualitative methods, visual studies, and urban sociology in relation to the topics of race, gender, culture, surveillance and inequality. Her dissertation, “Wasteland to Wonderland: The Politics of Aesthetics and Homeless Management in Austin’s Urban Core,” looks at the changing conditions of homelessness in Austin produced by the “cleaning up” of the downtown urban core. She co-authored a chapter with Les Back in the edited volume Racism and Sociology. Maggie is also a co-author of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City (UT Press); see here for more information on that collaborative book project.
Christine Wheatley received her Ph.D. from the UT Sociology department in 2016 and joined the faculty at Southern Methodist University as an Assistant Professor. Her research primarily concerns the role of law in defining national borders, particularly its role in the nation-state’s exercise of territorial sovereignty, and the consequences for the people within and beyond them. Her dissertation, “No Place Like Home: The American Deportation Regime and Returning Migrants in Mexico,” examines the social impacts of contemporary US immigration laws and enforcement practices on the processes of removal of non-citizens from the US and on deported migrants and their returning migrants who have gone back to Mexico after living and working in the US. Her research sites include immigration detention centers and deportation hearings held in immigration courts in Texas and several hometowns of returning migrants in Jalisco and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Amina Zarrugh received her Ph.D. from the UT Sociology department in 2016 and joined the faculty at Texas Christian University as an Assistant Professor. Her research interests focus on gender, nationalism, and religion in North Africa and the Middle East from a postcolonial perspective. Her dissertation examines regime violence in Libya and the mobilization of women in a family movement that developed in response to a contested prison massacre at Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli.