• M.S., Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • B.A. Ithaca College


I study belonging. In all of my research, I aim to understand how we create an "us" and a "them." I try to understand how we structure our world to benefit the "us" and penalize the "them"—how we ensure the well-being of those who belong and alienate those who do not. Finally, I am very interested in how the "them" make do and deal with the consequences not belonging.

To say the same thing in sociology jargon, I use qualitative methods to examine how marginalized populations in urban locales make sense of inequalities in their everyday lives. I investigate how they interpret their social selves and order their relationships; how they create, maintain, and transform social and symbolic boundaries; and how boundaries constrain and enable their lives.

My master’s thesis, which became my first book, Break Beats in the Bronx: Revisiting Hip Hop’s Early Years (2017, University of North Carolina Press), combines historical methods with sociological theorizing about symbolic boundaries to provide an account of the making of hip hop. With the help of previously unused archival material, I shed light on a crucial period (1975-1979) consistently ignored in the historical literature.

In my book, Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food in The American South, I provide a vivid portrait of African American life in today’s urban South that uses food to explore the complex interactions of race and class.

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