I'm currently a Professor of Sociology and the director of the Stanford Ethnography Lab. I'm also a MacArthur Fellow.
I received my Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA (2012), my M.A. in Sociology from UCLA (2008), my M.S. in Justice, Law & Society from American University (2006), and my B.A. in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz (2004).
As an urban ethnographer, I use fieldwork, historical, and other qualitative methods to investigate the causes, contours, and consequence of contemporary urban poverty. I’m particularly interested in how recent large-scale forces—most notably, the massive expansion of the criminal justice system, the global shift to the “new economy,” and rising inequalities in relative exposure to violence-related trauma—influence the ground-level conditions and experiences of disadvantaged communities (e.g., neighborhood culture, public interaction, social cohesion, crime, and violence), and how these forces (re)produce social, economic, and racial inequality. I try to leverage these historical developments to rethink prevailing concepts and theories.
My first book, Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row, is an in-depth ethnography of Los Angeles’ Skid Row district, the most impoverished and most heavily policed neighborhood in America. Examining the interactions between police officers and the neighborhood's inhabitants, the book considers how zero tolerance policing is re-constituting poverty, crime, and space, as well as the relationship existing between the police and the policed. Down, Out, and Under Arrest received a number of awards, including the Robert E. Park Book Award from the American Sociological Association, the Michael J. Hindelang Book Award from the American Society of Criminology, and the Gordon J. Lang Book Prize from the University of Chicago Press.
In 2020, I published Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy. Based on nearly five years of fieldwork on Chicago’s South Side, the book examines how gang-affiliated youth use social media to commodify representations of poverty and violence, and how these practices reshape gang warfare, community cohesion, and criminal justice entanglements. Ballad of the Bullet introduces the concept of digital disadvantage to more accurately capture the unique stakes and consequences of digital cultural production for impoverished and stigmatized communities. The book received awards from the American Sociological Association’s Communication, Information Technology, and Media Sociology (CITAMS) Section, Children & Youth Section, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility (IPM) Section.
Additional information about my work can be found on my website.