My research examines the everyday politics of the natural and built environment, with a focus on urban inequality, community engagement, and participatory processes of governance. I emphasize collaborative and engaged scholarship and work to include students in my research – more than 30 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students have worked on these projects and others. Much of my research is done in conjunction with the department’s Engaged Ethnography Lab, which is part of CACHe, our lab located in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville.
I am also Director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, an interdisciplinary center that includes 40+ faculty affiliates from across the College of Arts and Sciences and the wider UofL community. The mission of the ABI is to bridge the gap between academic research and community activism for racial and social justice, honoring the legacy of Anne Braden’s critical work within Louisville’s Civil Rights movement and wider struggles for justice.
Here are some of my current and recent research projects:
Infrastructural Politics in South Africa
Since 2010 I have been conducting research in Cape Town, South Africa that explores the politics of water, sanitation, and electricity infrastructures in informal settlements. This project examines how communities respond to the possibilities for, and failures of, infrastructure development through community mobilizations and everyday actions, providing ways to see the failures of development as central to new understandings of post-Apartheid citizenship. I have held local affiliations with the Anthropology Department at the University of Cape Town and the African Centre for Citizenship and Democracy at the University of the Western Cape. This research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, an Emil Haury Fellowship, and a Confluence Fellowship, and by the UofL EVPRI’s Office and a Bingham Faculty Fellowship with the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society.
In 2022 I began collaborating with three colleagues on National Endowment for the Humanities funded research to explore the layers of experience and forms of social violence surrounding Louisville’s massively over buried Eastern Cemetery, well as the incredible work of a volunteer community group to maintain the site. Along with Drs. Jennings (PI), Smallwood, and Marklein, we combine archaeological and ethnographic methods to better understand Eastern’s past and present. I coordinate ethnographic work on this project, and we are working with several excellent Anthropology students on data collection. A 2023 story by Louisville Public Media about Eastern and our research can be read or listened to here.
Residential Solar & Housing Justice
In 2022 I began working as a co-PI with colleagues from Public Health (PI, D. Johnson), Sociology, and at Metro on an applied project to explore the possibilities for residential solar installations to build housing justice. This project, funded by the Health Equity Innovation Hub and the Gheens Foundation, examines the experiences and impacts of households who participate in the Solar Over Louisville program. We worked with a great set of undergraduate and graduate students from across the university on this project.
Student Experiences of Campus Sustainability
In 2021 I initiated participatory research in conjunction with UofL’s sustainability initiatives to examine how members of the UofL community engaged in sustainability programs, and especially students, think and talk about their work. The project has included more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate researchers, who have been exploring experiences relates to the campus Garden Commons, Cardinal Cupboard, and composting programs, among others. This project has been funded by the UofL’s EVPRI office and the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research.
Metro’s Participatory Spaces
From 2017-2021 I was PI for a transdisciplinary project about community participation processes with partner Metro Louisville. In conjunction with colleagues in Public Health, Sociology, and Urban and Public Affairs, as well as nine student researchers, this project used qualitative and quantitative methodologies to examine the expectations, experiences and hopes of residents as they engaged with various participatory spaces across eight different policy or programmatic processes. The project engages directly with the racial and socio-economic foundations of structural inequality within the city, asking how histories of engagement influence ongoing participation and action. This project has been funded by the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research, with whom I was a Faculty Fellow for this project from 2017-2020.
Anthropology Student Career Transitions
From 2019 to 2022 I coordinated local work on a national research project examining how Anthropology majors plan for and anticipate their career paths. This project was coordinated by the American Anthropological Association and funded by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. With three amazing UofL undergraduate research fellows, and in collaboration with students from four other institutions, we conducted research with UofL majors and staff, presented findings at the AAA and SfAA conference, and in 2023 published a special section in the Annals of Anthropological Practice exploring our shared findings.
I teach courses in environmental anthropology and political ecology, urban anthropology, applied anthropology, and regional courses focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. I regularly teach introductory Cultural Anthropology and enjoy teaching ethnographic methods. I utilize learner-centered pedagogies and active learning practices in all of my teaching and was honored in 2021 to receive the College of Arts & Sciences Innovative Teaching in the Social Science Award and one of the Delphi Center’s inaugural TILL Teaching Innovation Awards. As my interests in the pedagogy, practices, and experiences of teaching and learning in higher education continue to grow, I am also publishing on this topic, especially in collaboration with students and colleagues.
Graduate Student Advising
I am interested to work with graduate students focusing on theoretical or applied/engaged questions related to environmental, urban, infrastructural, political, and social movement anthropologies. I advise graduate students in both the Department of Anthropology and the Interdisciplinary MA/MS program in Sustainability.
At UofL, I am a member of the Sustainability Council’s Education and Research Committee and the Council’s previous Chair (2021-2023), as well as a faculty affiliate with the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, board member for the Holmes Scholar Program, and board member for the Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society. I am also on the board of the Critical Urban Anthropology Association, a member of the review panel for the AAA’s Louise Lamphere Internship Program, and was a member of the Program Committee for the 2023 Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Cincinnati.