I am a scholar of culture, place, and economic change at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interrogates the relationship between historical structures of capitalism–both social and spatial–that inform local, economic outcomes and lived experiences of home and community. Specifically, I am interested in how place-based, working class communities adapt to globalizing economies and changing environments over time. I use mixed methodologies to analyze processes and trajectories of historical capitalism, cultural negotiation, environmental history, and political economies of growth and decline.
My substantive interest is rooted in my childhood in former coal mining village in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian foothills. When the waterways ran orange from iron oxide mine waste, I saw the vestiges of capitalism transforming familiar landscapes. As stores closed and friends outmigrated, I felt the confusion and frustration of local people remaining in place. More than a generation after the last coal was lifted from the earth, the economic and environmental histories of my home region continue to shape the structures, infrastructures, and cultural identities of long-term residents.
My research always aims to situate the stories people tell about their places and their people within patterns of macroeconomic transformation. My qualitative field work has taken me from homesteads in Swaziland, to kitchen tables in dairyland Wisconsin, to red-dirt roads post-war northern Uganda, and most recently, to urban and rural Rust Belt communities.
These communities are participants in their own knowledge creation. I design and disseminate research using methods and mediums that are transparent, accessible, and theoretically engaged. I pair academic publications from my research with podcasts, photography, and long-form essays to connect stakeholders’ experiences with broader patterns of historical, cultural, and spatial change. Review my publications and methodologies pages for more details on this public sociology.