2019-2020

Eman Abdelhani

Eman Abdelhani
Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Comparative Human Development
Eman Abdelhadi is a sociologist studying how religion intersects with other facets of daily life—including identity, social networks, political views and economic outcomes. She investigates this question from multiple angles, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Her current book project relies on in-depth life history interviews to trace entry and exit into American Muslim communities and explain how and why those trajectories are gendered. Using survey data, her other research has investigated the ways and settings in which religion matters for women’s participation in the public sphere as well as the relationship between religious orthodoxy and political conservatism in the United States. Eman received her PhD from New York University and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, both in Sociology. 

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

A significant number of Muslim women have recently decided to stop veiling (i.e. wearing the hijab) after having done so for a long time. I am starting to interview some of these women with the hopes of capturing the process by which the decision was made as well as its implications for their lives. Abrupt ruptures from normativity, such as this one, are rather rare in the social world. That makes this a fascinating case that could help hone and expand theories of community and individual change.

In which section of the library do you enjoy being in the most? Why? Name a few of the most interesting books you’ve found there.

I am an avid fiction reader. I love the classics as well as contemporary fiction, particularly by diasporic writers like Zadie Smith, Yaa Gyasi, and Mohsin Hamid. When I’m in the library, I’m usually hunting down a novel or seven. I have often found mirror images of sociological findings in fiction. Novelists and poets often offer up theories of the human condition culled from lived experience, long before social scientists like me can formalize and test them.

If you could invite three specialists in your field (living or dead) to dinner, who would you choose, and what would you talk about?

I would summon Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois and Ibn Khaldun (arguably the first sociologist). With Marx, I would discuss the development of capitalism in the late 20th and early 21st Century with Karl Marx and how they comport with his theories. With Dubois, I would discuss the persistence of anti-blackness through mass incarceration and whether these developments would change his views on the state. With Ibn Khaldun, I would discuss mores of sexuality and gender in his era. Nerdy, I know.

Joyce Bell

Joyce Bell
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Joyce Bell ‘s research deals with race, work & organizations, and social movements. Her first line of work—in the area of race, social movements, and the professions—is primarily concerned with how resistance to racism shapes the professions. Her first book, Black Power Professionals: The Black Power Movement and American Social Work (2014, Columbia University Press) details the impact of the Black Power movement on the profession of social work. Her second research area is concerned with diversity as a racial project. She is also interested in how the notion of diversity works as a tool to co-opt progressive racial policy, movements, and discourse, researching the role of diversity discourse in institutions, higher education policy, and in the law. Professor Bell earned her BA in Sociology and Spanish from the University of St. Thomas and her PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota.

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

Shared curiosity. I approach teaching as a learner and look forward to facilitating an environment of deep inquiry and learning in community together. I am also a sociologist in the very general sense of the word. I am constantly striving to connect theory and concepts to the social world, which shapes my teaching and thinking.

In which section of the library do you enjoy being in the most? Why? Name a few of the most interesting books you’ve found there. 

I always land somewhere around E185.5. 

If you could invite three specialists in your field (living or dead) to dinner, who would you choose, and what would you talk about?

I would invite W.E.B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, & James Baldwin. And we’d talk about whatever they wanted—because who am I to dictate a conversation between them?

Scott Gehlbach

Scott Gehlbach
Professor, Department of Political Science
Scott Gehlbach is a political economist and comparativist whose work is motivated by the contemporary and historical experience of Russia, Ukraine, and other postcommunist states. He has made numerous contributions to the study of autocracy, economic reform, political connections, and other important topics in political economy. Known for employing a wide range of methods in his research, Professor Gehlbach has contributed to graduate education through his widely used textbook Formal Models of Domestic Politics. Before coming to Chicago, he was faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for sixteen years, and he has at various times been affiliated with both the New Economic School and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Gehlbach received his Ph.D. in political science and economics from UC Berkeley.

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

Students can look forward to having fun, even when we are working through some fairly technical material. I find that a bit of self-deprecating humor can go a long way, especially in more mathematical classes. I also have a very large inventory of Soviet jokes; I can usually summon up one to illustrate whatever theoretical principle is at hand.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

A pair of objects, actually. I have always liked the Russian tradition of having photos of one's intellectual heroes above one's desk. I have two such photos: one of the Czech dissident and postcommunist president Václav Havel, and one of the Hungarian economist János Kornai. Havel and Kornai approached living under socialism in very different ways—just compare the essays in Havel's Open Letters to Kornai's memoir By Force of Thought—but together they contributed much of what we know about East European communism as a political, economic, and social system.

In which section of the library do you enjoy being in the most? Why? Name a few of the most interesting books you’ve found there.

I am not sure I have a favorite section; I love browsing. But I can be very precise in saying which shelf most productively contributed to my career. As a junior faculty member at Wisconsin, I stumbled across a multi-volume chronicle of the "peasant movement" in nineteenth-century Russia. I knew immediately it was a goldmine: detailed records of thousands of acts of peasant unrest that spanned periods of immense institutional change, including the emancipation of the serfs under Tsar Alexander II. With various collaborators, I have at this point written four papers and a book empirically grounded in, and theoretically motivated by, these events.

Katherine Kinzler

Katherine Kinzler
Professor, Department of Psychology
Katherine D. Kinzler’s research sits at the intersection of developmental and social psychology, focusing on the origins of prejudice and ingroup/outgroup thinking, with an emphasis on understanding how language and accent mark social groups. She is also interested in food cognition and moral psychology. Professor Kinzler initially joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Department of Psychology as a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in 2008 before spending 2015-2019 at Cornell University, where she was most recently the Chair of Cornell’s Department of Psychology. She completed her BA at Yale in Cognitive Science, her PhD at Harvard in Psychology, and was a Fulbright scholar at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Professor Kinzler’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the John Templeton Foundation, and her work has appeared regularly in the New York Times and other media outlets. She was named one of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 “Young Scientists,” one of 50 scientists under the age of 40 recognized.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

Working with a few of my graduate students, I've become very interested in the development of children's attitudes about leadership.  How do notions of what it takes to make a good leader change over time and in different cultural contexts?  To what extent do perceptions of leadership ability reflect gender stereotypes?

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

Collaborating with students on research projects is my favorite part of my job.  I have a tremendous group of current graduate students who moved with me to the University of Chicago from Cornell, and I look forward to welcoming new graduate and undergraduate students to the lab.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

I love my standing desk!  In truth, I'll admit that I mainly sit at it.  But knowing that I could in theory stand makes all the difference.

Zhaotian Luo

Zhaotian Luo
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Zhaotian Luo is a formal theorist with a broad substantive interest in political institutions and politician economy of non-democracies. He specializes in developing and applying game theoretic models to explain interactions among political actors as well as the foundations and performance of political institutions. His current research centers on the role of information in politics. In his dissertation, Zhaotian develops several models to explain how information can be produced, communicated, and manipulated for political purposes. Besides theories about information, Professor Luo is interested in non-democracies, or more generally, comparative politics in weak institutional contexts. Luo received his PhD from New York University where he also received his MA, and earned his BA in Politics from the University of International Business and Economics.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

I would like to study how faction politics affect the onset and quality of reforms: under what conditions are they positive or negative.

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

I would expect to learn from students. To me, teaching is an interactive process in which I help students to familiarize existing ideas and they help me to discover new ideas.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

The electronic handwriting tablet helped me a lot. With this, I can upload my handwriting drafts and keep them organized.

Andrew McCall

Andrew McCall
Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science
Andrew McCall’s research focuses on what would need to happen for racial inequality in US policing to be eliminated. McCall’s dissertation used agency theory to examine the consequences of increasing bureaucratic independence for the trajectory of racial inequality in arrests during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Despite national attention to and grassroots activism around the issue of racism in policing and significant changes to US police departments, racial disparity in arrests remained startlingly constant during this period. In his dissertation, McCall argues that several historical features of US police departments incentivized professionalizing departments to perpetuate racially disparate practices absent the goal of focusing punishment on Black Americans. McCall earned a BA in Philosophy and Religion from Truman State University, a second BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned his PhD in Political Science from UC Berkeley.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

What would racial equality in policing look like?  Activists and scholars have spent a lot of time thinking and writing about racial discrimination, but most of these focus on a single function of the police such as arrests, the use of force, or reducing crime victimization.  Police departments have been given a tremendous number of responsibilities in the US, and articulating what racial equality would look like has to deal with all of these functions as well as the many needs of different groups in a given jurisdiction.  The absence of individual-level discrimination is not enough.  I believe an important step in helping police departments reduce racial inequality is to more precisely articulate what they should aspire to. 

Describe on object you have in your office that helps you work.

Plants.  I've had some of them for years and looking at them reminds me that everything worthwhile only grows a little bit everyday.  Most weeks I can't discern a change, but with months or years of care some of them have transformed into something more wonderful than I expected.  Others I've not quite figured out how to care for, and they didn't survive.  I've found my intellectual projects progress, or not, in much the same way.  

In which section of the library do you enjoy being the most? Name a few of the most interesting books you’ve found there.

The philosophy section.  Philosophy is the one discipline where I can read without feeling like I need to reach the end of anything.  With my favorite philosophers I'll make it a few paragraphs before I find a statement that I spend ten minutes thinking about.  Whenever I put the book down, it leaves me with a more precise idea about how I don't understand the world, which is the most satisfying feeling I've ever experienced.  My favorite books I've found in that section are Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, and Edmund Husserl's Philosophy of Arithmetic.  I also quite like Bas Van Fraassen's The Scientific Image, and Paul Feyerabend's Against Method.  

Sarah Newman

Sarah Newman
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Sarah Newman is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in Mesoamerica, with a particular focus on the ancient Maya. Professor Newman’s research examines multiple forms of human-environmental interaction, including monumental anthropogenic landscapes, changes in the cultural and historical constructions of the concept of “waste”, and the nature of human-animal relationships. Her scholarship and teaching interests cut across anthropology’s subdisciplines by incorporating archaeological excavations, the study of human and animal skeletal remains, and archival research. Newman was an Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont and James Madison University before coming to Chicago. She received her BA in Archaeological Studies and Art History from Yale University, and her MA and PhD in Anthropology from Brown University.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

The key question that drives my current research is: what is trash? This question seems deceptively simple, but current understandings of trash are neither self-evident nor universal. For archaeologists like myself, this fact has important implications for how we investigate and interpret the past. We tend to imagine the past much like the present: humans who are inherently wasteful, who seek to “get rid of” things and throw them “away”, who put their garbage “out of sight and out of mind”. I am currently writing a book around this question, using evidence from archaeological artifacts, historic documents, and ethnographic observations in Mesoamerica to critique those basic assumptions and rethink the archaeological approaches that rely on them.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

One “object” that is essential to my work is an adhesive called Acryloid B-72. It is strong and tough without being brittle, so B-72 is often favored by archaeologists and conservators in repairing broken artifacts. As a zooarchaeologist (someone who studies the animal remains found at archaeological sites), I spend a lot of my time fitting fragmented bones from archaeological sites in Mexico and Guatemala back together with B-72 so that I can identify the various parts and pieces of different animals recovered and how they were used as resources in the past (as meat, as raw materials for crafting, as symbols, etc.). B-72 also saved the day when I dropped another object that helps me in my work- my favorite coffee mug.

Patricia Posey

Patricia Posey
Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science
Patricia Posey received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 and a double BA in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Florida in 2013.  Prior to joining the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, Posey was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines the relationship between American political economy and race, with a focus on the links among capitalism, urban space, technology, and political behavior.  She is developing a manuscript that examines the effects of different banking and loan institutions on the political attitudes and political participation of marginalized communities. Posey is particularly interested in the effects of check cashing institutions, pay-day loan companies, pawn shops, and the like on the attitudes of poor, black, and brown communities toward the state.

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

In winter, I will be teaching American Political Economy and Race (PLSC 26205), where we explore how economic life has material, cultural, and political dimensions and that an individual’s (or group’s) identity or social location–e.g., race, gender, and class–may constrain or empower agents in their economic and political participation. It is easy as an undergraduate to feel like Political Science is all theory and separated from "real life." I hope to excite students about the course material and create a welcoming and engaging environment by showing the many ways its connected to our everyday life.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

My computer. Among all the more practical reasons, it is how I listen to music. As a self-professed music lover, I have playlists upon playlists that are crafted for the different tasks. For example, coding some data? There’s a playlist for that. Reading research? That's another playlist.

Monica Rosenberg

Monica Rosenberg
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Monica Rosenberg’s work explores how we pay attention and how insights from attention research can help improve focus. A primary goal of her research is discovering what we can learn about a person from their unique patterns of brain activity, and what this can tell us about the nature of the brain and mind. For instance, Professor. Rosenberg’s work has revealed that data collected while a person is simply resting in an MRI scanner (not doing any particular task at all) can be used to predict aspects of their behavior such as how well they pay attention and remember information. She completed her PhD and postdoctoral work in the Department of Psychology at Yale University after earning her undergraduate degree in cognitive neuroscience at Brown.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

Why does our ability to focus fluctuate over time?

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

A whiteboard for brainstorming with students and colleagues. 

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

My full undivided attention!

Max Tabord-Meehan

Max Tabord-Meehan
Assistant Professor, Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics
Max Tabord-Meehan’s research interests are in the areas of econometric theory and applied econometrics. Professor Tabord-Meehan’s recent work has focused on developing statistical tools which help policy makers use data to make decisions. For example, to increase the effectiveness of randomized controlled trials, and to select appropriate policies when scaling up randomized controlled trials to a larger population. Professor Tabord-Meehan earned his PhD in Economics from Northwestern University in 2019.

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

Using a standing desk really helps to boost my productivity: sitting for too long makes me restless and leads to a loss of focus while I'm working.

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

In the winter I will be teaching introductory econometrics. I hope to teach students not only the basics of econometric theory, but also some practical skills that will help them in an increasingly “data-driven” world.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Gabriel Winant is a historian the social structures of inequality in modern American capitalism. Professor Winant’s work approaches capitalism as an expansive social order—not confined to the market alone but rather composed of multiple, heterogeneous spheres, such as families and neighborhoods. He focuses on the relationship between economic production and formal employment on the one hand, and the social reproduction and governance of the population on the other. Broadly, he is interested in transformations in the social division of labor and the making and management of social difference through this process. Before coming to the University of Chicago, Professor Winant was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences after he received his PhD from Yale University in 2018.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

This year I'm beginning work on a project on changes in ordinary people's survival strategies in industrial cities in the early twentieth century. The particular question I'm starting with is: why did a growing unemployable elderly population accompany the rise of mass production processes in industry, and what were the political consequences of this new phenomenon, a large-scale impoverished elderly population?

What can students look forward to in their interactions with you?

In my interactions with students, I try to practice, and to model, a democratic approach. Understanding the past is a collaborative, argumentative process. It can only be accomplished through a collective conversation, which means that we need to take each other and each other's ideas seriously, and to treat each other with understanding. These are also the values we should apply to the people we study in the past.

If you could invite three specialists in your field (living or dead) to dinner, who would you choose, and what would you talk about?

I'm going to cheat and name five: Friedrich Engels, Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Michael Harrington, and Barbara Ehrenreich. These five exemplify an intellectual tradition I'm especially fond of and interested in—the immersive study of the conditions of social inequality. Because the patterns of inequality are always changing, it never looks the same to observers in two historical moments, so we have to renew this knowledge constantly.

Geoffrey Wodtke

Geoffrey Wodtke
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Geoffrey Wodtke’s research is in the areas of neighborhood effects and urban poverty, group conflict and racial attitudes, class structure and income inequality, and methods of causal inference in observational research. He is currently working on several projects dealing with the impact of neighborhood poverty on child development, the link between private business ownership and income inequality, and new methods for handling treatment-induced confounding in longitudinal studies. His previous work on these topics has been published in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Demography, and Sociological Methodology. He completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Michigan in 2014, where he also earned his MA in statistics, and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto from 2014-2019.

What is one significant research question you hope to advance this year?

Are disparities in academic performance between students who live in poor versus wealthy neighborhoods due in part to differences in exposure to environmental health hazards, like lead paint?

Describe one object you have in your office that helps you in your work.

My coffee mug. Productivity would plummet without it.

If you could invite three specialists in your field (living or dead) to dinner, who would you choose, and what would you talk about?

I’d invite Marx, Proudhon, and Adam Smith, and we’d discuss human nature, society, and the state. Should make for a lively conversation.