On Thursday, March 9th  2017 the Annual Chicago Ethnography incubator hosted “Ethnographic Reflections.” This event featured a roundtable panel discussion with the 2017 Incubator’s faculty regarding current methodological, substantive, and ethical issues presently confronting ethnographic research. 

2017 Call for Graduate Fellows


The 2017 Chicago Ethnography Incubator brought together faculty fellows and graduate students who work with ethnographic methods - building an interdisciplinary forum where cutting edge scholarship can be enriched through rigorous critique and collaborative inquiry. The 2017 event featured four prominent scholars who are deeply committed to the critical engagement and improvement of qualitative projects and methodologies.  Short descriptions of their work and interests are below: 


Megan Comfort

Comfort's research focuses on what she calls the “repercussive effects” of incarceration on the health and well-being of prisoners and their families. Through ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and quantitative questionnaires, she has investigated how being incarcerated oneself or having an incarcerated loved one affects one’s physical health, social relations, emotional well-being, and perceptions of justice. Comfort began her career working at a community-based organization that serves prisoners and their families, and has maintained strong ties to this and other CBOs throughout the years by reporting back key findings, collaborating on health interventions, and remaining up-to-date on the services provided by community partners.

Ching Kwan Lee

Ching Kwan Lee is a comparative ethnographer working in the extended case method tradition. She has completed three book-length projects using labor politics as a lens to understand China’s transition from state socialism to the workshop of the world and then as a major global investor. All three studies seek to relate the microscopic and time-place specific world of ethnographic observation to the broader forces, institutions and processes that shape them. All are comparative, although they follow different logics of inquiry. The first case is a “variable” comparison between two gendered factory regimes in Hong Kong and Shenzhen (Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women, 1998), the second an “incorporating” or relational comparison of two inter-related patterns of working class formations in the rustbelt and sunbelt of China (Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt, 2007), and the third “eventful” comparison of Chinese state capital and global private capital in Zambia as they responded to the 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath (The Specter of Global China: Contesting Chinese State Investment in Africa, 2017). 

Carla Shedd

Carla Shedd is Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Columbia University. Her research and teaching interests focus on: crime and criminal justice; race and ethnicity; law and society; social inequality; and urban sociology. Shedd is passionate about illuminating the plight of urban adolescents who each day confront the paradoxes of: a school system that can work to educate or criminalize them; a police department that can work to protect or harass them; and a justice system that can work to rehabilitate or damage them further. Shedd’s first book, Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice uses the experiences of youth, particularly their interactions with teachers, police, and parents, to uncover how they shape adolescents’ perceptions of themselves and their wider social worlds. Unequal City also examines the driving forces behind and the consequences of policies that have intricately linked the public school system and the criminal justice system. Shedd’s current research focuses on New York City’s juvenile justice system investigating how young people’s linked institutional experiences influence their placement on and movement along the carceral continuum. 

David Valentine

David Valentine is a cultural and linguistic anthropologist with interests in gender, sexuality, US social movements and politics, and conceptions of the future. His first research project was an ethnographic investigation of the category "transgender" in the 1990s, where he examined how the emergence of this term enabled activists and others to imagine a new calibration of gender and sexuality vis a vis one another in order to work toward a more just world for gender variant individuals. However, in this book, he argues that this vision carries with it assumptions about gender and sexuality that reinforce racial and class hierarchies that, ironically, negatively impact the most vulnerable transgender-identified people -- young, poor, people of color.  His new major research project extends his interest in imagination and human futures by focusing on commercial outer space entrpreneurs where he is investigating the social consequences of imagining the human species transformed by permanent settlement off world. He has completed his research for this project (2009-2014) and is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled "Leaving Earth."



David Ansari, PhD Candidate, Univeristy of Chicago, Department of Comparative Human Development. "'Dare to be a future therapist' Developing expertise through case presentations"

Kati Barahona-Lopez, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Sociology. "Highlighting Unaccompanied Minors' Structural Vulnerability"

Neil Gong, PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Sociology. "Sorting Out the Down and Out: Psychiatric Classification as a Tactic of urban Governance"

Hebatalla Gowayed, PhD Candidate, Princeton University, Department of Sociology. "The Family Life of Syrian Refugees: Bifurcated Resettlement and the Unintended Consequences of 'Self-Sufficiency'"

Arvind Karunakran, PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Sociology. "Performing Emergencies: An Ethnography of 9-1-1 Emergency Coordination"

Mai Thai, PhD Candidate, Indiana University-Bloomington, Department of Sociology. "Making 'Model Citizens': Junior Police Youth and Social Control in School"


2017 Chicago Ethnography Incubator Participants