I am an assistant professor at the University of Florida, with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law and the Center for Latin American Studies and director of UF's International Ethnography Lab. My research lies at the intersection of sociology, political science, and Latin American Studies. I am interested in how policies and political changes that seek to reduce inequality and violence end up contributing to these problems and how changing modalities of violence in the 21st century affect state building and capacity, with a specific focus on policing. I am passionate about qualitative inquiry and ethnography, with a focus on how power dynamics within academia contribute to experiences with violence as researchers conduct fieldwork. I am also interested in how qualitative research can be better integrated into experimental research and used to improve the collection of survey data. I have conducted research in Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, and the United States and recently began collaborating on a project that spans nine countries in Latin Americas. Click here for my CV.
My first book, Harassed: Gender, Bodies, and Ethnographic Research, was co-authored with Patricia Richards and published with University of California Press in 2019. Harassed examines the androcentric, racist, and colonial epistemological foundations of ethnographic methodology that continue to contribute to silence surrounding sexual harassment and other forms of violence researchers encounter in the field. Check out the New Books Network Podcast episode where we talk about Harassed here and our book talk with Kendal Broad and Randol Contreras at the University of Florida here.
My second book manuscript is currently under contract with Oxford University Press. In Chaotic Order: Policing and Coercive Power in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution I use ethnographic, interview, and survey research collected over seven years to examine how dramatic political change intersects with longstanding inequalities to reshape who holds coercive power, how they wield it, and to what ends. Since the early 2000s Venezuela has been labelled a unique or extreme case by scholars of politics and social change in Latin America. My book demonstrates that this case has important implications for scholarship on policing, the state, and coercion across the region. Along with David Smilde and Verónica Zubillaga, I am co-editor of The Paradox of Violence in Venezuela: Revolution, Crime, and Policing During Chavismo (2022, University of Pittsburgh Press). Using empirical case studies, we analyze why violence increased in the country at the same time that poverty and inequality decreased under Chavismo. The chapters in this volume seek to reorient thinking about the relationship between crime, violence, poverty, and inequality, arguing that particular models of governance and citizen security policies affect how this relationship plays out.
My research has been published in Sociological Forum; The Sociological Quarterly; Journal of Latin American Studies; Crime, Law, and Social Change; REVISTA M. Estudos sobre a Morte, os Mortos e o Morrer, and Violence: An International Journal, and funded by organizations such as the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the U.S. Department of Defense, and Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP). I am an active contributor to popular conversations on policing, politics, and security reform in Latin America, publishing in venues such as NACLA, The Conversation, Insight Crime, the Christian Science Monitor, and Foreign Policy in Focus.
Through the Metaketa Initiative IV I worked with researchers across six different countries in the Global South to answer the question: Can community policing be used effectively by police forces in contexts in which the legitimacy of the state is challenged? Working across Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Uganda we find that community policing does not live up to its claims. Our findings have been published in Science and our book manuscript--Building Trusted, Effective Police: Evidence on Community Policing from Six Coordinated Field Experiments in the Global South--is under contract with Cambridge University Press.
I am currently collaborating with colleagues on multiple projects. In Post-Conflict Security Structures and Citizen Buy-In, funded by the Minerva Research Initiative, we use comparative ethnographic fieldwork, surveys, and yearly data collected on security groups across Latin America to understand how legacies of civil war and more recent experiences with gang violence shape state legitimacy and how policing is done. In a second project I am working with David Smilde and Verónica Zubillaga to consider the challenges to transitional justice and peace processes in a context where multiple and competing armed actors exist. In a third project, I am working with colleagues in Venezuela to document how different armed groups in the country and their relationships to the state have evolved over time. Our most recent publication on this topic can be found in Spanish and English here.