Part of the socialization process in graduate school is deciphering the roles of academic life and how these roles vary within and between academic hierarchy and organizations of higher learning. Literature scrutinizing research universities brings forward all manner of occupational dilemmas such as, the gamesmanship couched within scholarship; tensions between research and teaching responsibilities; formal and informal policing of disciplinary boundaries; academic capitalism and academic fundamentalism. Grappling with these drawbacks has triggered countless internal debates on how I can achieve meaningful efficacy within academic culture and on the moral and ethical dimensions of teaching and research. The intensity of these questions alongside my apprenticeship with the Center for Population Studies has shaped an activist-academic mindset. Scholarship should be problem not discipline driven, theory should be put into practice and action should inform theory.
The unique juxtaposition of sociology and urban studies with social work attracted me to Tulane’s City, Culture, and Community doctoral program, as it blurs the boundaries between academic and non-academic purposes. The interdisciplinary curriculum creates the potential to transcend departmental impasses on addressing complex problems related to health. No single discipline has comprehensively resolved the persistence of racial disparities in poor birth outcomes. Link and Phelan’s fundamental causes theory, Geronimus’s maternal weathering theory and the maternal nativity argument are all theoretically valuable but don’t come with ready-made action plans tailored to address prevention in specific places and contexts. Only through interdisciplinary efforts can we carve out meaningful action plans that mitigate particular inequalities long enough to make lasting strides in closing health disparities.
While all scientific investigation emerges out of cultural contexts, sociology included, the underlying motives of sociological inquiry include deconstructing the social world, holding knowledge suspect and locating particular or universal causal mechanisms. While I am not satisfied with the disciplinary limits of sociology I am comfortable beginning from a sociological framework and with Tulane’s City, Culture, and Community’s interdisciplinary curriculum building new theoretical models of reality.
In general my research interests are related to health, place, and inequality. My attention in graduate school was initially captured with the harrowing and poorly understood phenomenon of spontaneous preterm birth. My interest in poor birth outcomes has remained constant but grown to include the emotional labor of health care providers under health care reform as well as how racial health disparities will be effected under the Affordable Care Act. Although racial health disparities and emotional labor are situated in different sociological sub queries I see them as interrelated. Health outcomes...