“For me intellectual work is related to what you could call aestheticism, meaning transforming yourself…that knowledge can transform us…And maybe I will be saved…This transformation of one’s self by one’s own knowledge is, I think, something rather close to the aesthetic experience. Why should a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting?” ~Michel Foucault


I am an associate professor of sociology at DePaul University. I earned my bachelor’s degrees in English and Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley and my M.S. and Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

My past ethnographic research has explored the revival of swing dancing through my experiences as a student, teacher and performer during a six-year period. This scholarship has appeared in article form in: Ethnography, Qualitative Sociology, and Sociological Perspectives, and has culminated in the book entitled American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination published by The University of Chicago Press.

My current ethnographic research explores the Mexican workers that have come to define the backbone or infrastructure of the restaurant industry of Chicago. This study is animated by two apparently divergent yet intimately interrelated questions. First, how do our understandings of ethnicity, authenticity and culture come through the ways that people use food to make sense out of themselves and others? Second, how do people secure spaces of culture and identity in the face of economic, political, and socially antagonistic living conditions? In a world where it is difficult to assess people’s understandings of other cultures, or even their own in any direct manner, food serves as an ideal medium through which to explore the cultural imagination, as well as an opening to explore cultural appreciation. The manuscript is tentatively titled

In-Between Worlds: Mexican Kitchen Workers in Chicago’s Restaurant Industry, and is currently under contract with The University of Chicago Press.

My teaching focuses on race/ethnicity, urban ethnography, classic and contemporary theory, and culture, while my specialty courses focus on the work of Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, and Erving Goffman.

As a professor my goal has been to emphasize that scholarship and life are always interlinked and that we must create one’s self through the experiences that we have. Although often falling short, higher education offers a space for such self-discovery, reflexivity, and the challenge of self-transformation. This web page contains fragments of my own pursuit of this overarching intellectual endeavor. I hope visitors will find this useful in stimulating their own efforts in undertaking their own project of becoming who one is.