I am a political economist in the classical sense: I am concerned with the ethical, political, and social implications and dimensions of economic activity. My research is concerned with the relationship between corporate capitalism, political power, and public debates about ethics and values in the contemporary United States, especially as these relate to mass-produced commodities and nonhuman animals. I focus on the ways in which economic actors seek to adjudicate truth claims, influence legislation, and define the contours of political discourse to protect their interests in the face of social criticism. This work connects American politics and American cultural studies with political theory, history, and anthropological approaches to the study of value and economic activity. Throughout, it is carefully historically situated and rooted in ethnographic methods and a sensibility to social practice.
My book project, Capitalist Pigs: The Making of the Corporate Meat Animal, draws on over two years of multi-method qualitative research and multi-sited ethnography at sites including slaughterhouses, state fairs, public relations firms, lobby groups, and brokerages throughout the USA. Across these sites, it traces how the American meat industry seeks to a produce a commodity that best suits market conditions – as biological animal, financial security, object of social imagination, and subject of political contestation - from conception through consumption. This work argues that corporations shape not only the food the public eats, but also policy, ethical discourse, and the contours of political action, as much in the agricultural heartland as among the general consuming public, legislators, and even animal rights activists. In doing so, Capitalist Pigs sheds light on the tensions and interrelations between market valuation, the value of life itself, and social values in the late-liberal, not-quite-post-industrial United States.
I have published in the academic and popular press on topics related to agriculture and food politics, biodiversity protection, environmental politics more broadly, as well as the theory and practice of animal ethics. I am also engaged in a number or projects exploring diverse modes of designing, deploying, articulating, and reconceptualizing ethnographic research methods to explore complex and under-studied spaces, including macro-scale ones like transnational value chains and micro-scale ones like individual rock climbs. Most recently, I have been conducting research on issues at the intersection between sport, violence, and masculinity.
In addition to a Ph.D. in Politics, I hold a Master’s in International Relations, an MPhil, and an MBA, and am fluent in Spanish, French, and Polish, bringing these diverse “multilingualisms” to my research and writing.
My work has been supported by a Doctoral Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), an Ira Katznelson Dissertation Fellowship from the New School for Social Research, a Human-Animal Studies Fellowship at Wesleyan University, a Graduate Student Fellowship at the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies, and a Dissertation Fellowship at the University of California-Santa Barbara.