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 two primary research interests are, first, the relationship between morals, markets, and violence, primarily in the United States and other ostensibly liberal democratic states and, second, the commodification of nonhuman animals and natural environments, especially as these relate to food systems and agriculture. Throughout, my work is rooted in ethnographic and interpretive methods, informed by critical theory and in conversation with a broad, interdisciplinary literature that includes anthropology, economics, American studies, and applied ethics.
My dissertation project, Capitalist Pigs: The Making of the Corporate Meat Animal, is based on two years of multi-sited ethnography at sites throughout the American pork value chain as well as extensive interviews and archival research. It explores how agribusiness seeks to profit from an idealized industrial pig – as animal, financial security, and subject of ethical concern - and follows these various iterations from conception through consumption. In doing so, it analyzes the relationship between capital and life, arguing that the two are linked by a “politics of commodification”: namely, the highly contested attempt to create a life form that suits the demands of the market. The pig business is as a limit case wherein key political questions about who gets to see, judge moral responsibility, and act coercively are addressed almost exclusively by market actors; it is also one where markets create the subjects, spaces, and contours of political action and debate, thereby capturing the political space almost entirely. Studying the pig, therefore, allows unique insight into politics in the late-liberal, not-quite-post-industrial United States.
I have published in the academic and popular press on topics related to agriculture, 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.
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 analysis. I was formerly the co-coordinator of the Ethnography of Movement and Mobility Research Cluster, supported by a grant from the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, which brought together scholars from diverse disciplines and institutions to explore the practical and theoretical challenges and opportunities for ethnographic research of processes like migration and trade that are defined by movement.
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 visiting Human-Animal Studies Fellowship at Wesleyan University, and a Graduate Student Fellowship from the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, I am a Dissertation Fellow at the Humanities and Social Change Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.