I study politics and power by bringing close, fine-grained attention to lived experiences into conversation with larger, made-in-the-academy concepts and theories. I try to write in richly narrative, accessible language. My hope is that this writing shifts my readers' understandings of how power operates in the worlds around them, and perhaps inspires them to work for changes in those worlds. I am trained as a political scientist and a comparativist, but I read omnivorously and work hard to draw on and speak to substantive and methodological questions that travel across disciplines and subfields rather than being sharply delimited by them.
More specifically, I am interested in comparative politics, the politics of Southeast Asia, spatial and visual politics, power and resistance, critical animal studies, and interpretive and ethnographic research methods. In 2004, I conducted fieldwork for nearly six months as a liver hanger, a chute handler, and a quality control worker on the kill floor of an industrialized cattle slaughterhouse in Omaha, Nebraska. This ethnographic research is the basis for Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight (Yale University Press, 2011; paperback, 2013; Korean translation, 2012), a political ethnography of the massive, repetitive killing of animals carried out by a largely immigrant workforce. In this book, I explore how large, everyday processes of violence that are seen as both essential and repugnant to modern society are organized, disciplined, regulated, and reproduced. I also explore how civilization, violence, and sight are related in surprising and counterintuitive ways. My writing has been honored by the American Political Science Association's Section on Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, the American Political Science Association's Labor Project, and the American Political Science Association's Working Group on Interpretive Methodologies and Methods. It has also been the subject of numerous radio shows, academic and popular press reviews, and used as a basis for a graphic arts project and a large-scale sculpture, music, and dance installation. Since the book has been published, I have been talking about it to both academic and general audiences. These talks often ignite further discussions that have continued to shape my thinking about how violence, concealment, and visibility operate in modern day societies. These discussions have also challenged me to think in more explicitly political terms about our relationships with non-human animals and sparked my interest in the growing, multidisciplinary field of critical animal studies.
Area of Study:
- Comparative politics
- Political theory
- Political Science