Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Broadly speaking, my research investigates how masculine attitudes and behaviors encourage harmful health outcomes. My work applies a social psychology lens to understand the strong association between masculinity and violence. I am interested in how men and women engage in, interpret, reconcile with, and heal from violence and the effect this has on gender identity.
In my book, “Fighting for Recognition” (in press with Duke University Press) I
conducted an ethnographic study of the experience, meanings, and motivations of
men who train and perform in community-level independent pro
wrestling, where most wrestlers receive little-to-no pay. Even though professional wrestling is one of the
most popular “sporting events” in the United States, people are seldom
aware of the constellation of independent promotions that operate beyond
the purview of the highly profitable televised productions. Based on
participant-observation and interviews of participants in the
independents, the project
examines how these men are affected by their acts of
violence. Indy participants’ devotion to their elaborate combat
choreography, which fakes hostility in order to excite a crowd of spectators,
casts new light on the intimacy of violence, the management of pain in everyday
life, emotional labor, and the quest for solidarity and community. The analysis
also provides new interpretations of the attraction,
ambivalence and pitfalls of “doing” masculinity.
As an NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rutgers Institute for Health, I began a mixed-method study of the informal coping mechanisms used by male and female veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This project investigates how the more than two million recently returned soldiers—most of whom choose not to use the VA health care system—cope with adjustment independent of formal health institutions. The project is guided by my interest in the consequences of how the violence of warfare (and the military more generally) demands a hardened disposition of self-reliance and stoicism, while healthful coping afterwards necessitates qualities that are largely the opposite (i.e.: help-seeking, expression, connectivity).
Despite being very different activities—one very real and one notoriously fake—wrestling and warfare show how men and women (largely young and working-class) manage violence, emotions, risk, and gender identity in a neoliberal society—where low wages, insecure employment, and fragmented social support are all too common. My primary interest is how people cope and make sense of their physical or mental health in light of their voluntary participation in an exhilarating, yet costly endeavor. The projects examine dynamics that shape participants’ gender identities and health.
-Fighting for Recognition: Identity, Masculinity and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling. 2014. Duke University Press.
-"Warring Identities: Identity Conflict and the Mental Distress of American Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Society and Mental Health. (With Gala True.) 2014.
-"Corbett's Cuts and their Implications for Race in Philadelphia Schools." The Color Line. (Online publication of The Society Pages). 6/5/2011.
-"Gap Growing between Military and Civilians." Op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about aspects of the contemporary veteran experience. 10/19/2010.
-“Teaching Beyond the Core: The Hot Topic Alternative to the
Survey-Based Introduction to Sociology Course.” The American Sociologist. 2010. (With Michael Schwartz). .pdf
-“Pain in the Act: The Meanings of Pain among Professional Wrestlers.” Qualitative Sociology. Vol. 31 (2). 2008.
-“Wrestling with Kayfabe.” Contexts. Spring. 5 (2). 2006.
-“Pumping Irony: The Construction of Masculinity in a Post-feminist Advertising Campaign.” Advertising and Society Review. 6 (3). 2005.
-“The ‘Reasonable Woman’ and Unreasonable Men: Gendered Discourses in Sexual Harassment Litigation.” In James Gruber and Phoebe Morgan (eds.) In the Company of Men: Male Dominance and Sexual Harassment. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp.143-166. 2004. (With Michael Kimmel)