Social Networks & Urban Spaces: a Detroit neighborhood

The state of Michigan and the city of Detroit leave few opportunities for residents. How do Detroiters get by in a city with poor municipal services, no public transportation system to speak of, inadequate housing, and few jobs in the mainstream economy? They rely on skills learned in past jobs such as the automotive industry or food services and adapt them in creative ways to support their families; they depend on social networks cultivated and maintained in public spaces such as churches and pantries; and they utilize public spaces such as parking lots and street corners to facilitate transactions and other informal activities.

My dissertation seeks to understand how mechanisms such as social networks (formal and informal) and neighborhood spaces (public and private) shape opportunities (and barriers) to operate in the informal or underground economy. It reveals complex though ephemeral exchange strategies including barters and trades. It also reveals the diversity of the survival strategies used to make cash in a city that is largely devoid of resources and hope.

Findings come from ethnographic data collected between 2014-2017 through observations, semi-structured formal and informal interviews, and neighborhood mapping.

Women Who Marathon

This 2012-2013 autoethnographic study, serving as my master’s thesis work, asks questions about: women’s initial and ongoing motivations for running; women’s varying definitions of the female running body; and the effects of running on other areas of the women’s lives, including work, family, and sport.

Using a snowball convenience sampling technique, I conducted in-depth interviews with twenty women, primarily in the midwest. The women all participated in marathons (with the exception of two women who were training for their first marathon at the time of the interviews).


Poster Presentation at the 6th Annual Committee for Research on Women and Gender Conference at the University of Akron, March 14-15th, 2014.