Research Projects

I'm currently working on a number of projects that critically analyze the organization of power in society.

Nationalism and Culture

Sociological theories argue that the nation is not inevitable or natural but is a social construct, produced and reproduced in diverse ways by state structures and regulatory apparatuses, intellectuals, and daily practices.  However, these theories fail to recognize that indigenous identities, communities, and institutions are organized around different axes than mainstream society.  This project focuses on how a particular group of Native Americans -- the Potawatomi Indians -- have recently reinvigorated a shared sense of the nation and what nationhood means in this context.  Although Potawatomi bands were dispersed across Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ontario, and Wisconsin as a consequence of forced removals in the nineteenth century, they experienced a resurgence of national identity beginning in the 1980s.  Contemporary Potawatomi nationalism is an intentional conception of the community in terms of shared cultural and social bonds and a rejection the distinctions between bands perceived by non-Native governments and individuals.  Potawatomi nationhood emphasizes the cultural, social, and ceremonial ties that unite the communities instead of focusing on forming a Western nation-state, developing common political interests, or sharing economic resources.

Expert Organizations and Training

As Native American tribes grow and offer an increasingly diverse array of services to their members, they often turn to a growing field of training, technical assistant, and capacity building organizations for assistance.  Some of these groups are non-profit organizations or affiliated with academic institutions, while others are market-oriented corporations.  Some organizations specialize in a particular area, while others deal with a wide range of issues.  This project asks why these groups were founded, how they have grown, and how they articulate particular visions of expertise to work with Native sovereign nations.  It also looks from the perspectives of Native communities consuming these services at which types of trainings are handled internally versus which are outsourced, as well as how training and development services are used strategically.

Strategies and Social Movements

This project examines the different types of spaces seized and the claims made during three distinct historical periods of land seizure activism by indigenous peoples between 1950 and 2000: public spaces on reservations during the “recuperative phase” (1950-1969), surplus federal lands away from reservations during the “expropriative phase” (1969-1975), and high profile locales on and off tribal lands during the “demonstrative phase” (1975-2000).  Land seizures are often means to make material demands or articulate normative claims but always serve to complicate the state’s exercise of power over Native peoples.  Spatial disruption, resource availability, and dynamism affect the continued viability of land seizure as a tactic to advance Native political demands.

Race, Class, Gender and Gaming Legalization

According to the American Gaming Association, gross gaming revenue for the United States was more than $92 billion in 2007 with the vast majority of these dollars generated by commercial casinos, tribal casinos, and state lotteries.  As opportunities to participate in various types of gaming become more readily available, debates about the consequences and meaning of gaming intensify.  This project provides a diachronic analysis of three moments of gaming legalization in the US: pari-mutuel wagering in 1930s, state lotteries in the 1960s and 1970s, and casinos in the 1990s and 2000s.  At each moment the project considers how race, class, and gender impact public constructions of the proprietors of gaming operations, the patrons of gaming facilities, and the process of allocating gaming proceeds.  

For some initial data from this project, see the following Massachusetts maps which show voting outcomes by community for 1935 (to legalize horse and greyhound racing, measures were voted on separately), 1950 (to legalize a state charitable lottery), and 2000 and 2008 (to ban greyhound racing).