I am a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Columbia University. My research brings together the sociology of knowledge, law, and cultural sociology in order to understand autonomy as both a concept that structures social interaction, and as a moral good. Using ethnography, interviews, and historical analysis, I investigate the ways in which knowledge about people is produced and how it is instantiated in law and social practice.

To this end, my research explores autonomy from the top down, as a discourse that shapes legal constructs and expectations of citizenship, and from the bottom up, as a negotiation between social actors. I take as my object of analysis people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, exploring how they are formed as autonomous citizens and the complicated ways they negotiate relationships of dependence. My research broadly informs scholarship on social identity. Namely, how the measurement of difference shapes the social identities available and how people are disciplined into them.

My dissertation explores these autonomy through an ethnography of one independent living program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disability. Along with an ethnographic focus on the practices of care, I also investigate the effect of the welfare state on the opportunities adults with disabilities have for autonomy and the types of support available to them. This research is funded by an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant and several small grants from Policy Research Incorporated.   I am committed to increasing the accessibility of intellectual work by approaching my writing through creative partnerships with fellow artists and through what some call “public sociology.” My goal is to make my writing accessible to both my research subjects and my working-class family.  

When I am not working you might find me hiking with family, knitting almost anywhere, or chatting up my sourdough starter, Hildegaard, in the kitchen.