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Faculty Updates, Fall 2022

Stephanie Bohon entering her third year as head of the Department of Sociology, all of it during a pandemic. She spent most of last year also serving as president of the Southern Sociological Society, where she presided over her annual meeting under the theme "Invisibility." In addition to these roles, she spent much of her winter collaborating with Jon Shefner on a $19 million proposal to the US Economic Development Agency to create good jobs for local workers by expanding East Tennessee's capacity for advanced manufacturing and green construction. She has also been digging deeper into her work on eco-fascism and collaborated with nine current and former UT graduate students on five papers currently under review.

Derrick Brooms joined UT during the fall of 2021 and serves as a professor of Africana Studies and sociology as well as a Fellow in the Center for the Study of Social Justice. In addition to his teaching responsibilitiesBrooms published a new book, Stakes is High: Trials, Lessons, and Triumphs in Young Black Men's Educational Journeys (SUNY Press, December 2021). He also published several articles focused on Black boys' and men's lived experiences and education, along with work on Black and Latinx men's engagement and leadership in college, as well as race and racism. These works appeared in journals such as Race Ethnicity and EducationTeachers College Record, and Professional School Counseling and included a couple of book chapters as well. Brooms continue to serve as the founding editor of the Critical Race Studies in Education book series with SUNY Press and as co-editor of Social Problems

In addition, Brooms is actively engaged in and enjoys working with students and continues to work collaboratively with early career faculty and graduate students as they navigate the academy, pursue research opportunities, and develop their writing and teaching. He co-presented a paper with a graduate student at the American Educational Research Association Conference this past April and also facilitated and co-facilitated several sessions and workshops throughout the year focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, such as the Men of Color Conference (February 2022), Unity Through Diversity Week at Highline College (April 2022), and Diversity Week at Compton College (May 2022).

Michelle Brown’s 2022 was the much-needed post-lockdown year of collaboration and community. She spent much of the year working on a special issue on Black Safety with Shaneda Destine and Enkeshi El-Amin, an article on 21st-century abolition movements against the carceral state with Zhandarka Kurti, and another manuscript with PhD students Kyra Martinez and Vivian Swayne on police calls and struggles for more meaningful forms of safety. She and Travis Linnemman (KSU) started work on a second edition of the popular teaching volume Criminology Goes to the Movies (under contract at NYU Press). And, in the spring 2022, Professors Wendy Bach (law school), Bamwine (social work), and Brown responded to a request by several community organizations to conduct a series of focus groups and presentations focused on community views on school safety which has developed into the prototype of a community justice lab.

Finally, she spent the summer as a Visiting Fellow at the Scottish Center for Crime and Justice Research at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. While there, Brown gave workshops, lectures, and met with scholars, students, and community organizations in an effort to think about more meaningful forms of accountability, safety, and community building instead of punitiveness and prisons. She rounded out her summer with a collaborative presentation with a beloved friend and curator, Jill Moniz of Transformative Arts (and her son, Jonathan!), on visualizing freedom in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Law & Society Annual meetings. The biggest feat of all was managing international travel and airlines with EIGHT extended family members - wonderfully exhausting, and ready to do it all again as soon as possible.

Chien-fei Chen is an environmental sociologist, an adjunct faculty member in the department of sociology, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, and the director of Education and Diversity and research associate professor at the NSF-DOE Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT). She completed her Fulbright Global Award for her energy justice work in Taiwan and the United Kingdom during 2021-2022. In 2021, Chen co-led a research project funded by the National Science Foundation with Vanderbilt University, titled "Sustainability Regional Network: Connecting Rural and Urban Environments for Equitable Access to Transportation, Telecommunications and Energy (CREEATTE)". In 2022, she received additional research awards from the National Science Foundation to conduct research relating Advancing Human-Centered Sociotechnical Research for Enabling Independent Mobility in People with Physical Disabilities (with University of Michigan) and Strengthening American Instructure: Community-centered Decision-making Framework for Microgrid Deployment to Enhance Energy Justice and Power System Resilience (with Iowa State University). To promote energy justice, diversity and sustainability, she has started two networks: Justice in Energy, Housing and Health on the national scale and Women of EV and Energy on the regional scale.

During the academic year 2021/2022, Harry F. Dahms put together three volumes for the series, Current Perspectives in Social Theory. The first of these volumes will appear in early fall 2022 and is a monograph by philosopher and sociologist Stephen Turner (University of South Florida) titled Mad Hazard: A Life in Social Theory (vol. 38). The second volume is co-edited with Jeffrey Halley, the University of Texas at San Antonio, titled The Centrality of Sociality (vol. 39), and includes essays by sociologists, philosophers, and art theorists about Michael Brown's book, The Concept of the Social in Uniting the Humanities and Social Sciences (2014), including a chapter by Dahms, "In Defense of "The Social": Convergences and Divergences between the Humanities and Social Sciences in the United States." The third volume, edited by Dahms, has the title Planetary Sociology: Beyond the Entanglement of Identity and Social Structure (vol. 40) and will appear in the winter of 2022. With a lengthy introductory chapter by the editor, it includes essays on the volume's theme that illustrate its utility as a research and teaching paradigm by current and former PhD students of the Department of Sociology at UT, as well as essays by established social theorists on related topics.

Dahms functioned as the lead organizer of this year's conference of the International Social Theory Consortium, titled "Navigating the Emerging New World: Social Dynamics between Human Rights and Digitalized Power," with Ilaria Riccioni at the Free University of Bolzano, Italy, and co-organizers Daniel Krier (Iowa State University), Christopher Schlembach (University of Vienna) and Krešimir Žažar (University of Zagreb). The conference took place online, under the aegis of UT, June 9-11, 2022. Dahms also has been working on essays on artificial intelligence, space colonies, and the need to develop a sociologically informed and critically oriented educational paradigm for how to teach students to face the challenges of the future without fear, but in a constructive fashion.

Shaneda Destine and her partner now have a toddler walking and running toward splash pads and exploring his love for animals. She has been focusing on creating memories for her family during this ongoing pandemic. During the past year, Destine has finalized a co-authored journal on Black Safety, in Social Justice Journal; A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order, and has a few more works under review on the topic of the Movement for Black Lives. Destine is the incoming vision chair for Sociologist for Women in Society-South. Destine is working with Natasha Ellis as the chair of her dissertation committee and other students out of the sociology department. Also, she is reviewing articles for many scholars on the topics of Intersectionality, LGBT people, etc., as she continues her work.

Lisa East continues to serve as a lecturer in the department as well as the newly elected coordinator of non-tenure track faculty. This year she is also embarking on a new research endeavor with Jon Shefner called the Community-University Research Collaborative Initiative (CURCI). She is thrilled to work through CURCI as managing director to provide a more formalized and streamlined bridge between the wider Knoxville community and the university. She sees CURCI as an opportunity to better connect the resources of the university to address community-defined needs and local social problems. In addition to her academic pursuits, East continues to organize with others in grassroots organizations and nonprofits in Knoxville and the Southeast. Her most recent organizing focuses on municipal-level politics, mutual aid, and bail fund work in Knoxville and Knox County. She also applies her skills to administrative and state compliance work for new organizations. East is a proud and exhausted mom to her young one, Kumi, who is now four years old. They live in the thriving community of Old Sevier in South Knoxville. They are enjoying being homeowners for the first time, working together on their garden and painting their walls with wild and wonderful colors.

In the last year, Christina Ergas was interviewed for two podcasts, How to Save a Planet and A Matter of Degrees, based on her work on gender and climate change. She also began learning Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and Ergas and a friend decided to start a band. They are open to ideas for names!

This year, Paul Gellert's time was taken up by developing a new stream of research on the politics and social networks of Southeast Asian palm oil corporations. Working on an NSF grant proposal, although ultimately not funded, led to various related endeavors. He organized and presented at a panel on the biofuel politics of palm oil at the Association of Asian Studies meetings in Hawaii (unfortunately, only virtually!). In the summer, he returned to Indonesia for the first time in three years to further his collaboration with Indonesian colleagues, gather preliminary data, and work on establishing research connections. He expects to work on submitting a new grant proposal in the coming year to support the research. During the trip, he also laid the groundwork for an undergraduate research experience trip to Singapore and Indonesia with two carefully-selected UT undergraduates during UT's new January term 2023. Both trips are funded by a Global Catalyst Grant from UT's Center for Global Engagement. The year finished with a trip to L.A. where he presented two papers at the ASA meeting co-authored with PhD students -- one on the surprising links between Southeast Asian oil palm waste and the New Zealand dairy industry (with Sarah D'Onofrio and currently with a second revision at a journal) and the other on 19th century elite debates on the allocation of baldio lands deemed "empty" by the colonists (with Álvaro Germán Torres Mora) -- and a third paper on the continued salience of the semiperiphery at the Immanuel Wallerstein Memorial Conference. The summer ended with the final notice that the promotion to full professor has been approved (thanks to all for your support!)…and a bout of Covid.

Tim Gill is very excited about the past and upcoming year. Most notably, he has a book coming out in October with the University of Pittsburgh Press titled Encountering U.S. Empire in Socialist Venezuela: The Legacy of Race, Neocolonialism, and Democracy Promotion. It is an encapsulation of his research on US foreign policy in Venezuela over the last two decades. He also recently taught a grad course titled US Empire, and he greatly enjoyed all the interactions and discussions with our grad students. Gill and Moulton are planning another workshop series for the upcoming academic year, and they hope to see you there! Other than that, Gill is mostly taking care of his two kids Sebastian (4) and Fiona (1), as well as working on his standup comedy around town.

Kasey Henricks had a busy year. He moved to Germany with his family for six months on an International Fellowship at Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (the KWI Institute for Advanced Study). He was awarded a Presidential Grant by the Russell Sage Foundation and gave a keynote presentation at Anti-racism 2022 – Purenga Ihomatua in Auckland, New Zealand. Three of his papers, co-authored with Rubin Ortiz, a graduate of our program, were published in Sociology of Race & EthnicitySocius, and Sociological Inquiry. Hendricks was also the lead author of a report commissioned by the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, which generated media attention in Chicago from the local affiliate of National Public Radio and WGN-TV Live News. Aside from the media attention, Hendricks's work was referenced in reform efforts in reports commissioned by the City of Chicago's Department of Public Health, Department of Transportation, and Mayor's Office. His work was also referenced in a public hearing before the Illinois Supreme Court's Statutory Court Fees Task Force. His kids still lord over how they can speak more German than him. Tschüss.

Asafa Jalata has completed the first draft of his book titled Baro Tumsa: The Principal Architect of the Oromo Liberation Front. In addition, his book The Oromo Movement and Imperial Politics: Ideology and Culture in Oromia and Ethiopia with Lexington Press was published in paperback this year. He also published six articles:

  •  "The Missing Factor in Critical Global Studies: Indigenous Knowledge" in Current Perspectives in Social Theory;
  •  "Baro Tumsa's Contribution to the Oromo National Movement" in the East African Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities;
  • "The Oromo Movement for Gadaa/Siiqqee Renaissance in the 21st Century" in The Journal of Oromo Studies;
  • "Review Essay: Are the Tulama and Wallo Oromo Habasha?" in Sociology Mind;
  • "Ethiopia's Other Conflict: What is Driving Violence in Oromia?" in The Conversation;
  • "Abiy's Regime is a Modern Version of the Ethiopian Empire-State" in Ethiopian Insight.

Robert (Bobby) Emmet Jones and other environmental sociology faculty members in the department (Ergas, Gellert and Moulton), spent the last year or so revising the curriculum for the environmental sociology program. Six new courses were either added or redesigned, and its top-rated program will now focus on environmental justice, communities, and the global environment. Jones also published two papers with his colleagues. One assessed public support for the reintroduction of elk in Southern Appalachia. The other estimated food insecurity in a predominately African-American community in Knoxville, Tennessee. Jones and his former doctoral student (Tobin Walton, North Carolina State A&T) were asked by the International Association for Society and Natural Resources to provide a decadal review (2014-2024) of theories and research trying to identify the drivers of pro-environmental behavior (PEB). They are also in the final stages of resubmitting an article to the prestigious journal, Sustainability, which uses an Information-Theoretic Approach for modeling the drivers of PEB.

Jones and his wife Jenny's 2022 road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, Cape Bretton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, and Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland allowed them to experience some great natural wonders and helped them gain a better understanding of how these places are being seriously impacted by global climate change.

Joong Won Kim earned his PhD from the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. This year, Kim joined the UT Department of Sociology as an NTT faculty. He is excited to create an inclusionary space for sociological knowledge in serving the students at UT. His current research examines racialization, whiteness, and language use – particularly in the transnational context between the US and South Korea. Kim brings with him a diverse set of backgrounds in advancing classroom pedagogy, including methods from community engagement and ethnographic participant observation. His work can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Ethnic and Racial StudiesSociological InquiryAmerican Behavioral ScientistSociation, and Sustainability.

Prashanth Kuganathan is a sociocultural anthropologist who joined the Department of Sociology this academic year as the first postdoctoral teaching and research fellow in global studies. Before this, he was a postdoctoral teaching associate with the UT Department of Anthropology. He received his PhD from Columbia University in applied anthropology (Teachers College) in 2021. His research interests include war, migration, social relations, and education.

This past year, Grady Lowery recommittedhimself to a project aimed at reconstituting working-class politics on a global scale. Lowery's responsibilities include managing social media, running an on-campus reading group, hosting film screenings, and attending weekly meetings. In addition to his interest in an applied approach to sociology, he has also taken steps toward strengthening his pedagogy. Last spring, he participated in the Course Redesign Institute, which provided him with an excellent opportunity to learn from pedagogues across campus. Throughout his academic career, he has observed shifts in the ways students process and applies information, and he believes it is his responsibility as an educator to be sensitive to those changes. Finally, music has always been an important part of his life, and this past year he was able to participate in a few recording sessions as well as perform live shows.

Steve McGlamery defended his dissertation on Southern Baptists and raced this spring at Virginia Tech. He then accepted an offer to come here as a full-time instructor. McGlamery and his wife moved to South Knox in July, leaving behind two adult daughters in Virginia, but bringing their puppy Sadie, who is glad to have a fenced-in backyard to roam in. They are happy to be here, and he is excited to be part of such a great school and department.

The highpoint of Alex Moulton’s first full year in the department was the arrival of baby Hazel Ruth-Ann! Hazel joined Moulton and his wife Rose Shelor's family in September. Still with the Shelor-Moulton family is Murphy, the energetic mastiff-lab mix they rescued while on a visit with Stephanie Bohon. Moulton authored an article on Black memory and abolition published in Sociology Compass. He also authored and co-authored articles on trauma and professional practice for political ecologists and environmental sociologists, the landscape history of Jamaica, and global Black geographies and Black ecologies. The articles appeared in the Journal of Political EcologyEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space, and Environment and Society: Advances in Research. He delivered invited talks at the University of Texas at Austin and James Madison University, as well as in the UT Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and UT Department of Anthropology. Moulton will serve as chair of the Caribbean Geography Specialty Group and member of the International Research and Scholarly Exchange Committee of the American Association of Geographers for 2022-23, and continues as a committee member for the Southern Sociological Society Program Committee until 2024. He is excited to continue the co-organizing of the research workshop with Tim Gill. He returns to teaching in fall 2022 following parental leave and parental modified duties assignment, which allowed him to spend valuable time with Rose and Hazel (and Murphy).

This past year Lois (Lo) Presser completed her latest book, Unsaid: Analyzing Harmful Silences, which will be published by the University of California Press in 2023. The book is a guide to understanding and uncovering what is concealed in, or excluded from, texts. In spring 2022, four of her graduate students did extraordinary work to earn their MA (Alexandria Brown, Sam McIntyre, and Maddie Ross) and PhD (Christine Vossler) degrees. Also in spring, Presser welcomed to UT sociology Eva Mulder, a postdoctoral researcher from the Netherlands, for collaborative work on narrative victimology and contested harms. Presser spent most of June 2022 in Europe, where she gave talks at Lund University and the University of Genoa, and a keynote address at the Third International Narrative Criminology symposium in Genoa. Later in the summer, she taught a new writing seminar (Sociology 699) for graduate students, which was a meaningful and productive experience for all. Finally, she saw her children (10-year-old twi

Jon Shefner spent his sabbatical year on a variety of projects. He wrote several grants to support his new research project, which focuses on interviewing organizers from social movements, community organizations, and labor unions on the tactics they use within the campaigns they pursue. Shefner hoped to get more of that research completed during his sabbatical year, but COVID got in the way of conducting face-to-face interviews. That research continues, as does his work on the green economy and the political economy of austerity. Jon was also brought into an extensive grant-writing effort by UT's Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development (ORIED) and proposed a major project to the Economic Development Administration that would nurture green construction and alternative energy manufacturing, while generating well-paying and secure jobs. His newest project with colleague Lisa East is the creation of the Community University Research Collaboration Initiative, a new effort to bring the expertise of community organizers and UT faculty together. His vision is that CURCI will establish meaningful and enduring collaborations between UT and the Knoxville community and help address the needs of community members, especially from disadvantaged communities. Shefner also hopes CURCI will help move the university into new roles in Knoxville, and fulfill the duties of a flagship, land-grant university in an increasingly urban state. All of these projects, including the department's newly adopted MA program in applied sociology, reflects Shefner's interest in bringing the tools of sociology to help bring about social change.

Kriya Velasco finished his PhD in June from the University of Washington with research centered on the roles and positionalities of Filipinxs in the Americas working towards decolonization and Land Back. He and his partner took a trip to the Philippines to celebrate their graduation as well as Velasco's mom's seventh decade on this earth. Then they moved to Knoxville with their dog Victor. They have been working on our house and getting ready for a new semester in a new city and a new institution, and they are holding lots of excitement for all of these!

Christine Vossler recently graduated with her PhD in sociology. She works full-time in the Haslam College of Business and started the PhD program with the sociology department many years ago, but work, family, and school got the best of her, and she stopped her doctoral pursuit. During Covid, when many of us were working at home and reflecting on many aspects of our lives, she contacted Professor Presser and asked her about the possibility of rejoining the program. Presser met with the faculty, and they welcomed her back. During the past year, Vossler still worked full-time but fully embraced finishing her PhD. She defended her dissertation this summer on sexual harassment as a narrative contest. Now, she is lucky to be teaching classes in criminology as an adjunct lecturer for the department beginning this fall.

In March 2022, Haymarket Books published Tyler Wall’s co-edited book, Violent Order: Essays on the Nature of Police. In addition, the second edition of Police: A Field Guide was published by Verso Books in August 2022. In October 2021, Wall signed a book contract with Haymarket Books. The book, co-authored with Bill McClanahan, takes a deep dive into the morbid and libidinal economies of police power by taking seriously what police say and how they say it, with special attention to cultural artifacts and ritual practices. In April 2022, the American Bar Foundation (ABF) awarded him a visiting scholar position. As part of this award, he spent several weeks in Chicago at the ABF office working on the book manuscript. It was great to spend time in Chicago, and his office had a gorgeous view of the lake. He also presented a segment of the book manuscript at the annual conference (over Zoom) of the Association of American Geographers. In addition to supervising and sitting on various graduate student committees at UT, he also served as a committee member on two graduate student thesis projects at Kansas State University. Throughout the last year or so, he also was invited, and graciously accepted, the chance to offer commentary about police power, abolition, and racial capitalism on various panels with absolutely wonderful scholar-activists, such as the book launch for Violent Order (speaking with Melanie Yazzie and Julie Sze), the Policing and Carcerality in the Americas series at Florida Atlantic University (speaking with Andrea Miller, Dylan Rodriguez, and Guillermina Seri), the Center for Political Education’s “Writing for Abolition” series hosted by the always fabulous Rachel Herzing, and the American Friends Service Committee series on “Policing and White Supremacy.”

During the past year, Deadric Williams was extremely productive in terms of academic talks and presentations, peer-reviewed published research, and external funding. First, Williams delivered an academic talk titled Racism, Racialized Space, and Black Families’ Income Heterogeneity across eight universities, including Princeton University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Notre Dame, Maryland University, University of Minnesota, Duke University, Indiana University, and DePauw University. Second, he co-authored three peer-reviewed academic articles in Social Problems, Family Process, and Issues in Race & Society. Last, he was selected as one of five W.T. Grant Scholars from the W.T. Grant Foundation. Scholars receive $350,000 to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods. In three phases, his study aims to assess the dynamics of poverty over time through a lens of race and racism; elucidate how individual and family characteristics, racial inequalities in life chances, and tract-level racialized space maintain racial stratification in poverty. Since arriving to the Department of Sociology in January 2020, he has received incredible support from his colleagues in the department and across the university.

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