Princeton becomes ‘center of gravity’ for urban sociologists
By Jennifer Greenstein Altmann
Princeton NJ -- Katherine Newman, a trailblazer in the study of poverty, race and urbanism, is just one of the highly acclaimed scholars in those fields of research who have joined the sociology department in the last few years.
Newman arrived at Princeton last year from Harvard, where she was dean of social science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (see related story in this issue). She joined an accomplished department that recently added the names of several prominent academics to its roster. The list includes Douglas Massey, a well-known scholar on issues concerning immigration and urban segregation; and Mitchell Duneier, an urban ethnographer who has gained acclaim for his 2000 book “Sidewalk,” about the lives of street vendors in New York City.
“I don’t think there’s anyplace on the planet that can rival Princeton in the strength that it has in areas such as poverty, stratification, inequality and mobility,”
“I don’t think there’s anyplace on the planet that can rival Princeton in the strength that it has in areas such as poverty, stratification, inequality and mobility,” Newman said. “It was very clear to me that the center of gravity was moving here, and I very much wanted to be a part of it.”
Newman was just as excited about working with the junior faculty members in the department, among them Mario Small, a former student of hers, and Devah Pager.
“These are unbelievably distinguished junior colleagues, and it means the place is just bubbling with energy and lively new scholarship,” she said.
These scholars joined a department that already had several leading academics in the areas of race, migration and inequality: Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, a social anthropologist who has written about migration, women in the labor force, race and ethnicity; Marta Tienda, an expert in immigration, race and ethnic stratification; Bruce Western, the author of several papers exploring the effects of incarceration; and Alejandro Portes, a noted scholar on immigration and urbanization in Latin America and the department chair.
“Kathy’s arrival clinches the deal we now have the strongest and most visible group of scholars in urban sociology, urban poverty, urban ethnography and international migration,” Portes said.
“We are on a roll, and in addition to the prestige and stature these people have, they are bringing a lot of synergies to the department,” he continued. “They talk to each other frequently, attend each others’ seminars and work together. In the areas that a department of this size covers, I think we’re very much at the top of the discipline.”