Research

penI consider myself an urban and environmental sociologist that is heavily influenced by cultural studies. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the intersection between built and natural environments. My current research revolves around three major areas. The first area is the role of natural disaster in shaping the built environment. In particular, I have been looking at the role of wildfire in shaping architecture and real estate development. In an article in Critical Sociology, I examine Shelter-in-Place strategies that supposedly mitigate wildfire risk in Southern California. In this article, I argue that there has been a trend toward passive fire protection (such as the use of architectural restrictions and building code enforcement) which has operated in tandem with a neoliberal shift away from funding “active” fire suppression. With Utku Balaban (Ankara University), we have co-authored an article in Environment and Planning A. This article looks at institutional factors in urban development that exacerbate wildfire risk, yet benefit growth in real estate. In this article, we argue that wildfire shapes local rent-seeking behavior in fire-prone ecologies. This work was expanded on in a book chapter on wildfire as blowback for bad planning and environmental policy. I have since moved on to other types of disaster. I have an article in Environmental Sociology that examines the relationship between natural disaster, cities and capitalism. Specifically, I suggest disasters allow for circuit shifting in the absence of broader systemic (economic) crises.

The second area that I am working on is the idea of urban metabolisms. I have a paper published in Urban Studies that examines the growth of the logistics industry in Turkey, and its role in the privatization in metropolitan waste management. In this paper, I also look at how the current government’s neoliberal domestic policy and expansionist economic policy has also allowed for Turkish logistics firms to export services to countries such as Pakistan. Currently, I am working on a manuscript that offers a historical and environmental component to the story of deindustrialization in the American Northeast. In this piece, I argue that the shift from coal to oil as the world’s primary energy source in the early 20th century dramatically changed the way in which mid-tier cities (such as those in Pennsylvania) fit into the national (and global) hierarchy of cities.

My third major area of interest deals with the landscape of the “Global Mediterranean” – how globalization has spread a particular understanding of the “Mediterranean” around the world. Specifically, I am interested in how this Mediterranean ideal is commodified and reproduced via the built environments around the world (such as Africa and the Middle East). This project originates from my dissertation, Landscapes of Spanish-Colonial Revival: Visual Culture and Urban Development in Southern California at SUNY Binghamton (which is being reshaped into a book manuscript). In my dissertation, I examined the historical and political implications of Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture becoming a part of Southern California’s ‘heritage’ and vernacular landscape. In an article in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Martin J. Murray (University of Michigan) and I discuss the “fantasyscapes” of South Africa’s casino resorts. In this paper, we looked at the use of “Italian” themes in these hotels. Using this as a jumping off point, my summer 2013 fieldwork in Istanbul looked at a gated community.

Past Work: Built Environment & Visual Culture

Previously, my work looked at built environment and visual culture. I have examined contemporary and historical tensions regarding Islamic and Near Eastern themes and motifs in California architecture amidst rampant Islamophobia in an article published in Cities.  In an article published in Home Cultures, I deal with the way Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture is shaped by history, ideology, and the local political-economy. Specifically, I argue that California’s contemporary landscape was constructed and legitimized by negotiating the paranoia of the “Other,” the fear of decay and creating a sense of security in architecture. In addition to my work on California, my work on the built environment and visual culture includes an article w/ Martin J. Murray on carjacking and urban fear in South African film published in African Identities. Also, I have an article published in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics on race and Spider-Man.