I 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 two major areas. The first area is the role of disaster in shaping the built environment. My book Risky Cities: The Physical and Fiscal Nature of Disaster Capitalism looks at how cities deal with different types of risks. The book builds on my past work on wildfire. 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 architectural restrictions and building code enforcement), which has operated in tandem with a neoliberal shift away from funding “active” fire suppression. With Utku Balaban, we have 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. I have since moved on to other types of disasters. I have an article in Environmental Sociology that examines the relationship between natural disasters, cities, and capitalism. Specifically, I suggest disasters allow for circuit shifting between systemic (economic) crises.
This body of work also brings in the role of urban metabolisms. An article in Urban Studies examines the growth of the logistics industry in Turkey and its role in the privatization of metropolitan waste management. Specifically, I discuss how the AKP government’s neoliberal domestic and expansionist economic policies have allowed Turkish logistics firms to export services to countries such as Pakistan. Additionally, Utku Balaban and I have published on global flows of incinerator ash in the Journal of World-Systems Research.
Another area of interest deals with the built environment and the landscape of the “Global Mediterranean” – how globalization has spread a particular understanding of the “Mediterranean” worldwide. This project originates from my dissertation, Landscapes of Spanish-Colonial Revival: Visual Culture and Urban Development in Southern California at SUNY Binghamton. 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 and how it became known as “Mediterranean.” Specifically, I am interested in how this Mediterranean ideal is created, commodified, and reproduced via the built environments worldwide (such as Africa and the Middle East). I discuss how history, ideology, and the local political economy shape architecture in an article published in Home Cultures. At the same time, 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. 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. An additional article in Sociological Inquiry asks, “Can buildings be racist?” Looking overseas, 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. This paper examined the use of “Italian” themes in these hotels. Using this as a jumping-off point, my article in City and Community looks at a gated community in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the proliferation of Mediterranean-style gated communities worldwide.
Other Work: Visual Culture
My work on visual culture includes articles w/ Martin J. Murray on South African film published in African Identities and Black Camera. Also, I have an article published in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics on race and Spider-Man.