Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
What research questions currently preoccupy you?
After the publication of my book Killer Fat in 2012 (Rutgers University Press) I applied for a sabbatical to begin a new project in which I use qualitative interviews to explore the relationship between fat children, fat parents, and healthcare providers. Much new research on the role of stigma in the medical encounter has emerged and as both a Fat Studies Scholar and a Medical Sociologist, this is of great interest to me. So far these interviews have yielded very interesting findings that vary quite a bit by the race and class position of the parents I talk to. I am currently writing up other research on "cultural brokers" in health care settings and will then move back to expanding and writing up my sabbatical research.
What personal factors contributed to your research?
Personal factors have contributed quite a bit to my choice of methods in particular. I really like to exchange ideas with people and hear their experiences in their words. I believe this is particularly important when studying marginalized populations.
What has been most challenging in your research?
The most challenging part of research for me is simply finding the time to do it with a heavy teaching schedule! I also find that as my research often challenges "common sense" knowledge about body size and health, that I encounter a lot of resistance when presenting my work. I enjoy the challenge however as it is this resistance that indicates to me that what I do is worth doing!
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
At SJSU I have found a community of scholars who appreciates my work. Though institutional support for research could always be better, my colleagues have been generous in their interest, collaboration, and support.
One book that changed your life (or research) & why:
Michel Foucault's book The History of Sexuality, Vol 1 truly shaped how I think about power, knowledge, and bodies. Foucault's work has influenced my work in countless ways but, reading this book as an undergraduate really made me think about the role of knowledge in the shaping of subjectivities through power relations.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
I love the publication Contexts and the website Sociological Images. Both put sociological research and insight in really accessible formats. I find myself using both as a frequent source of classroom material.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
I would tell newer faculty to not be perfectionists in either research or teaching. It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of both and lose sight of the bigger reasons we teach and engage professionally. I would also say not to be afraid of criticism. Early in my graduate school career my mentor told me that if people thought I couldn't take criticism then they would stop giving it to me, and that would negatively impact my work.
“Obesity in the media: social science weighs in” in Critical Public Health, 2013.
Edited special issue on “Fat Kids” in Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society, volume 5(2)