Sharon Cornelissen

IMG_9979Sharon Cornelissen is a Postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology at Princeton University, her M.A. in Sociology at the New School for Social Research, and a B.A. in Liberal Arts at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Her research interests include urban sociology, social inequality, race and ethnicity, culture, sociological theory, and qualitative methods.

She is currently working on a book manuscript with as preliminary title Unequal Detroit: Hardship and Privilege in an American City. Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork while she lived and became a homeowner in Brightmoor, Detroit, she showed what happened when white newcomers moved next door to black and white Detroiters in this extremely depopulated, poor neighborhood.

Doing so, she offers new ways to think about place inequality. Urban scholars have usually emphasized inequalities between neighborhoods. However, neighborhoods have also always housed inequalities within. How could Brightmoor, a place of profound disadvantage, turn into a place to be for middle-class white newcomers? She helps answer this question by showing how historical and current inequalities shaped how residents experienced Brightmoor differently. She theorizes experienced places as underappreciated dimension of the unequal city.

This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and Princeton University’s Program in American Studies. It also received a Princeton Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship. Based on previous ethnographic research with dumpster divers (people who eat from the trash as a lifestyle choice), Sharon has published an article in Theory and Society.

Sharon is a first-generation college student, and is originally from Dongen, a town in the south of the Netherlands.

You can contact her at sharon_cornelissen [at]