Sharon Cornelissen

Sharon 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.

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She is an urban ethnographer who studies the role of racial inequality, home-ownership, and culture in urban distress and gentrification in the United States.

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

She is working on a book with as preliminary title Cutting the Tall Grass: Hardship and Privilege in a City after Depopulation. 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 one of America’s most depopulated urban neighborhoods.

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. She published an article based on this ethnography, entitled “National Politics, Neighborly Politics: How Trump’s Election Impacted a Black and White Detroit Community,” in Sociological Forum. Based on previous ethnographic research with dumpster divers (people who eat from the trash as a lifestyle choice), Sharon has also published an article in Theory and Society.

As a Postdoctoral fellow, she has started a new ethnographic project studying first-time homeownership and community changes in Brockton, Massachusetts: a post-industrial city south of Boston that has seen a recent influx of especially black homebuyers, many of whom used to rent in gentrifying Southern Boston. She received a Research Partnership grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support this research.

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] harvard.edu

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