Matthew H. McLeskey
Matthew H. McLeskey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at University at Buffalo, SUNY and Advanced Dissertation Fellow at Buffalo’s Humanities Institute. His dissertation, “Life in a Leaded Landscape: Understanding Housing, Stigma, and Struggle in the Rust Belt,” focuses on how lead poisoning as an environmental risk contributes to housing inequality. Funded by Buffalo’s Mark Diamond Research Fund, his research uses Buffalo, NY as a case of urban decline and compares tenants’ and landlords’ experiences with housing posing threat of lead exposure to understand how regulatory structures, financial constraints, housing needs, and health concerns converge to contribute to the reproduction of urban poverty. His dissertation also documents the cultural processes defining threats of lead exposure for tenants and landlords in disinvested communities to understand how this urban epidemic contributes to place-based-stigmatization processes. This project engages with the agency of stigmatized subjects in relegated neighborhoods to addresses a social problem at the nexus of social theory, urban theory, and public policy: material and cultural factors intertwine to produce unexplored forms of urban marginality.
“Making the Master Race: Germany, Japan and the Rise and Fall of Racial States,” asked how the ascent of an authoritarian and racist government alters large-scale institutions, such as immigration regimes and the welfare state. The project makes sense of a central paradox inherent in 19th and 20th century German and Japanese ethno-racial classification and naturalization practices: That both countries’ openness towards naturalization under authoritarian rule would go hand in hand with the rendering stateless and murder of millions of persons. Drawing on a diverse set of multilingual archival records, I trace the emergence of racialized meaning under different institutional and organizational contexts, and the role of bureaucrats in retrofitting racial scientific knowledge fields in a context of global empire. These findings challenge existing sociological understandings of citizenship and my book manuscript, “Un/Wanted: Race, Sovereignty, and the Governance of Expendable Populations” integrates these into a global political theory of citizenship. Moving forward, I am extending my work on comparative classification practices to the history of racializing technologies in “Racial Vision: Somatic Projects of Human Difference.”
My dissertation explores the borders and transformation of knowledge across social fields by examining the historical case study of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As its archival data reveals, the organization sits at the crossroads of humanitarianism, development, and human rights. From a differentiation perspective, these should be all distinct. In reality, however, they merge to some extent. By introducing concepts from world polity theory, I demonstrate how the ‘logic of practice’ travels across field boundaries. Therefore, my intellectual endeavor is twofold: paying attention to the oft-ignored topic of cross-field exchange, and bringing field theory and world polity theory into a dialogue. Alongside this, I participate in several collaborative projects. The first explores the usability of local women’s rights indicators for the early prediction of armed conflicts. The second investigates local variations in the diffusion of global norms. The third follows a different path, focusing on student attrition in higher education – the existential dropouts (published), the case of affirmative action (R&R), and dropout at the master’s level (R&R).
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