What Gwendolyn Purifoye is Thinking About Now

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America

A core component of CSREA’s mission is supporting faculty and advanced students in the development of cutting-edge, collaborative intellectual work. The “What I Am Thinking About Now” series provides a collegial, productive workshop space for faculty and graduate students to present and discuss recently published work and work in progress. Scholars test ideas and receive feedback from a diverse and supportive group of scholars on Mondays throughout the semester.


Transit Boundaries: Race and the Paradox of Immobility Within Mobile Systems

Gwendolyn Purifoye, CSREA Visiting Faculty Fellow

Transportation racism impedes the time, movement, safety, and mobile liberties of residents in Black and Latinx communities, while also saddling them with differentiated experiences and accessibility to jobs, education, leisure and the urban financial core(s). Drawing on six years of ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago, Dr. Purifoye will discuss how public transit is used to create and support growth along race (and class) lines. Specifically, she will discuss how mobility and growth for Whites and predominantly White spaces in the city are actively supported while in predominantly Black and Latinx spaces, where intracommunity public transportation usage is high, new transit related development is below sparse or completely lacking.

Dr. Gwendolyn Purifoye is currently a Visiting Faculty Fellow at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. She received her PhD in sociology from Loyola University Chicago. She is an urban sociologist who specializes in ethnographic studies of social, spatial, and material experiences in public places, especially on and around public transportation. At the heart of her work is understanding how the human dignity of racial minorities is undermined, and how it is regained and reimagined by the communities themselves. Her work has been published in various volumes and journals including Du Bois Review, City & Community, and Mobilities. Her current book project, Race in Motion: Public Transportation and Restricted Mobile Spaces, uses ethnographic and archival data to examine how public transportation is used to support persistent inequalities and inequities that are raced, spatial, material, social, and embodied.