Peter Klein

Klein, PeterKlein, PeterPeter Taylor Klein

Contact Information:
Brown University
Department of Sociology
Box 1916
Providence, RI 02912
Phone: (401) 626-5802

Year of Entry: 2008

Curriculum Vitae

Previous Degrees:
Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science, Drew University, 2003 
Master of Arts in Sociology, Brown University, 2010

Areas of Interest:
Political Sociology, Environmental Sociology, Urban Sociology, Globalization and Development, Qualitative Methods, Inequality, Brazil, Natural Resource Management 

Affiliations at Brown:
Graduate Program in Development 
Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) Fellow
Environmental Change Initiative  

Affiliations at Brazilian Universities:
NEPO (Núcleo de Estudos de População) at UNICAMP (Universidade Estadual de Campinas)
UNESP (Universidade Estadual Paulista)
IPOL (Instituto de Ciência Política) at UnB (Universidade de Brasilia)  

Flooded with Meaning: Contested Development and Brazil's Belo Monte Dam

My existing research is fundamentally motivated by questions of how people, both individually and collectively, imagine better futures and work towards achieving those futures in the context of structural inequality, poverty, and other marginalizations. I pursue these interests through two geographically disparate research projects that advance a common set of theoretical principles.

First, my dissertation uses an ethnographic lens to examine local contestations around the construction of Brazil's Belo Monte dam. This energy project is touted as a sustainable development initiative being done in a responsible way, but it is also bringing rapid and significant social and environmental changes to the region, disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. In this context, I examine how and why different stakeholders use various modes of civic and political engagement to achieve their personal and institutional goals and reduce the negative impacts of the dam. I show how individuals and groups are enabled and constrained not just by poverty or particular structural conditions but also by how these factors intersect with the lived experiences and imaginations of the myriad actors involved in these conflicts and contestations.

In a second major research project that I developed with four colleagues from sociology, anthropology, and political science, I studied civic engagement in local governance. We carried out our innovative multi-sited collective ethnographic research for over a year, participating in events and meetings of seven civil society organizations in Providence, RI. Our book, out this fall from Paradigm Publishers, develops concepts such as "civic imagination" and "political disavowal" to explain, in the context of "democracy in a time of inequality," how residents think about politics and their city and what forms of civic engagement and organizing they pursue to better their communities.

I am also committed to my role as an educator and have pursued a range of teaching and mentorship experiences necessary to becoming a well-rounded academic. I have taught Global Studies at Providence College, graduate level qualitative methods in Brown's Department of Sociology, and Spatial Demography at the University of Campinas in Brazil. 


  • Baiocchi, Gianpaolo, Elizabeth A. Bennett, Alissa Cordner, Peter Taylor Klein, Stephanie Savell. 2014. "The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life." Paradigm Publishers.
  • Klein, Peter Taylor. Forthcoming. "Accessing Scarce Resources in the Brazilian Amazon: Voluntary Associations and Secure Land Title." Latin American Research Review.
  • Elizabeth A. Bennett, Alissa Cordner, Peter Taylor Klein, Stephanie Savell, Gianpaolo Baiocchi. Forthcoming 2013. "Disavowing Politics: Civic Engagement in an Era of Political Skepticism." American Journal of Sociology.
  • Cordner, Alissa, Peter T. Klein, Gianpaolo Baiocchi. 2012. "Co-Designing and Co-Teaching Graduate Qualitative Methods: An Innovative Ethnographic Workshop Model." Teaching Sociology 40(3), 215-226.