After several years of political/educational work in Central America in the 1980s, I sought deeper intellectual formation and was attracted to Berkeley by the work of faculty members Bellah, Swidler, and Burawoy. Theoretical training under these three, along with more empirical studies with Cole, Voss, Evans, Hout, and Fischer, gradually focused my interests on the cultural and institutional bases of democracy. Meanwhile, my political praxis and faith commitments drew my empirical attention to grassroots forms of democratic engagement. My dissertation involved a comparative analysis of the internal cultural dynamics of faith-based and race-based forms of community organizing in multiracial organizations in the U.S., and was ultimately published as Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America (University of Chicago, 2002).
Berkeley shaped me as an analytic ethnographer and as a public intellectual. I strive to use a theoretically-driven version of participatory action research to understand, explain, and help re-shape the social world. I chose to become a faculty member at the University of New Mexico, a leading minority-serving doctoral institution and the premier research university in the poorest state of the U.S. I teach graduate and some undergraduate courses there, and have published steadily but not voluminously. In teaching and research, I strive to contribute to both disciplinary progress and "public sociology" -- the latter through dialogue with institutional leaders in foundations, political organizations, policing, and religious denominations.
My core intellectual interests remain the cultural and institutional underpinnings of democracy. Following an excursion into studying urban policing and its relationship to the democratic process (publications soon to emerge), I am now launching a new project to analyze the symbiotic and parasitic outcomes when political movements forge links to faith communities.