Skip to Main Content
Maxwell School
Maxwell / Faculty Listing

Gretchen Purser

Assistant Professor, Sociology

Gretchen Pursar

Contact Information

400H Eggers Hall
(315) 443-5848


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2009


Sociology of Work and labor, Urban Sociology, Poverty and Inequality, Law and Punishment, Housing and Homelesness, Social Theory, Ethnography


Fall 2016:

SOC 300    Urban Poverty                                                            T/Th     12:30-1:50

SOC 406    Sociological Theory                                                  T/Th     11:00-12:20


I am an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University. I received my Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Berkeley and my B.A. in Sociology from Smith College. Prior to joining the faculty at Syracuse, I was a Univeristy of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at UC-Davis. My research focuses upon precarious work and the low-wage labor market, the reproduction and lived experience of urban poverty, and the politics of punishment in the U.S. I am the recipient of numerous campus-wide teaching awards. I am currently on leave as a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, MA, where I am completing a book entitled Labor On Demand: Dispatching the Urban Poor.
I am deeply involved in the community and my activism both informs, and is informed by, my research. I am the co-chair of the Board of the Workers’ Center of Central New York and involved in the formation of the Upstate Workers Center Alliance. I am also on the board of the Center for Community Alternatives and serve as a member of the steering committee for the “Ban the Box” campaign in Syracuse.



Purser, Gretchen. Forthcoming. "The Circle of Dispossession: Evicting the Urban Poor in Baltimore." Critical Sociology.

Purser, Gretchen. Forthcoming. Review of Conflicting Commitments: The Politics of Enforcing Immigrant Workers’ Rights in San Jose and Houston by Shannon Gleeson (ILR Press, 2013) in Contemporary Sociology.

Purser, Gretchen. Forthcoming. “Precarious Work” [Review Essay on The Temp Economy by Erin Hatton, Intern Nation by Ross Perlin and The Precariat by Guy Standing] Contexts.

Purser, Gretchen. 2013. “Day Labor.” Sociology of Work Encyclopedia, ed. Vicki Smith. Sage Publications.

Purser, Gretchen. 2012. “The Labour of Liminality.” Labour, Capital & Society 45 (1): 10-35.

Purser, Gretchen. 2012. Review of Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America by Katherine Beckett and Steve Herbert (Oxford University Press, 2010) in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36(3): 631-633.

Purser, Gretchen and Daisy Rooks, eds. 2012. Special Issue on “Labor and the Political Economy of Punishment.” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society 15: 323-325.

Purser, Gretchen. 2012. “‘Still Doin’ Time:’ Clamoring for Work in the Day Labor Industry.” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society 15: 397-415.

Purser, Gretchen and Vincent Lloyd. 2011. “A Crisis of Deepening Inequality.” The Syracuse Post-Standard (November 7).

Purser, Gretchen. 2010. Review of Bourdieu in Algeria: Colonial Politics, Ethnographic Practices, Theoretical Developments edited by Jane E. Goodman and Paul Silverstein (University of Nebraska Press, 2009) in H-France Review 10(77): 351-355. [Reprinted by Monthly Review:].

Purser, Gretchen. 2010. Review of Coal Mountain Elementary by Mark Nowak (Coffee House Press, 2009) in Labor Studies Journal 35: 275-276.

Purser, Gretchen. 2010. Review of Transnational Tortillas: Race, Gender & Shop-Floor Politics in Mexico and the United States by Carolina Bank-Muñoz (ILR Press, 2008) in Contemporary Sociology 39(2): 144-145.

Purser, Gretchen. 2009. “The Dignity of Job-Seeking Men: Boundary Work among Immigrant Day Laborers.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 38(1): 117-39.

Purser, Gretchen. 2006. “‘Que du sale boulot:’ risques et accidents corporels chez les travailleurs journaliers aux États-Unis” [‘Nothing But Hard Ass Labor:’ Risk and Injury among Day Laborers in the US]. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 165 (November): 52-70.

Purser, Gretchen. 2006. “Waiting for Work: An Ethnography of a Day Labor Agency,” Institute for the Study of Social Change, ISSC Fellows Working Papers, eRepository, California Digital Library.

Purser, Gretchen, Amy Schalet and Ofer Sharone. 2004. “Public Sociology—Sociology Translates to Public Action: Wages and Working Conditions at Berkeley.” ASA Footnotes. December.

Purser, Gretchen, Amy Schalet and Ofer Sharone. 2004. Berkeley’s Betrayal: Wages and Working Conditions at UC Berkeley. Berkeley: University Research Labor Project. [with foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich] [Excerpted in: Anthony Giddens, Mitchell Duneier and Richard P. Appelbaum (eds). Introduction to Sociology (5th edition). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (2005)].

Research Grants and Awards

2014    Sociological Initiatives Foundation grant (for community-based research project with the
            Worker"s Center of Central New York, the Worker Justice Center of New York,
            Kathleen Sexsmith and Fabiola Ortiz-Valdez)

2013-14 Visiting Scholar, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, MA)

2013 Meredith Teaching Recognition Award, Syracuse University

2013 Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar, School for Advanced Research
         (Santa Fe, NM)

2012 Sydney S. Spivack Program in Applied Social Research and Social Policy Community
         Action Research Award, American Sociological Association

2012 Early Career Research Grant, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

2012 PARCC Mini-Grant, Maxwell School of Syracuse University

2012 Appleby-Mosher Research Grant, Maxwell School of Syracuse University

2011 Appleby-Mosher Research Grant, Maxwell School of Syracuse University

2010 ISA Travel Grant, American Sociological Association supported by NSF
         Grant SES-0852624

2009-10 President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, UC Office of the President

2008-9 Herbert Blumer Fellowship, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley

2008-9 Leo Lowenthal Fellowship, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley [declined]

2008 Herbert Blumer Award for Excellence in Teaching, UC Berkeley

2007-8 Labor & Employment Research Fund, Dissertation Fellowship, UC
            Office of the President

2006 Center for Race and Gender, Graduate Research Grant, UC Berkeley

2005-7 Institute for the Study of Social Change, Graduate Fellow, UC Berkeley

2002-9 Center for Urban Ethnography, Graduate Fellow, UC Berkeley

2003 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley

2003 Teaching Effectiveness Award, UC Berkeley

2001-5 Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship, U.S. Department of Education

2001-2 Institute for Labor & Employment, Pre-Dissertation Fellowship, UC
            Office of the President

2000-1 Wahrsager Scholarship, Department of Sociology, Smith College

1998-9 Janet Neville Award, Junior-Year-Abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, Smith College

Recent Invited Lectures

2013   “Broke and Brokered in the Day Labor Business.” School for Advanced Research (July)

2013   “They Work You for Them: Dispatches from the Day Labor Hall.” Department of
             Sociology, Loyola Univeristy Chicago (January)

2012   “Clamoring for Work: From the ‘Shape-Up’ to the ‘Body Shop.” Department of
             Sociology Colloquium, University of Massachusetts at Amherst (April)

2011   “Labor On Demand: Dispatching the Urban Poor.” ILR School of Cornell
             University (November)

2011   “Labor On Demand: Dispatching the Urban Poor.” Department of Sociology
             at SUNY-Binghamton (November)

2011   “Eviction Resistance and the Black Radical Tradition.” Department of
             African-American Studies, University of Montana at Missoula (November)

2011   “Still Doin’ Time: Formerly-Incarcerated Workers in the U.S. Labor
             Market.” Department of Sociology, University of Montana
             at Missoula (November)

2011   “Clamoring for Work: From the ‘Shape-Up’ to the ‘Body Shop.’” Department of
             Sociology Colloquium, Johns Hopkins University (October)

2011   “Clamoring for Work: From the ‘Shape-Up’ to the ‘Body Shop.’” Department of
             Sociology Colloquium, University of California at Santa Cruz (January)

2011   “Drumming Up Bodies: Opportunity for Outcasts.” Poverty and Marginality in the
             Americas: an Ethnography Workshop, organized by Javier Auyero, Department of
             Sociology, University of Texas at Austin (April)

2011   “The Spectre and Spectacle of Eviction: Rethinking America’s Housing
             Crisis.” Whose City? Labor and the Right to the City Movements, a conference 
             co-sponsored by the Center for Labor Studies and the Urban Studies Research
             Cluster, University of California at Santa Cruz (February)

2010   “Labor On Demand: A Comparative View of Economic Marginality.” The College
             of Liberal Arts, Washington State University (March)

2009   “Rotten Bodies, Enslaved Bodies: Precarious Footing in the Just-in-Time Labor Pool.” 
             Department of Sociology Colloquium, Oberlin College (October)

SU Affiliations