Associate Professor, Sociology
Inaugural Dr. Ralph E. Montonna Professor at the Maxwell School
Research Director on Activism and Advocacy, PARCC
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2009
Work and labor, urban poverty, law and punishment, housing and homelessness, precarity, social theory, ethnography, community-based action research
SOC 406 Sociological Theory & SOC 800: Urban Poverty
On Research Leave
Purser is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the
Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She
also serves as the Research Director on Activism and Advocacy at PARCC,
where she coordinates the Labor Studies working group. She received her Ph.D.
in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley and her B.A. in
Sociology from Smith College. Prior to joining the faculty at Syracuse, she was
a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of
Sociology at University of California at Davis. Purser has held fellowships at
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, MA and the School for
Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM.
Purser’s scholarship focuses broadly on
precarious work and the low-wage labor market as well as the reproduction and
lived experience of urban poverty in the U.S. She uses ethnographic and/or
community-based research methods to explore the changing nature of work and
workers’ movements, the housing struggles of the poor, and the ground-level
practices of neoliberal poverty management. Her work has been recognized with a
wide variety of publication awards, including the 2020 Publication Award from
the ASA Section on Public Sociology, the 2020 Distinguished Scholarly Article
Award from the ASA Section on Labor and Labor Movements, the 2018 Best
Scholarly Article Award from the ASA Section on Marxist Sociology, and the 2013
John Russo and Sherry Linkon Award for Best Published Article from the Working
Class Studies Association. She is a commissioning editor for the public
sociology blog Work In Progress and a member of the editorial boards for
Research in the Sociology of Work and the Journal for the
Anthropology of North America.
undergraduate and doctoral-level courses on sociological theory, urban poverty,
work and labor, and ethnographic research methods. She also teaches a course on
social movement organizing as part of the PARCC summer institute on creative
collaboration and conflict resolution. She is the recipient of numerous
teaching awards, including the Meredith Teaching Recognition Award (2013), the
Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and
Research (2016), and the Excellence in Graduate Education Award (2020). For
2020-2021, she is the inaugural recipient of the Dr. Ralph E. Montonna Endowed
Professorship for the Teaching and Education of Undergraduates.
deeply involved in community struggles for social and economic justice.
Since 2012, she has served as Chair of the Board of the Workers’ Center of Central New York. She is also
involved with the Syracuse Tenants Union.
Hamlin, Madeleine and Gretchen Purser.
2021. “A Program, Not the Projects: Reentry in the Post-Public Housing Era.” Journal
of Contemporary Ethnography [Online First: May 26, 2021].
Purser, Gretchen. 2021. “‘You put up with anything’: On the vulnerability and exploitability of formerly-incarcerated workers” in Labor and Punishment: Work In and Out of Prison, edited by Erin Hatton. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Hennigan, Brian and Gretchen Purser. 2021. “Both Sides of the Paycheck: Recommending
Thrift to the Poor in Job-Readiness Programs.” Critical Sociology 47(3): 389-406. [Online First: October 14, 2020]
Purser, Gretchen, Ortiz-Valdez, Fabiola, Sexsmith, Kathy. 2020. “Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers in New York State: Milking Research for Social Change” in Collaborating for Change: A Casebook of Participatory Action Research, edited by Susan Greenbaum, Glenn Jacobs, and Prentice Zinn. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Purser, Gretchen. 2019. “Day Labor Agencies, Backdoor Hires, and the Spread of Unfree Labor.” Anthropology of Work Review 40(1): 5-14.
★ Winner of the 2020 Distinguished Scholarly Article Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on Labor and Labor Movements
Purser, Gretchen and Brian Hennigan. 2018. “Disciples vs. Dreamers: Job-Readiness and the Making of the Working Class.” Dialectical Anthropology 42: 149-161. (Special issue on “The Making of the U.S. Working Class”).
Hennigan, Brian and Gretchen Purser. 2018. “Jobless and Godless: Religious Neoliberalism and the Project of Evangelizing Employability.” Ethnography 19(1): 84-104. [Online First: July 11, 2017]
Purser, Gretchen and Brian Hennigan. 2017. “Work as Unto the Lord: Enhancing Employability in an Evangelical Job Readiness Program.” Qualitative Sociology 40(1): 111-133 [Online First: December 29, 2016]
Purser, Gretchen. 2017. “Day Labor Agencies and the Logic and Landscape of Neoliberal Poverty Management” in The City is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age edited by Miriam Greenberg and Penny Lewis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Purser, Gretchen. 2016. “The Circle of Dispossession: Evicting the Urban Poor in Baltimore.” Critical Sociology 42(3): 393-415. [Online First: May 27, 2014]
★ Winner of the 2018 Best Scholarly Article Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on Marxist Sociology
★ Honorable Mention for the 2018 Best Scholarly Article Award, American Sociological Association’s Section on Human Rights
Purser, Gretchen. 2012. “The Labour of Liminality.” Labour, Capital & Society 45(1): 10-35.
★ Winner of the 2013 John Russo and Sherry Linkon Award for Best Published Article, Working Class Studies Association
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. 2009. “The Dignity of Job-Seeking Men: Boundary Work among Immigrant Day Laborers.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 38(1): 117-39.
Research Grants and Awards
Labor Studies Working Group