Carolyn Chernoff

Dissertation Title: 
“Experiencing Diverse Cities: Community Based Arts, Social Interaction, and Progressive Politics.”
Faculty Advisors: 
Stanton E. F. Wortham, Charles L. Bosk, Randall Collins, and Kathy Hall
Research Interests: 

I am an ABD joint PhD candidate in Sociology and the Graduate School of Education (Education, Culture, and Society) at the University of Pennsylvania, and a 2012-2013 Penn Center for Teaching and Learning Graduate Fellow for Teaching Excellence. I expect to complete my degree in May 2013.

I am broadly interested in cities, arts, and social change, particularly on the level of social interaction and the production of "community".

My dissertation, “Experiencing Diverse Cities: Community Based Arts, Social Interaction, and Progressive Politics ,” is based on ethnographic research conducted over a period of 8 years at three different community-arts organizations in a major Mid-Atlantic city. Recent scholarship and public policy ask arts to drive economic growth for urban revitalization; this perspective takes positive social interaction as a given within the larger project of arts-based urban economic development. However, the social life of community-based art and related democratic practices provide another lens to explore the role of arts and arts organizations within the contemporary city. Within the fractured context of American cities (racial and ideological segregation), community-based arts provide a testing ground for social interaction across demographic difference (race, class, geography), a place where “culture builds community” (Stern & Siefert, 2002), albeit not unproblematically. This dissertation explores democratic practices around diversity within urban community-based arts organizations devoted to progressive social change.

At Penn, I have taught a graduate-level School and Society class for the past 5 years to Master’s candidates and to Teach for America corps members. I am also a longtime TA in the Graduate School of Education’s Ethnographic Methods course. I have taught sociology, education, and community-based arts courses to undergrads at Ursinus College and Moore College of Art and Design. Outside of higher education, I am a longtime community-based educator, having worked with K-12 students and adults in museum settings, violence prevention nonprofits, and a variety of arts organizations, including The Girls’ DJ Collective, of which I am co-founder.

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