Alexes Harris

Associate Professor

I am a sociologist who uses a mixed-method approach to study institutional decision-making.  My research interests focus on social stratification processes and racial and ethnic disparities.  I investigate how contact with varying institutions (educational, juvenile and criminal justice and economic) impact individuals’ life chances.  Frequently, my work combines data types in order to illustrate both the macro context of the problem at hand, and at the same time investigate the micro processes leading to outcomes.  Using participant observation, interview, and statistical methods my work has investigated how institutional actors assess, label, and process individuals and groups, and how those processed respond.  My aim is to produce research that is theoretically informed and empirically rich, and research that is of value in local, state, and national policy arenas.

Teaching

I have taught undergraduate courses on race and ethnicity (soc 362), social problems (soc 270), juvenile justice (375), and special topics courses (soc 401 one on credit markets, one on criminal sentencing and currently prepping one on sports, higher education and race).  I also teach the graduate-level research methods course on qualitative research methods (soc 519 and 520) and have taught juvenile justice.

Current Research Projects:

A Pound of Flesh documents the contemporary relationship between the United States’ systems of social control and inequality.  Using a mixed-method approach (court observations, interviews with court actors and defendants, review of legal statute and cases, and statistical analysis of court automated data), I analyze the particular policies and mechanisms used within the criminal justice system to impose and monitor sanctions to poor people who do not pay their legal debts, and I examine the consequences of this process.   I explicitly outline how local community and court culture and financial constraints influence contemporary notions of who should be held accountable for their actions by the criminal justice system.  Put simply, monetary sanctions serve as a punishment tool that permanently penalize and marginalize the poor.

 “WIRED” – Women Investigating Race Ethnicity and Difference, is a co-edited volume that explores the roles and experiences of women of color on tenure-track at research universities.  Using the University of Washington as a case study, the chapters explore the challenges and strategies used by women of color from diverse backgrounds to challenge, reshape and engage our institution of higher education.   I am a co-editor of this book.