Profile: Melissa M. Valle

Assistant Professor

Department of African American and African Studies, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D.

Race and ethnicity; urban & spatial sociology; economic sociology; African diaspora (with a focus on Latin America); ethnographic and visual methods; cultural sociology; social movements; sexual labor

I am currently an Assistant Professor in both the Department of African American and African Studies and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Rutgers University-Newark.

My current book project is an ethnography exploring how people determine who is worthy of occupying contested space in a gentrifying neighborhood in Cartagena, Colombia. I demonstrate how race, ethnicity, gender and class are encoded in the value of urban spaces through analyses of micro-level meaning-making practices and structures. I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student award to Colombia to conduct my ethnographic fieldwork.

I have also completed research on Afro-descendants living in Santiago, Chile, exploring the mechanisms that lead to reduced life chances for marginalized groups and how such groups negotiate stigma perspectives that suggest their identities have been devalued.

My broad research interests include: race and ethnicity, urban and spatial sociology, the sociology of value and evaluation, the African diaspora (with a focus on Latin America), ethnographic and visual methods, cultural sociology, social movements, and sexual labor.

Prior to completing my Ph.D., I spent ten years working with youth in various capacities, most recently as a New York City Teaching Fellow on the Lower East Side. I have also worked in the field of public policy and community development in Harlem. I have served on the board of the afrolatin@ forum since 2010.

I believe in the healing power of laughter, that Beyoncé is a global treasure, that I should’ve been in the Guinness Book of World Records for my childhood keychain collection, and that without justice there can be no peace. 

I hold a Ph.D., MA, and MPhil in Sociology from Columbia University, an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from New York University, an MST in Childhood Generalist/Special Education from Pace University, and dual BAs in Economics and Afro-American Studies from Howard University.