Research Interests: Class, race, education, the transition to adulthood, gun violence
Tom Wooten is a PhD student in sociology. He studies the transition to adulthood for ambitious young people at opposite ends of the opportunity spectrum in the United States. He is particularly interested in the work young adults do to try to secure life opportunities for themselves. By studying the experiences of students on the cusp of adulthood, he discovers previously unidentified ways America’s staggeringly immobile and unequal class structure reproduces itself.
Tom’s dissertation project is about the transition to college for low-income Black men in New Orleans. It is based on two years of full-time ethnographic research with eight young men. Tom’s other project about class attainment and the transition to adulthood examines extracurricular life at Harvard College, showing how students use college-sponsored outside-of-class activities to construct desirable, marketable, seemingly “authentic” selves.
In another line of research that grew out of his ethnographic work in New Orleans, Tom studies the social causes and social consequences of long-running gun conflicts.
Before entering graduate school, Tom wrote two historical books about disasters. His first book, co-written with Utpal Sandesara, is called No One Had a Tongue to Speak (Prometheus 2011). It is a narrative history of the 1979 Machhu Dam Disaster in Gujarat State, India. His second book, We Shall Not Be Moved: Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina (Beacon 2012), describes five resident-led neighborhood recovery efforts in New Orleans.
A.B., Social Studies, Harvard University