STEM Shoutout: Dr. Ranita Ray

First Maxine Baca-Zinn Endowed Professor joins Sociology Department


Dr. Ranita Ray, an associate professor and the inaugural Maxine Baca-Zinn Endowed Professor of Sociology recently joined UNM’s Department of Sociology effective August 1, 2021. 


“I am a radical feminist sociologist. I primarily rely on ethnographic methods and am beginning to learn historical methods for my current project all while trying to mitigate ethnography’s fundamentally colonial and anti-Black nature to write about schooling and labor systems and their connection to racial and gender violence, white supremacy, and racial capitalism,” Ray said. “Specifically, I focus on its impact on children and youth.”


The Maxine Baca-Zinn Endowed Professorship was donated with the intent of supporting a faculty member specializing in social inequality, with an emphasis on gender, race, and/or class at the Associate or Full Professor level.


Additionally, Ray said the professorship provides a generous fund to support her research and research related activities. 


“I’m interested in learning and writing about how racially and economically oppressed children and youth navigate schooling and labor systems, and how racial and gender violence, racial capitalism, and academic and public discourses impact them,” she said.


Currently, Ray is working on a book and several articles drawing on a project that is a radical feminist ethnography of schooling. 


“This project, supported by NAEd/Spencer Foundation as well as Racial Democracy Crime and Justice Network, is based on four years of ethnography within a range of educational institutions in a large metropolitical school district in southwestern US including one elementary and one middle school, non-profit organization, a peer trial court, the public university and academy writ large, as well as various school-district-related events.”


Inside the schools, she said she followed a cohort of 80 students from 4th through 6th grade. 


“I interlace this with interviews with teachers and administrators, archival research, as well as my own experiences with violent schooling in a British Catholic Boarding school in India. Building on the legacy and history of Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, working-class, feminist, and Third-World radical critiques of schools, and drawing on my observations, I theorize contemporary schools in the US within a broader global legacy of schools are sites where institutional violence is enacted,” Ray said. 


Her last book, The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City published by University of California Press in 2018, challenges commonly held wisdom that targeting “risk behaviors”–such as drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood–in marginalized communities will break the cycle of racialized poverty in the US. 


The book won the Pacific Sociological Distinguished Scholarship Award in 2020 and the C. Wright Mills Award in 2018 among others. 


With regards to UNM, Ray said she is “most looking forward to building, and becoming part of, radical communities with students and other faculty.”