Gwendolyn Purifoye – Keough School


Race, place and the built environment; urban sociology; ethnographic methods, visual sociology.

At Keough School

Gwendolyn Purifoye is Assistant Professor of Racial Justice and Conflict Transformation at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. She is one of the key faculty members at Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Keough School faculty member Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights.


Research and publications

Purifoye’s research focuses on investigations of how material infrastructure, transportation systems, and spatiality shape the experiences of racially and class marginalized individuals and communities. As an urban ethnographer, Purifoye has spent several years conducting extensive fieldwork in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Newark, where she examines the lived experiences of black and brown people in public places and neighborhoods. In the fall of 2022, she was awarded a visiting professorship at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America to study how black people are experiencing the current redevelopment boom in Newark after enduring decades of widespread systemic racism and disinvestment.

Purifoye’s first book, Race in Motion: Public Transport and Restricted Mobile Spaces (under contract to NYU Press) uses ethnographic and archival data to examine how public transportation is used to support persistent inequalities and inequities that are racial, spatial, material, social, and embodied. This book presents research that shows that although some may think that public transport exemplifies racial progress in the United States – after all, black people no longer have to sit in the back of the bus – public transport continues to be a distinct and unequal experience.

Recent work

In the media


Before coming to Notre Dame, Purifoye was an associate professor at North Park University. She received her doctorate in sociology from Loyola University in Chicago. In addition to her academic research, Purifoye works directly with community organizations and regional planning agencies, including the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Regional Transportation Authority. She is currently a member of the advisory board of the City of Chicago’s United Nations Safe Cities Project, where she contributes her expertise as a member of the Gender-Based Violence Research Advisory Group.

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