Dana Kornberg, PhD

About Me


I’m an urban ethnographer and qualitative sociologist ​working on issues of environmental and economic justice in ​India and the United States. Currently, I’m an Assistant​ Professor of Sociology at UC-Santa Barbara and a 2023-24​ ACLS Fellow. My research addresses environmental and​ economic institutions - waste collection and recycling​ systems, water utilities, and local businesses - to reveal​ processes through which global capital, colonial and state​ power, and racial/caste oppression are consolidated and​ resisted across urban contexts. I maintain a deep​ commitment to practicing sociology as a means of social​ transformation, and my goal as an instructor is to empower​ students with analyses that allow them to act in the face of​ multiple forms of injustice. My current book project The​ Garbage Economy: Caste Capitalism and the Persistence of​ Informal Recycling in Delhi is under contract with Oxford​ University Press.​

Lined Wireframe Portrait Frame


Under regimes of (post)colonial racial capitalism, what are the logics and ​institutions that distribute ecological resources and harms to create extreme ​patterns of urban segregation globally? Where are the spaces for alternative ​visions and positions to be asserted within or against them?

My ethnographic and qualitative research focuses on urban regions in the ​United States and India and has included infrastructures for waste collection & ​recycling and water utilities. I seek to reveal how social groups come to be ​differently valued and afforded resources through historically specific ​classifications - especially based on colonization, race, and caste. These allow ​me to identify not only ostensibly complete forms of domination or explicit ​forms of resistance, but also quieter logics and practices of resistance that ​persist within, alongside, and against them. I work independently and ​collaboratively and have experience working with community advocates.

Driving my interests is a deeply held conviction that contemporary capitalism ​leaves too little space for creating healthy, liberated individuals and ​communities. Instead, insatiable greed and the imperative of accumulation ​promotes forms of valuation that not only extract “resources,” but untether ​relations, pollute the planet, and stifle creative expression and forms of ​knowledge. How might better understanding the antagonistic dynamics that ​perpetuate this oppression allow us to nourish the healthier, more liberated ​practices that exist already?

Teaching & Mentoring

I take an integrative approach teaching and mentoring that meets students ​where they are, treats them as whole people, and works to bridge forms of ​knowledge across and beyond academic disciplines. My goal is to equip ​students with the skills and confidence to navigate an increasingly uncertain ​future.

As an instructor, I have three primary goals: to create an inclusive classroom ​that promotes cross-cultural competence, to develop critical thinking ​capacities, and to advance individual learning trajectories. Students find my ​classroom to be a welcoming place to express ideas and ask questions, and I ​model and facilitate respectful, generous dialogue.

I love to teach. The space of the university was foundational to my own ​intellectual and political awakening, and I aim to similarly empower students to ​understand their own social positions and to support them as they pursue ​their own callings.

Course Offerings

Courses Taught

Lower-level Undergraduate

  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Learning and Academic Success (summer bridge course)

Upper-level Undergraduate

  • Urban Sociology
  • The Sociology of Garbage
  • The Global City​

Graduate Seminars

  • Global Urban Ethnography
  • The Sociology of Economic Life

Teaching Interests


  • Urban Climate Change & Sustainability
  • Sociological Theory
  • South Asian Society


  • Environmental Justice
  • Logics of Methods
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Graduate Professionalization & Writing
  • Global Approaches to Racial Capitalism

read my work

Transactional Pathways: Status and ​Wealth Distribution under Racial/Caste ​Capitalism (forthcoming)

Current Sociology special issue “Brokering ​Novel Concepts into Economic Sociology,” ​Forthcoming

Oxford Bibliographies (Urban Studies), 2024

  • Co-authored with Mo Torres

University of Michigan Poverty Solutions Policy ​Brief, 2023

Social Forces, 2020

Economic & Political Weekly, Review of Urban ​Affairs, 2019

Local Environment, 2019

Critical Sociology, 2018

  • Co-authored with Amy Krings & Erin Lane
  • See our related policy brief here

International Journal of Urban & Regional ​Research (IJURR), 2016

  • Winner of the IJURR Annual Best Article ​Prize

contact me

Dana Kornberg


View my CV here

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