Junia Howell

Photograph courtesy of Nora Howell.

 

I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. I received my PhD at Rice University where I specialized in Urban Sociology and Race and Ethnicity. Yet, my journey into the study of social structures began long before I became an academic.

From a young age, I was exposed to both the possibilities and perils of urban life. My White college-educated parents were community development workers who initially raised my siblings and me in a lower working class racially diverse neighborhood.

Attending public schools and playing with my neighborhood friends exposed me to the multifaceted implications of urban poverty. At the same time, my parents’ connections to philanthropists and politicians provided me a window into the possibilities and wealth that existed within the city. These personal connections with individuals of comparable intelligence and work ethic on both sides of the socioeconomic spectrum helped me to realize structural conditions were a large determinant in life outcomes.

Additionally, my travels around the world helped me to see these structural conditions were not inevitable. Thus, my empirical research and visual sociology attempts to illuminate these structural conditions constraining opportunities in hopes of inspiring urban policy interventions that can foster opportunities among all city residents.

See below for more about my travels and the visual sociology displayed throughout my webpage.

 

 

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words But...

A few words can make it worth even more. Below are the pictures from throughout my website. Taken on my various research projects and travels, the short synopses below share the stories behind the shots.

Junia Howell
 

Athens, Greece. 2010. Nested in the valley just north of the Acropolis, this neighborhood was flooded with new hotels and tourist attractions for the 2004 summer Olympics. However, shortly after the Olympics the 2008 Stark Market crash sent this community and many others like it into economic distress. As dusk approached in this neighborhood, it was not uncommon to see individuals shooting up on the sidewalk or turning tricks for a quick buck. The economic depravity of the local residents stood in stark contrast to the mark left by the Global Economy. With its rich history and bustling contemporary population, this community is a living reminder of the power, creativity and beauty of the city as well as its many challenges.

 
Junia Howell
 

New York City. 2016. Standing on top the now renowned High Line (the park built on the old raised railroad tracks in lower west Manhattan through Chelsea) one is constantly surrounding by both the historical red brick factories and apartment buildings and newly constructed skyscrapers. A walk through this park, is a reminder of how a city must continually ask the question: How can we be a home for all our residents?

 
 

Rome, Italy. 2014. A city layered upon its own history, Rome is a reminder of how cities lie at the dynamic intersection of past and present societies. These apartments nestled between some of the most renowned ancient agricultural ruins in the world are testament to the challenges faced by cities trying to adapt for contemporary populations while respecting and remembering those who have come before.

 
Junia Howell
 

Houston, Texas. 2012. While only a mere three miles from downtown Houston, this community park within the Third Ward is testament to how far away one can be socioeconomically from a place that is physically so close.

 
Junia Howell
 

Houston, Texas. 2012. Directly across the street from Rice University, Texas Medical Center is one of the largest medical centers in the world with 54 medical institutions including 21 hospitals and 4 medical schools. While its tall buildings and public transit are reminiscent of a dense downtown, it sits five miles from downtown and is primarily surrounding by residential neighborhoods. In fact, it is only one of Houston's seven business districts which together shape the commerce and city life of the decentralized metropolitan area.

 
Junia Howell
 

Venice, Italy. 2014. Venice's winding waterways lined with shops, houses and hotels are undeniably picturesque. A city like no other, Venice has captured the imagination of generations. Nevertheless, the reality of its denying economic prosperity and its vanishing middle class beckons the question of how cities can maintain vitality and their cherished history.

 
Junia Howell
 

New York City. 2016. The mesmerizing flow of people to the sound track of car engines, horns, and street vendors sets New York a part as a city whose possibilities seem as endless as its population.

 
Junia Howell
 

Berlin, Germany. 2014. Majestically situated at the historical entry point connecting East and West Berlin, Brandenburg Gate serves as a reminder and explanation of the city's historic divide that still defines so much of its development and culture.

 
Junia Howell
 

Venice, Italy. 2014. Just behind the hustle and bustle of these tourists’ shops, sits the world’s original ‘Ghetto.’ In 1516, the city designated this area for the Jewish population. Still primarily inhabited by Jews, this community with its densely packed buildings and low ceilings is only accessible by alley ways and a few water canals sitting in stark contrast to the city around it. It stands of a reminder of the ongoing contemporary challenges in this city but also in cities across the world that have systematically segmented marginalized populations into less “desirable” areas.

 
Junia Howell
 

Florence, Italy. 2014. Initially nested between the hills for security, the densely packed streets of this historic City-State are reminders of the wonder that can be created and is continually created by the human propinquity.

 
Junia Howell
 

Rome, Italy. 2010. Taken from the Forum looking out towards the historic city remains, this image is a reminder of the brilliance and oppression that has been birthed in cities for millennium.

 
Junia Howell
 

Houston, Texas. 2016. Situated just feet away from the Brays Bayou along the MacGregor Corridor in Houston's Third Ward, this typical low income apartment complex neighbors dazzling upper-income mansions and modest middle class single family homes. This community has the highest level of economic diversity in the county. In fact, as locals will quickly point out that this neighborhood was home to Beyoncé until she moved to New York City but is also home to many whose housing is covered by Section 8 vouchers. Thus, this neighborhood serves as a reminder of the heterogeneity within U.S. black "impoverished" neighborhoods that is often left out of our predominant narratives of urban poverty.

 
Junia Howell
 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2010. Arguably one of the most theoretically and methodologically innovated sociologists, W.E.B. DuBois' dissertation was a mix-methods in-depth study of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward (the predominately Black area of town). Located in the historic Seventh Ward this commiserate mural depicts DuBois' careful mapping of the community including his codebook which color coded houses by their socioeconomic status. His precision and attention to detail influenced much of contemporary sociology and how we think about documenting how social structures perpetuate inequality.

 
Junia Howell
 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2010. Framed by the walls of Philadelphia's City Hall, this limited snapshot of the cityscape is a reminder that all perspectives are always limited but together begin to craft a picture of the diversity and complexities within the places so many call home.

 
Junia Howell
 

Cincinnati, Ohio. 2016. Nestled between seven hills, Cincinnati's picturesque skyline dramatically appears out of nowhere when approaching from the south. The moment the city comes into full view is one I always cherish as it evokes warm memories and reminds me why I do my research.

 
Junia Howell
 

Berlin Wall, Germany. 2014. Beautified by murals the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall serve as a reminder of historical division as well as humanity's resistance, ability to change structures and create beauty from hardship.