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Robin Bartram

Area(s) of Interest

Urban sociology, housing and the built environment, race and class, cultural sociology, inequality and stratification, municipal regulation and governance, legal studies, gender and sexualities, mixed methods.


My research engages a pressing concern within and beyond sociology: how housing reproduces racial and economic stratification.  I study how combinations of housing regulations, material forms, legal imperatives, cultural narratives, and interpretations shape existing patterns in inequality. 

My dissertation, Picking Battles with Buildings, is a mixed-methods study of building inspections and code violations in Chicago.  While other studies reveal connections between housing and inequality, my project reveals the legal and interpretive mechanisms that perpetuate – sometimes unwittingly – these patterns.  In positing building code violations as everyday attempts at getting even, the project also urges urban sociologists and legal scholars to move away from conceiving of disorder as the ubiquitous organizing schema for urban actors. 

Other research projects addressing built environments and inequality include a study of a housing museum’s reliance on middle-class white domesticity and hardworking immigrants, and an archival project on the architectural mechanisms through which women’s residential clubs policed their residents and reproduced stratified class and gender relations in turn of the 20th century Chicago.

I am a Graduate Fellow in Legal Studies and my work has been supported by the Northwestern Society of Presidential Fellows.

Peer-reviewed Publications:

Robin Bartram. 2018. “How Urban Building Inspections Can Impede – or Encourage – the Expansion of Safe and Affordable Housing.” Scholars Strategy Network policy brief.

Robin Bartram. 2018. Emplacing Risks in the City: Class, Politics, Risk and the Built Environment of Women’s Residential Clubs, 1896-1917.” The Journal of Urban History 44(2): 219–238.

Robin Bartram. 2017. "Housing Historic Role Models and the American Dream: Domestic Rhetoric and Institutional Decision-Making at the Tenement Museum.” Qualitative Sociology 40(1):1-22.

Robin Bartram. 2016. "Housing and Social and Material Vulnerabilities." Housing, Theory and Society 33(4): 469-483. 

Robin Bartram. 2015. "Infrastructures of Epistemic Moments: Buildings, Blackboxes, "Improvement," and Neighborhood Change," in Architecture, Materiality and Society: Connecting Sociology of Architecture with Science and Technology Studies, edited by Anna-Lisa Müller and Werner Reichmann. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


2016-2018 Presidential Fellowship, Northwestern University

2017 Winch Award for the Best Paper Presented or Published by a Northwestern Graduate Student, Honorable Mention

2016 Winch Award for the Best Paper Presented or Published by a Northwestern Graduate Student, Honorable Mention, for

2015 Winch Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Lecturer in Sociology, Northwestern University

2015 Winch Award for Outstanding Teaching Assistant in Sociology, Northwestern University, Honorable Mention

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