Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Laurison ’99 is among the 26 humanities and social science scholars awarded the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to study the most enduring issues in American society, the organization announced on Wednesday.
Nominated by President Valerie Smith, Laurison receives a $200,000 award to advance his work examining class inequality in political participation. Focusing specifically on poor and working-class voters who often are most affected by decisions of elected officials but feel the most left out, Laurison’s research aims to understand this perception and propose solutions to transform it.
“A fully functioning democracy should include the voices of people from all social positions, but reams of research show that people with lower incomes and less education are substantially less likely to turn out to vote than those who are better off,” says Laurison. “However, most of this research misses the ways politics looks and feels inaccessible to many poor and working-class people.”
What makes Laurison’s project unique is the focus on qualitative research and gaining a deeper understanding of this perception through interviewing. With a team consisting of students, alumni, and members of the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, Laurison has already completed 127 interviews with working-class and poor Pennsylvanians.
“I've mostly tried to hire students with connections to communities of color and low-income, poor, and/or working-class communities. Their insights and connections have contributed enormously to the research,” says Laurison, “Student and community research assistants helped design and refine the interview guide, helped recruit for interviews, and conducted interviews.”
The Carnegie fellowship will facilitate expanding that work to include Pennsylvanians across the state.
“Some really amazing scholars have gotten this fellowship, so it is overwhelming and a bit intimidating,” says Laurison. “But I’m so excited to have the time and resources to continue this work. I’m also really appreciative of the ways Swarthmore has made this possible, from nominating me and supporting my application, to being a place that really values both teaching and research, to providing me with the funds to hire so many brilliant and dedicated students to work on this with me.”
The first openly transgender person to be awarded the fellowship, Laurison has been involved with queer, feminist, and progressive organizing for nearly 30 years, including helping to organize the first annual Philadelphia Dyke March. Daniel lives in West Philadelphia with his partner Hannah Laurison and their two kids, Ingrid and Freja.
Since 2015, the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship program has furthered the mission of “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding,” by providing $43.2 million to 216 scholars, journalists, and authors. Projects supported by the fellowship focus on political, economic, technological, humanistic, and sociological subjects.