Speaker Series with Robert Vargas


Current and Upcoming

Speaker Series with Robert Vargas

October 9, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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About the Talk

Unveiling Smoke and Mirrors: How Special Interests Mythologize Police and Manufacture Uncertainty About Police Alternatives

What role do the social sciences play in maintaining the policing status quo? This presentation shares research illuminating the organizational networks mythologizing police effectiveness and manufacturing uncertainty about police alternatives. I conclude by arguing that the social sciences can change its orientation toward policing by applying lessons from historical efforts to regulate monopolistic industries. This means rethinking definitions of causal inference, paying attention to studies funding sources, embracing descriptive research, and redefining the idea of “scientific community.”

About the Speaker

Robert Vargas

Professor Vargas is a social scientist interested in research on cities, law, and race. His writing and teaching focus on identifying the political-economic forces shaping neighborhood conditions and city responses to social problems. His multi award-winning book "Wounded City: Violent Turf Wars in a Chicago Barrio" brought a political analysis to the study of urban violence by showing how ward redistricting shaped block-level violence in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. His second award-winning book "Uninsured in Chicago: How the Social Safety Net Leaves Latinos Behind" (NYU Press) is a longitudinal and intersectional ethnography of uninsured Chicagoans' experiences with the Affordable Care Act. He has published in a variety of journals such as Social Problems, Criminology, and the Social Science and Medicine. Professor Vargas has won numerous awards such as the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the New Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology, and the David Heoft Award for Newly Tenured Faculty at the University of Chicago. His research has been featured in numerous media outlets such as NBC News, Telemundo, Univision, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and National Public Radio. 

Professor Vargas leads the UChicago Justice Project, a research group devoted to institutional change in cities. The Justice Project is pursuing two research agendas: the first is on block-level historical trajectories of homicide, and the second is on the political economy of policing.