Hitchens, Brooklynn K.
Office: Davison Hall, 016
Brooklynn K. Hitchens is a distinguished Louis Bevier Dissertation Fellow, Minority Fellow for the American Sociological Association (ASA), and Ruth D. Peterson Fellow for the American Society of Criminology. Her research explores the lived experiences of low-income, urban Black Americans, particularly at the intersections of race, class, and gender in shaping attitudes, identity, and behavior. Her multi-method dissertation, “Coping in MurderTown USA: How Urban Black Women Adapt to Structural Strain in a Violent, Small City” uses street participatory action research (PAR) to explore variations in how urban Black women and girls use violence and/or crime to cope with the structural strain that permeates low-income communities of color. Data for her dissertation emerge from a collaborative, community-based project entitled the Wilmington Street Participatory Action Research (PAR) Project, which examines how low-income, street-identified Blacks experience and understand community violence in Wilmington, Delaware—a city recently labeled “MurderTown USA” for its elevated rates of violent crime per capita.
Her dissertation addresses three research questions. First, she analyzes variations in how low-income, street-identified Black women cope with and adapt to various types of structural strain—economic stressors, criminal victimization, discrimination, and academic stressors—and how these strains influence their involvement in street life or violence and crime as sites of resilience. Second, she examines how coping mechanisms—social, psychological and economic wellbeing— mediate the effects of the strain-violence relationships among the women. Third, she analyzes how racial/ethnic identity moderates the relationship between strain and violence/crime, and how awareness of Blackness as an identity strengthens or weakens this relationship. She argues that although structural strain imbues deleterious effects on poor communities of color, modes of adaptation and coping strategies differ among urban Black women as a function of their relationship to the streets and access to structural means of opportunity.
Her work has previously been published in Sociological Forum, Race & Justice, Feminist Criminology, and the Journal of Black Psychology.