I’m an assistant professor of Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies and Sociology (by courtesy) at University at Albany, SUNY. I received my PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2015. Using ethnography and comparative historical methods I study how ordinary people are able to affect decisions affecting their lives through participatory institutions, electoral politics, social movements and direct action and labor and community organizing. My research focuses on cities in Latin America and the US.

I’m working on a book manuscript, Making Democracy  Real: Participatory Governance in Urban Latin America, based on my dissertation, which examines the conditions in which participatory experiments can succeed in making democracy more “real” in the sense of establishing an effective link between what citizens want and what governments deliver. This research challenges several assumptions within existing literature on participatory democracy. I show that urban participatory governance is possible under a wider range of circumstances that most research suggests. Specifically I show that under the right circumstances successful participation can occur in cities governed by rightwing parties and in contexts where civil society lacks full autonomy vis-a-vis the national ruling party and state. Additionally, my research challenges common sense and scholarly understandings of the relationship between top-down and bottom-up politics, and populist mobilization and participatory democracy. In other work I examine the evolution of the party system in contemporary Venezuela, and look at the promises, pitfalls and challenges facing Chavismo.

My work on Venezuela and Latin American politics has been published in scholarly journals, such as Qualitative Sociology and Latin American Perspectives, several edited volumes, and numerous popular press outlets, including The NationJacobin, In These Times, Nacla and teleSUR. 

I have discussed my research on Venezuela, social movements, and capitalism on various television and radio programs, and for print journalism, including Al Jazeera English, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), The Real News, NPR, and multiple NPR affiliates. I am available to discuss multiple topics including Venezuela, Bolivia, Latin American politics, social/labor movements, and US politics (see media inquiries page).

I have also conducted research on the revitalization of the American labor movement. Last year I published an article looking at a rare case of a successful union-worker center alliance in New York City in Work, Employment and Society.

I have taught courses on classical and contemporary social theory, international development, introduction to sociology, urban studies, democracy, political economy and contemporary Latin American politics.

In addition to academic research, teaching and writing, I seek to engage with the broader public in a number of ways. These include serving on the advisory board of the Participatory Budgeting Project and the North American Participatory Budgeting Research Board. I have also worked as a research consultant, advisor and process facilitator with participatory budgeting processes (and community activists seeking to initiate such processes) in Vallejo and Oakland, California. Recently I was invited to monitor Venezuela’s parliamentary election and traveled there as part of the National Electoral Council’s International Electoral Accompaniment process. Since 2013 I have served as a member of the American Sociological Association Task Force on Engaging Sociology, helping the discipline to think about how to evaluate (for purposes of hiring and promotion) publicly oriented communication.

My research has been supported by fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute of Labor and Employment, the University of California, Berkeley and the University at Albany, SUNY. I have received awards for my research, teaching and public engagement work from the ASA Sociology of Development Section, Labor and Labor Movement Section, the Latin American Studies Association Venezuelan Studies Section, UC Berkeley and UC Berkeley Sociology department.

To contact me please email ghetland@albany.edu.