Melissa Hardesty, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University
Topics of Expertise:
Adoption & Foster Care / Child Welfare / Division of Labor in Families / Economic Inequality / Feminism & Families / Labor and Workforce / LGBTQ Partnering & Families / TANF & Public Assistance / Work & Family
My current research project is an ethnographic study of frontline child welfare workers at a concurrent planning foster care and adoption agency. I focus both on the nature of the job and on the micropolitics of assessing parents on behalf of the state. I argue that frontline child welfare casework is a quintessentially ethical mode of labor, not only because it entails assessing, intervening in, and sometimes reconfiguring actual families. It is also ethical because, in working on real world people and families, child welfare workers are key participants in the definition and ideation of “family” as a cultural concept. As representatives of the state, workers frequently grapple with institutionalized and often naturalized ideations about American family, and many of these ideations are bound up with economic, gender, and racial inequality. Day-to-day casework is, ultimately, a fraught job that requires workers to continually navigate ethical quagmires.
In addition to my independent ethnographic work, I collaborate with a research group that studies gender and intimate family relationships in Vietnam amid the rapid sociocultural shifts that have accompanied the transition from communism to a socialist-based market economy. Finally, I am conducting a qualitative study that compares and contrasts online feminist and antifeminist activism on Tumblr.
Ph.D., Social Welfare, The University of Chicago
M.S.W., Indiana University Northwest
B.S., Psychology, Indiana University Bloomington