Michael Lawrence Walker
Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
a first-generation college graduate. I earned a B.A. in economics from the University of California-Riverside where I also completed a Ph.D. in sociology with an emphasis in race relations, criminology, and socio-legal studies.
I am the older of two "Army brats" born to a mother who retired a sergeant first class after twenty-two years of service in the US Army. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany; I graduated from Seoul American High School in Seoul, Korea, and while I lived in numerous other places before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities department of sociology, Los Angeles is home. Most of my family still lives there, and I visit often.
I have always had a natural curiosity and genuine interest in the life worlds of others. People watching was more than a pastime--it was a way of noticing patterns in social behavior. I suppose earning a Ph.D. in sociology just made sense to me.
As a scholar, I take seriously my mandate to explain. I want to understand how and why a given social phenomenon is what it is. I want, as much as is possible, to sense the lives of others, and qualitative research methods have been my primary vehicle. My research is driven by ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and biography. It is my sincerest belief that a good explanation of any social thing demands an understanding of the (a) the emotional landscape of the phenomenon and (b) the who, what, and why of relationships between actors.
I also believe that an explanation is ruined by dry, facile, overly mechanical, jargon-heavy writing. The writing (the presentation of data) is no less important than the content itself. There are a lot of ways to communicate a thing. Social science is more fun and interesting when the writing is emotionally present and unafraid to use appropriate metaphors and similes.