Associate Professor Natasha Kumar Warikoo has been awarded a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship to work on a study of the dynamics of suburban American communities that are experiencing racial change. Of the 173 new Guggenheim fellows, Warikoo is one of 17 social science grantees and the only one representing the field of education. The grant will fund one year of research and writing.
“Guggenheim is a wonderful organization for both the arts and scholarship,” says Warikoo, a scholar of race and education. “It is an honor to have their support for such critical research.”
Warikoo’s book will be an ethnography of two wealthy, high-performing suburban schools. She explains that suburbs have historically played an important role in the experience of many immigrants, especially immigrants rising in class status. “When descendants of immigrants from countries like Italy and Ireland began to move up on the social ladder, they moved to the suburbs,” she says. “Many of those ethnic groups assimilated into the dominant group with groups like Italians going from being considered nonwhite to white in a span of decades.”
Warikoo will study students across racial lines in wealthy districts, especially Asian American students, who often score higher than white students. She will also explore how racial attitudes develop in both the youth culture and broader culture of the communities.
“The big question today is, Is that assimilation going to happen to Asian Americans, who already have high rates of education and income, or, on the other hand, will the dominant group respond by shifting their definition of what success really means?” Warikoo says.
The Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, launched in 1925, awards individuals “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship” or creative ability. “These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” says Edward Hirsch, president of the foundation. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”
Professor Warikoo is an expert on the relationships between education, racial and ethnic diversity, and cultural processes in schools and universities. Her most recent book, The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities illuminates how students at elite universities conceptualize race and meritocracy. Her first book, Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City, analyzes youth culture among children of immigrants attending low-performing high schools in New York City and London. Warikoo is a winner of the Thomas and Znaneicki Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association's International Migration Section.