Melissa Valle

2023 Princeton-Mellon / Princeton School of Public and International Affairs Fellow

Princeton-Mellon / Princeton School of Public and International Affairs Fellow

Melissa M. Valle is a sociologist of urbanism, race/ethnicity, and culture. She is cultivating a body of research that unpacks the notion of “racial worth” by elucidating how symbolic meanings become embedded within distributive frameworks and subsequently contribute to inequality in the Americas. In Fall 2023, Valle will teach “Race, Ethnicity, Space & Place: Exclusion, Confinement & Transformation (RESPECT)” [SPI 390/URB 391/AAS 396], in which students will study race and racism from a spatial perspective by investigating the narratives and everyday experiences of racialized city dwellers through the social sciences, the humanities, and media.

Valle is an assistant professor, jointly appointed in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Department of African American and African Studies, at Rutgers University-Newark. She is also a core faculty member of the Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D. program.

At Princeton, Valle will complete her current book project, Battling for Worth: Race, Recognition, and Urban Change on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, currently under contract with Oxford University Press, The book will be included in its Global and Comparative Ethnography Series. Battling for Worth demonstrates how race becomes encoded in the value of urban space by exploring the criteria people use to determine what and who has worth, at different spatial scales, in the context of urban spatial and economic change in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. In exploring the racialized dynamics of urban change, Valle addresses how racial worth is relationally defined, strategically activated, ideologically articulated, and empirically manifested.

Valle is the recipient of a Fulbright award to Colombia and has also completed research on Afro-descendants living in Santiago, Chile, exploring the mechanisms that lead to reduced life chances for marginalized groups and how such groups negotiate stigma perspectives that suggest their identities have been devalued. She is a council member of the American Sociological Association’s Community and Urban Sociology Section, an editorial board member of the ASA urban journal, City & Community (2022-2025), an executive board member of the afrolatin@ forum, and a member of the Black Latinas Know Collective (BLKC).

Valle has dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Afro-American Studies from Howard University, a Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from New York University, a M.S. for Teachers in Childhood Education from Pace University, and an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University.

Valle’s fellowship is made possible by the Mellon Foundation and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.