Biography

maryLgray

  • Ph.D. in Communication, University of California, San Diego, 2004
  • M.A. in Anthropology, San Francisco State University, 1999
  • B.A. in Anthropology and Native American Studies (double major), University of California, Davis 1992

My first book concentrated on contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identifying (LGBT) youth experiences in the United States (see In Your Face: Stories From the Lives of Queer Youth, Haworth Press, 1999). That led me to wonder: what’s life like for youth who don’t have easy access to queer communities and resources typically associated with cities through out the United States? Where, when, and how do youth in the rural United States acquire the language for their queer senses of self? And with the rapid but unequal incorporation of digital media into the lives of youth and their support agencies, what difference does the Internet’s increasing presence—and presumed ubiquity—make to these youth negotiating their sense of sexuality and gender ?

I spent 2001-2007 looking at how young people, living along Kentucky’s Appalachian borders, use media to negotiate identity and visibility in this rural region of United States. Specifically, I studied how rural LGBT youth and their advocates use local support agencies, peer networks, and the internet as sites and technologies of sexual and gender representation–what I refer to as queer identity work. My book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (New York University Press, 2009) shares what I learned from rural queer youth and their adult allies and offers their lessons for political organizers and media activists everywhere.

View a synopsis of Out in the Country here

These days, I have two, larger ethnographic projects competing for my attention: one explores how mobile media and constrained access to it shape people’s everyday lives. What do people do with mobile technologies, designed for people on the move, if they feel stuck in or tethered to the places and social locations they call home? I have a second passion/obsession: a study that traces how ethics and the cyberinfrastructures of research compliance produce norms of vulnerability and risk in social scientific research involving human subjects. When I’m not in the middle of nowhere charting the absence of cell service or bugging my friends to tell me their Institutional Review Board war stories, I like to play with smaller projects that help me think through the ties that bind political action, technologies, and social meaning (whether than means studying Glee or the It Gets Better Campaign or finding out who the young turks are behind the distributed, casual labor force called “Mechanical Turk”).