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Janina L. Selzer

Janina L. Selzer is a PhD candidate in Sociology at The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York City. She studies the intersection of race, immigration, and gender in an urban context. More specifically, she is interested in the ways in which those inequalities become inscribed in space and how spatial boundaries are constantly contested and redefined – spatially as well as symbolically. She is the 2021/2022 recipient of the Manfred-Rommel-Stipendium der Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart and the 2022/2023 recipient of the Carell Dissertation Fellowship by The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her work has been published in Ethnic and Racial Studies and metropolitics.


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After growing up in Stuttgart, Germany, Selzer received her BA in Politics, Psychology, and Sociology from the University of Cambridge, UK, in 2015. In 2016 she graduated with an MA in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Her MA thesis, an urban ethnography of a demographically diverse neighborhood, analyzed the reproduction of racial inequalities through everyday boundary-work by residents. She joined CUNY for her PhD in 2017.  


In her dissertation, a cross-cultural comparison of Iraqi refugees in Bielefeld, Germany and Detroit, Michigan, Selzer studies the ways in which forcibly displaced individuals develop a sense of belonging in urban environments. As a critical sociologist, her research draws on qualitative, quantitative, and spatial methodologies that enable her to foreground the voices of marginalized communities, empower her research subjects, and continuously question underlying theoretical assumptions. 


Additionally, Selzer completed a project on the active role that some German feminists played in the normalization of racism and nationalism in the wake of the 2015 New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne. Her findings were published in Ethnic and Racial Studies. The project was supported by a Graduate Center Travel Award, which allowed her to present some preliminary findings at the 2018 Transatlantic Summer Workshop at the Ruhr Universität in Bochum, Germany. In the fall of 2019, she completed the data analysis with the help of a student fellowship from the Advanced Research Collaborative


As part of her Graduate Center Fellowship, Selzer also teaches undergraduate courses at Hunter College. Both of her courses, Social Statistics and The Sociology of New York City, make use of New York’s rich history and take the city as an urban laboratory to expose students to a wide variety of sociological perspectives.


Outside academia, Selzer is committed to employing various art forms – such as photography and creative writing – to further investigate and publicize issues of social justice.

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