Department of Anthropology
MAA, Applied Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park
BA, Sociology and Anthropology, Spelman College
Maya S. Kearney is a socio-cultural and urban anthropologist, specializing in urban ethnographic methodologies, carceral studies, and urban policy and spatial transformation. She has had over 15 years of both academic and applied training in anthropology and attended one of two remaining anthropology programs at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Spelman College. She strives to understand the how and why of urban issues and phenomena that disproportionately impact Black communities to inform strategies for restorative and transformative justice. Maya has done extensive research on mass incarceration and its impact on Black families and communities within the DC local context by exploring the needs and challenges of prison-to-community reentry (prisoner reentry). Her dissertation builds on this research where she identified housing as the most important need of prisoner reentry by examining how gentrification impacts access to stable and affordable housing for individuals returning with a felony conviction (returning citizens). She conducted an ethnography of space and place to understand the material and symbolic forces that shape the housing experiences of returning citizens in DC as a gentrified city. This includes the affective modes of survival connected to identity and a sense of place and belonging for a hyper-marginalized group under the carceral state that often come from longtime Black communities that are criminalized, over-policed, and most impacted by divestment/displacement/gentrification. Maya's work has been supported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Association of Geographers (AAG), and American Anthropological Association (AAA).
In addition to her active research Maya has also worked on multiple National Park Service (NPS) projects, including the "Ethnographic Resource Study of the Henry and Robinson Farmsteads at Manassas Battlefield National Park" and the "Monocacy National Battlefield Park Oral History Project" with Drs. Rachel Watkins and Arvenita Washington Cherry.
Research Interests: prisoner reentry, gentrification, urban policy, race and place, carceral (Black) geographies, urban ethnography, ethnographic training methodologies.