Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Eli Wilson

September 14, 2020 - Felina Maria de la Luz Martinez

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Eli Wilson

Dr. Eli Wilson is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at UNM. His research brings together the sociology of race and ethnicity, work and organizations, and immigration to examine how inequality is both reproduced and challenged in institutional settings. 

“My research tries to better understand the forces that contribute to social inequality in today's workplaces as well as the countervailing forces that expand opportunities for underprivileged workers—be they in New Mexico, the U.S., or any other society,” Wilson said.

Wilson says he primarily researches immigrant workers and their families from Mexico and Central America living in the United States with the intent of examining their role in restaurant labor.

“As a sociologist and ethnographer, I focus on what is going on at the ground level, especially the people and processes found in service workplaces such as restaurants, hotels, bars, and breweries,” Wilson said.

Wilson has recently applied this research to COVID-19 where he’s examining the pandemics effect on restaurants. Wilson says among restaurant employees, undocumented workers find themselves in particularly difficult situations amid wide-spread restaurant closings. Read more about it here

More currently, Wilson is in the process of finalizing his first book on restaurant labor arriving December 2020 through the New York University Press.

“Seeing this book reach the finish line is huge for me personally because it is the culmination of six years of field work and another couple years of intensive revisions of this manuscript,” Wilson said. “I think this book will appeal to anyone who wants to know more about restaurant work, immigrant service labor, and the role that organizations play in reinforcing social inequality in our society, particularly along the lines of race and class.”

Wilson says he has also launched a new project studying labor dynamics in the craft beer industry in the United States.

“The craft beer industry has exploded over the past three or four decades, but rather than focus on star brewers and brewery owners, I am particularly interested in learning about the workers who operate behind the scenes in this industry,” Wilson said.

Currently, Wilson says he’s in the middle of collecting data on craft beer workers and small breweries and aims to complete this stage of the project by early 2021.

“I feel for all the brewery workers whose jobs have been affected by this crisis; I'm also constantly surprised at how resilient workers and breweries have been with creative responses to support their communities,” Wilson said. 

Wilson says the advice he has for young scholars in the field of Latin America is to read voraciously about the issues facing Latin American countries and their many diverse communities.

“Go out and see for yourself, talk to people who are grappling with these issues on a daily basis if possible. Hone in on specific topics that catch your attention and make you want to know more. Then reach out to people who you think understand these topics better than you and try to learn as much as you can from them,” Wilson said.