Gwendolyn Purifoye

Assistant Professor of Racial Justice and Conflict Transformation

Gwendolyn Purifoye

338 Hesburgh Center for International Studies
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

(574) 631-4685

Gwendolyn Purifoye

Assistant Professor of Racial Justice and Conflict Transformation


Race, place, and the built environment; urban sociology; ethnographic methods, visual sociology.

At the Keough School

Gwendolyn Purifoye is assistant professor of racial justice and conflict transformation in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. She is a core faculty member of the Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and a faculty fellow of the Keough School’s  Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights.


Research and Publications

Purifoye’s research focuses on investigations of how material infrastructures, transportation systems, and spatiality shape the experiences of racially and class-marginalized individuals and communities. As an urban ethnographer, Purifoye has spent several years conducting extensive fieldwork in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Newark, where she examines the lived experiences of Black and Brown folks in public places and neighborhoods. In fall 2022, she was awarded a visiting faculty fellowship at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America to research how Blacks are experiencing the current redevelopment boom in Newark after enduring decades of widespread systemic racism and disinvestment.

Purifoye’s first book, Race in Motion: Public Transportation and Restricted Mobile Spaces (under contract with NYU Press) uses ethnographic and archival data to examine how public transportation is used to support persistent inequalities and inequities that are raced, spatial, material, social, and embodied. This book presents research that shows that although some may think that public transportation exemplifies racial progress in the US—after all, Blacks no longer have to sit in the back of the bus—public transportation continues to be a separate and unequal experience.


Before coming to Notre Dame, Purifoye was an associate professor at North Park University. She earned her PhD in sociology from Loyola University Chicago. In addition to her academic research, Purifoye works directly with community organizations and regional planning agencies, including Metropolitan Planning Council and the Regional Transportation Authority. She is currently a member of the advisory board for the City of Chicago’s UN Safe Cities Project, where she provides expertise as a member of the Gender-Based Violence Research Advisory Group.

Recent Work

In the Media