Celeste Watkins-Hayes: Remaking a Life, Reversing an Epidemic: HIV/AIDS and the Politics of Transformation


Monday, October 2, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


Allison Dining Room

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies,
Northwestern University.

Celeste Watkins-HayesHow do women remake, not simply rebuild, their lives after traumas associated with social and economic disadvantage? Drawing upon interviews with over one hundred women living with HIV/AIDS, this talk presents a theory of transformative projects.

The transformative project represents a multi-dimensional process through which individuals fundamentally shift how they conceptualize, strategize around, and tactically address struggles related to complex inequalities that affect their everyday lives. It entails the adoption of a radically different set of approaches to negotiate questions of physical, social, economic, and political survival in moments of crisis and extreme distress.

Watkins-Hayes traces the unique safety net that has been critical for the abilities of HIV-positive women to launch successful transformative projects and argues that the AIDS service and health care infrastructure offers important lessons for how we might think about assisting additional socially and economically marginalized populations, not just those who are living with HIV.

About the speaker

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, is an author and educator widely credited for her research at the intersection of inequality, public policy, and institutions, with a special focus on urban poverty and race, class, and gender studies. 

Watkins-Hayes is also a Faculty Fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research and Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health. She is former Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern, one of the top Black Studies departments in the country and home to one of the few PhD programs in African American Studies offered in the United States.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes’s research focuses on urban poverty; social policy; HIV/AIDS; non-profit and government organizations; and race, class, and gender. Her first book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform (University of Chicago Press, 2009), examines how public resources are distributed to low-income families by exploring how the work experiences and racial, class, and gender identities of public workers shape the new welfare system. The book was a Finalist for the 2009 C. Wright Mills Book Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the 2011 Max Weber Book Award from the American Sociological Association. In 2013, Watkins-Hayes became the inaugural recipient of the Jacquelyn Johnson Jackson Early Career Award from the Association of Black Sociologists.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes is currently Principal Investigator of the Health, Hardship, and Renewal Study, which explores the economic and social survival strategies of a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse group of women living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area. In 2009, she received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Investigator Award and a National Science Foundation Early Career Award to conduct this research.

Dr. Watkins-Hayes holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Harvard University and a B.A. from Spelman College, where she graduated summa cum laude. Watkins-Hayes was a Ph.D. fellow herself in the Harvard Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy, a member of the inaugural cohort of Inequality & Social Policy doctoral fellows at the program's founding in 1998.

Learn more about Celeste Watkins-Hayes's work


See also: Fall 2017