Melissa M. Valle, Ph.D.

Melissa M. Valle, Ph.D.


melissa.valle [at]

Office Location

407 Conklin Hall
175 University Avenue
Newark, NJ 07102

I am currently the Mellon Assistant Professor in Global Racial Justice in both the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Department of Africana Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. I am also a core faculty member of the Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D. program and affiliated faculty with the American Studies program. 

My current book project, Battling for Worth: Race, Recognition and Urban Change on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, is under contract with Oxford University Press (Global and Comparative Ethnography Series). It is an ethnography exploring how people determine who is worthy of occupying contested space in a gentrifying neighborhood in Cartagena, Colombia. I demonstrate how race, ethnicity, gender, and class are encoded in the value of urban spaces through analyses of micro-level meaning-making practices and structures. I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student award to Colombia to conduct my ethnographic fieldwork.

I have also completed research on Afro-descendants living in Santiago, Chile, exploring the mechanisms that lead to reduced life chances for marginalized groups and how such groups negotiate stigma perspectives that suggest their identities have been devalued.

Prior to completing my Ph.D., I spent ten years working with youth in various capacities, most recently as a New York City Teaching Fellow on the Lower East Side. I have also worked in the field of public policy and community development in Harlem. I have served on the board of the afrolatin@ forum since 2010. 

My educational journey began in Newark, New Jersey at Babyland Nursery School and led me through East Orange and South Orange/Maplewood public schools.

I believe in the healing power of laughter, that Beyoncé is a global treasure, that I should’ve been in the Guinness Book of World Records for my childhood keychain collection, and that without justice there can be no peace.  

Courses Taught

  • Race and Ethnicity in Multicultural Societies (Sociology of Race and Ethnicity)
  • Race and Ethnicity in Latin America and the Caribbean 
  • Race, Ethnicity, Space & Place: Exclusion, confinement & transformation (RESPECT) (undergraduate and graduate seminar)

Research Initiatives

Projects in Progress:
  • Book project: Battling for Worth: Race, Recognition and Urban Change on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast (under contract with Oxford University Press- Global and Comparative Ethnography Series)


  • Princeton-Mellon Fellowship in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities (2022-2023)
  • The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (now the Institute for Citizens & Scholars) Career Enhancement Fellowship (2020)
  • Rutgers Research Council Grant (2018, 2020)
  • Rutgers University Lumina Fund for Racial Justice and Equity Course Development Grant (2019)
  • Latino Studies Faculty & Graduate Student Grant (2018)
  • Tow Center Fellow, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University Journalism School (2017)
  • Fulbright U.S. Student Award Recipient to Colombia (2013-2014)


Columbia University in the City of New York, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, New York, NY:  

  • Ph.D. Sociology 
  • Master of Philosophy in Sociology
  • Master of Arts in Sociology  

Pace University, School of Education, New York, NY: 

  • Master of Science for Teachers in Childhood Education

New York University, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York, NY: 

  • Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy  

Howard University, College of Arts and Sciences, Washington, DC: 

  • B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Dual Major: Economics and Afro-American Studies


  • Race & ethnicity 
  • Urban & spatial sociology
  • Cultural sociology 
  • Economic sociology
  • The African/Black Diaspora (with a focus on Afrolatinidad in the Americas)
  • Ethnographic and visual methods


Valle, M.M. (2021 online, 2022 print). Aping Blackness: Reading and Evaluating Racialized Images in Cartagena, Colombia. Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, 8 (1), 176-196.

Valle, M.M. (2020 online, 2021 print). Globalizing the sociology of gentrification. Special Issue: "Global South". City & Community, 20 (1), 59-70.  

Valle, M.M. (2019). Burlesquing Blackness: Signifying race during Carnival and the carnivalesque on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. Public Culture, 31 (1), 5-20

Valle, M.M. (2017 online, June 2018 print). The discursive detachment of race from gentrification in Cartagena de Indias, ColombiaEthnic and Racial Studies.  41 (7), 1235-1254       

Valle, M.M. (2017). Revealing the Ruse: Shifting the narrative of colorblind urbanism. “Spotlight on Race, Justice and the City.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research         

Valle, M.M. (2014). Afro-descendant migrants in Santiago, Chile: Stigma processes & rhetorical resistanceRevista de Trabajo Social de la Escuela de Trabajo Social de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 87, 3-18. 

---- (Also published in Spanish as "Impugnando el  estigma: migrantes afro-descendientes en Santiago de Chile")             

Valle, M.M. (2013). Afro-Latina/o authors. In C. M. Tatum (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Latino culture: From calaveras to Quinceañeras (pp.  527- 536). Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Press.   

Co-Authored Works

Wenzel, A., Nadler, A., Valle, M.M., & Hill, M.L. (2018). ‘A journalist should step correct:’ Building trust in local newsColumbia Journalism Review. June 12, 2018.  

Wenzel, A., Nadler, A., Valle, M.M., & Hill, M.L. (2018). Listening is not enough: Mistrust and local news in urban and suburban Philly. Columbia Journalism Review. March 26, 2018.  

Associated Programs

Global Urban Studies

American Studies