B.F.A., Performance & Fashion Design, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
M.A., Performance Studies, New York University
Ph.D., Anthropology, City University of New York, Graduate Center
Research Interests: Urban Anthropology, Anthropology of Race/ Racism, criminal justice system, mass incarceration and prisoner reentry, governance, evidence-based practices, science and technology, community-based research and mindfulness and Buddhist practices.
Karen G. Williams is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology with a specialty in Urban Anthropology. Her work focuses on the carceral state and the aftermath of mass incarceration. Dr. Williams’ scholarship reflects a deep concern for the socio-economic and racial inequalities that underlie the criminal justice system as well as current social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter and Water is Life. In particular, her research is relevant to social policy, providing insights into the lived experiences of marginalized communities in the United States. She has conducted research in men’s and women’s prisons in the Midwest. This ethnographic research examines the way that staff deliver services and adopt evidence-based practices and policies to facilitate reentry for individuals leaving prisons.
In addition to her work on the criminal justice system, Dr. Williams has studied mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California and at Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. She brings mindfulness and meditative practices to her research and teaching as way to build compassionate engagement and to recognize the interconnectedness of all things.
Dr. Williams is co-leading a community engagement project around the historic Mississippi State Asylum (MSA), and associated cemetery, which was located in Jackson, MS between 1855 and 1935. The project entails working with the descendant community in order to voice their concerns, desires, interests, and needs relative to the excavation and memorialization of their ancestors.
Dr. Williams is currently accepting graduate students interested in the criminal justice system, social inequalities and the Mississippi State Asylum. Regional interest is open, but students with a desire to conduct fieldwork in the U.S. is preferred.