This project examines how place reputations are created, reformed, and consumed across different countries in an increasingly digitized world. It analyzes thousands of pages of digital texts from a wide-array of sources, including travel, military, and popular culture forums as well as job advertisements and governmental and organizational materials. These represent different types of knowledge and are tangible ways we can study reputation. They also allow us to focus on how and why some place-based images (or “cultural wealth”) become “sticky” and relate to economic activity (Bandelj and Wherry 2011), while others do not. This work tackles important and timely questions like: How do places get portrayed? How is this connected to the economic activity that the place attracts? How does this differ according to the authors of texts and the audiences that are being addressed? Since the history of the modern world is a history of empire, what role does colonialism and militarism play in place reputation, fantasies, and economic activity? Can states’ control of territory extend to its myths and reputations, particularly if they are rooted in imperial histories?

I’m particularly interested in comparing how state actors’ attempts to shape place reputation with narratives on-the-ground and in the media, and – for Subic Bay – what that means regarding colonial legacies and the contemporary presence of the U.S. military in the area.

I’ve presented this work at the 2020 Global Scholars Academy in Geneva and received funding from the American Sociological Association, National Science Foundation’s Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline grant and a UCR Blum Initiative on Global and Regional Poverty Faculty Research Seed Grant. During 2019-2020 I worked on the book manuscript as a Postdoctoral American Fellow, funded by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

I work with the UCR Reputation Team, a collaboration with two graduate students and, thus far, a total of 30 undergraduate research assistants.