Robin Nagle is clinical professor of environmental studies and anthropology in Liberal Studies. She is also founder and director of Arts & Science in Action, a new engaged-learning program in the College of Arts & Science.
After earning her PhD in anthropology at Columbia, Nagle came to NYU as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs in the Graduate School of Arts and Science. She then served as director of the Draper Interdisciplinary Master's Program in GSAS before moving to Liberal Studies and CAS last year.
Nagle’s early research considered the role of politics in religion, with particular focus on conflicts within Brazilian Roman Catholicism. Claiming the Virgin: The Broken Promise of Liberation Theology in Brazil (Routledge 1997) is her account of the violent clashes and political strife that tore apart a community on the outskirts of Recife, a city of three million on the northeast coast of Brazil. The stakes in the conflict were higher than they might otherwise have been because the community also happened to be a famous regional pilgrimage site dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
More recently, Nagle’s work investigates labors, infrastructures, bureaucracies, and histories of waste in urban contexts. Her book Picking Up (FSG 2014) is an ethnography of the New York City Department of Sanitation. As part of her research, Nagle was hired as a municipal sanitation worker; she learned first-hand what it takes to load out garbage trucks, plow snow, operate a mechanical street sweeper – and wear a uniform that invites scorn far more than praise. She is co-founder of the Discard Studies website, has launched an oral history project with the DSNY, and since 2006 has been Sanitation’s anthropologist-in-residence.