Christopher Oliver Professor of Practice Tulane University Department of Sociology

Christopher Oliver

Senior Professor of Practice
Sociology and Environmental Studies
  • Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Taylor Center
  • Coordinator, Critical Visualization and Media Lab (CVML)
  • Faculty, The City, Culture, and Community Program and Urban Studies Program
220 B Newcomb Hall


Ph.D. Michigan State University
B.S. California Polytechnic State University


I was born and raised in Southern California, graduating from high school in Dana Point, California. I received my B.S. in Geography from California Polytechnic State University, and then attended Oregon State University, where I studied Geosciences, Spatial Analysis, and Environmental Management. I transferred to Michigan State University, where I received a doctoral degree in Sociology, specializing in environmental sociology, science and technology studies, and organizational sociology. My dissertation research examined the use of reformulated gasoline (RFG) and the chemical additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and their effects on local environmental groundwater conditions in the US. My past work has explored the consequences of energy policy, regulation, and legislation on federal, state, and local environmental policymaking. During my time at Michigan State University, I worked as a research assistant in the Center for Global Change and Earth Observation (formerly BSRSI) studying tropical forests in Brazil and Southeast Asia, as well as a receiving multiple Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) awards and Ford Foundation travel fellowships for summer research. My first full-time academic position was in sociology at the University of Kentucky. I joined the Tulane faculty in 2014, as professor of practice, jointly between the Department of Sociology and the Environmental Studies Program. I am also an affiliate faculty member in the Urban Studies and City, Culture, and Community programs. In 2018, I was awarded the Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and Carnegie Corporation of New York Professor of Social Entrepreneurship III at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking.

Courses Taught

I teach courses in social problems, organizational behavior, environmental studies, urban political ecology, and environmental crime and security. I regularly teaching both the Environmental Studies (EVST) 4410 - Senior Seminar, a required course for all EVST majors, and SOCI 2500 - Organizational Behavior, part of the School of Liberal Arts (SLA) Management Minor. During summers, I’ve taught as part of the Environmental Studies Summer Program, teaching a service learning course in environmental justice (EVST 4010 - Environmental and Social Justice in NOLA), as well as courses involving the examination and analysis of local urban issues, including SOCI 2101 - Experiencing the City: An Urban Ethnography of New Orleans, and SOCI 4210 - Urban Ethnography and Social Justice. I also teach a Maymester class based of my course SOCI 1090 - Social Problems.

In 2018-2019, I received a William L. Duren ’26 Professorship. The funds supported my initiative entitled, “Visualizing Environmental Injustice(s): An Exploration of Visual Methods in Research, Advocacy, and Policy in Environmental Studies”, which was part of an expanded version of my Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 sections of EVST 4410 - Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies. This enhanced class included field-based activities, such as visits to local communities led by environmental advocacy and environmental science professionals; specialized training through workshops and seminars by technical professionals; and a visit by a nationally recognized expert in visual arts, methods, and technique. To build upon this, I am using the funds provided by the Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor of Social Entrepreneurship to pilot a project (tentatively entitled, Critical Visualization and Media Lab (CVML)). This interdisciplinary liberal arts effort will bring undergraduate and graduate students together with faculty and staff in collaborative support, advocacy, and capacity building with local communities suffering from issues of social and environmental injustices.


Urban political ecology, environmental sociology, urban sociology; science, technology, and society; urban development, planning, and policy, toxic neighborhoods; housing and inequality; environment and public health


My research interests are in the areas of urban political ecology, urban and environmental sociology, and issues regarding urban development, urban policies, and state regulatory mechanisms. My past research focuses on issues of environmental pollution and cleanup in both large metropolitan areas and smaller urban centers, with an emphasis on federal and state policies and their regulation of the oil and gas industry, as well as the use of technological innovation to mitigate and remediate polluted sites. Additionally, I’m interested in the relationship between state policies, private sector investment, and economic development, and their consequences on both environmental conditions and localized issues of employment and redevelopment. More recently I’ve been exploring issues of urban development (“gentrification”) as related to housing policy and economic development, and the location of public residential housing developments in proximity to environmentally polluted sites.

As the Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, I will use my endowed funds to continue to develop innovative approaches to examining issues of social and environmental justice, by drawing upon design thinking and various forms of visual and spatial techniques of analysis including mapping, geographic information systems, and photographic and video approaches to qualitative and quantitative analysis. Additionally, I plan to use these techniques to continue my work exploring the relationship between access to safe and affordable housing and economic opportunity, as well as the creation of sound policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure all communities – especially communities of color and low-income neighborhoods – are protected against environmental and social injustices.

My recent book (along with co-authors Thomas Janoski and David Luke) The Structural Causes of Unemployment (2014, Polity Press) detailed the processes associated with changing global, national, and regional labor markets as a consequence of shifts in corporate management (“neoliberalism”), technology and automation, global finance, and state fiscal and labor policies.


Selected publications:

Janoski, Thomas, David Luke, and Christopher Oliver. 2014. The Causes of Structural Unemployment: Four Factors That Keep People from the Jobs They Deserve. London: Polity Press.

Blaacker, Debra, Joshua M. Woods, and Christopher Oliver. 2012. “How big is Big Coal? Public perceptions of the coal industry’s economic impact in West Virginia” Organization and Environment. 25: 385-401.

Janoski, Thomas and Christopher Oliver. 2012. “The vortex of labor.” In Rebuilding the Mosaic: Fostering Research in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation in the Next Decade. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.

Oliver, Christopher. 2005. “The treadmill of production under NAFTA: Multilateral trade, environmental regulation and national sovereignty.” Organization and Environment. 18: 55-71.

Busch, L.; Allison, R.; Harris, C.; Rudy, A.; Shaw, B.; Ten Eyck, T.; Coppin, D.; Konefal, J.; Oliver, C.  2004. External Review of the Collaborative Research Agreement between Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute, Inc. and the Regents of the University of California.  East Lansing: Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards, Michigan State University, July 13.