• Faculty

  • Terry Williams

    Professor of Sociology


    Office Location
    D - 6 East 16th Street

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    Terry Williams


    **On leave Fall 2024-Spring 2025**

    Professor Williams’ research has focused on a variety of distinct but related research topics in the field of social inequalities and subcultures, notably: poverty, homelessness, youth unemployment, teenage suicide, teen survival strategies in the illegal drug economy, drug abuse and drug culture, crews and gangs, sex work, and incarceration. For over four decades he has conducted a micro-sociological analysis of social inequalities and subcultures by systematically reconstructing and highlighting their voices and everyday practices while emphasizing the agency of these groups in social spaces such as after-hours clubs, crack houses and sex clubs. Of note is the five volume “Cosmopolitan Life Series,” created by Professor Williams and published by Columbia University Press under the rubric “Studies in Transgression” (2015 -2024) is a manifestation of his efforts to integrate these different research topics both empirically and theoretically while exploring the transformation of NYC as an urban space.

    Professor Williams is a dedicated, creative, and prolific writer. His sociological research has been published by multiple, renowned international publishers, including Columbia University Press, Polity Press, Penguin Books, Oxford University Press, Palgrave-Macmillan and Grosset/Putnam Books. He is an internationally renowned scholar; his books have been translated into French and Japanese.

    In academia, his contribution to the field of Sociology has been greatly recognized when in 2014 he was selected to become a Senior Fellow of the Yale Urban Ethnographic Project at Yale University. Being one of the few authoritative voices on the Ghetto, Professor Williams was asked to contribute to Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO) by Oxford University Press: his peer-reviewed annotated bibliography on the concept of the “The Ghetto” was published in OBO in 2017. His “Crack House” (1992) and “Cocaine Kids” (1989) have become classics in the field of sociology. Beyond academia, his scholarly work has had longstanding social impact; it has gained the attention of publishers and scholars from different countries and disciplines such as Criminology, Poverty and Social Inequality Studies, Urban Sociology/Studies, Addiction Studies, Youth Studies, and Intersectionality Studies. “The Con Men: Hustling in New York City” was selected as the Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review (2015), and in 2023 has been cited by the Northwestern University Law Review for its methodology that can provide crucial insights into white collar crimes.  “The Cocaine Kids,” profiled on the United States Department of Justice’s website, has altered the way law enforcement approached and understood illegal drug distribution and trade and became required reading for law enforcement officers.

    Professor Williams has given many lectures, talks in public libraries, bookstores, universities and colleges in the United States and abroad (Japan, Belgium, France, Germany (including the Frankfurt School), Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). In addition, he has had numerous appearances on national and international radio (including BBC) and television (including RAI - the national public broadcasting company in Italy), and written countless articles for the daily press. Furthermore, he has written and co-produced films and documentaries on youth (including an award winning documentary Harlem Diary, part of Turner Classic Movies Collection) and drug abuse (a film Ill Town by Universal studios). His work on disadvantaged youths has received national recognition and has garnered accolades, including two invitations to the White House as an honored guest of the President of the United States.

    He is a recipient of a MacArthur Award and a Russell Sage Foundation Fellowship. In 2020, he received a Distinguished University Teaching Award from The New School.

    The current research activities of Professor Williams deepen and expand his previous work on social inequalities and subcultures in New York City. In November 20, 2021 he was invited as keynote speaker at ISTAD Symposium: Structure and Transformation of the Urban Bottom in Global Cities (session 1: New York City) organized by the Institute of Social Theory and Dynamics in Japan. He is writing a book chapter on the symposium which will be published by Brill Press in 2024.

    Degrees Held

    PhD 1978, City University of New York

    Recent Publications

    Studies in Transgression Series (5 books) by Columbia University Press:

    The Vanishing Indian Upper Class: Life History of Raza Mohammed Khan (with Raza Mohammed Khan). Anthem Press, London, UK, 2020

    On Ethnography, co-author with Sarah Daynes, Polity Press, 2018

    The Ghetto Anthology, Oxford Bibliographies, Oxford University Press, 2017

    Harlem Supers: The Social Life of a Community in Transition, Palgrave, 2016

    Research Interests

    Sex and the city; urban drug culture; violence and crime.

    Awards And Honors

    Representative honors:

    • MacArthur Foundation Award
    • Russell Sage Foundation Fellowship
    • Selected as Senior Fellow of the Yale University Urban Ethnography Project (Induction Ceremony took place in August 17, 2014)
    • Distinguished University Teaching Award, The New School (2020)

    Future Courses

    Independent Study
    LSOC 3950, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

    Independent Study
    GSOC 6990, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

    Past Courses

    Ethnographic Field Methods
    GSOC 5006, Fall 2023

    Independent Study
    LSOC 3950, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

    Independent Study
    GSOC 6990, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

    Social Life of Stuff
    LSOC 3046, Fall 2023

    Sociological Methods
    LSOC 2201, Spring 2024

    Studies in Transgressions
    GSOC 6285, Spring 2024

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