Matthew Marr’s research focuses on how experiences of inequality in contemporary urban America and Japan are shaped by contexts at different levels, from the global to the individual.
Marr looks at strategic research sites including housing programs for people experiencing
homelessness, “service hub” neighborhoods, and day labor markets. He combines street-level qualitative research with comparative, macro-sociological analysis to contribute to debates on inequality about the effects of globalization, welfare states, urban regimes, culture, organizations, neighborhoods, families, and individual agency. In addition to his individual projects, he works with international scholars in Japan and other countries on comparative research, and has incorporated FIU graduate students into these collaborative efforts.
His book, Better Must Come: Exiting Homelessness in Two Global Cities, was published by Cornell University Press in 2015 under its Industrial and Labor Relations Press imprint. He has published in journals including Ethnography, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, the Journal of Urban Affairs, Cities, Urban Geography, Housing Policy Debate. He has also published research articles and book chapters in Japanese. He has published op-eds about policy related to homelessness and urban poverty in the Miami Herald, Japan Times, and Asahi Shinbun. He was selected to be a Mansfield Foundation US-Japan Network for the Future Fellow, and a member of the US-Japan Human Security Network.
In 2012-2014 Marr was a Social Science Research Council and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership Abe Fellow. For a project entitled Recovery Zone? Human Security at the Margins of American and Japanese Global Cities, he conducted longitudinal comparative ethnographic research in neighborhoods where street homelessness and housing programs concentrate in Miami (Overtown/Downtown), Los Angeles (Skid Row), Tokyo (San’ya), and Osaka (Kamagasaki). This research explores how different “service hubs” in distinct urban contexts affect residents’ experiences of human security.
Since 2018, Marr has been leading an intellectual exchange project with a network of scholars and practitioners working in service hub neighborhoods in the US and Japan. Service hubs are central neighborhoods with concentrations of social services that aim to help disadvantaged populations. The four neighborhoods at the center of this project are Skid Row, Los Angeles; Overtown, Miami; San’ya, Tokyo; and Kamagasaki, Osaka. The project aims to highlight how, while created out of discriminatory policies of containment, these districts can be seen as “refuge neighborhoods.” Refuge neighborhoods are where homelessness and efforts to fight it are concentrated that provide multiple safety nets that help marginalized people meet survival, social, spiritual, and civic needs. The project aims to promote ways to address threats to these neighborhoods such as gentrification, excessive policing, weakening state aid, and demographic change. This project is funded by the Japan Foundation/Center for Global Partnership.
Marr’s training as a social scientist interested in urban inequality in the United States and Japan began with his pursuit of B.A. degrees in government and Japanese at the University of Notre Dame, which he obtained in 1993. He participated in Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns’ Summer Service Project, earning a scholarship while living and working at the Midnight Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood. He also spent a year studying abroad at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, and after graduation, another year at Nagoya University as a recipient of a fellowship provided by Japan’s Ministry of Education. He earned a M.A. degree in sociology at Howard University in 1997, where he focused on urban sociology. There he received a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct ethnographic research on homelessness in the wake of the Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe and published an article based on his M.A. thesis. After working in the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles and Tokyo, he entered UCLA’s graduate program in sociology, focusing on ethnography and social stratification. In addition to internal funding, his doctoral research was supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Japan Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. He earned his Ph.D. from UCLA in 2007, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies.
Marr began his position as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at FIU in 2008 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014. He has actively participated in the formation of the new Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies (GSS) and the expansion of Asian Studies. He has developed undergraduate and graduate courses on Japan (SYD 4451 Japanese Society in Global Perspective, SYD 6901/ASN 5923 Global Japan) and urban sociology (SYD 6418 Graduate Seminar in Urban Sociology, SYD 4412 Cities in Asia), mentored numerous graduate students, and consistently receives excellent reviews from students.