Naa Oyo Kwate

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Public Health
Associate Professor, jointly appointed in Department of Human Ecology and Department of Africana Studies. Associate Director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Research project

Reading the Street: Subjective and Objective Assessments of Neighborhood Charm and Disorder


Research on the social determinants of health has brought into bold relief the importance of social context and material resources.  Studies on neighborhood context and health have shown that physical disorder (e.g., litter and graffiti) is associated with feelings of personal powerlessness and psychological distress, poor self-rated health, psychological distress and impaired physical function.  These findings are particularly important for African Americans, who suffer from a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from a wide spectrum of conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and who often live in neighborhoods marred by disinvestment.  Perceived charm and disorder are more than simple visual assessments of objective cues. Researchers tend to use an essentialist framework in which visual cues are construed as unambiguous and natural in meaning, but responses to those visual cues are informed by individual experiences and freighted by racial and socioeconomic inequality.  Research is needed to advance understandings of the processes by which individuals are more or less likely to perceive built environment characteristics as emblematic of physical disorder.  As well, standard operationalizations of physical disorder need to be expanded, to move beyond relatively discrete instances of disarray or decay that belie the overall infrastructure in the neighborhood.


In this project, drawing on secondary data derived from research studies conducted in New York City and Boston, I examine how aspects of the physical and social environment intersect, and interrogate notions of disorder and charm as unambiguous and deterministic.  The data include systematic social observation of neighborhood streets, census and municipal data, and qualitative and quantitative interview responses.  The project will culminate in a set of journal articles targeting a diverse disciplinary audience.  







Naa Oyo A. Kwate is Associate Professor jointly appointed in the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is also Associate Director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity. She holds a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from St. John’s University, New York. Her research interests, wide ranging in racial inequality and African American health, are centered primarily on the ways in which urban built environments reflect racial inequalities in the United States, and how racism directly and indirectly affects African American health.



Selected publications


‘The Race Against Time: Lived time, Time Loss, and Black Health Opportunity’, Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 2017. [Forthcoming]


'Fast Food and Liquor Store Density, Co-Tenancy, and Turnover: Vice Store Operations in Chicago, 1995-2008', with J.M. Loh, Applied Geography, vol. 67, 2016, pp. 1-13.


'Racism at the Intersections: Gender and Socioeconomic Differences in the Experience of Racism among African Americans', with M.S. Goodman, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 85, no. 5, 2015, pp. 397-408.


'Perceiving the Black Female Body: Race and Gender in Police Constructions of Body Weight', with S. Threadcraft, Race and Social Problems, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 213-226.


'Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Effects of Racism on the Mental Health of Urban African Americans', with M.S. Goodman, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, 2015, pp. 711-718.




junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Music
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Linguistics