University of Minnesota
American Studies

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David J Karjanen

American Studies 104 Scott Hall 72 Pleasant Street SE


My research centers on comparative political economy, with a particular emphasis on low wage work, informal work, and urbanization. This includes day labor, what I term "less documented" migration, and low-wage service work. My current book manuscript "The Servant Class City" looks at these processes in relation to changing systems of urban governance and structures of opportunity among the poor and working poor in San Diego, California.


  • political economy, labor markets, migration, urbanization, inequality, employer-employee relations, informal economies, black markets

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Anthropology, University of Michigan.
  • M.A. : Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University.
  • B.A.: Anthropology, University of New Hampshire.


  • The IMF, World Bank, and Neoliberalism: Karjanen, David, Blackwell, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism, 2015.
  • When is an Illicit Taxi Driver More than a Taxi Driver? Case Studies from Transit and Trucking in Post-socialist Slovakia: Karjanen, David, Jeremy Morris (Editor), Abel Polese (Editor), Routledge , The Informal Post-Socialist Economy: Embedded Practices and Livelihoods, 2013.
  • Rethinking Transnationalism: Karjanen, David, Latin American Politics and Society, 54 165-180, 2012.
  • Tracing Informal and Illicit Flows after Socialism: A Micro-Commodity Supply Chain Analysis in the Slovak Republic: Karjanen, David, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 31 648 – 663, 2011.
  • Less Documented Workers and the Changing U.S. Economy: Karjanen, David, The Open Anthropology Journal, 4 24-32, 2011.
  • Opposition to the Living Wage: Discourse, Rhetoric, and American Exceptionalism: Karjanen, David, Anthropology of Work Review, 31 4-14, 2010.
  • The Crash of 2008 and What It Means: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets, Review: Karjanen, David, Contemporary Sociology, 39 744-746, 2010.
  • Gender, Race, and Nation in the Making of Mexican Migrant Labor in the United States: Karjanen, David, Latin American Perspectives, 35 51-63, 2008.
  • Re-Examining African-American and Latino Immigrant Job Competition. Karjanen, David, Author, 2008.
  • Women’s Just-In-Time Migration from Slovakia: Karjanen, David, Suhrkam Verlag, Gender and Migration in East-Central Europe, 149-168, 2007.
  • The Wal-Mart Effect and the New Face of Capitalism: Labor Market and Community Impacts of the Megaretailer: Karjanen, David, Nelson Lichtenstein, New Press, Wal-Mart: The Face of 21st Century Capitalism?, 2006.
  • The New Economy and Transforming Employment Relations: Karjanen, David, Anthropology of Work Review, 27 14-21, 2005.
  • Social Atomization and Structural Violence in the Transition From Socialism: Karjanen, David, Anthropology of East Europe Review, 23 30-37, 2005.
  • Morality, Normativity, and Economic Development in Slovakia: Karjanen, David, Studies of Transition States and Societies, 7(1) 27-38, 2015.

Research Activities

  • Fringe Banking in Los Angeles and the Twin Cities: Research on alternative finacial services use by urban residents, 2013 - 2016
  • Politics of Housing, Debt, and Urbanization in Cancún, Mexico: University of Minnesota GPS Grant, Co-Investigator, with M. Bianet Castellanos, 2012
  • Labor/Communities of Color Alliances: Research into organizing and coalition work between organized labor and communities of color, 2012
  • Comparative Informal Economies: This is a multi-year, multi-site study of informal work and social change in several US cities, 2005 and ongoing
  • Shadow Economies: Sex, Drugs, and Illicit Labor in American Capitalism: Multi-year study of informal and illicit economic activity in Los Angles and the relationship to the transformation of American capitalism and urban economies. , 2013

Professional Activities

  • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dept of American Studies: 2013
  • Editorial Board Member: Societies: Open Access Sociology Journal , 2015


  • Faculty Residential Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Minnesota
  • Honorary Fellow, Council on European Studies, Columbia University
  • Honorary Fellow, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan

Courses Taught

  • America Since 9/11
  • America on an Immigrant Planet
  • Workers and Consumers in a Global Economy
  • Freshman Seminar on the U.S. Economic Crisis
  • Honors Seminar on Race and Class in the United States
  • America in an International Perspective
  • Graduate Seminar on Political Economy and Space
  • Graduate Seminar on Theory and Methods in American Studies
  • Graduate Seminar on Racial Formation in the Americas
  • Senior Seminar in American Studies
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