KWATE Naa Oyo A.

Associate Professor, jointly appointed in Department of Human Ecology and Department of Africana Studies. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Period of residence: 
11 septembre 2017 - 13 juillet 2018 ; résidence EURIAS/IMéRA
Research project: 
Reading the Street: Subjective and Objective Assessments of Neighborhood Charm and Disorder
Summary of the research project: 

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 the proposed project, I address these gaps in the literature by conducting secondary analysis of data derived from a range of methods and sources. From research studies conducted in New York City and Boston, I analyze neighborhood data including systematic social observation of neighborhood streets, census data, and municipal data; and human subjects data from probability samples of Black residents in New York City and White residents in Boston. Qualitative and quantitative data capture residents’ perceptions of neighborhood disorder and associations with health. The proposed research is ideal for a EURIAS fellowship, as the data have already been collected, and a 10-month period would allow protected time for analysis and writing manuscripts. The project will investigate how aspects of the physical and social environment intersect, and will complicate notions of disorder and charm as unambiguous and deterministic. The research will culminate in a set of journal articles that should find interest in a range of disciplinary audiences including sociology, psychology, public health and preventive medicine, African American and urban studies, and urban planning.

Lien(s) web:


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 (USA). She holds a Ph.D., 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. 

Curriculum Vitae: