I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Drexel University. I completed my PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I also previously co-founded Qualitative Health Research Consultants, LLC.
I'm an urban ethnographer of sexuality, especially queer enclaves and communities. My work brings these communities’ lessons on the power of carnality—the sensual, erotic, and worldly pleasures that guide much of human action—to sociology’s embodiment and spatial turn. I develop a language for the importance of intimacy and carnality to our everyday understandings of how our bodies feel within places and as part of communities. As a scholar-artist, I bring artistic techniques in creative nonfiction to develop this theoretical language with scientific rigor grounded in ethnography’s materiality.
As a methodologist, I work in multidisciplinary teams with medical, public health, and engineering colleagues to use rigorous sociological qualitative methods within their fields’ research. I develop new training methods for large-scale qualitative projects and analytical techniques that combine qualitative with quantitative and clinical data.
Current research projects in various stages include:
1) “Of Blood: The Social Experience of Heritage”: In a book under contract with University of Chicago Press, along with co-authors Michael M. Bell and Loka Ashwood, we present the concept of heritas, the naturalized experience of descent, that connects across experiences of group and heritage commonly studied separately. Through heritas, people gain a sense that their identity and group membership are beyond their willful choosing because of their body’s nature and past, but often distinguish between what we call physical and synthetic blood. With chapters on race, class, family, place/region, sex/gender, sexuality, religion, profession, and politics, we offer heritas as a theory of similar naturalization and historicization across the human experience.
2) Urban Space and PrEP: These interviews with queer men on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV) explore how urban space influences the experience of PrEP for different classes and races of queer men; a paper on “PrEP Citizenship” is forthcoming in Surveillance and Society.
3) The Philadelphia LGBTQ Community and Business Historical Database: Spatial analysis of Philadelphia's LGBTQ commercial spaces from 1950 to 2015 through a unique dataset I created from archival research at the William Way LGBTQ Center and donations from historian Marc Stein.
4) “Queer Spirits: The Contested Memory and Haunting Future of LGBTQ Nightlife”: In this ethnographic monograph, I examine the pleasure and spatiality of consumption, through fieldwork, interviews, and archival history of a single long-standing queer establishment. Working with the tension between bodies and ‘spirit,’ I examine our perceptions of “ghosts,” prior imaginings that shape a place’s character. I use this case to theorize the commodification and sedimentation of memory within places; the phenomenology, embodiment, and legal regulation of consciousness altering substances, like alcohol; and the agency and consciousness of non-human objects that “haunt” spaces and resist change.
My most recent book, Boystown: Sex and Community in Chicago, is published with University of Chicago Press. You can find reviews in academic venues such as American Journal of Sociology, City and Community, and Sexualities, as well as public venues like Chicago Reader, Chicago Review of Books, and Chicago’s LGBTQ newspaper the Windy City Times, Zach Stafford, currently editor-in-chief of The Advocate, produced an award-winning documentary inspired by the book, which includes an interview with me. The book received the Honorable Mention for the 2019 Book Award of the Sexualities section of the American Sociological Association.
““This is a book about sex” (p. 9). And whew! In Boystown, Jason Orne delivers on this statement.” — Men and Masculinities
“He's a responsible sociologist…but he's by no means an impartial guide. He shares…his various prejudices, not just political, but also personal.…and asides like, by the way, are part of what makes the book so much fun to read, even for nonsociologists. (And have no fear: Orne frequently pauses to explain academic terminology and theories.) Boystown is an engaging portrait of a neighborhood in flux, where different communities are trying to work out a way to inhabit the same spaces, and the questions Orne raises about identity and privilege are relevant far beyond the boundaries of North Halsted.” — Chicago Reader
“Boystown is a dark, sexy, and honest account, as well as a piece of strong research…The work is a rallying cry to bring sexual context to the social sciences…[and] likely to inspire ethnographers to break new ground.” — City and Community
“…deeply focused, contain[ing] thick descriptions, and tightly weav[ing] the author’s immersion in the environment he is researching…The book’s strength is in the author’s willingness to tell it like it is. . . With refreshing honesty…we would do better to learn from those who feel alienated from queer spaces.” — American Journal of Sociology
“This book is so much more than an ethnographic study of Chicago’s Boystown; it is a rallying cry against the dangers of centrist LGBT politics, of assimilation, and, most importantly, the threat of queernormativity as ideology and practice…Boystown is a gripping and urgent read…” — C. J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You’re a Fag.
““Innovative, smart, and neon-hued, Boystown is chockablock with characters and a compelling, wry narrative. This is a one-of-a-kind ethnography…by keeping this foray into urban sexuality rigorous with a light touch.” — Jonathan Wynn, author of Music/City.
Boystown examines the eponymous gayborhood in Chicago. I use ethnographic methods, including three years of fieldwork, interviews, and autoethnography. I argue sexual spaces bind queer cultures by instilling a queer habitus that rejects respectability. Sex connects across social hierarchies through naked intimacy, a carnal interaction ritual that levels social relations. These social-sexual sexy communities bridge some oppressive hierarchies by strictly enforcing others, a problem I refer to as the intersectional knot. To demonstrate these effects, I develop a theory of sexual racism, a system of racial sexual stratification with structural, cultural, and interactional components. Finally, I warn heritage commodification—the process of selling ‘authentic’ culture to outsiders—may assist the area’s survival against gentrification by maintaining a nominal gay identity for tourism at the cost of queer sexual culture. These tourists, mostly straight women, go ‘on safari’ disrupting queer scripts and desexualizing the area. Yet, they do so to escape the patriarchy and violence of heterosexual areas. Shedding the queer capacity for sexual connection through assimilation to straight norms serves to also whiten the area and gay identity overall as the pedagogical lessons that instill habitus shift. By shifting attention to places of consumption over residence, I dispute post-gay accounts of the gayborhood’s disappearance.
My expertise as a methodologist emerged from my work synthesizing the range of qualitative methods within sociology as lead author for Invitation to Qualitative Fieldwork (Routledge, 2015). I use these exercises and frameworks to collaborate on a variety of qualitative components of research projects. I've collaborated on NIH-funded clinical trials, research scientist improvement awards, demonstration grants, and pilot studies. These multidisciplinary ventures are sociological interventions through methodology. For instance, our co-authored paper on the patient experience of migraine surgery is the first qualitative paper ever published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
You can find more information about my projects and publications in my CV below.