Participant Observer


Airdate: May 23, 2018

Joseph C. 'Piko' Ewoodzie, Jr., is the Malcolm O. Partin Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Sociology at Davidson College.  He teaches courses on qualitative methods, sociological theory, culture, race and urban sociology. He examines how marginalized populations in urban locations make sense of inequalities in their everyday lives. Piko embeds himself into communities and takes a long-term immersive approach to research. His publications include articles on the everyday eating patterns of people inhabiting different social classes and the book Break Beats in the Bronx: Revisiting Hip Hop's Early Years. He earned a B.A. in Sociology from Ithaca College and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

This episode is perfect for anyone interested in urban sociology, what we can learn from hip hop artists, qualitative research, 'getting out,' and Wakanda Forever.


  • Piko talks about his course 'Hip Hop and Urban Sociology,' Kendrick Lamar and 3D Na-Tee, and what sociologists can learn from hip hop artists.

  • He discusses qualitative research and 'the beautiful process of collecting data and making sense of it.'

  • He addresses whether his qualitative data is generalizable and 'being as reflexive as possible' in documenting his observations.

  • Piko discusses his course 'Contemporary Race Theory' and whether we would be better off if the idea of race faded away.

  • He talks about his feelings leaving behind the communities he is studying and how he manages the guilt of 'getting out.'

  • Piko reflects on the movie 'Black Panther' and why 'he isn't down with Wakanda Forever.'

  • He describes growing up in Ghana and how emigrating to the United States informed his approach to studying social life.

  • Piko shares the song that inspired his first book, what changed his life at Ithaca College, and what his doctoral dissertation explored.

plus Mark's Personal Word Essay: Bearing Witness

To Learn More About Piko


  • What struck you about Piko's comments?

  • How do you collect and make sense of information?

  • How do you manage feelings of guilt?

  • What question is on your mind?

We invite your posts on our Facebook page.

This episode is sponsored by Blumenthal Performing Arts, celebrating its 25th year presenting the best in performing arts. 

Further support is provided by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, one of America’s leading urban public libraries, delivering exceptional services and programs, with a mission to improve lives and build a stronger community. 

And by the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's resource hub and lead advocate for the regional cultural community, providing Culture for All.

Additional support is provided by the UNC College of Arts + Architecture, celebrating a decade of creative education in the arts and design.