Elizabeth McKenna

Elizabeth (Liz) McKenna is  Ph.D. student in sociology at UC Berkeley. Her book, Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America (co-authored with Hahrie Han, Oxford University Press) documents and analyzes the strategies the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns used to engage an unprecedented number of citizen leaders in communities across America.

Liz holds a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard College. In 2008 she worked as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in Port Clinton, Ohio. In 2012 she returned to Ohio to serve as a regional field director for Obama’s reelection campaign in Columbus (Franklin and Madison counties).

In parallel, Liz has worked and studied in Brazil for over three years. She conducted an ethnography of forty-seven microentrepreneurs in six slum communities (favelas) in Rio de Janeiro for her undergraduate thesis. In 2009-2010, she worked as a community organizer in Brazil as an Elliot and Anne Richardson Public Service Fellow. In 2011 and 2012 she took coursework at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), the Institutio Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro (IUPERJ), and the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticas (IESP).

Liz’s is currently conducting a class-based analysis of Brazil’s current protest cycle. In June and July 2014, she worked with the Observatório das Favelas (Slum Observatory) to collect data on the World Cup protests and the relationship between class background, grievances, and organizational forms. Do Brazil’s demonstrations reflect short-term, apolitical mobilizations or are the seeds of a broad-based movement being sewn? Her broader research interests include political sociology, social movements, and stratification.