Wayne State University

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Mary Byrnes

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226 Knapp Bldg.
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Mary Byrnes is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Gerontology and the Department of Sociology with a cognate in anthropology and a specialization in stratification and inequality (anticipated May 2007). Mary holds a BA in sociology (2000) and a Masters of Urban Planning (2002). Previously Mary studied fine arts in Chicago . 

Mary’s research interest is in the ways urban space informs personal identity, particularly aged identities. Her dissertation research explores the phenomenology of the ways in which older adults perceive urban age segregated housing (housing built specifically for older adults). To accomplish this goal, Mary’s dissertation research employs photographic elicitation interviewing where older adults explore their physical and emotional environments by taking pictures with disposable cameras. Mary then interviews the older adults about their experiences of moving into their housing, the photographs they took, and the experience of photography.

 To help inform her dissertation research, Mary spent nine months engaging in a humanities project of four different assisted living facilities documenting the everyday activities of older adults. She then asked the residents to respond to the photographs she took by writing about the photographs. This study helped inform Mary of the ways in which older adults see their self, their space(s), their personal objects, and the ways photography can be used empirically. A website documenting this work is in the works.

 Mary’s other research interests include: sociology of space, visual methodologies, inequalities of intersecting social locations, inequalities of space, performative ethnography, qualitative methodology, theories of performativity, social constructions of identity, long term care, aging women, urban planning issues in aging, and women in urban space.   

Research Project Title
Portraits of Home and Place with Older Urban Women