Ariel Merkel

Sociology, The New School for Social Research

Ariel Merkel is a Sociology PhD candidate at the New School for Social Research, with a focus on disability studies.  She earned her MA at NSSR in May 2011, and holds a BA (cum laude) in Cultural Anthropology from Wells College, a small women’s college in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  Upon graduation in 2005, she was awarded the Carter A. Woods Prize for her thesis, which analyzed the strategies of Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian) activists involved in the Cultural Revitalization Movement.  Ariel supplemented this research with a six-week ethnographic study in O’hau and the Big Island where she conducted interviews with “houseless” Kanaka Maoli, who reside in beach-tents as a result of the land-struggle throughout the islands.  Prior to returning to graduate school, Ariel worked for People Inc., a non-profit agency that serves the developmentally disabled, where she spent four years administrating and managing residential facilities (IRA and SIRA) and served as a Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) for the northern region of Buffalo, NY.  She was also involved in Deaf Adult Services during her time in Buffalo, and enrolled in several American Sign Language courses and is able to have basic conversations in ASL.  Her current research stems from her previous nonprofit work with people with disabilities, specifically feminist disability theory.  She is fascinated by how disability, a malleable identity which shifts spatially and temporarily and yet is so deeply rooted to the body and literally embedded in bone, intersects with other identities that are typically conceptualized as socially constructed performances.