Professor Aptekar holds a PhD in Sociology and taught in sociology and critical ethnic and community studies at UMass Boston for six years before joining SLU. She is currently working on two book projects: (1) one based on her work with Professor Amy Hsin (Queens College) on educational and work trajectories of undocumented CUNY students, and (2) a book examining the experiences of immigrants in the US military from an anti-imperialist perspective. Dr. Aptekar is also involved in a research project with colleagues that considers the intersections between the immigrant rights movements and anti-capitalist movements. Her former research projects have included a study of public space in Astoria, Queens, which focused on gentrification, race, diversity, and collective memory, and an examination of citizenship acquisition by immigrants in the US and Canada. Dr. Aptekar is an organizer in the Public Higher Education Workers network with Labor Notes, and a long-time activist in the higher education labor movement. She was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She worked as a certified public school teacher before returning to academia.


Selected Publications

  • The Road to Citizenship: What Naturalization Means for Immigrants and the United States

    In The Road to Citizenship, Sofya Aptekar analyzes what the process of becoming a citizen means for these newly minted Americans and what it means for the United States as a whole. Examining the evolution of the discursive role of immigrants in American society from potential traitors to morally superior “supercitizens,” Aptekar’s in-depth research uncovers considerable contradictions with the way naturalization works today. Census data reveal that citizenship is distributed in ways that increasingly exacerbate existing class and racial inequalities, at the same time that immigrants’ own understandings of naturalization defy accepted stories we tell about assimilation, citizenship, and becoming American. Aptekar contends that debates about immigration must be broadened beyond the current focus on borders and documentation to include larger questions about the definition of citizenship.


Recent News

  • Ph.D. Princeton University, 2010 (Sociology)
    • Dissertation: Immigrant Naturalization and Nation-Building in North America
  • B.A. Yale University, 2001 (Sociology)

  • 2019-20 Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Fellow
  • 2017 T. Grant Foundation ($600,000), co-PI with Amy Hsin and Holly Reed of Queens College, “Immigration Status and Higher Education: Evidence from a Large Urban University”

  • Immigration, gentrification, public space, urban agriculture, alternatives to capitalism

  • Educational and work trajectories of undocumented CUNY students
  • Immigrants in the military
  • Intersection of immigrant rights and anti-capitalist movements


Peer-reviewed articles

  • “Beyond Dreamers: The Under-analyzed Complexity of the Undocumented Youth Population.” Paper presentation at the CUNY Graduate Center Immigration Seminar Series and the American Sociology Association Annual Meeting. New York.
  • Invited Panelist, Naturalization: Right, Responsibility, Obligation Panel. Global Migration Conference. Boston College.
  • “Framing the immigrant in labor unions and the US military.” Social Science Research Council, Anxieties of Democracy. Immigration: The Politics of Inclusion and the Politics of Threat Workshop. New York City. with Shannon Gleeson.
  • “Between diversity asset and security threat: Foreign nationals in the US military.” Paper presentation at Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting. Boston.
  • “Co-ethnic communities and educational and occupational participation of Asian and Latino undocumented youth in New York City.” Paper presentation at Migrant Illegalities Conference. Brown University.
  • “The public library as resistive space in the neoliberal city.” Keynote Address. Conferência Internacional Bibliotecas Públicas, políticas culturais e leitura pública. Lisbon, Portugal.
  • “Co-ethnic Communities and Employment Trajectories of Asian and Latino Undocumented Youth in New York City.” Paper presentation at Law and Society Association Annual Meeting in Toronto.
  • “On the Sidelines: Undocumented College Students Not Involved in Dreamer Activism. (with Amy Hsin) Paper presentation at Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Turbulent Times Conference at Baruch College, New York.
  • “The Tale of Two Gardens: Reproducing and Contesting Social Inequities through Urban Agriculture.” Presentation at Urban Inequalities Workshop, Boston University. Invited.
  • “The Green Card Army: Immigrant Enlistment in the US Military.” Presentation at conference workshop, “Towards a new research academic agenda of immigration and education for immigrants in U.S. and Mexico” at Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte at Universitad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Invited
  • “Citizenship and Naturalization among Immigrant Members of the US Military: Meanings and Mechanisms.” Paper presentation at International Meeting on Law and Society, Mexico City.
  • “The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell: Deportation and Exploitation in the US Immigration System.” The Common Sessions in Critical Criminology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, CUNY, New York. Invited Plenary Speaker.
  • “Cultivating Diversity: Neighborhood Change and Place-Making in an Urban Community Garden.” Paper presentation at American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.
  • “The Green Card Army: Immigrant Soldiers in the US Military.” Hunter College Public Sociology Lecture, New York, NY. Invited.
  • “Looking Forward, Looking Back: Making Sense of a Changing Neighborhood through Two City Parks.” American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.
  • “Civil Surgeons and the Mandatory Medical Screenings of Immigrants to the United States.” Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Meeting. Seattle, WA.
  • “Super-diversity as a Methodological Approach: Ironing out Differences between Differences?” Workshop on Superdiversity: A Transatlantic Conversation. CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY. Invited.
  • “Civil Surgeons and the Work of Medical Screening of Immigrants to the US.” Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting. Boston, MA
  • “Citizenship Acquisition Among Members of the Military.” Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting. Boston, MA
  • “Race and Immigration.” Invited lecture. Boston University Core Curriculum.
  • “Medical Gatekeepers of the Nation: Preliminary Findings from a Survey of Civil Surgeons.” Emerging Immigration Scholars Conference, UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration, Los Angeles, CA
  • “Fighting for Voice: Reproducing Power in a Queens Community Garden. Paper presentation at Association for Humanist Sociology Annual Meeting, Portland, OR
  • “The Road to Citizenship.” Invited talk. Queens College Sociology Colloquium, New York
  • “Negotiating Diversity in Motion: Breakdowns and Emergent Affinities on Public Transportation.” Paper presentation at Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting, New York
  • “Experiencing Loss and Change through Urban Public Space” Paper presentation at Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting, New York, NY.

  • Editorial Board Member of Contexts magazine
  • Labor and Employment Relations Association Thomas A. Kochan and Stephhen R. Sleigh Best Dissertation Award Committee.