Anthony Urena

Anthony Urena


From Risk to Reality: Race, Sexuality, and Disease in an Age of Uncertainty

Dissertation Review Committee

Research Interests


  • MPhil Sociology, Columbia University, 2017
  • MA Sociology, Columbia University, 2014
  • BA Sociology & Human Biology, Brown University, 2012

Biographical Notes:

Anthony Urena is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Columbia University. A Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow, Anthony’s research expertise is situated between the Sociology of Health & Illness and Science, Knowledge, & Technology Studies. His substantive areas of research interest are intersectional and encompass race & ethnicity, gender & sexuality, class, and risk. Anthony is experienced in both quantitative and qualitative research methods, with particular specialization in semi-structured interviews, participant-observation and ethnography, as well as survey administration and analysis. 

Anthony's research has been generously supported by fellowships, scholarships, and grants from the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Social Science Research Council, The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Anthony's dissertation explores how people deemed to be the most "at-risk" come to understand, for themselves, their own relation to a given illness or disease. Through semi-structured interviews and participant-observation at a health advocacy group, his research specifically examines how HIV-negative Black and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) are making sense of their place in the contemporary HIV/AIDS epidemic. In this work, he argues that individuals with demographic backgrounds associated with heightened disease risk reflexively engage with their own race, class, and sexuality in determining whether or not an illness is actually a “risk” within the sociocultural context of their lives. This reflexive process gives way to diverse framings of risk individuals employ to understand the threats HIV/AIDS may or may not pose to their bodily health and/or social lives. Individuals can also come to view HIV/AIDS as personally irrelevant or a non-issue, comprising a framing that escapes a definitive rhetoric of "risk" altogether.

From Risk to Reality contends that these multiple framings constitute a variance of perceptions about HIV/AIDS that can influence an individual’s health-relevant behaviors, such as their use of prevention tools and their romantic/sexual partner selection strategies. Throughout this dissertation, Anthony develops and makes the case for what he defines as the “Ecological Social Risk Framework,” a novel comprehensive framework of analysis that elucidates how a person’s perceptions of personal illness & disease risk are produced through interactions that occur at the individual, relational, institutional, and cultural levels of society.

Anthony was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York by parents from the Dominican Republic. He holds a B.A. in both Sociology and Human Biology from Brown University. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, he volunteered at several HIV/AIDS NGOs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to produce a comparative ethnography detailing the persistence of the epidemic in the city’s metropolitan and slum neighborhoods. At Columbia, Anthony has complimented his scholarship with a deep commitment to teaching and mentorship through his service as a Graduate Student Mentor and Instructor for the Columbia Summer Research Program, Preceptor at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, as well as Teaching Fellow for various introductory and advanced courses in Sociology. He most recently served as a Kluge Fellowship Summer Fellow and Graduate Student Mentor with the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program.

Anthony is currently a Woodrow Wilson MMUF Dissertation Fellow and will receive his Ph.D. in May 2020.



  • Columbia Journal Seminar 
  • Research Seminar for the Social Sciences: Classical Theory & Contemporary Methodology
  • Senior Project Seminar 
  • Modes of Inquiry 
  • The Social World
  • Organizing Innovation 
  • Immigration and the Transformation of American Society
  • Global Urbanism 
  • Sociology of Work & Gender 
  • Power and Influence in Organizations