Matthew Durington, Ph.D.

Director for Community Engagement and Partnerships

Matthew Durington, Ph.D.

Contact Information

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OFFICE
Partnerships and Outreach

Biography

Matthew serves as the inaugural director for community engagement and partnerships within the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research. He is simultaneously a full professor at Towson University in the discipline of anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. This unique dual role positions him as the point person for community engagement activities for faculty at Towson University. Through a number of community engagement projects and service roles over the past 15 years, he is well positioned for this role having advocated for faculty community engagement work in many capacities.

Matthew is committed to an ethical and reciprocal form of community engagement between the Towson University community and collaborators in throughout Greater Baltimore. Community engagement involves strong rapport building, deliberative planning, resource sharing, and mechanisms for assessment and development that is equitable to all parties involved. It is with this ethos that he served as the faculty director for BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore, one of eight presidential priorities that are linked to and aligned with the university’s strategic plan.

As the only full-time faculty member in the Office of Partnerships & Outreach, Matthew works diligently to ensure community engagement efforts by faculty, staff, and students to forward community interests and utilize university resources in a mutually beneficial fashion. By maintaining an active research agenda and staying in the classroom, he has a unique connection to different parts of the Towson University community and a vantage on approaches to community engagement and partnerships in higher education.

In addition to his roles at Towson University, Matthew serves as president of the Society for Visual Anthropology, an international academic society affiliated with the American Anthropological Association. He also serves on the board of the Baltimore non-profit Wide Angle Youth Media, a group dedicated to empowering youth voices in Baltimore through media arts. This board position comes from over a decade of work with this group on various media-based community engagement projects using both traditional mediums such as documentary, but also expanding into mobile app and game design. With this background, he brings a critical 21st century community engagement mindset to bear on his work in the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research.

This work has led to numerous contracts and projects with the National Park Service that truly embody the unique position Towson University faculty and students possess. Work with the National Park Service is embedded in curriculum, has demonstrated outcomes in the form of publications and platforms, and harnesses the research capacity and talents of undergraduates at Towson University. By giving direct applied research opportunities to TU students, he helps steer them toward numerous vocational opportunities and further graduate education.

Education

A proud Texas Longhorn, Matthew Durington received his B.A. in humanities, specializing in film, anthropology, sociology and African and African American studies, from the University of Texas in 1994. He completed his M.A. in 1999 and his Ph.D. in anthropology from Temple University in 2003, specializing in urban and visual anthropology. He completed a post-doctorate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in 2004 and arrived at Towson University in the fall of that year as an assistant professor. He was the director of the International Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts at Towson University and the coordinator for the anthropology concentration in the department for eight years.

He has several research interests that fall under the fields of urban, visual, and cultural anthropology respectively. His doctoral thesis, Discourses of Racialized Moral Panic in a Suburban Community: Teenagers, Heroin and Media in Plano, Texas, was the result of ethnographic research on a phenomenon of suburban teenage heroin overdose deaths in this suburb from 1998 through 2000 and various institutional and media responses during this time.

Dr. Durington is also the co-principal investigator for the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates grant project ‘Anthropology by the Wire’ along with colleague Sam Collins. This innovative project, funded for two cycles, focuses on socioeconomic issues in Baltimore City and brings community college residents from the surrounding region to Towson University each summer for an intensive six-week program to create collaborative media with different groups in Baltimore City. The website for the project is the repository for all media and research related to the project. This groundbreaking NSF project combined anthropological research with collaborative media production with various community groups in Baltimore, resulting in numerous journal publications and the book Networked Anthropology.

Dr. Durington also has current research in both urban Baltimore and South Africa. In South Africa, he explores suburban development and racial identity in the post-Apartheid era. He is focusing on "gated community" development in the suburbs north of Durban having conducted participant-observation in one estate during his post-doctorate. Dr. Durington’s research in Baltimore City focuses on gentrification and concomitant issues in the community of Sharp Leadenhall. Anthropology courses in the department have provided a service learning and commuinty engagement opportunity for Towson University students to work with Dr. Durington in this neighborhood and other areas of Baltimore City since 2006.

His ethnographic film work has resulted in a project entitled Record Store that is a result of four years of video work on youth subcultures and issues of collection/addiction in a Philadelphia record store. It is distributed by Berkeley Media and has screened in several venues both internationally and domestically in the United States. After being trained in the Anthropology of Visual Communication program at Temple University, Dr. Durington has continually theorized on the changing nature of ethnographic film and anthropologically intended media. His current interests are in the gamification of curriculum in higher education.

Dr. Durington teaches courses on a variety of topics at Towson University including Visual Anthropology, Drugs in Global Perspective, The Anthropology of Media, Moral Panics, Life in the City, Anthropological Theory and introductory courses in Cultural Anthropology. He serves on numerous committees throughout the university. He is also a faculty fellows representative for men’s basketball at Towson University. You will often find Dr. Durington at many sporting events on campus as an active supporter of student-athletes.

Personal

Matthew and his wife Laura arrived in Baltimore in 2004 from South Africa and lived many years in the community of Hampden before moving to Baltimore County. Both he and his wife are very active in domestic and international charitable work. Laura Durington is the director of annual giving at Catholic Relief Services. He has two children and is an active member of his community both in Baltimore City and County.

Fun Fact

Matthew is an ardent supporter of the English Premier League soccer team Everton, despite the fact that they break his heart on a regular basis. He also has a record collection numbering in the thousands from his days as a DJ.

Select Publications

  • 2019 “Rethinking Gentrification in Baltimore” (co-author Sam Collins) in Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • 2017 “Push It Along: On Not Making an Ethnographic film in Baltimore” (coauthored with Sam Collins) Transforming Anthropology, (25)1:23-34.
  • 2017 “Ethnographic Apps/Apps as Ethnography” (co-authored with Sam Collins, Paolo Favero, Krista Harper, Ali Kenner and Casey O’Donnell) Anthropology Now (9)1:102-118.
  • 2017 “Multimodality: An Invitation” (co-authored with Sam Collins and Harjant Gill) American Anthropologist (119)1:142-153.
  • 2017 “Teaching Baltimore Together: Building Thematic Cooperation Between Classes” (co-authored with Sam Collins and Nicole Fabricant) Metropolitan Universities journal (28)2:90-102.
  • 2015 “Baltimore Steel Stories” (Photo Essay) (co-authored with Sam Collins and Cameron Rines) Anthropology of Work Review (36)2:97-101.
  • 2014 Networked Anthropology: A Primer for Ethnographers (co-author Sam Collins) London: Routledge.