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Sociology and Anthropology

We Mourn the Loss of Dr. Sinikka Elliott

A photo of Sinikka Elliott
Dr. Sinikka Elliott. Photo taken by Dr. Joslyn Brenton, NC State graduate and frequent collaborator with Sinikka.

We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Dr. Sinikka Elliott — a brilliant scholar, exceptional teacher, generous mentor and kind-hearted friend to many in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and beyond.

Sinikka joined our faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2008, after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014 and remained in the department for several more years. In 2017, she took a job at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, where she had spent her childhood steeped in outdoor adventure. Sinikka was an avid hiker, and she was pleased to be living on beautiful Salt Spring Island, where she and her husband, Pat, were building a home. Her two children, Zak and Jude, had also returned to Canada.

Dr. Elliott was an accomplished and gifted researcher. Her work on sexuality, caregiving and food provisioning leaves a lasting mark on multiple fields of study, including family, inequality and social policy. Sinikka’s research applies an intersectional lens focused on gender, sexuality, race and class, and examines how families and individuals use agency as they navigate overlapping oppressions rooted in structural constraints. Her first book, Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of their Teenagers demonstrates how gender, race, class and age intersect to influence parents’ perceptions of risk and their navigation of complex social dynamics around teen sexuality, and makes vital contributions to the literatures on family, sexuality and inequality.

More recently, Sinikka’s research focused on parenting in low-income families — often underscoring how social policy contributes to (or could help to rectify) social injustice. One strand of this research examines how low-income Black single mothers of teenagers understand and navigate family life, and how their strategies are informed by intersecting identities and social policy, including mass incarceration and the police state. Another line of research, including her second book (co-authored with Sarah Bowen and Joslyn Brenton), Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It, illuminates processes underlying how poor and working-class mothers feed their children. This work calls attention to pressures and constraints rooted in culture, inequality, and social policy, and how caregivers navigate those challenges in feeding their families.

Dr. Elliott was not only a brilliant scholar, but also a gifted teacher and a generous mentor to junior scholars. She helped students develop their ideas and taught them her approach to qualitative methods:  listening closely, being attentive to detail, and using feminist practices of reflexivity and reflection. In her work, Sinikka was committed to privileging the voices of her research participants and advancing social justice. Likewise, she was a fierce advocate for her students and junior colleagues, and she was a devoted and kind friend to many of us at NC State.

Sinikka cared deeply about the world around her and about her community. She was kind-hearted, warm, generous, and loving, and our world is better because she was in it. Together, we mourn the loss of Sinikka Elliott, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family and those she loved.