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Department of


Erik Fritsvold, PhD

Associate Professor, Sociology
Chair, Sociology

An Associate Professor of Sociology: Crime, Justice, Law & Society Concentration (CJLS), Erik has been a full-time faculty member at USD in various capacities since 2005.  Broadly construed, Erik’s areas of expertise include Criminology, Law & Society, the politics of law and crime management, social theory and research methods. Substantive and research foci include: the war on drugs, underground drug markets, nontraditional street gangs, white-collar crime, social movements, eco-terrorism, the death penalty, social justice and the contentious process of attempting to balance social control and individual freedoms.  Additionally, Erik serves as the faculty advisor to the USD Surf Team.


Erik earned a B.A. in sociology here at the University of San Diego in 2000, an M.A. in 2004 and Ph.D. in June of 2006 from the Criminology, Law & Society Department at the University of California at Irvine.

Scholarly and Creative Work

Professor Fritsvold’s research interests travel three major substantive arteries: affluent drug crime, the radical environmental movement and nontraditional street gangs.  A six-year ethnographic project on affluent drug dealers initially yielded “Under Cover of Privilege,” an M.A. Thesis in 2004.  Subsequently, working with A. Rafik Mohamed, this project produced a 2006 Deviant Behavior article “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” and a 2010 book entitled Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class from Lynne Rienner Publishers, and several additional book chapters in edited collections on national and international drug policy.  Dorm Room Dealers has been nominated for the American Society of Criminology’s Hindelang Award for the book that makes “the most outstanding contribution to research in criminology” in 2011.

Professor Fritsvold again utilized ethnographic methods to broach the contentious issue of instrumental lawbreaking within the radical environmental movement.  This research produced “Under the Law: Legal Consciousness & Radical Environmental Activism,” a 2009 article in Law & Social Inquiry.  Ongoing projects include “Bird Rock Bandits,” a piece on subjectivity and gang labels derived from a 2007 gang-related murder in La Jolla, CA, and a project for Oxford's online criminology encyclopedia on international drug trafficking. 

Teaching Interests

Grounded in an interdisciplinary and proactive dedication to social problems, Erik teaches a host of classes in Criminology, Legal Studies and Sociology.  Course offerings range from preceptorial courses for incoming freshman, to capstone courses in the CJLS concentration, to research-intensive Independent Study courses for senior criminology students.  Specific courses include: Corrections, Criminology, Drugs & Society, Independent Study, Internship, Introduction to Sociology, Law & Society, Prison Culture & Communication (honors course), Social Deviance, Social Control, and Sport in a Social Context.