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M.A. Degrees

sociology department

AY 2014-2015

Elizabeth Brennan

The Rise of Privacy Professionals

The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established national standards on maintaining and securing the privacy of patient information. Consistent with neoinstitutional scholarship on weak state, HIPAA serves as a case study that shows how healthcare organizations respond to ambiguous regulations by designating a new set of professionals as responsible for interpreting and implementing a compliance program. While previous weak state scholarship has focused on equal opportunity law that spans six decades, HIPAA is a relatively young law and therefore provides an opportunity to examine the internal processes by which privacy professionals legitimize their compliance program and place within the healthcare organization. Through semi-structured interviews with ten privacy professionals at seven New England hospitals, this qualitative analysis shows how privacy professionals construct and balance the perception of risk of federal enforcement and penalties. The data suggest that privacy professionals both amplify the risk in order to justify requests for resources, while also attenuating risk to reassure the organization that their compliance program is working.

Committee:
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Eve Spangler


 

AY 2013-2014

William Attwood-Charles (interim degree)

Engineering Medicine: the deployment of lean production in healthcare

As the cost of American healthcare continues to rise, consultants and business leaders have presented efficiency initiatives such as lean production as the best course for bringing healthcare costs under control. My research examines the process of transferring lean production, a model that was developed by Toyota in the context of manufacturing, into the context of healthcare. What strategies do model entrepreneurs use to translate lean into a healthcare context and what insights might this give us into the historic difficulty of rationalizing healthcare services? To answer this question, I conducted participant observation for over a year at two healthcare organizations in addition to interviewing 35 administrators and consultants about their experiences with lean. Drawing on institutional logics and social constructivist frameworks, I find that model entrepreneurs engage in two primary strategies in their deployment of lean: buy-in vs. directive implementation. In both of the healthcare organizations studied, these strategies come into conflict with pre-existing institutional logics as actors call into question the fitness of the frame and appropriateness of the model in the field of medicine. While lean entrepreneurs attempt to control and manage the meaning of the model through the creative and strategic manipulation of symbols, ultimately these frames are checked against the lived experiences of other healthcare actors. I argue that the centrality of professional and caregiving logics to the healthcare organization’s identity, in combination with lean’s emphasis on standardization, routinization and measurability, heightens the contradictions in the model’s deployment as it is translated from manufacturing into medicine. These contradictions expose the framing strategies of model entrepreneurs’ to vulnerabilities that other administrative actors exploit when contesting the official meanings of lean.

Committee:
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Candace Jones

Kimberlee Bachman (Applied MA)

Kimberlee structured her applied master’s degree around the sociology of organizations and gender, which worked well with the MBA she also earned at Boston College. During her time in the department she was interested in how technology impacts the way people communicate and present themselves both on and offline, as well as how gender plays a role in organizations. In her last semester, she worked on a project to better understand the connection between mentorship, gender and success. She used quantitative and qualitative methods in this project as a way of combining her two masters’ degrees and disciplines. Upon graduation with her MA in sociology and MBA, she will be working as a Senior Product Marketing Manager at RSA, EMC’s security division. She strives to be a well-rounded marketer, mentor and manager in the technology space.

Advisor: Shawn McGuffey

Sinead Chalmers (Applied MA)

Sinead structured her applied master’s degree around the sociology of education, specifically educational policy. The courses and experiences she sought while in her program were aimed at preparing her for a career in educational research and policy. Such courses included Educational Law and Public Policy, Government, Policy and Higher Education, Data Management and Applied Research. Throughout the duration of the two year program Sinead assisted with a school readiness program, The Parent Child Home Program, and hopes to continue similar works in the future as she pursues a career in educational research and policy informing decision-makers through evidence-based research.

Advisor: Eve Spangler

Charlotte Haeusler (Applied MA)

In order to prepare herself for a career in applied sociology, Charlotte structured her master's degree with a focus on mixed methods and applied sociological research. Through both qualitative and quantitative studies, Charlotte's coursework at Boston College investigated issues of personal identity, national identity, national pride, culture, gender, globalization, and belonging.

In particular, Charlotte collected and analysed interview data regarding the experiences of Third Culture Kids (people who spent a significant amount of time outside their home or passport country as children). This project investigated ways in which childhood experience in another culture continues to inform meaning-making and identity in later years. Charlotte also undertook a statistical analysis exploring the relationship between ethnicity and self-reported levels of national pride in New Zealand. In addition to courses at BC, Charlotte utilized the Boston Graduate Consortium to take a seminar at Boston University, producing a paper titled 'Bodies In Conflict; Women in Partitioned India.'

Jane Margolis (Applied MA)

Jane based her applied master's degree on qualitative methods, working to prepare for a career in the field of international social work. Jane has written on the experiences of Somali refugees to the United States, specifically the difficulties Somali children face in American public schools. During her time here she also conducted a qualitative study on American missionaries to Haiti, conducting in-depth interviews to learn how their religious and political beliefs impact the way they carry out their work and their interaction with the local population. After completing her MA in sociology, Jane is continuing at BC working towards a Masters of Social Work.

Jeremiah Morelock (interim degree)

Compliant Resistance: Mental Health Professionals under the Discipline of Utilization Management

Through utilization management (UM), insurance companies monitor mental healthcare providers to make sure that clients get what insurers consider the right treatment. In this study, I present UM as a system of Foucauldian discipline that monitors clients and therapists simultaneously, and I explore how therapists engage with and practice resistance against it. My data consist of 33 interviews with mental health professionals. My results reveal that through skilfully adopting the language of insurance, therapists commonly practice a kind of compliant resistance by which they are able to maintain autonomy over their work with clients. Therapists are controlled by insurance providers, but primarily in the form of administrative burdens that only marginally translate to the therapy room. These findings suggest that UM may be inadequate to address the realities of therapy, and ineffective at influencing mental health treatment. There may be corollaries in other professions in which formal standards and performance monitoring are present but circumvented without noncompliance, which could indicate a common and significant limitation in the reach and utility of bureaucratic control systems.

Committee:
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: David Karp

Don Smith

Adepts in Exile: Sociological Practice and Thought in Modern Marketing

My work is an organizational ethnography of a large Boston advertising agency, one that is attempting to integrate reflexive sociocultural analysis into its business model. Through the creation of a specialized social research department and the hiring of employees with non-marketing backgrounds, the firm produced an internal cultural division that gave birth to complex systems of ‘othering’ and identity conflict. The ethnography explores the employees’ perceptions of their roles in the firm and of the difficulties that they face as laborers in the modern social marketing process. In addition to the organizational literature that explores this sort of ‘firm within a firm’ business structure, the analysis relies on the writings of Marx, Weber, Gramsci, and Foucault to frame and investigate this structural expression of workplace conflict and the hegemonic capitalist management that oversees it. I conclude with a discussion of the nature and direction of consuming practice in America and how sociological thought will have a role of increased importance in its epistemological and functional development.

Committee:
Chair: Eve Spangler
Member: Paul Gray

Sarah Hogan

Genderqueers and Popular Culture: A Comparative Analysis of The L Word and The Joy of Life

This article investigates the role of cultural productions in shaping, normalizing, and challenging identity stereotypes of butch fictional characters. I draw on the concept of an “archive of feelings” to argue that both mainstream queer television and experimental cultural productions each form crucial parts of the queer pop cultural archive. While the mainstream success of the television show The L Word was marketed as a breakthrough production for increasing queer visibility, both scholarly and popular debates over the show often demonstrated a profound ambivalence about its representation of genderqueer characters. I analyze an experimental film, The Joy of Life to argue that butch can exist as an identity category without being essentialized stereotypically and to explore how experiences of "everyday trauma" can help reveal patterns of social prejudice. I argue that both productions, though very different, are "haunted" by the stereotype of female masculinity and other non-normative sexual and gender identities.

Committee:
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Member: Sarah Babb

Julia Bates (interim degree)

The Racialization Of Childhood: A Comparative History Of Child Removal In The Late Nineteenth Century

How did child removal initiatives in the late nineteenth century draw upon new theories of childhood to represent children? Were new theories of childhood, which emphasized children’s innocence and need for guidance and protection, equally applied to children of all races? To answer these questions, I examine two cases of child removal: the removal of Native American children to east coast boarding schools, and of New York City’s pauper children to mid-western families. I specifically analyze the development of the “sheltered childhood” perspective (Mintz 2004) in the late nineteenth century and how it was applied to representations of children of different races in these initiatives. I found the sheltered childhood perspective was more applied to representations of pauper children in New York City, who were primarily of European ancestry, than Native American children. I also found that the “sheltered childhood” perspective was evoked to argue for individualized treatment of New York’s pauper children, while its absence in representations of Native American children coincided with a more institutionalized and disciplinary form of treatment for Native American children in east coast boarding schools.

I analyzed representations of children within these initiatives at the national level. For the New York City Case, I read and coded the 1883 National Conference of Corrections and Charities, which included agents, teachers, lawyers, judges and politicians who were involved with the removal of pauper children in New York to Mid-Western foster homes. I also examined the founder of the initiative, Charles Loring Brace’s memoirs; paying specific attention to what representations he used to advocate for the children and his program. For the Native American case, I read and coded the 1883 U.S. Indian Bureau Report to Congress, and also examined the founder of the first off-reservation boarding school, Richard Pratt’s memoirs.

This research contributes to the sociology of race and childhood literatures. A lot of work has been done on the differential treatment of African, Native and Latin American children in the educational system; however, less work has been done on how theories of childhood, and child development conceptually exclude certain races of children. Furthermore, many researchers have emphasized how the “sheltered childhood” perspective is a classed perspective, most frequently applied to middle and upper class children, but less work has been done on its racial implications. This research highlights the intersectionality between conceptions of childhood and race. More broadly, this analysis contributes to a historical understanding of current child removal initiatives, such as foster care and programs aimed at “at risk” youth, which continue to represent and treat children of racially marginalized groups differently.

Committee:
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Member: Sarah Babb


 

AY 2012-13

Tom Bolton

Best Practices to Address Delinquency and Gang Involvement: An Analysis of Policing Methodology and Crime Prevention Programming

Addressing delinquency and street gang participation is a considerable challenge for communities and government organizations. This issue serves as a focal point for media, politicians, law enforcement, and community activists. Participation in sports increases confidence in individuals, which can play a significant role in the reduction of delinquency. Sports initiatives sponsored by police departments show promise for reducing delinquency, while allowing police departments to develop strong ties to the community. This study is divided into three parts. Part I illustrates several noteworthy theories for deviance, delinquency and gang participation. Part II examines two distinct style of policing: zero-tolerance and community policing. Part III converges the overarching themes discussed in this work by demonstrating the benefits of sports and mentoring with delinquency prevention. Serving as a police officer in a large New England city for over a decade, I will share my observations of several promising programs designed to provide “at-risk” youth with life-skills and instill self-esteem. This analysis aims to show how community partnerships, combined with athletic programming and enrichment activities, can best work to keep kids away from gangs and crime.

Committee
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Member: William Gamson

Maheen Haider (interim degree)

Keepers and Explorers: An Acculturation Case Study of the Multi-faceted Identity of Pakistani Graduate Students Navigating U.S. Culture

The research explores the influence of US culture on Pakistani graduate students studying in the US. I investigate how the students navigate through the different elements of US culture, while adhering to their pre-existing ideals of the home culture. I examine the role of gender and inter-generational differences of the students, in the process of interaction with the host culture. I use qualitative methods and conducted twenty-eight life history interviews across the students from both F1 and J1 visa categories, while maintaining the gender ratio. The duration of their stay spans over a period of 5 months to 5 years. I argue that the students adopt a keepers and explorers approach while navigating the different cultural elements of the host culture. The explorer approach is further facilitated by a select and drop mechanism, developed by the students, as they navigate the different elements of US culture, while using the value system of the home society.

Committee
Co-chair: Eve Spangler
Co-chair: C. Shawn McGuffey

Breanne Harris

Sisterhood: The Restorative Power of Biracial and Monoracial Black Women Community

An autoethnographic method is used by the author to further understand the emotional and intersectional experience of being a biracial black/white woman. In particular, the paper unpacks the barriers to biracial women forming community with monoracial black women and the transformational identity politics that happen when community is built. Sisterhood is proposed as a Restorative Justice project that seeks to repair the harm done from racial and gender oppression.

Committee
Chair C. Shawn McGuffey (Sociology):
Member: Member: Cynthia Young (English)

Christopher Bowen

The School Responsibility Shift: How Boston's Charter High Schools Create Social Capital Resources that Support Student Achievement

This research employed a qualitative content analysis of documents published by high achieving urban charter high schools in Boston to examine the potential impact of social capital resources on these schools’ strong records of academic success. Findings suggest that many of the policies, structures, and best practices that distinguish charter high schools from their traditional counterparts actually create academic environments that provide students with social capital resources known to promote academic achievement. Grounded in the work of Annette Lareau and James Coleman, this paper argues that by making class-based adjustments for school responsibility, the charter schools perform a “school responsibility shift” - assuming responsibilities for education that (in upper-income communities) typically fall on families. The success of this shift at closing the achievement gap shows that public schools have it in their power to provide low-income students with academic supports that mitigate the effects of family social class position on academic achievement. Moreover, the analysis indicates that traditional public schools operate in an outdated system that does not structurally support the needs of today’s low-income students. To provide students from all class backgrounds with an equitable education, school systems and individual educators need to reexamine the class-based assumptions they hold about the boundaries of home and school responsibility for education. Additionally, this study highlights the need for future research on charter schools to focus on social capital resources as a means of increasing validity and bringing about effective policy changes.

Committee
Chair: Lisa Dodson
Member: Eve Spangler

Marya Mtshali (Interim Degree)

Race, Gender and Issues of Self-Disclosure for Black Female-White Male Intimate Couples

Interviews with 20 members of Black female-White male intimate couples were conducted and, utilizing a grounded theory approach, revealed multiple situations where members of these couples had to self-disclose to others that they were romantically involved with a person of a different race. Using the largest study sample to date of Black female-White male couples, I demonstrate how race and gender affect these unplanned and strategic self-disclosure events that members of these couples engage in, and how members of these couples make sense of these public inquires that are the remnants of our country's racially-charged history. I argue that the ways in which privilege is uniquely distributed within these relationships -- where White men simultaneously possess racial and gender privilege and Black women possess neither -- makes these couples structurally and fundamentally different than other interracial couples, and, ultimately, exemplifies that race and gender matter in the experiences of interracial couples and how society-at-large views them. Therefore, it is pivotal that experiences of interracial couples are not generalized and that each race and gender pairing receives its own individualized study.

Committee
Chair: Zine Magubane
Member: Lisa Dodson

Jeffrey Stokes (Interim Degree)

Change in Marital Satisfaction Following the Death of a Parent in Adulthood: Do Intergenerational Relationships Matter?

A brief abstract: I examine how preloss relationship quality with a deceased parent and pre- to post-loss change in relationship quality with a surviving parent influence adult children’s marital satisfaction over time. I also test gender interactions. Analyses are based on married or cohabiting adults who experienced the death of a parent (N = 316), drawn from the Longitudinal Study of Generations (LSOG), a longitudinal study of three-plus-generation families from Southern California. Three-level multilevel modeling (MLM) techniques reveal that improved relationship quality with a surviving parent is related to improved marital satisfaction. High preloss relationship quality with a deceased mother is related to improved post-loss marital satisfaction only for sons. These results support theories of linked lives and interrelationality, and suggest that sons who lose mothers are particularly vulnerable relationally and may be especially sensitive to perceived support from their wives.

Committee
Chair: Sara Moorman
Member: Natasha Sarkisian

Jami McLaughlin

Cyborgs, Cyberspace And Reality: An In-Depth Look At World Of Warcraft And What It Means For “Community.”

The purpose of my research is to bring an academic understanding to the phenomenon of online gaming communities, the sociological effect of technology looking at online communities. Using World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2001) as an online medium, I analyzed the online experience on its own terms and discovered the culture that exists in this virtual world and the community that has developed around and inside of what some would call an “alternate reality”. I wanted to bring more awareness to the sociological community as to the extent of this massive video gaming population. There is a depth and complexity of these online relationships that need a voice within the sociological field, especially with regards to the need for involvement in community developing technologies, at the level of video game entertainment, as well as the idea of embodiment that this reality comes to represent to the user. My research explains how online communities are interacting within mediums using World of Warcraft as an example. The research identifies, some of these users, their individual and collective experiences, and shows that this is an embodied experience through an in-depth analysis of different aspects of the game. Despite the outdated persona of an anti-social socially awkward “geek” that is connected to people that play World of Warcraft, these players represent a part of a larger cultural shift that society is making from traditional communities that do not use electronic mediums to stay connected to those that utilize the online realm as a social vehicle.

Committee:
Chair: Mike Malec
Member: Stephen Pfohl

Myeongjae Yeo (Interim Degree)

The Success and Failure of Centralized Social Movements: Network Analysis of the Korean Women’s Movements.

This study provides structural analysis on social movements, focusing on actors in central and broker positions, and examines how structural patterns of a movement can account for its success and failure. This study employs network analysis methods to analyze two-mode affiliation network data of the Korean Women’s Movements (KWM), one of the successful examples of social movement’s active cooperation with the state. The results demonstrate that KWM have a highly centralized structure with a powerful central actor as a ‘leader-broker’ which connects different groups and integrates the whole network. Such a centralized structure of KWM could bring about rapid progressive policy changes. However, although such changes possible due to the existence of the leader-broker and its close cooperation with the state, the institutionalization of the movement accompanied several pitfalls such as demobilization, over-incorporation, financial dependence, and low activism at the local level. The findings contribute to existing research on social movements in several ways. First, it demonstrates how highly centralized network structure of a social movement can produce negative outcomes for the movement. Second, it emphasizes centralization process can also accompany institutionalization that brings about two contrasting effects, namely “dual response” and “co-optation.” Third, it suggests that further studies need to focus on the trajectory of social movements posterior to their successful institutionalization.

Committee:
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Brian Gareau

Valerie Marshall (Applied MA)

With over two years of experience in program evaluation interviewing research participants and collecting data on co-occurring disorders impacting homeless adults and families, Valerie entered the program to advance her research and analysis skills while exploring the social forces connected to poverty and inequality. As a result, her program focused on quantitative analysis, where she gained first-hand experience designing and implementing a survey and analyzing data utilizing SPSS and Stata, and exploring poverty through theoretical and political lenses.

Advisor: Paul Gray

Hyemi Lee

How Can Ethical Consumers Be Connected To Collective Political Participation For Social Change? Examining a consumer cooperative: iCOOP in South Korea.

This thesis examines the relationship between consumption and politics. It focuses on how ethical consumption can be positioned to be part of political participation. It also pays attention to how it can serve as a pathway for creating a better society in which ethical, individual consumers are mobilized toward the collective activism and the conventional political participation that influences social change in the context of globalization and individualism. To demonstrate this, the study examines the case of a consumer cooperative: iCOOP in South Korea based on data from in-depth interviews with members of iCOOP. The findings show that ethical consumption practices can be understood in the context of life politics. Participants in this study constantly make attempts to readapt their consuming patterns and choose their lifestyles based on a changed consciousness of the self, the world, and the interrelations between both at the individual level. By extension, participants analyzed as political agents of life politics show that they can become more engaged in collective activism and conventional political participation. What makes this mobilization possible is that they were able to be involved in rehearsal phases for citizens’ roles at the collective level, and to gain easy access to social issues and a set of political tools in iCOOP.It is significant that iCOOP provides a platform for collecting and maintaining the state of this collectivized consumer power by organizing individually scattered consumers. It is not an ‘imagined community’ for mobilizing scattered consumers, but rather a practical and real community established by consumers themselves in which they try to become aware of interrelations between the self and the world, rearrange their ways of living, and further expand their interests and actions to large-scale social and political issues for making social change. These findings not only support the alternative views of ethical consumption as political participation, these also offer a fresh perspective by showing the process and the mechanism of the connection between consumption and politics. This study ultimately leads to the possibility that ethical consumption can become a vehicle that brings about a meaningful change in both life and conventional politics.

Committee:
Chair: Charles Derber
Member: Sarah Babb


 

AY 2011-12

Michael Willis

An Intersectional Analysis of Student Life at a Catholic College

College life can be a severely isolating and unsupportive experience for many college students. Previous scholars have illustrated this while examining the lives of LGBT students in Catholic colleges or students of color in predominantly white schools. Nonetheless, few if any of these studies have taken account of at least two or more facets of students’ identities (e.g. sexuality and religious background) and how they relate to how one experiences college life, especially given a college’s demographic makeup. This study, ultimately, examines the lives of students at a northeastern Catholic college by taking account of students’ sexuality and religious background (and sometimes their race) and how they experience life in college given the predominance of a white Catholic campus majority. Subjects were sampled almost entirely through flyers and snowball sampling. Ten heterosexual male students and ten gay/bisexual male students, both from a variety of religious backgrounds and races were selected for in-depth interviews, each lasting approximately 35 minutes. Ultimately, the findings suggest that the quality of life for students as it relates to living at a predominantly white and Catholic school is much more complex than simply considering their sexuality or religious background alone.

 

Committee:
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Danielle Hedegard

Iyar Mazar

Fatherhood at Work and at Home: An analysis of men’s joint identifications with parenting and work

Men’s experiences at home and at work are changing, bringing to light new ways in which fathers identify with these two realms. This research expands upon current understandings of paternal identity by analyzing the potential for overlap and reinforcement between men’s attachments to work and parenting. In this analysis, nonhierarchical, independent measures of work and parenting identities are constructed from a recently surveyed sample of 726 “New fathers”—professional, high-earning white men with children under 18, a group arguably marked by the desire to be more involved in home life, yet also faced with high work demands. In order to determine the differences between men that report identifying strongly with both work and parenting from those that do not, I use multinomial logistic regression to capture the association between demographic traits, time spent in both roles, support from others, perceptions of enrichment and the odds of identifying strongly with either work and family, neither, or both. The results demonstrate that time spent in a role, support from coworkers and managers, and higher reports of enrichment between the spheres are all associated with a respondent’s odds of reporting dually strong attachments to work and parenting. The findings yield both theoretical contributions and practical implications, providing 1) new understandings of how some fathers experience synergistic parenting and work identifications, 2) evidence that fathers’ perceptions of workplace support and positive overlap between their roles are associated with reports of higher identification with both, and 3) directions for future research that address how institutional practices in the workplace relate to fathers’ reports of dually strong role identifications.

 

Committee:
Chair: Paul Schervish
Member: Sara Moorman

Stacy Finfrock (Applied MA)

Stacy structured her applied master’s degree around the sociology of higher education. The courses and experiences she sought out while in her program were aimed at preparing her for a career in academic advising. Such courses included Sociology of Education, College Student Development, College Student Experience, and a Readings & Research course centered on the sociology of higher education. During her last semester Stacy was an advising intern at Learning Resources for Student-Athletes. Papers she produced included Cultural Capital Building in College Student Services Programs and Am I a Fraud?: Impostor Phenomenon Among Graduate Students in the Arts & Sciences. To aid her professional development, Stacy attended the 2012 National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Region 1 Conference in Connecticut. The conference provided Stacy with the opportunity to participate in informative workshops and network with other advisors.

Advisor: Sara Moorman

Jasmina Smajlovic (Applied MA)

Advisor: Sarah Babb

Laura Kligler (Applied MA)

Laura engaged in the applied master’s degree program with the goal of going into the field of research upon graduation. Her time at BC prepared her by teaching her to use SPSS, to write and analyze surveys, and to complete research and literature reviews.  She gained valuable research experience working as a Graduate Research Associate at the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. She combined a focus on methodology with interdisciplinary coursework in history, film, and education.

Advisor: Juliet Schor

Cristina Lucier (Interim Degree)

Obstacles to Precaution and Equity in Global Environmental Governance, Applications to the Basel Convention*

The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste has been framed as one of the most “successful” global environmental regimes. In the proceeding analysis, the development of this Convention is situated in the context of the ideological shift to neoliberal discourses in global governance. The process of “neoliberalization” as it unfolds in global environmental governance has been marked, at least in part, by a move from a discourse of precaution and equity to a discourse of producer sovereignty and the privileging of a particular standard of technological expertise. This shift in understandings is negotiated in the contestations over the definition of “hazardousness” in the context of meetings of technical experts for the Basel Convention. In what initially appears as the codification of straightforward scientific criteria of “hazardousness,” the move to the legitimacy of certain kinds of knowledge (specifically, “neoliberal knowledge”) about how hazardousness should be defined leads to the exclusion of other understandings that seemed to underlie the Convention’s original objectives.

 

Committee
Chair: Brian Gareau
Member: Sarah Babb

*Cristina's paper won won the prestigious 2011 Marvin E. Olsen Student Paper Award, given by the American Sociological Association's Section on Environment and Technology in recognition of the most outstanding paper presented by a graduate student at the organization's annual meeting.

Fatima Sattar   (interim degree)

Institutional Challenges to Resettling Refugees in the Neoliberal Era

Drawing on one year of intense ethnographic field work from 2010-2011 at Refugee Global, in an urban city in the Northeastern United States, this study examines how refugee policy is played out on the ground in the micro context of a nongovernmental refugee resettlement agency. As a participant-observer, data was gathered in various spaces including: Refugee Global’s office, welfare and social security offices, medical centers and refugees’ homes. Using the empirical and theoretical literature on U.S. refugee resettlement studies and Michel Foucault’s governmentality to inform my field work, this paper argues that the neoliberal ideology in this historical moment contributes to the challenges, conflict and chaos experienced by workers and volunteers at Refugee Global as the federal government offloads refugee resettlement policy responsibility to NGOs under a complex inefficient bureaucratic public-private partnership, but without sufficient resources to resettle refugees while denying such limitations and challenges exist. Resettlement workers are thus compelled to make refugees into neoliberal self-governing subjects as workers are subject to the state’s bioopower; consequently, this requires workers to perform various forms of ethically challenging invisible strenuous labor: physically, emotionally, mentally and professionally. The challenges to resettlement observed at Refugee Global do not provide for a smooth resettlement process for refugees. This study contributes to the scholarship on U.S. refugee policy studies empirically by focusing on the labor of front-line workers of refugee policy involved in resettling refugees and theoretically by expanding on existing theories of neoliberal governmentality. The results stress the importance of reforming U.S. refugee policy to be consistent with global, national and local humanitarian objectives.

Committee
Chair: Brian Gareau
Member: Sarah Babb

Micaela Kimball

Attention as Voice: An Auto-Ethnography on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and its Co-morbidity with an Eating Disorder

Through the voice of autoethnography, this paper explores the co-morbid relationship between Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and mental health struggles, specifically an eating disorder. ADD is interpreted here as a simultaneous act of cultural vulnerability to what is termed as “rapid fire culture” (DeGrandpre 1999) and resistance to dominant educational environments in the United States that favor an upper middle class, white, masculine ideal. ADD individuals communicate educational wants and needs by oscillating between “spacing out” and hyper-focusing under different educational contexts. In this way, ADD is a social voice that is defined as a collectivity with different interests. The medicalization of ADD silences, represses and reshapes this collective voice into an eating disorder in two primary ways. First, the interpretation of ADD as a social voice is denied and invalidated through the process of medicalization. An eating disordered body testifies to the social “realness” of ADD. The body takes the ghostly form of ADD and becomes the vehicle to express ADD's cry- haunting both individuals and educational environments. Second, ADD medications have detrimental central and social effects (rather than what is merely termed “side effects”). Such effects contribute to social alienation as well as individual alienation from the ADD voice. Hence, medications used to “treat” ADD (in this case Ritalin and Adderall) further violates one’s ADD voice and can exacerbate mental health struggles.

Committee
Chair: David Karp
Member: Stephen Pfohl

 


 

AY 2010-11

Hannah Clarke

Building a Religious Marketplace: Evangelical Protestantism and the Social Construction of Religion

This thesis further explores the relationship between capitalism and Christianity by examining current changes to the style in which Evangelical Protestantism is practiced within the context of America’s transition to consumer society. Using a theoretical framework of the marketplace theory of religious change and critical cultural studies, I argue that by displacing religion as the dominant mediator of ultimate meaning, the pressure consumer society places on religious content and practices to adapt may be part of a process of colonization through which the alignment between capitalism and Christianity is continued and its potential to be a critical cultural resource is reduced. To this end, I employ a mixed methodology of participant observation, unstructured interviews and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to examine the cultural content of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, America’s largest Protestant church.

Committee
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Member: Juliet Schor

Tom Laidley

Climate, Capital, and Culture: How Social Class Structures Perceptions of Global Warming and Sustainable Consumption.

Since the 1970’s, social scientists have argued that general pro-environmental attitudes have diffused throughout American society, rendering socio-demographics largely irrelevant in predicting support for such issues. The public reaction to the issue of climate change, however, evades this narrative. While media bias, ideological framing, and business influence are partial explanations, I argue that ignoring the potential implications of structure and culture—specifically social class—in determining why the issue is so demonstrably divisive is a crucial mistake. Building upon the postmaterialism thesis of Inglehart with the cultural theory of Bourdieu, I examine how the conception of and reaction to the issue varies with economic and cultural capital using data from 42 interviews of Boston-area respondents. The results suggest that climate change may indeed be a ‘classed’ issue—both in how the respondents conceive of it in the first place, and how they speak of social class in the context of it. The political implications are various, but suggest that coalition formation will need to take account of these differences, whether real and perceived, in both engendering public support for mitigation efforts and subsequently combating the problem.

Committee
Chair: Lisa Dodson
Member: Eve Spangler

Katherine Bright 

“The Spectrum of Slavery”: From housing instability among youth to sex trafficking.

In the United States, the majority of youth who become victims of sex trafficking are U.S. citizens. Most “at-risk” are those involved in the foster care system, the sexually abused and/or those surviving without stable housing- otherwise known as the homeless. Through in depth interviews with homeless teenage mothers, this study analyzed the connection between housing vulnerability and sex trafficking. The major finding of this study suggests that young girls are pushed into homelessness and sexually exploitative situations when they experience a loss of familial support. Without familial support, young, homeless girls are forced into a patriarchal street economy that limits their options for economic opportunity: men sell drugs, women sell their body. Participants also discussed the perceived effectiveness of structural interventions, including welfare, housing shelters and educational programs. By exploring the intersection of homeless teenage mothers and domestic sex trafficking, this study adds to a stronger dialogue between the homeless and human trafficking fields. Additionally, this study brings attention to the fact that young, American girls are just as vulnerable to sex trafficking as the international victims highlighted in most popular media and literary scholarship. Lastly, several interventions are proposed for working at the intersection of homeless youth and sex trafficking.

Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Member: Leslie Salzinger

Tayler Nelson

Biomedicine, Body-Writing, and Identity Management: The Case of Christian Science.

Biomedicine has become a gatekeeper to numerous social opportunities and has gained power through the ritual inscription of individual bodies. Bodies serve as intermediaries between personal identities and biomedicine; individuals can reclaim bodies as sites of “identity projects” (Giddens 1991) to resist biomedical power. This project examines the intersection of the societal preoccupations with biomedicine, bodies, and identity through the lens of the religious and healing tradition of Christian Science. Christian Science theologically rejects biomedicine in favor of spiritual healing treatment. Christian Science is an especially appropriate venue for exploring relationships between biomedicine, bodies, and identity because its teachings require not only belief in the ineffectiveness of biomedicine but also embodied resistance to it. Drawing on the work of Foucault (1977), Giddens (1991), and Frank (1995) and using information gleaned from semi-structured interviews—averaging 1.5 hours in length—with 12 Christian Scientists, I argue that Christian Scientists use religious identities to (1) evade risk society, (2) resist external authority and reclaim bodies as sites of knowledge and power, and (3) build spiritual community.

Committee
Chair: Eva M. Garroutte
Member: Stephen J. Pfohl

Adina Koch

Gender Transcendence: The Social Production of Gender in Queer Community

Over a period of eight months, I conducted an ethnographic comparative study in a northeastern metropolitan area, identifying and exploring a variety of non-normative social spaces regarding both gender and sexuality. I focus this research on comparing two different non-normative communities of gender and sexuality, the queer and the lesbian communities. By concentrating on spaces populated by those who identify as queer, I witness and discuss the process of identity formation. Negotiation of both tangible and theoretical spaces contributes to the operationalization of queer as a category of identity. Using social space bound by identity as a unifying factor, I share observations of time spent in lesbian community, where intricacies of queerness, both as critique and as category of identity, were illuminated.

The meaning of the theoretical construct of queer as explained in the literature and the experience of queer as an identity within community have areas of disconnect to which I draw attention in this paper. I interpret community space as giving power and visibility to the experience of those who live outside of, or between, gender norms in an experience that is unrecognized within mainstream heteronormative culture. I found this space creates a voice for a more encompassing and liberating embodiment of gender than that found in mainstream western society with its adherence to more rigid gender norms.

Committee
Chair: Leslie Salzinger
Member: Stephen Pfohl

Victoria Gonzales

A rally is a rally is a rally?: The limitations of media framing in the reporting of the mega-rallies of 2010

If anyone in the media were to openly claim that a political rally is “a rally is a rally,” they would no doubt befall a windstorm of strong reactions from those who feel their contributions to politics and to the cause for which they are rallying uniquely important. Today, it is not only those on the left that would make this claim but also conservatives who have been defending their right to rally and forging their own brand of “grassroots”. It is safe to say that no one would overtly make this claim; however the media’s actions in this case are stronger than their words. Through the use of stale framing packages, the mainstream media is displaying that the “Restoring Honor Rally,” the “One Nation Working Together March” and the “Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear” are essentially the same due to their nearly identical forms. Analysis of samples from the coverage of the three mega-rallies reveal what these media packages are and what issues go unnoticed as a result of such systematic reporting. Therefore, this paper goes about identifying those stale media frames, displaying the way in which the media relied upon the form of the events to dictate the nature of the reporting consequently hindering a deeper understanding of the functions.

Committee
Chair: William Gamson
Member: Sarah Babb

Monique Ouimette  (interim degree)

Cleaning House: Considerations of Ecological Health and Sustainability in the Selection of Household Cleaning Products

In an era of increasing awareness about the impacts of everyday consumption on ecological sustainability, this study investigates the factors that influence mothers’ selection of household cleaning products. The data for this study are from 28 in-depth interviews with mothers who maintain diverse preferences across a cleaning product profile spectrum. Incorporating the concepts of risk, trust, and convenience, the analysis highlights the ways in which considerations of ecological health in relation to cleaning products influence purchasing decisions of some participants but not others. This study contributes to understandings of how consumer practices shift toward environmentally sustainability.

Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Member: Brian Gareau

Elizabeth Tov  (interim degree)

Class Lessons: Perfecting the American Family on the Reality Television Series Wife Swap

Over the past decade the number of reality television shows currently airing has exploded, as viewership continues to rise. Yet despite widely-accepted research documenting the social influence of television on viewer beliefs and attitudes, reality television has received relatively little sociological attention. This study involved a methodical content analysis of thirty-three episodes (sixty-six families) of the popular reality series Wife Swap. Analysis revealed that, in contrast to the pre-packaged nuclear, white, suburban families of 1950s television, Wife Swap portrays the production of such idealized families. Using lifestyle issues as markers of class, Wife Swap portrays working class and middle class families as enduring different kinds of family crises. To resolve these family problems, the middle class family is generally offered as a model to the working class, but the reverse is seldom suggested. With its large television audience and six-year run thus far, the program's depictions likely contribute to viewers' notions of class and the American family.

Committee
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Zine Magubane

Amanda Freeman  (interim degree)

Conversations about Working and Parenting with Low-Income Single Mothers in South Boston

One to two hour interviews with seventeen low-income single mothers living in South Boston public housing were conducted over the course of a year. The women were participants in a program designed for low-income families to help them achieve financial self-sufficiency. Although the sample was clearly not representative of the experience of low-income single mothers in the City of Boston, conversations with these women allowed a view into the larger social processes affecting their lives. Each mother was asked to talk about the history of her education and employment as well as her experience parenting. Most of the women expressed awareness that low-income single mothers have been stereotyped in a number of ways. The interview data revealed the degree to which their day-to-day lives come into conflict with such stereotypes. The women’s stories about navigating parenting and work also revealed the institutional obstacles many of them confronted while trying to conform to middle class norms of parenting. Policymakers and academics must look to the day-to-day experiences of low-income women in order to design policies and social service programs, which address the reality of their lives.

Committee
Chair: Lisa Dodson
Member: Eve Spangler

Eric Asuo-Mante

American Dreams, a Shattered Heaven, and Racism

In recent years, African immigrants have become a large and growing segment of the American population. Like most migrants in the United States these travelers seek to attain the American Dream; they therefore mostly journey to the U.S. in the hope of bettering their lives as well as their family relations back home in Africa. But despite the continually increasing African demography in America, there is a lack of literature on the experience of African immigrants in the United States. This research is an ethnographic study of a sole group of African immigrants in America: Ghanaian migrants. This paper focuses on learning about the life experiences of these settlers before and after they migrate to the United States. Questions that this research addresses include: Why do these migrants journey to the U.S.? What ideas do these immigrants have about the U.S. before migrating to this nation? After arriving in America do their preconceived ideas change or remain the same? How do the Ghanaian migrants change their life to adapt to the American culture? What are their views about American culture and life in the U.S.?

Committee
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Eve Spangler


 

AY 2009-10

Noa Milman  (interim degree)

The Single Mothers' Movement in the Israeli Press: an Anatomy of a Struggle

This study examines the ways the Israeli press covered a movement of low-income single mothers. Despite initial success, within less than three months the movement lost its power and, without achieving any immediate political gains, ceased to exist. Using frame analysis of newspapers articles, the study challenges popular perceptions of media recruitment to support liberal challengers against conservative governments, and reveals editorial and journalistic practices that contribute to a social movements' demise. In addition, the study examines strategic choices that the movement made during the three months of the protest and evaluates their impact on press coverage and public discourse. The study suggests improved practices for social movements in their work with the media.

Committee
Chair: Bill Gamson
Member: Lisa Dodson

Gretchen Sisson  (interim degree)

Negotiating the Biomedical Model

Assisted reproductive technologies have transformed the way medicine responds to infertility, as well as the ways those who go through difficulty conceiving understand their bodies and their experiences. In many capacities, however, the biomedical model is insufficient: recognition is contingent upon attempts to conceive, diagnosis is often imprecise or unexplained, and treatments strive for solutions without cures – and are frequently incapable of providing even the former. Interviews with 26 participants with current or recent histories of infertility revealed the ways they negotiate the biomedical model: 1) going beyond medical treatment in making lifestyle changes; 2) pursuing alternative treatments; 3) questioning doctors and playing active roles in determining courses of treatment; 4) using religion, spirituality, or magical thinking to develop other, non-bodily ways of controlling infertility; 5) extracting meaning from the experiences, infusing the objective idea of “disease” with subjective purpose; 6) building personal, alternate models that encompass a wide range of ways of thinking about infertility; and 7) directly challenging the scientific authority of the biomedical model, resisting the terms of treatment, or questioning the ability of medicine to offer them solutions. No participants showed pure compliance – as all included at least one of the negotiations – and none showed full resistance – as all had sought at least some medical treatments. Understanding these negotiations leads to a better concept of patient identity and the “illness” experience; it can inform policy in regards to prevention, education, and insurance mandates; and it better reveals who society permits to pursue parenthood in what ways.

Committee
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Member: Shawn McGuffey

Amy Finnegan  (interim degree)

Beyond Victimhood: Community & Forgiveness Amidst War in Northern Uganda

This paper is a case study analysis of the sociological phenomena of forgiveness occurring in an ongoing two decade war in northern Uganda . Building on a long-term relationship with the region and utilizing the methods of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and a qualitative questionnaire, I explore possible factors that propel forgiveness as well as possible impact on the local Acholi community. After providing a theoretical conceptualization of forgiveness compared to other forms of transitional justice, I identify two social mechanisms that correlate with the prevalence of forgiveness in northern Uganda —communal war fatigue and a well-developed sense of collective identity amongst the Acholi people. Findings from my study point to how forgiveness opens a space for the Acholi to assert power and express agency in their lives after years of being portrayed largely as victims. Furthermore, forgiveness also offers the opportunity for the Acholi to experience interpersonal empowerment by maintaining a locus of control through self-blame and meaning-making.

Committee
Chair: Zine Magubane
Member: Shawn McGuffey

Lauren Brown

Birth Visionaries: An Examination of Unassisted Childbirth

This exploratory study inquires into unassisted childbirth, the act of giving birth without the presence of any birth professional (doctor, midwife or doula). Unassisted birth is on the radical fringe of alternatives to the dominant techno-medical birth common in American hospitals today. My research questions are what are women’s motivations for choosing unassisted childbirth and what is the lived experience of unassisted childbirth? I will answer these questions through nine in-depth interviews and a grounded theory data analysis. My approach comes from a focus on the everyday lived experience of women as problematic as well as insights from anthropology of birth and feminist postmodern sociology of knowledge. This study is relevant to public health policy on pregnancy and birth, to those working on questions of technology and culture, and to those concerned with how biosocial rituals shape embodied experience. My findings also contribute to research about power in contemporary society, specifically how the body can be a cite for social control and resistance.

Committee
Chair: Sharlene Hess-Biber
Member: Leslie Salzinger

Adam Saltsman  (interim degree)

Contested Rights: Subjugation And Struggle Among Burmese Forced Migrants In Exile

Through a qualitative thematic analysis of sixty-four semi-structured interviews, this thesis focuses on the protracted situation facing forced migrants in countries of first asylum. In particular, I look at the ways in which Burmese forced migrants, the Thai Government, and humanitarian actors negotiate the meaning of refugee status and what it means to be in a long-term space of transition. Findings for this study point to the ways in which the policies and norms of the Royal Thai Government and the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees inadvertently interconnect to complicate the space for refugee protection. The paper also finds that refugee status can be gained or lost through interactions between asylum seekers and various parties on the Thai-Burma border. Certain actors within the refugee community and among the Thai authorities play the role of gatekeepers, granting access to protection at a cost and excluding those who cannot pay. Underlying this context of asylum are themes of extreme repression and resistance that have implications not only for the lives of those who seek refuge, but also for notions of sovereignty and citizenship.

Committee
Chair: Sarah Babb
Member: Lisa Dodson

Curtis Holland

MBA Students’ Perspectives toward the Economic Crisis: Implications for Contemporary Corporate Culture?

The current economic crisis resembles a type of “critical situation” wherein everyday assumptions and routines sustaining hegemonic ideologies and their corresponding forms of social power are prone to be disrupted (Giddens 1987). Such situations provide opportunities for the relative strength of such hegemonies, and how they are effectively restored and/or challenged, to be uncovered. In undertaking this study I sought to discover the social and economic implications and lessons MBA students associate with the current economic crisis and how they frame and rationalize such perceptions. In so doing, I further aimed to uncover specific ideological processes they perform in preserving and/or challenging conventional tenets of liberal capitalism. I reexamine the sociological concept of ideology in reference to the empirical data, and test the capacity of Giddens’ (1979, 1984) and Mannheim’s (1949) combined methodologies in uncovering interconnections of consciousness, ideology and agency. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 23 MBA students from five universities in Boston, and used a combination of grounded theory and theory testing to analyze the data. Findings reveal not only the specific content comprising hegemonic notions of what constitutes economic and social reality among respondents, but also reflect how ideology functions as a holistic process of social and self understanding and how it reproduces, and is reproduced by, the performance of agencies within particular corporate and educational structures. I argue that the tenets espoused and enacted by many respondents reveal a stark challenge to future social change. Even amid the current crisis – the largest since the Great Depression – most respondents acknowledge that this event had little impact on how they view their professional vocations or the macro economic system. This finding not only speaks strongly to the rigidity of conventional tenets underscoring our liberal capitalist culture, but also implies the urgent need to reconsider how our educational institutions should play a greater role in challenging conventional notions of reality espoused so fervently by burgeoning business professionals. I further argue that critical, systematic evaluations of consciousness and ideology should take a more substantial role in the social sciences in determining the restraints and possibilities for social change.

Committee
Chair: Paul Gray
Member: Paul Schervish


 

AY 2008-09

Erin Balleine

Social Class and Social Change: A Study of the Social Class Dynamics Between and Among Social Change Organizations

This study explores the dynamics of social class within social change organizations. Social change organizations tend to acknowledge the race and gender divides that sometimes exist within diverse groups, but seldom discuss the influence of social class within groups. In observing five social change groups in Massachusetts and Florida with nearly 50 meeting participants, this study attempts to distinguish what are different meeting style preferences and decision making processes of activists of different education levels, social class backgrounds, and occupations. This study reveals sharp differences between how working-class and middle-class activists tend to operate, leading to misunderstandings and fractured coalitions and attempts to provide insight into how social change groups of difference social classes can best work together to create a productive and cohesive meeting environment.

Committee
Chair: Bill Gamson
Member: Darcy Leach

Maggie Willis  (interim degree)

‘Conscious Consumption’ and Activism: An Empirical Reevaluation of the Apolitical and Distracted Consumer

This thesis empirically examines the long-standing critique that consumption is inherently apolitical and a distraction from civic and political involvement. This image of consumers has been particularly salient in current debates about 'conscious consumption' motivated by ecological and social justice issues. Whether buying organic or fair-trade actually displaces activism has remained unsubstantiated. Based on the results of an online survey administered to a group of individuals who identify as conscious consumers, regression analyses were conducted to isolate the relationship between conscious consumption and formal and informal activism for over 1700 respondents. The results of the analyses reveal that higher levels of consistency in conscious consumption practices are significantly related to greater social and political involvement on ecological and social justice issues, even when controlling for prior levels of involvement. Respondents also reported higher overall participation rates in general when compared to pre-existing data on nationally representative samples. Consumption is not displacing involvement and activism among these conscious consumers, suggesting that conscious consumption may be an integral element of broader action for many.

Committee
Chair: Juliet B. Schor
Member: Natalia Sarkisian

Kim Bachechi

The Pure, the Pious and the Preyed Upon; A Celebration of Celibacy and the Erasure of Young Women’s Sexual Agency

Using content analysis of the three largest United States Newsweeklies this thesis explores representations of young women’s sexuality during the early 2000’s. While popular culture during this period is focused on “Girls Gone Wild” causing widespread feminist concern over the “third wave’s” definition of a feminist sexuality, no young women with sexual agency are presented in the magazines. Instead the women presented, who are overwhelmingly white, are either too pure to posses any information regarding sexual activities, engaged in sexual activities that they are coerced or forced into, or are celibate. The combination of these discourses exposes a narrative of female empowerment through chastity that mirrors the Victorian-era ideals of white womanhood. Using post-colonial theory the thesis argues that this representation, combined with the erasure of all other alternatives is indicative of a identity crisis within the collective United Sates conscious.

Committee
Chair: Zine Magubane
Member: Eve Spangler

Emily MacMillan

The Voices of Parents in the Classroom: A Qualitative Inquiry

This paper explores the ways in which nine parents experience their children’s high school. Although the high school is in the inner-city of Boston and serves mostly children of color from working-class and poor families, the parents hold themselves to expectations based on middle-class and dominant societal norms. They experience the school as an institution that often does not live up to its responsibilities to educate and protect their children. The parents then place most of these responsibilities for their child’s education on themselves, both to ensure their child’s future and to prevent any negative judgments from being made about their parenting.

This paper attempts to allow parents to tell the story of their child’s school in their own voices and to begin to resist the ways that inner-city parents have been constructed in the literature in the past. In order for urban education to truly change, the voices of parents must be allowed into the conversation and this paper attempts to begin the recognition of those voices.

Committee
Chair: Lisa Dodson
Member: Sarah Babb

Shanyuan Foo

The Lived Realities Of Educated Chinese Women In Singapore – Contestations In Formation Of A Gendered Identity Vis-À-Vis State Definitions Of Womanhood

In Singapore, the discourse of a reproductive crisis resulting from the education of the female populace has been well documented – college educated women are blamed for imperiling the nation as a result of their willfulness to distort natural patterns of biological reproduction in favor of pursuing a career. The concept of racial reproduction is intertwined within this eugenicist discourse – the State’s intended audience was, specifically, Chinese college-educated women, as a result of racial tension between neighboring Malay Muslim countries and the racial dominance by the Chinese in the city state. At the same time, the State required the continued participation of women in the economy as a result of Singapore’s small population. Thus, the State set out to construct the Ideal female citizen as that of wife, mother and worker, while maintaining the patriarchal hierarchy of man/woman/child within the family unit. The ability to subject citizens to specific patterns over sustained periods of time across multiple social institutions in Singapore is in no small part due to the hegemony of the People’s Action Party (PAP) running the government since 1959 while simultaneously squashing political dissent, ensuring domination and control over the country.

Using data collected through intensive interviews with 18 Singaporean Chinese, college educated women; this paper examines the impact of the Singapore State in influencing these women in embodying State definitions of the Ideal female citizen. Findings indicate that most respondents want to be full time stay at home mothers, despite the fact that they were in positions of power at work, and enjoyed a high level of income at the time of the interview. At the same time, within their narratives multiple contradictions were presented between doing what they want and doing what is socially accepted. Othering also consistently emerges in their definition of the Self, and several types of Others emerge which mirrors State defined negative Others. Using Foucault and Butler’s framework of governmentality, biopower and heterosexism, I argue that the result of their choices and their conception of Othering is strongly influenced by the State and that the process of Othering has postcolonial roots. The appropriation of Others and Othering by respondents provides a way to solidify an otherwise unstable gendered identity and also to justify the sacrifices that they make. The changing structure of gender roles as a result of female education causes much anxiety to the State, who has vested interests not just in reproduction but also in maintaining the patriarchal hierarchy within the family so as to lessen the threat to its own power structure. As such, the State places contradictory demands on women as wife, mother and worker while ignoring the man’s possible contributions in this discourse. The state’s ability in shaping discourse and limiting acceptance of alternative lifestyles, combined with the pressure, criticism and social sanctions for not conforming; have led most of these women to choose the traditional gender role of women as wife and mother over their careers.

Committee
Chair: Shawn McGuffey
Member: Leslie Salzinger

Nicholas Redel

Incorporating Resilience into the Analysis of Sustainable Socioeconomic Development: Conceptual Framework and Research Priorities

Efforts to create unambiguous measures of sustainable development without compromising the complexity of the concept are continuously frustrated by technical limitations. Determining and quantifying the relationships between socioeconomic and environmental domains is complicated by the need to account for interactions between varied spatial and temporal scales.

The resilience perspective has been used as a conceptual framework for unifying these concerns. Indeed, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (2007) explicitly links sustainable development and global climate change, and discusses both in terms of resilience. However, conceptual imprecision within the resilience literature persists.

This paper outlines the conceptual and methodological complexity of sustainable development; clarifies imprecision that persists within the resilience literature; establishes a conceptual framework for the analysis of socioeconomic development in light of likely impacts of global climate change; and identifies research priorities for the identification and interpretation of sustainable development indicators.

Committee
Chair: Eve Spangler
Member: Michael Malec

Aideen Gleeson

Service Learning and Civic Action: A Multilevel Analysis of Personal Commitment and Campus Culture

Contemporary scholars have made repeated calls to renew higher education’s role in catalyzing a commitment to democracy and civic society. Service learning has emerged as one of the more popular mechanisms established to revitalize this calling and to teach about the importance of civic responsibility. The hope is that a student’s experience in his or her service learning course will be the beginning of, or a part of, a student’s overall trajectory of a commitment to civic responsibility, action, and social change (Marullo & Edwards, 2000). Above and beyond individual experience, an institutional culture and climate would also either foster an inclination towards civic responsibility and social action, or dissuade from this inclination. In his call for a renewed scholarship of engagement, Boyer (1996) specifically advocates for a new academic climate and culture that promotes civic responsibility.

This study uses hierarchical linear modeling to explore the impact of individual college experiences as well as the impact of institutional characteristics and culture on the importance that students place on civic action upon graduating, with a particular focus on service learning engagement at both levels. This study confirms previous studies on service learning and civic action in that an individual’s involvement in service learning programs does lead to higher levels of commitment to civic action. It also adds to current research through exploring the cultural effect of service learning programs. The findings support the claim that a scholarship of engagement will lead to graduates placing more importance upon future engagement in civic action. Results show that on campuses with a stronger culture of service learning, students place greater importance on civic action.

Committee
Chair: Natasha Sarkisian
Member: Paul Gray


 

AY 2007-08

Chiwen Bao (interim degree)

Within the Classroom Walls: Critical Classroom Processes, Students’ and Teachers’ Sense of Agency, and the Making of Racial Advantages and Disadvantages

Despite decades of research and efforts to reform schools, racial disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes, often referred to as the “achievement gap,” persist and concerns about students’ math learning and achievement continue. Among researchers, educational practitioners, and the wider public, explanations for these ongoing problems usually point to structural influences or individual and cultural factors. For example, structures of schooling (e.g. school funding, organization and curriculum) and those outside of school (e.g. family background and neighborhood characteristics) become focal points for understanding educational inequalities and places for intervention. In terms of explanations that look to individual influences, teachers and students are either targeted for their inadequacies or praised for their individual talents, values and successes. Regarding students in particular, racial inequalities in academic outcomes often become attributed to students’, namely black and Latino/a students’, supposed cultural devaluation of education and their desires to not “act white” and academically achieve. Together, these explanations lead to the assessment that possibilities of teaching and learning are predetermined by a host of structural and individual influences. But how is the potential to teach and learn at least partially actualized through everyday processes? Moreover, how do these processes, which simultaneously involve structures and individual agents, lead to the production or disruption of racial disparities?

To explore these questions, I investigated processes of teaching and learning in one well-funded, racially diverse public high school with high rates of students’ passing the statewide standardized test, many students going onto prestigious colleges and universities, and enduring racial inequalities in academic achievement. I conducted fieldwork over three years in 14 math classrooms ranging from test preparation classes to honors math classes and interviewed 52 students and teachers about their experiences in school. Through analyzing the data, I find that what happens within the classroom walls still matters in shaping students’ opportunities to learn and achieve. Illustrating how effective learning and teaching and racial disparities in education do not simply result from either preexisting structural contexts or individuals’ virtues or flaws, classroom processes mold students’ learning and racial differences in those experiences through cultivating or eroding what I refer to as students’ sense of academic agency and teachers’ sense of agency to teach. For students, that sense of agency leads to their attachment to school, identification with learning in general and math in particular, engagement, motivation and achievement. As classroom processes evolve in virtuous or vicious cycles, different beliefs about students (e.g. as “good kids” or “bad kids”) importantly fuel the direction of these cycles. Since racial stereotypes often influence those beliefs, students consequently experience racial advantages and disadvantages in classroom processes. As a result, some students fail to learn and achieve not because they fear “acting white,” but because they do not always get to experience classroom processes that cultivate their sense of being agentic in the classroom space, a sense that is distinctly racialized.

Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Leslie Salzinger, Ted Youn, Shawn McGuffey, Lisa Patel Stevens

Jonathan Christiansen

"Takes more than guns to kill a man": History and Narrative in the Resurgence of the Industrial Workers of the World

This paper examines the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as a resurgent social movement organization and the role that the IWW cultural narrative has served in this resurgence. After many years of decline and near death the IWW has seen a recent resurgence of organizing and publicity with membership nearly doubling from 2001 - 2006. Research consisted of an analysis of IWW cultural artifacts, participant observation with an IWW branch, and in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Part of the interview process included informant interpretation of IWW graphics and cartoons, which allowed for respondent voices to emerge and engage with narrative elements. This paper explores the historical narrative of the IWW and how current members interact with and understand the narrative as a way to form identity and create a sense of collective memory. Further, it highlights the dynamic interaction between broad political and economic shifts and how the meanings and understandings of the narrative of the IWW shift accordingly. IWW members engaged with historical narrative when relevant and created new meanings and articulations when necessary. This paper shows that social movement organizations and their cultures are not static entities and that especially in periods of resurgence, social movements cultures are up to negotiation.

Committee
Chair: William Gamson
Member: Darcy Leach

Natalie Rosado

An Unwritten Narrative: The Resilience of Young Puerto Rican American Girls

This thesis focuses on the lived experiences of adolescent Puerto Rican American girls who were born and raised in the United States. In the midst of the social problems and the attention given to these problems, the resilient nature of these young women is often overlooked. The sample consist of 18 young ladies between the ages of 11-15 (M = 12.2 yrs). The data for this research project were collected through two main methods – the Bicultural Involvement Questionnaire (BIQ) and semi-structured interviews. First I utilize social identity theory and the concept of social stigma to detail certain social problems and explain their reactions towards them. I then describe the coping strategies used by these young ladies to survive the social inequality they face on a daily basis. I have used the existing research on the colonialism of Puerto Rico, race/ethnicity, and cultural gender expectations as the foundation for my exploration on the effects of the interconnectedness of all three social processes on the lives of these young girls, and to gain a better understanding on the coping strategies these young women use to deal with these social problems. Although these girls express many ways of dealing with difficult situations, I write on four of the main strategies they utilize. The four coping strategies include: making use of their social capital, distinguishing themselves from others, promoting and preserving cultural pride, and understanding the differences in various social contexts. What has remained virtually unwritten, until now, are the ways young puertorriqueñas have learned to cope with the problems of an oppressive history, race/ethnicity, and gender expectations