Empowered Youth: The Co-Creation of Youth as Technological Citizens and Consumers Within Community-Based Technology Programs
The purpose of this study is to investigate the new media ecologies of urban, low-income youth and youth of color, and how they develop literacies and competencies around technology in the particular spaces of Community Technology Centers (CTCs), while placing them within their broader technological experiences and raced, classed, and gendered identities. This study builds on the concept of youth as experiencing a “new media ecology” in which youth engagement with technology is understood a phenomenon which connects all spheres of experience. Through this work, I refine the understanding of how marginalized young people engage with technology in order to expand our understanding of digital inequality and its effects, as well as how digital inequality and inclusion interact with young people’s identities and social worlds more broadly. Young people, marginalized by their raced, classes, and gendered identities, are both accused of being wasteful in their technology engagement, and are welcomed into these non-traditional learning spaces in order to cultivate their uses of technology into more meaningful and productive outcomes. There is a growing proliferation of informal and creative digital learning programs, and corresponding research and interrogation of the activities within these spaces. However, we lack a full and holistic understanding of who these young people are as technological citizens and consumers, an understanding that is necessary to inform effective interventions around digital inequality.
Through qualitative research within two Boston-area Community Technology Centers, including participant observation and interviews, this study presents an analysis of how young people as agentic individuals interact with the contexts they enter into to produce new forms of agency – and disempowerment. Rather than focusing on one area of the digital learning environment or youth technological experience, as other researchers have done, I delineate a more complete and dialogic view of less-advantaged young people and their technological engagement.
My findings build on the need for supportive informal technology learning environments for marginalized youth, both in terms of providing stable environments with rich resources for technological exploration and skill-building, as well as providing learning environments which valorize and encourage youth agency and identity work. It is also necessary to recognize and allow for differences among youth in these spaces, who vary not only in terms of race, class, and gender, but also skills, abilities, interests, and motivations. I also call attention to the ways in which structural inequalities enter into these informal learning environments, resulting in their reproduction.
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Juliet Schor, C. Shawn McGuffey
Alexander A. Hernandez
Adapting to Technological Change in the Workplace: An assessment of the effects of information and communication technology on older workers
While much has been written about the effect of information and communication technology (ICT) on the workplace, little research has focused specifically on its effect on older workers. Using Pierre Bourdieu's theories of "capital” as a frame, I investigate how older academic faculty, clergy, and government employees have been affected by the rapid technological changes that have occurred in the workplace over the past 25 years. I conducted 75 semi-structured interviews and discovered that older workers, while generally limited in their technological familiarity and competence when compared to their younger coworkers, do have a wealth of skills that make them invaluable as employees even in the modern workplace. Through the use of their social connections and their organizational knowledge, I found that older workers are able to successfully mitigate any lack of technological skill. Moreover, as the responsibilities of workers change, because of globalization and the automation of work, I contend that the skills embodied by older workers will be able to successfully manage the transition for all workers.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Sara Moorman, Brian Gareau
Support Transfers and Well-being among Older Adults in Latin America
This research examines social support transfers, social support networks and psychological well-being among older adults (aged 60+) in five countries in Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. Latin American countries are aging rapidly and, compared to Western Europe and North America, have had a relatively short amount of time to accommodate to their aging population (United Nations 2009). While families have traditionally served as the primary support network of older adults in the region, current demographic, social and economic changes have cast doubt on the future viability of these informal supports (Agree and Glaser 2009; United Nations 2002). In general, little is known about the receipt and provision of support to older adults in the region, and how such support is tied to their well-being as they age.
This dissertation examines support transfers, support networks and well-being of older adults in Latin America and is based on the following three research questions: 1) How is network structure associated with the receipt of financial and instrumental support among older adults in Latin America?; 2) What motivates the provision of financial or instrumental support to older adults in Latin America?; and 3) Do support transfers from kin and non-kin differently affect psychological well-being among older adults in Latin America?
To answer these questions, this study used data from the Survey on Health, Well-Being, and Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean (SABE), which includes information on over 7,000 older adults living in private homes in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Santiago (Chile), Mexico City (Mexico) or Montevideo (Uruguay) (Peláez et al. 2000). Additionally, the study examined data on over 50,000 members of older adults’ household and family networks.
Study findings confirm the importance of network structure for the receipt of both financial and instrumental support among older adults in Latin America. They also suggest a dynamic perspective of support provision throughout the region, where members of older adult’s networks jointly navigate a mix of motivating factors to provide support to older adults in need. Lastly, results highlight the importance of kin support for the psychological well-being of older adults throughout the region. The findings presented in this dissertation provide an important first step in understanding elder support and psychological well-being in Latin America, and offer a strong foundation for future assessments throughout the region.
Chair: Sara Moorman
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, Sarah Babb
The Sounds of Silence: A Structural Analysis of Academic "Writer's Block"
A qualitative study based on forty four in-depth interviews with undergraduates experiencing severe difficulties with academic writing, this dissertation examines how structural factors—social class and race in particular—contribute to academic “writer’s block.” “Writer’s block,” as indicated by the clinical, individualistic nature of the term itself, tends to be viewed as a private “personal trouble” stemming from psychological problems. However, after nine years as a writing tutor, I entered into this project to interrogate whether or not academic writing block might also be understood as a “public issue.” Indeed, the data confirm there are definitive structural rather than merely psychological contributors to the problem. All of the subjects in my study perceived writing as a high stakes performance, albeit for different reasons, and their writing block can be understood as an instance of “choking” in the face of such high stakes. My findings fell largely along class lines. Many blocked working class students become aware when they enter college that they bring a deficit of the kinds of cultural capital elite institutions of higher education value and reward, while at the same time, they tend to feel significant pressure to “pay back” the sacrifices of their parents with academic achievement. Writing block, for such students, can be viewed as choking in the face of these pressures and can even contribute to the reproduction of inequalities over time. On the other hand, many blocked upper middle class students experience significant achievement pressure as an expectation to be “perfect,” and they are anxious about their ability to maintain their social class status in the current economy. The resulting pressure can produce a paralyzing writing block in such students, which represents a psychological cost of structural advantage. Finally, for blocked students whose class-race identifications place them at the margins of the college’s social structure, writing block can embody the liminality of their social status. In today’s economic climate of uncertainty, class status for students across the socioeconomic spectrum has become relatively unstable given individuals’ increased risk of downward mobility. I conclude that the apparent silence of blocked writers is often fertile with the insights of those whose voices have been stilled by the various structural crosshairs in which they find themselves. If one listens closely, one can hear in the sounds of silence truths unspoken. Superimposing a sociological vantage point on a problem otherwise viewed through a purely individualistic perspective, we can begin to trace the outlines of the haunting yet underarticulated intersections of psychology and structure.
Chair: David Karp
Members: John Williamson, Sarah Babb
When Do Mothers Matter? An Intersectional Analysis of News Media Welfare Discourses in Israel and Massachusetts.
Taking an intersectional approach, I show how news media portrayals of neoliberal welfare reform and welfare rights movements are rooted in culture-specific racial and gendered ideologies. Using critical discourse analysis in combination with frame analysis, I analyze 462 articles published in two central newspapers in Massachusetts (The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald) and in Israel (Haaretz and Yediot Achronot) during the public debates on welfare reform in 1995 and 2003 respectively. I trace the surprising discursive success of the Israeli welfare rights movement in the news media, and compare it with the failure of their American counterparts. At the conclusion of the dissertation, I offer an intersectional cultural explanation for this phenomenon.
My findings are twofold: on the one hand, I find that the news media and elite actors used culturally-hegemonic sexist, racist, and classist discourses to stigmatize and silence welfare mothers and to justify neoliberal policies. Both the American and the Israeli news media tapped into readily available gender-specific racial discourses to discredit welfare recipients and welfare activists and to silence them. On the other hand, I demonstrate that the Israeli case is nevertheless quite distinct. The Israeli movement was more successful in discursively challenging the neoliberal welfare discourse than its counterparts in the U.S.
I argue that what accounts for this difference are three unique cultural features of Israeli society: First, (1), a nationalist fertility discourse that served as a value system alternative to the neoliberal logic; second, (2), related to this, a strong “heroic mother” ethos that is a part of the Zionist nation-building project, which valorizes Jewish motherhood and thus provided an ambiguous entry point to the public sphere for Jewish mothers; and third, (3), a nationalist tension between Jewish-Israelis and Palestinian-Israelis that stimulates perceptions of Mizrahi women (i.e. Jewish women of North African and Middle Eastern descent) as a part of the imagined national collectivity, thus lessening their stigmatization and exclusion.
Chair: Bill Gamson
Members: Zine Magubane, C. Shawn McGuffey, Charlotte Ryan
Babies, Books, And Bootstraps: Low-Income Mothers, Material Hardship, Role Strain And The Quest For Higher Education.
Non-traditional students are quickly becoming a statistical majority of the undergraduate student population. Furthermore, nearly one-quarter of contemporary undergraduates is a student parent. Emergent imperatives shaped by technological changes in the economy, deindustrialization, credential inflation, the continuing feminization of poverty and the diminished safety net for low-income families have created a mandate for postsecondary education for anyone hoping to move from poverty into the middle-class. Yet, welfare reforms of the past 17 years have deprioritized, discouraged, and disallowed post-secondary education as a meaningful pathway for low-income parents to achieve economic mobility, even despite a large body of research demonstrating the connections between higher education and: income, occupational prestige, access to employer sponsored benefits, positive intergenerational outcomes, community development, and broader societal gains. While previous research has focused on the impact of welfare reform on access to post-secondary education for participants within the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program, declining overall TANF participation rates indicate that low-income families are largely turning to more diverse strategies to support their families and pursue higher education. Despite both the recent growth of the population of student parents as a significant minority of the undergraduate population, and the rise of governmental initiatives promoting the expansion of post-secondary education and training to traditionally underserved student populations, very little is known about the comprehensive experiences of contemporary low-income mothers as they navigate college while simultaneously working to balance these endeavors with motherhood and family labor, paid employment and public assistance requirements.
This dissertation presents the findings of a multi-method institutional ethnographic research process through which the author collected data regarding the experiences of low-income mothers across the country. This process included conducting in-depth interviews with 31 low-income mothers who were currently enrolled in college or who had been enrolled in college within the past year. Additionally, research journals were collected from an additional 20 participants documenting their experiences across an academic term. In total these participants represented 10 states in three regions of the United States: The West Coast, Mid-West, and Northeast. Secondary data were collected through: institutional interviews with student parent program coordinators, collection of primary materials from programs serving student parents throughout the country, and review of primary policy documents regarding higher education and federal and state welfare policies. As a feminist participatory action research project, participatory methods were employed at all stages of the research process and included the use of two interpretive focus groups within campus-based programs serving student parents that both added to the research findings and to the process of analysis and interpretation.
This findings of this dissertation begin by painting the picture of the complex lifeworlds of low-income mothers and their simultaneous experience of role strain and material hardship as they work to balance the responsibilities of college enrollment with mothering, work, and the labor involved in researching, applying for and maintaining multiple public assistance benefits. Next, the author argues that conflicts between higher education policies and public assistance policies as experienced by participants shape the strategies through which they attempt to make ends meet and finance their education and ultimately exacerbate their experiences of role strain and material hardship. The author then moves to explore the impact that these policies have on academic outcomes for this sub-set of students. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the broader social context in which this takes place: one in which policies have been structured on meritocracy rather than equal opportunity for higher education. This presents a dual-edge sword scenario however in that the American Dream both drives the motivation of low-income mothers to persevere in college despite tremendous hardship and personal sacrifice, while it also serves to frame the very policies that make their quest for higher education so grueling.
Co-Chairs: Lisa Dodson and Shawn McGuffey
Members: Stephen Pfohl, Erika Kates (Wellesley College), and Sandi Morgen (University of Oregon)
Hip Hop Ecology: Investigating the connection between creative cultural movements, education and urban sustainability.
There is an emerging pairing between the grassroot hip hop movement and urban sustainability initiatives that I call hip hop ecology. The synergy between hip hop and environmentalism defies stereotypes of the whiteness of the environmental movement and the forms of discourse that are used to raise awareness of the ecological crisis. This dissertation builds from my work in the Boston Public Schools where, for four years, I have taught environmental science using environmentally-themed (green) hip hop. In these classes I have asked students to express their learning in their own creative verse. I present three studies that situate the connection between hip hop and environmentalism in social and educational contexts. The first is a comparative content analysis of environmental science textbooks and green hip hop tracks that will help define the sociotextual scene of the urban environmental classrooms where I worked. The second research site is the community, where I interviewed “hip hop ecologists,” activists and emcees who work directly on urban sustainability and environmental justice while producing hip hop with green themes. The second study provides an in-depth look at how these young environmental activists of color navigate the racial dynamics of the movement and try to sustain their careers as leaders and artists. The third study is an ethnography where I synthesize four years of classroom teaching and analyze the various cases where constructs of race and nature intersected, deconstructing both the social interactions in the classroom as well as the green hip hop lyrics written by the students. The implications of a hip hop ecology are that we as environmental practitioners actively rethink what counts as an environmental text and what part of our own creativity we tap as educators who endeavor to promote a more racially diverse and powerful movement for sustainability.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Stephen Pfohl, Leigh Patel Stevens
Missing Class: How Understanding Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups
What are the class culture differences among US progressive activists?
This mixed-methods study finds that members of 25 social movement groups in five states spoke and acted differently depending on their class background, current class and class trajectory, confirming previous research on cultural capital and conditioned class predispositions.
I found class differences in group process preferences, in tastes in speech style and humor, and in ways of recruiting new members, combating racism, dealing with people who talk too much in meetings, and resolving conflicts.
Group styles were formed by the interplay of members’ predominant class trajectories and groups’ movement traditions. Better understanding these class culture differences would enable activists to strengthen cross-class alliances to build more powerful social movements.
Chair: Bill Gamson
Members: Eve Spangler, Lisa Dodson and Francesca Polletta
The Public Face of Human Gene Therapy: Images and Metaphors of an Emerging Medical Technology in the Mainstream Media
This study seeks to better understand the “public face” of human gene therapy through an examination of coverage of the technology in mainstream U.S. newspapers, news magazines, and online news sites from 1989 to 2011. By conducting a qualitative content analysis that employs a constant comparative method and uses the computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software HyperRESEARCH, prevailing images and metaphors about human gene therapy are identified. These images and metaphors are analyzed through the lens of the sociology of technology, with particular attention given to technological determinism, geneticization, and the sociology of expectations. Further, their connection to issues of self and identity, embodiment, and illness meanings is explored. Four main types of images and metaphors emerge from this analysis: essentialist, fatalistic, expectant, and conflictive. While these types present an array of diverse (and sometimes conflicting) characterizations of human gene therapy, they all contribute to a positive, hopeful public face of the technology, despite its limited successes and sometimes tragic failures over the past three decades. The study considers the broader implications of these findings and addresses the role sociologists could play in helping the public to navigate the media discourse surrounding human gene therapy and other emerging medical technologies.
Chairperson: Eve Spangler
Members: Eva Garroutte, David Karp
Narratives of Injustice: Measuring the Impact of Witness Testimony in the Classroom
Can a vivid presentation about a tragic chapter of history elicit in viewers an empathetic reaction, as well as evidence of the telescopic perspective Mills ( 2000) described as the “sociological imagination”? Does the addition of victims’ voices make a noticeable difference in their response to the historical event, as well contemporary controversies?
Some scholars propose that oral histories, especially witness testimonies, have the potential to reach audiences more deeply than facts alone. “Narratives,” as K. Slobin observed, “unfold with flesh and blood…encouraging empathy, identification and a humanization of content” (in Bochner and Ellis, 1992:171). But, little systematic research has examined how or to what extent personal testimony may encourage empathetic understanding and a broader, more nuanced understanding of social problems. In an era where entertainment content skews toward “reality” programming and technology supersedes face-to-face interactions, the challenge to pierce cultural white noise is great. Educators, then, must figure out ways to counteract the desensitization, apathy and cynicism that follow these trends—but in ways that are proven, effective and lasting.
My research sought to discover if victim narratives help students connect intellectually and emotionally with lessons about social justice. Thirteen undergraduate classes were exposed to three variations of a fact-based, multimedia presentation about Japanese internment in America during WWII. Each presentation included the same photographs, newsreel, and factual information. Presentations varied, however, in their use of survivor testimony and in the manner of its incorporation (video versus written accounts). Two groups of the sample were exposed to adult survivors describing their experiences as children in the internment camps. All groups completed surveys, and 21 participants gave extensive interviews. Data analysis examined information recall, sociological perspective, emotional response, empathetic identification and predictions of future behavior. The experiment generated much-needed empirical data on the efficacy of testimony and its ability to shape attitudes, broaden world view, and possibly influence behavior. These findings will assist educators in anticipating outcomes associated with various heuristic strategies, especially the use of witness testimonies.
Chairperson: Paul Gray
Members: Eva Garroute, David Karp, Sara Moorman
Jared del Rosso
The Reality of Torture: Congress and the Construction of a Political Fact
Existing studies of governmental responses to human rights allegations emphasize the rhetorical forms that official claims take at the expense of demonstrating how contextual factors influence discourse. Analytically, this dissertation accounts for these factors by theorizing and analyzing how knowledge and culture operate in American political discourse of torture. Drawing on a qualitative content and discourse analysis of 40 congressional hearings, held between 2003 and 2008, this dissertation documents a transition in American politics from a discourse of denial, which downplayed allegations of abuse and torture, to a discourse of acknowledgement, which criticized the Bush administration’s interrogation policies on the grounds that the policies permitted torture and undermined U.S. interests. By situating this transition within its institutional and political context, this study examines the influence of documentary evidence of torture, interpretive frames in which American officials situated that evidence, and political power as expressed in control over congressional committees on political discourse.
Between 2003 and 2008, a significant volume of documentary evidence of violence against detainees in U.S. custody entered public discourse. Typically, shifts in congressional discourse followed the release of official, documentary evidence produced by government sources, such as military police or FBI agents, that provided first-hand or localized portrayals of abuse and torture at U.S. detention facilities. Such documents, including the photographs taken at Abu Ghraib prison and FBI emails documenting torture at Guantánamo, secure a “reality” of violence that is difficult to rationalize as legitimate state violence. This difficulty stems, in part, from the fact that localized portrayals of interpersonal violence frequently capture the excesses of that violence—the irrationality, sadism, and innovations in cruelty of torturers and the vulnerabilities of sufferers of torture. Significantly, though, the political meaning of documentary evidence derives from the interpretive frames in which it is situated. Between 2003 and 2008, “human rights” and the “rule of law” became increasingly available as interpretive frames for the political debate over detention and interrogation. This development resulted from several changes in the political environment, including the Bush administration’s mobilization of human rights to legitimize the Iraq war and the Supreme Court’s rulings on cases involving detainees. The Democrat’s mid-term victory in 2006, which won Democrats control over both the House of Representatives and Senate, also profoundly influenced political discourse. Democrats used congressional committees to pursue broad, reflective hearings on the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation policies. By inviting legal scholars and representatives of human rights organizations to speak about the policies, the Committees further elevated human rights and the rule of law in the debate about torture.
Given these developments, a critical discourse of torture gradually emerged and solidified. This discourse labeled American interrogation practices—known to their supporters as “enhanced interrogation”—as torture and linked their use to significant and negative global consequences for the U.S. In addition to documenting and accounting for this discourse’s emergence, this dissertation critically examines it. I argue that the discourse of acknowledgement employs nationalistic arguments against torture and systematically excludes the voices of victims of American torture. This discourse, then, fails to reckon with the profound personal, communal, and national implications of U.S. torture for its survivors. I conclude by drawing on the work of Physicians for Human Rights to develop an alternative discourse of acknowledgement that seeks to permit an encounter with the others of American violence.
Chairperson: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Sarah Babb, C. Shawn McGuffey
Mothering in Modern Disability Bureaucracies
Using a three-article, mixed methods format, Mothering in Modern Disability Bureaucracies examines the profound pressures placed on women to conform to “good” mothering standards within the context of raising children with developmental disabilities. Furthermore, this work offers critical insights into cultural, economic, and bureaucratic mechanisms that present barriers to mothers’ advocacy on behalf of their children with developmental disabilities.
- Article One explores the cultural context and performance of intensive mothering as well as structural barriers to fulfilling the image of a “good mother” from the standpoint of middle class mothers raising children with intellectual disabilities.
- Article Two considers low income mothers’ experiences navigating special education systems for children with severe developmental disabilities and situates those experiences within the intensive mothering ideal and class expectations
- Article Three proposes a theoretical model for adapting Brooks and Pearce's Self Sufficiency Standard (2000) by estimating the relative costs of obtaining basic necessities as well as the costs of care-giving and advocacy for children with disabilities of varying severity.
Mothering in Modern Disability Bureaucracies concludes with policy recommendations to facilitate mothers’ increased access to supportive services for children with developmental disabilities.
Chairperson: Eve Spangler
Members: Lisa Dodson, David Karp
Beyond Victimhood: Narratives of Social Change from and for Northern Uganda
Alongside a burgeoning popular fascination with Africa, new forms of US activism have emerged that seek to address social problems experienced in Africa. Uncritically performed, this activism can have consequential implications in Africa and in the US where young Americans’ understanding of Africa, global social problems and strategies for social change are being shaped. This dissertation illuminates such phenomena through problematizing the US efforts to address the war in northern Uganda and juxtaposing it with the struggles of indigenous activists based in northern Uganda.
Focusing upon US activism for northern Uganda, and the group Invisible Children in particular, I raise critical questions about what social change efforts look like in both the US and northern Uganda and why they take the shapes they do. Building on a long-term relationship with northern Uganda and utilizing the methods of ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups, I expose both overlaps and mismatches in the two contexts, and most importantly, lay the groundwork for building a dialogic between insider and outsider efforts for social change in northern Uganda, with lessons for those interested in social change throughout Africa. Beyond creating useful academic knowledge, this participatory action research infused project seeks to contribute to consciousness-raising in the US and Uganda and, ultimately, to more synergistic and fruitful efforts for social change.
Ultimately, I argue that while grounded in a strong foundation of benevolent intentions alongside savvy and sophisticated mobilization tactics, the American activists have an inflated sense of themselves and their roles in responding to and ending the war in northern Uganda and the LRA-affected areas. Among other concerns, this tone of self-absorption translates into a continuity of patronizing victimhood as well as a lack of consciousness of the existence of indigenous social change agents from the region. Ugandans, on the other hand, are not overly alarmed or concerned with this US activism carried out on their behalf because its impact has been largely peripheral to their lives. While many Ugandans articulate some critiques of the young American activists advocating on their behalf, a thunderous anti-imperialist narrative from Ugandans is unlikely primarily because the Americans’ impact is marginal.
Co-Chairs: Bill Gamson, Zine Magubane
Members: Brinton Lykes, Ron Atkinson (University of South Carolina)
The Role of Contextual Factors in HIV Transmission In Uganda: A Multi-Level Analysis
Since the early 1980s, Uganda has been in the spotlight of global concerns about the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has almost brought the country to its knees. Consequently, a number of social epidemiologists and researchers from different social science fields have, over the past two and half decades, focused their attention on Uganda, attempting to identify the risk factors that expose people to HIV infection in order to inform intervention policy. Although studies coming out of this effort have provided important insights into risks of HIV infection, they have been criticized for almost entirely focusing on individual behavioral factors, such as prostitution and inconsistent condom use, as the primary causal factors of HIV infection, without comprehending the contextual background in which HIV infection takes place. Using the 2000/01 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey and employing multilevel logistic regression methods, I address this concern by investigating the influence of contextual factors on three behaviors related to the risk of HIV infection (HIV testing, multiple sexual partnering, and inconsistent condom use). Analyses reveal that educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and religion significantly predict HIV testing, multiple sexual partnering, and condom use for both men and women – and at both the individual and neighborhood levels. Analyses also reveal that age has an inverted U-shaped association with HIV testing and multiple sexual partnering for both men and women at the individual level. Despite important gains in slowing HIV infection rates over the past two decades, Uganda’s increasing burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic – amid faltering healthcare and other social services investments - is inevitable. It is apparent that there are formidable obstacles to effectively eradicating HIV/AIDS, unless essential social services – such as education, accessible healthcare services – are enhanced, and policies are introduced to improve socioeconomic status of individuals and entire neighborhoods.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Jeanne Guillemin, Natasha Sarkisian
White Weddings: Fantasy, Femininity and Consumer Desire
The white wedding, the dominant form of marriage ritual in America, is a key site for the study of gender inequality because it ritualizes, dramatizes and makes pleasurable patriarchal gender relations. While men and women are becoming more equal in education, the labor force and other social institutions, many women are opting for a traditional, highly gendered wedding ritual. This dissertation unpacks this paradox through the use of qualitative methodology on women’s subjectivity and subconscious experience. My methodological strategy includes participant observation, survey research, free association narrative interviewing and photo-elicitation. These varied methods reveal not only that the majority of my respondents desire a traditional, white wedding complete with a standard package of goods and practices, but that in so enacting heteronormativity they seek a singular emotional and romantic experience.
Co-Chairs: Juliet Schor and Leslie Salzinger
Member: Stephen Pfohl
Parenthood as privilege: The cultural tensions of acceptable reproduction
Parenthood is one of the most salient, fundamental roles that adults adopt cross-culturally, yet, as this dissertation will show, the process of becoming a parent is culturally fraught with both meaning and privilege. In particular, I focus on the cultural tensions of biological parenthood, exploring what the biological relationship between parent and child means for various groups, and how the concept of biological parenthood is judged differently for those different populations. Specifically, I focus on young parents (who society deems unfit to both reproduce and to parent) and teen pregnancy prevention efforts, birthparents who relinquish infants for adoption (who society deems fit to reproduce, but unfit to parent) and the consequences for their lifecourses, and individuals experiencing infertility (who society deems fit to both reproduce and parent — but challenges their ways of achieving either) and their interactions with the biomedical model and healthcare system. From each population, we can gain more nuanced insight into the role of biology in framing parenthood, and how society determines whose parenthood is “acceptable,” allowable, and supported. Finally, I draw specific recommendations from each piece, hoping to gain insight into how changes to sexual education, reproductive health advocacy, adoption policy, and the healthcare system can improve the outcomes for vulnerable, marginalized populations and legitimate the pathways to parenthood for all.
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: David Karp, Shawn McGuffey
Juan Carlos Henriquez-Mendoza
The Belief System and the Pop-Esoteric Wave: A Theory on the Operational Belief System
This work inquires about the subjectivity construction individuals perform in our contemporary media culture. It examines the structure of believing that can be inferred from social conversations when pop-media related to spirituality or transcendency is used as inputs for conversation. For this purpose, I investigate the consumption among Mexican middle-class subjects of three films that triggered for their audiences intense controversies that included topics belonging to the blurry crossroad where science, spirituality, and religion intersect: What The Bleep do We (k)now!? (USA 2004), The Da Vinci Code (USA 2006), and The Passion of the Christ (USA 2004). Based on a multi-method strategy of inquiry, formal film analysis, focus and discussion groups, and interview data collected from the audience, this dissertation finds that the burgeoning of a media driven popular culture spirituality in Mexico is creating a wave of Pop-Esotericism. As a rational narrative with consumption and conversational drives, Pop-Esotericism is not only a resonant media-reference, but also constitutes a pre-text in the construction of ephemeral and collective conversational spaces wherein the belief system is engaged and refurnished. To give a full account on the pop-esoteric phenomenon and on overall contemporary belief systems, I propose a theoretical model aimed to uncover the dynamics and strategies we engage to articulate spirituality, identity, and reality in our current global media context.
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Zine Magubane, Eve Spangler
The U.S. Public Health Profession and Economic Globalization: A Responsive System of Knowledge Production?
This dissertation examines how the U.S. public health profession has responded to economic globalization through its research and education/training approaches. More broadly, this project is concerned with the breadth of knowledge production engendered within public health, and whether critical, structural analyses — particularly in the realm of economics, policy and politics — are being advanced to meet the profession’s stated mission of protecting and promoting the public’s health. An historical literature review reveals that while the profession was born in response to industrialization and urbanization, it underwent a gradual shift in professional focus from structural to individual-level analyses, and from preventive to curative approaches. Utilizing a mixed methodological approach of case study, content analysis, and interview data, this dissertation finds a dearth of attention to economic globalization in contemporary mainstream public health research, and an ongoing tendency to focus on localized amelioration rather than structural policy and political approaches. Interviews with faculty members of Schools of Public Health identify several important external and internal influences on current research and training approaches, including funding constraints, conflicting student demand, influences of political orthodoxy, professional methodological limitations, and restricted paradigms established by professional organizations. However, they also reveal potential opportunities for advancing structural critique, including through ongoing competency development projects, the potential of interdisciplinary or joint-degree programs, and various topical openings linking health and political economy. Key examples from the non-profit realm demonstrate the promise of bolder, more transformative analyses of health.
Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Charles Derber, William Wiist (Northern Arizona University)
High Modernity and Multiple Secularities: Various Forms of Religious Non-Affiliation in the United States
The rapid increase in the number of religious non-affiliates in the United States makes non-affiliation an important issue to study. Traditional secularization theories have explained the overall increase of non-church-going people, but have not explored the diversity among them. Studies attempting to explain the rise in non-affiliation have been basically descriptive, focusing on some sociodemographic characteristics or social networks of religious non-affiliates, examining the effects of cohorts, political orientations, parents’ religions, peer religions, etc. There is no comprehensive social theory on the dynamics of religious non-affiliation. In sum, the previous literature requires us to reconsider the theoretical limits of modernity and a unilateral understanding of secularization and suggests a new framework for multiple secularities in accordance with high modernity.
In this study, I conceptualize religious non-affiliation as “multiple secularities,” creating a new framework that takes into account the existence of various forms of non-affiliation in the United States. Specifically, I identify three categories of worldview-beliefs (theism, spiritualism, immanent frame) and two categories of institutional religious affiliation (affiliation and non-affiliation). Thus, six substantial forms of belief are considered — affiliated theism, affiliated spiritualism, affiliated positivism, unaffiliated theism, unaffiliated spiritualism, and unaffiliated positivism.
The main research task of my dissertation is — utilizing the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey and the 2008 International Social Science Survey, Religion Module — to explore differences of multiple secularities in the U.S. with respect to three dimensions of head, heart, and hand.
Findings indicate there are distinct differences between belief types of unaffiliated individuals. Unaffiliated theists have a quite different view from unaffiliated spiritualists and unaffiliated positivists regard self-centeredness, moral liberalism, attitude toward the tension between religion and science, spiritual experience of being filled with the Spirit, the levels of participation in political associations. Unaffiliated spiritualists show the highest levels of experiences of oneness with the universe, New Age experience (e.g., astrology and alternative medicine), socio-political transformation (e.g., political rallies or public protests) among the unaffiliated individuals. Unaffiliated positivists present the highest levels of self-centeredness among the unaffiliated, but the lowest levels of religious or spiritual experiences.
These outputs present several significances in the literature. First, they reflect the Weberian insight of ‘elective affinities’ in a high modern society between worldviews and ideological, experiential, or social implications. Second, “unchurched believers” require a careful subdivision in social research in accordance with their worldview orientations. Third, political orientation plays a significant role in regard to socio-political transformation. These provide contemporary social scientists with a changing attitude in a transition from the negation of the traditional secularization thesis to a new conundrum of post-secularity beyond belief types and affiliation for the sake of social cohesion.
Chair: Paul Schervish
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, Alan Wolfe
Social Construction of Older Workers: Experiences of Aging under the Institution of Lifetime Employment in Japan
Today, against the backdrop of the demographic pressures to delay the retirement of older workers, sociologists of aging have begun exploring the impact of national labor market institutions on individual workers’ experiences of aging. Using semi-structured, life story interview data drawn from a sample of 52 male workers in the Tokyo area (born between 1940 and 1953), this dissertation research has contributed to uncovering the ways in which the institution of lifetime employment — the most foundational labor market institution of contemporary Japan — uses age to control individuals’ perceptions and behaviors over the course of their working lives. This dissertation research includes data from pre-mandatory retirement older workers (n=29, aged 55-59) and post-mandatory retirement older workers (n=23, aged 60-68). Based on a social constructionist perspective, this dissertation research has explored three areas of these workers’ experiences of aging over the course of their working lives: (1) perceived instances of being subjected to age discrimination; (2) changes to their attitudes toward these age discrimination experiences; and (3) changes to their self-concepts as workers.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Natalia Sarkisian, Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes
Educated in Agency: A Feminist Service-Learning Pedagogy for Crossing Civic Borders
Service-learning is an experiential form of education that moves students outside of the walls of academe to meet a community-identified need through the application and renegotiation of a set of theoretical and methodological skills. It is simultaneously a teaching strategy, an epistemological framework, and an educational reform movement. This research takes the form of multi-methodological case studies of service-learning classrooms and service-learning partnerships, examining the translation of feminist pedagogy to the service-learning experience. The voices of students, faculty, pioneers, administrators, and community partners articulate the common and uncommon struggles of teaching a new generation of students to learn and serve in agencies while simultaneously recognizing their own capacity for agency. This work provides evidence that applying feminist pedagogical principles to our service-learning initiatives creates more meaningful transformations for our students, faculty, and communities. The interdependent Feminist Service-Learning Process posited here as a framework for moving our students across the civic borders necessary for community engagement also suggests that the responsibility for authentic and transformative experiences are the shared responsibility of all participants.
Co-Chairs: Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Carol Hurd Green
Members: David Karp, Kerrissa Heffernan
Strategizing Against Sweatshops: The US Anti-Sweatshop Movement and the Global Apparel Industry
In my dissertation, I examine the strategic evolution of the US anti-sweatshop movement, particularly United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). While scholars of social movements have analyzed individual tactics used by movements, they have only recently begun to look at the larger question of strategy — how movements make choices about which tactics to use when and how they link these tactics together into a larger plan to alter macro-level power relations in society. This dissertation is one of the first empirical examinations of the processes by which particular groups have developed their strategy. I look at how ideology and values, a sophisticated analysis of the structure of the apparel industry, strategic models for action handed down from past movements, and the movement’s decision-making structures interacted in the deliberations of anti-sweatshop activists to produce innovative strategies. I also focus on how the larger social environment, especially the structure of the apparel industry, has shaped the actions of the movement. In seeking to bring about change, the anti-sweatshop movement had to alter the policies of major apparel corporations, decision-making arenas typically closed to outside, grassroots influence. They did so by finding various points of leverage — structural vulnerabilities — that they could use against apparel companies. One of the most important was USAS’s successful campaign to get a number of colleges and universities to implement pro-labor codes of conduct for the apparel companies who had lucrative licensing contracts with these schools. In USAS’s campaigns to support workers at particular sweatshops fighting for their rights, they could then use the threat of a suspension or revocations of these contracts — and therefore a loss of substantial profits — as a means to pressure apparel companies to protect the workers’ rights. This combination of strategic innovation and access to points of leverage has allowed the US anti-sweatshop movement to win some victories against much more powerful foes.
Chair: William A. Gamson
Members: Sarah Babb, Robert Ross, Charlotte Ryan
Israeli Palestinian Peace-Building Partnerships: Stories of Adaptation, Asymmetry, and Survival
This work presents a longitudinal study of greater than 10 years, of all the major peace-building initiatives with an educational encounter-based approach in Israel and Palestine, during times of relative peace and times of acute violence (1993-2008).
Interestingly, my results indicated that when the environment became more tumultuous and hostile, the effectiveness and even survival of these organizations depended to a significant degree on the ability of the organizations to manage the power asymmetry between the two sides and work as equally as possible. Organizations which failed to deal effectively with matters of equality, and the needs and desires of both sides, ended up struggling to maintain commitment, or were doused in conflict that could have been tempered if they strived for more equality.
This study, which involved fieldwork, participant observation, and interviews with Palestinian and Israeli peace-builders prior to, during, and post-the 2nd Intifada, is in many ways a natural experiment of peace-building organizations operating in radically different contexts. Involving various fields, this research contributes to the broad fields of conflict resolution, peace studies, and organization studies. It offers critical insight into how organizations adapt in radically changing environments, what is problematic, what are their possibilities, and what allows some to survive while others do not. Practically speaking, this study also has political import as it suggests ways to strengthen and sustain peace-building efforts in different contexts and strengthen peace-building’s symbolic, cultural, and political worth and value. In addition, it has significance for building sustainable coalitions across an arena of inequality, asymmetry, and difference.
Chair: William A. Gamson
Members: Charles Derber and Raymond G. Helmick
External Advisory Board
Herbert C. Kelman (Harvard University), Ifat Maoz (Hebrew University), and Lucy Nusseibeh (Al Quds University)
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.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Shawn McGuffey, Leslie Salzinger, Lisa Patel Stevens, Ted Youn
When Green Growth Is Not Enough: Climate Change, Ecological Modernization, and Sufficiency in the UK and Canada
A key emergent issue in debates over how to respond to climate change is whether wealthy countries can continue to pursue endless economic growth and still meet emissions targets called for by scientists. This study examines how and why ideas of sufficiency-which emphasize the need to limit production and consumption growth-have emerged in this context, despite great obstacles in growth-oriented societies more favourable to "business-as-usual" or ecological modernization ("green growth") approaches. These issues are examined through a comparative case study of the United Kingdom and Canada-the former one of the most successful nations to date in reducing its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and the latter one of the worst performers in terms of emissions levels, emissions growth, and climate-policy implementation. The study draws on data from semi-structured interviews with actors involved in climate politics; attendance at public events and conferences debating climate-change responses; analysis of documents such as climate strategies, policy statements, speeches, op-eds, and press releases; and media articles. Evidence from these cases indicates that an ecological modernization project is very important to move beyond business-as-usual, but its limits are also evident to many in light of the need for deep and rapid emissions cuts. Combined with a critique of economic growth's faltering capacity to improve well-being, opportunities have emerged for a more challenging sufficiency perspective. Ideas of the limits to macro-economic growth have re-emerged, although they face daunting obstacles in neoliberal, consumerist capitalism. The idea of sufficiency has made greater inroads when formulated in more limited ways, such as: partial and nuanced growth critiques, demands for alternative economic indicators to replace GDP, or calls for micro-level sufficiency with respect to specific products, practices, or sectors. Sufficiency-based ideas have also benefitted where the boundaries with ecological modernization are blurred, including, paradoxically, instances where they could be linked to increased economic output in some other form. This emergence of sufficiency-based thinking has advanced further in the UK than in Canada-in large part because in Canada, a significant push for green growth has yet to occur and thus ecological modernization's limits have been harder to see or articulate.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Sarah Babb, Charlie Derber
Reader: Brian Gareau
21st Century Chains: The Continuing Relevance of Internal Colonialism Theory
This dissertation examines Internal Colonialism Theory’s importance to a comprehensive understanding of the oppression of African Americans still living in USA ghettos. It briefly explores the 180 year history of Black activist depictions of a “nation within a nation,” the impact of the depression-era Marxist notion of a Negro nation, Latin American influences on Robert Blauner, and the pervasive effect of international anti-colonialism and the Black Power Movement upon the development of American academic Internal Colonialism Theory. This appraisal evaluates Blauner’s seminal presentation, “Internal Colonialism and Ghetto Revolt,” and the major contributions of Robert L. Allen and Mario Barrera in analyzing African American and Chicano internal colonial experiences respectively. It re-assesses colonialism and moves beyond Eurocentric characterizations to elaborate a Continuum of Colonialism, including direct, indirect, external, internal, and “end of” colonialisms.
This analysis addresses the contradiction that the American Revolution supposedly decolonized America without improving colonized conditions for African Americans or Native Americans, and defines internal colonialism as geographically based, disagreeing with the prevailing interpretation which contemplates the existence of diasporic African America as one collective colony. While summarizing the USA’s course from settler colony system to today’s inner cities of the colonized, this investigation explores African American class formation utilizing a variation of Marable’s conception of Racial Domains as historical context through to the present. With the majority of African Americans in ghettos [internal colonies] scattered around the USA, this document outlines the positive and negative means of ending internal colonial situations within the contemporary USA.
While elaborating how Internal Colonialism Theory quite practically fits harmoniously within several differing conceptualizations of American and global racial relations, this perspective offers a framework for more rigorous future discussions and debates about Internal Colonialism Theory, and previews three major international populations to which this assessment of Internal Colonialism Theory can be extended.
Co-Chairs: Bill Gamson, Zine Magubane
Members: Eva Garroutte, Shawn McGuffey, Stephen Pfohl, Eve Spangler
Esteban Calvo Bralic
The Impact of Pension Policy On Older Adults' Life Satisfaction: An Analysis of Longitudinal Multilevel Data
This study assesses the influence of old-age pension policy on older adults’ life satisfaction, and examines factors that shape this relationship. It theorizes that two distinct dimensions capture variation in the type of pension policy: individualization of risk (as opposed to socialization, or pooling, of risk) and redistribution of resources (that is, poverty prevention through income redistribution mechanisms such as non-contributory pensions). To empirically evaluate the presence of these two dimensions and to assess their influence of life satisfaction among older adults, this study analyzes data for 126,560 adults age 45 and over living in 91 countries over the period 1981-2008. Using principal component factor analysis, it finds support for the two-dimensional model of pension policy. Next, using three-level hierarchical linear regression, this study assesses the effects of pension policy individualization and redistribution on life satisfaction, generating three additional major findings. First, redistribution increases life satisfaction, but individualization has no significant effect on life satisfaction. Thus, the potential impact of individualization (whether positive or negative), and of the associated with it increased risk, choice, and opportunities for return, has been clearly overstated in theoretical debates on pension policy privatization. Second, the relationship between pension policy and life satisfaction is contingent on the macro-social context.Specifically, individualization that takes place in more affluent societies has beneficial impact on life satisfaction, while individualization unfolding in contexts of material scarcity has detrimental impact on life satisfaction. Further, the overall beneficial effects of redistribution on life satisfaction are substantially higher in the context of traditional cultures and lower in the context of secular-rational cultures. A third finding is that governmental commitment to social security (i.e., government expenditures on social security as a percentage of total government expenditures) also shapes the relationship between the type of pension policy and life satisfaction: Higher government commitment to social security substantially improves the life satisfaction outcomes of individualization. Findings from this study are used to integrate and advance theory on comparative public policy and the larger macro-social context shaping subjective well-being. Policy implications for pension reform are discussed, highlighting redistribution of resources and alleviation of need as more efficient avenues to increase older adults’ life satisfaction than privatization or pooling of risk.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, James Lubben, Alicia Munnell
Transforming Constraint: Transnational Feminist Movement Building in the Middle East and North Africa
This dissertation focuses on the intersection of global and indigenous advocacy strategies in feminist women’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). I explore strategies of resistance and innovation in three contexts: (1) Globally, I analyze a sample of MENA NGOs in a transnational women’s rights network, Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) and their interactions in the international funding sphere; (2) Domestically, I examine a local Moroccan NGO’s strategy development process and their domestic and regional partnerships when organizing to reform the Moudawana (1999-2004); and (3) Regionally, I analyze inter-organizational collaboration and coalition building between three NGOs in the Campaign to Reform Arab Women’s Nationality (2001-2008). I locate the dissertation in a feminist activist framework and draw from diverse data sources, including years of fieldwork with WLP (2004-2008); participant observation and notes from five transnational women’s rights meetings (2005-2008); a content analysis of a sample of international funders’ and MENA feminist NGOs’ websites; and two in-depth case studies with data derived from historical analysis, three months of fieldwork in Morocco, interviews with Moroccan, Lebanese, and regional activists, and secondary document analysis. The findings provide deeper clarity into the strategic action of MENA feminist movements and the variety of social, political, and economic forces that shape their discourses and practices for achieving social change and gender equality. The findings contribute to the scholarly literature on transnational feminism and social movements and its intersection with the law.
Co-chairs: Sarah Babb (BC Sociology) and Ali Banuazizi (Political Science)
Members: Bill Gamson (BC Sociology), Brinton Lykes (Lynch School of Education) and Patricia Ewick (Clark University Department of Sociology)
New Boston Marriages: News Representations, Respectability, and the Politics of Same-Sex Marriage
In 2006, Mariane Valverde announced the birth of what she called, “a new type in the history of sexuality” (155), the Respectable Same-Sex Couple. This work analyzes newspaper coverage of same-sex couples during the
Chair: William Gamson
Members: Eve Spangler and Sarah Babb
Readers: Charlotte Ryan and Sarah Sobieraj
Making the Grade: Moral Framing and the Catholic Teachers Union
Over the past half-century, the percentage of U.S. Catholic secondary school teachers that are laypeople has skyrocketed from approximately 10% in the 1950s to more than 90% in 2006. With this change comes many important issues that beg to be studied in terms of labor relations between these lay employees and the Roman Catholic Church. While the Church has repeatedly made statements in support of labor unions such as in Laborem Exercens, the relations between lay teacher associations and Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have not always mirrored these ideals. This dissertation investigates the case of one organization, the Catholic Teachers Union (CTU), which represents over two-hundred lay teachers at eight high schools in the diocese of Camden, NJ. Using interviews, content analysis, and archival analysis, the investigator found that the union overcame diocesan opposition by deliberately framing (through media outlets and direct communication) their movement and message as strongly connected to Catholic doctrine, Catholic Social Thought, and Church teachings. This "moral framing" helped the union gain support from the parent-consumers sending their children to these schools, which contributed greatly to the union's recognition in 1984 and then their negotiation of nine contracts for diocesan lay teachers. Incorporating Erving Goffman's Frame Analysis, Johnston and Noakes schema for Social Movement Framing, James Coleman and Thomas Hoffer's concept of Social Capital and Intergenerational Closure, and the concept of Community Unionism, the author concludes that CTU can be considered a leader in lay teacher-Catholic Church labor relations and that its tactic of moral framing can inform other unions and the larger labor movement.
Chair: Paul S. Gray
Members: Charles Derber and Ted Youn (LSOE)
Readers: Sarah Babb and Rick Eckstein
Technology to Delay Aging and Extend Life
The desire to defy the aging process and to prolong the lifespan has long captured the human imagination. Recognized as one of the most ancient known pieces of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh documents a King's quest to find immortality. More recent examples include the story of Ponce de Leon's sixteenth century search to discover the Fountain of Youth, Sir Francis Bacon's (1659) assertion that humans are naturally immortal "potens non mori," and Benjamin Franklin's desire to be preserved in a vat of madeira until science is capable of life extension. The present day "anti-aging" market, estimated to be worth $45.5 billion in 2007, is fueled by unprecedented optimism. Developments in science and technology, including telomere manipulation, genetic engineering, cloning, nanotechnology, the potential to create new organs from stem cells, and the creation of therapeutic pharmaceuticals that could significantly postpone disease, have served to inspire; aging in the twenty-first century is no longer regarded by scientists as an inevitable process programmed by evolution (Olshansky, et. al, 2006). This qualitative research project will explore the experiences of individuals currently engaged in the pursuit to delay aging and extend life in an effort to understand the present-day meaning, motivation, justification, and inspiration behind this ancient desire.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: David Karp, Stephen Pfohl, and Robert Binstock
Circles of Community and the Decline of Civil Society
This paper looks at a number of theoretical and phenomenological frames used in community sociology and the decline of civil society discussion to analyze data from 24 semi-structured interviews with African Americans. The structural-functional and systemic analyses that serve as the foundation of the decline of civil society social commentary falsely assume a linear continuum of human and societal development. There is a false dichotomy between urban-rural, folk-peasant, organic-mechanical, and instrumental-expressive models used to explain the evolution of social relationships and institutional dynamics in our technologically transforming society in America. These macrolevel theories ignore or minimize the significance of the microlevel interactions, that is, the formal, informal social and civic transactions that routinely occur in nearly every type of situation or setting.
This essay explores the ways in which individuals define community and how they use those definitions to inform their perceptions and discussions about civic engagement, responsibility and community memberships. Virtually everyone who participates in society is a member of circles of communities. These multiple communities offer researchers the opportunity to investigate why and how people place themselves in spatial, social, ideological, and experiential relationship or proximity to community members and institutions.
The articulation of the decline of civil society as a social problem continues to privilege those with power and influence in American society. Academics, politicians, writers and editors, religious leaders, radio and talk show hosts and many others have been able to gain credibility, implement policies and impose normative standards for civic engagement. These standards are often used to identify insiders and outsiders in society. This research adds the voices of those who have been excluded from the discussion.
Chairs: Charles Derber, Michael Malec
Members: James Jennings
Readers: David Karp, Eve Spangler
The Role of Cultural & Economic Capital in Education 1972-2002
Beginning with Bourdieu’s observations on Algerian schools in the 1950’s, the role of cultural capital in the education system has been conjectured, confirmed, and scrutinized. He and other scholars have subsequently examined the influence of cultural and economic capital on academic success. While many studies have confirmed Bourdieu’s assertion that cultural capital plays a role in social reproduction, others have asserted that it can also affect student’s opportunities for social mobility. The conclusions drawn depend profoundly on how cultural capital is operationalized. Cultural capital acquired prior to schooling is associated with the social reproduction model, while that acquired through participation in school-based cultural activities is associated with social mobility.
Based on surveys undertaken by the National Center for Educational Statistics of three cohorts of students — the graduating class of 1972, 8th graders in 1988, and sophomores in 2002 — as well as a series of follow-up surveys for the two older groups, this study uses hierarchical linear modeling to investigate the role of both student and school levels measures of three types of cultural capital and economic capital on a wide range of academic outcomes.
Parental and family-based cultural capitals are used to confirm the role of cultural capital in social reproduction, while significant effects for school-based cultural capital also offer support for the social mobility model. Student-level effects have a larger impact on outcomes than school-level variables. Along with the analysis of separate models of social reproduction and social mobility, an investigation of equations for where all four types of capital are present indicates that social reproduction is the dominant effect of cultural capital throughout all three cohorts and for both immediate and long-term outcomes.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, Ted Youn
Joyce Mandell, Ph.D.
Before, During and After Bricks and Mortar: Network Organizing As A Community Development Strategy
This is a case study of Lawrence Community Works (LCW), a community development corporation (CDC), in the mill city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. As a “deviant” case, LCW serves as a model in the movement for organizing truly community controlled development. This ethnographic study assesses the variables that make a neighborhood based organization a locus of participatory democracy. For Lawrence Community Works (LCW), the question is not whether to base development on what the community wants.Organizing “before, during and after” bricks and mortar is a given basic mode of operating.The question becomes:What kind of community organizing? What is the best way to engage residents to shape the development agendas in neighborhoods and cities? How can CDCs work with people to create a truly engaged civic culture on the streets?
This dissertation makes a contribution to the academic literature on community development corporations by demonstrating how CDCs can theoretically and in practice become true vehicles of grassroots neighborhood owned development. The case study of LCW demonstrates that CDCs are able to organize residents of a neighborhood effectively and become internally democratic neighborhood vehicles directing local neighborhood change. Secondly, this dissertation makes a contribution to the theories and literature on community organizing while drawing out the variables of a new method of community organizing based on network theory. A comparison of network organizing to traditional Alinsky style community organizing highlights the theoretical and practical differences between the models. The third contribution of this case study is to the literature on social capital and specifically the academic debate on whether there is a link between social capital and social change. Through an analysis of LCW’s success in community building emerges a model of how network building can be directly linked to civic power. This case study challenges the literature in the field that denies the link between “picnics” and “power”. Ultimately, the true test to the power of this work is if this case study can serve as a model and template in testing out the replication of this model in other contexts.
Chair: Paul Gray
Members: Eve Spangler, Charles Derber, Severyn Bruyn
Deb Piatelli, Ph.D.
Stories of Inclusion? Power, Privilege and Cross-Difference Organizing in a Contemporary Peace and Justice Network
This multi-method, qualitative study of the organizing processes of a predominately white, middle-class peace and justice social movement network enhances the literature on cross-difference organizing by bridging the literatures of social movement theory, critical race studies, and feminist theorizing on intersectionality and community organizing, challenging common assumptions about inclusivity and difference. Why are white, middle-class progressives experiencing difficulty working across racial and class differences? What are the obstacles and what is being done to overcome them? How do these activists approach cross-difference organizing when race, class, and other intersecting identities can often prevent cooperation? What type of movement structures, cultures, and practices can best facilitate building alliances across differences? Since working across race and class had been historically problematic for the white, middle-class peace movement, I was interested in uncovering how a newly formed network planned to overcome this history. What lessons might be learned? How are people within this network working to create a multi-racial, multi-class movement? How and to what extent are individuals and organizations within this network building relationships, goals, and strategies together? What might be uniting these actors and sustaining collective action?
This dissertation explores these questions through the examination of the practices, beliefs, and social biographies of a predominately white, middle-class peace and justice network that is working to transform itself into a multi-racial, multi-class network. “Stories of inclusion?” refers to the myriad of ways marginalized populations have been historically silenced and excluded from the peace movement. Stories of inclusion questions whether this network’s organizing practices are silencing and excluding diverse populations despite its commitment to create an inclusive movement. This dissertation explores the processes of collection action and examines the context in which members of this network are working, or not working, across differences.
The data provide a greater understanding as to how power and privilege influence the dynamics of cross-difference organizing, as well as what organizing practices may best facilitate inter-racial and inter-class solidarity. This research also calls attention to the continuing importance of race for those collective actors attempting to construct inclusive movements across diverse groups, and raises critical questions for this network as well as the larger community of progressives working for peace and justice. Can a broader definition of peace work be more successful in changing U.S. policies? Is the goal of a creating a unified, multi-racial, multi-class movement feasible and desirable, and if so, what form should it take?
Chair: Charles Derber
Members: Lisa Dodson, William Gamson, Juliet Schor, Margaret Lombe, Susan Ostrander
Abigail Brooks, Ph.D.
Growing Older in a ‘Surgical Age’: An Analysis of Women’s Lived Experiences and Interpretations of Aging in an Era of Cosmetic Surgery
This dissertation explores women’s lived experiences and interpretations of aging against the contextual backdrop of the growing normalization of cosmetic surgery. C. Wright Mills’ (1959; 1999: 21, 22) articulation of the “task and promise” of the sociological imagination—the reflexive interaction between “personal troubles” and “public issues”— inspired my investigation into the meanings women ascribe to aging in our contemporary era of commercialized medicine. How do women make sense of growing older in a world of expanding anti-aging surgeries and technologies, in a world whereby the older woman’s body is increasingly targeted as source of profit?
Drawing from intensive interviews with women between the ages of 47 and 76 who are having and using, and refusing, anti-aging surgeries and technologies, themes of self, identity, and self-body relationships are analyzed. I also investigate the construction of my respondents’ attitudes and experiences of growing older in and through their immediate social milieu (including interactions with friends, family members, colleagues, and doctors.) Finally, I seek to illuminate the interplay between my respondents’ understandings of aging and their encounters with, and exposure to, the cultural prevalence of anti-aging surgeries and technologies at large—from media images of older women, to anti-aging surgery/technology print and television advertising campaigns, to marketing brochures and posters in doctors’ offices.
This dissertation is located at the intersection of four emergent sociological fields: critical gerontology; feminist age studies; sociology of the body, and feminist theories of the body. Even within these fields, the older woman’s body is relatively absent. Through giving voice to women’s articulations of self, body, and aging, my research empirically informs each of these fields and contributes new theorizations of the older woman’s body.
Chair: Steven Pfohl
Members: Sharlene Hesse-Biber, David Karp, Juliet Schor, Margaret Gulletto
Delario Lindsey, Ph.D.
Controlling the Spectacular World City: A Discursive Analysis of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Making of Giuliani's New York
The dissertation seeks to examine the relationship between crime/social control and the discursive production of World Cities (specifically New York). Frame Critical Analysis is used as a method of de-coding the rhetoric shaping and informing not just crime/social policy in New York City since 1991, but the city itself. The analysis seeks to demonstrate the ways in which narratives regarding safety and the control of violence are an integral component of the processes governing the acquisition and maintenance of " World City" status. The 1999 slaying of African immigrant Amadou Diallo by New York police officers is viewed as the consequence of particular "crime stories" constructed about New York City as a means of justifying the creation and implementation of crime/social policies and strategies that have proven to be particularly repressive for communities of color in the city.
Chair: William Gamson
Member: Steven Pfohl
Readers: Sarah Babb, Zine Magubane, Anthony Farley
Michael Anastario, Ph.D.
An Analysis of Violence Victimization and Women's Mental and Reproductive Health in Two Internally Displaced Populations
Mental and reproductive health consequences of violence victimization have been reported in various female populations, however these associations have not been tested among internally displaced persons (IDP’s), who already have elevated rates of psychiatric and reproductive health abnormalities. This dissertation examined associations between violence victimization, individual symptoms of depression, and simple reproductive health attributes using data from two probability samples of women: those displaced by the 2006 Gulf Coast hurricane season living in FEMA trailer parks in the United States , and those displaced by human conflict living in internal displacement camps in Darfur, Sudan (2005). Using logistic regression models, this study found that in the Gulf Coast sample, women who reported motor dysregulation and/or suicidality were more likely to be victims of sexual violence, and women with at least one failed pregnancy were more likely to be victims of any violence. Further, women who used birth control and who exhibited motor dysregulation were more likely than any other subgroup to be victims of violence. In the Darfur sample, violence victimization data were not available, and secondary physiological indicators of violence (SNDV) were examined. Women who reported anhedonia were more likely to have experienced SNDV. Further, among women with standard depressive symptoms, lack of birth control use elevated the likelihood of SNDV. To determine the prevalence of any lifetime violence victimization in the Darfur sample, logit coefficients derived from the Gulf Coast analyses were used to obtain propensity scores for lifetime victimization in Darfur, suggesting that the prevalence of any lifetime violence victimization in South Darfur is 57%. This study demonstrates that there are clear associations between violence victimization and mental and reproductive health among female IDP’s. The models developed in this study can be used to predict the prevalence of lifetime victimization in IDP populations where victimization screening is not possible. The results of this study will be particularly useful to practitioners working with female IDP’s who may not be permitted to directly screen for victimization.
Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Charlotte Ryan, Natasha Sarkisian
Readers: Michael Malec, Sara Cherkerzian
Robert Levine, Ph.D.
The Effects of Organizational Democracy On Organizational Social Capital
Using multilevel modeling, this dissertation examines the effects of the organizational democratic structures of employee ownership and participation in decision making on organizational social capital. Non-managerial level employees (n=520) were surveyed in five traditionally owned companies matched to five employee owned ones. The results show that participation has a positive and linear main effect on the strength of ties among co-workers and trust towards co-workers. Employee ownership has a positive main effect on organizational identity, organizational commitment and reciprocity towards co-workers. Ownership also moderates effect of participation on organizational identity, organizational commitment, trust towards managers, and reciprocity towards one’s company with employee owned companies having higher levels of these outcomes.
The results also show how the effects of participation further differ between employee owned and traditionally owned companies. In traditionally owned companies, participation has a curvilinear relationship with organizational commitment, trust in managers, and reciprocity towards managers. Higher levels of participation are initially associated with increased levels of these outcomes, but the relationship reverses and increases in participation become associated with lower levels of these outcomes.
However, within employee owned companies the effects are linear with respect to organizational commitment and trust towards managers, and less curvilinear for reciprocity towards companies. Thus, in additional to higher levels of organizational social capital associated with organizational democracy, employee owned companies are in a better position to take advantage of the positive effects of participation in decision making.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, Sandra Wattick, Christoper Mackin
William Wood, Ph.D.
Asking More of Our Institutions: The Promises and Limits of Restorative Justice in Clark County, WA
In 1999, the Clark County Juvenile Court (CCJC) in Washington State adopted the use of victim offender mediation for offenders and victims harmed by these crimes. The CCJC subsequently expanded the use of mediation to address a larger number of serious offenses; developed a separate unit within the court to address crime victims’ needs; and reoriented its diversion, probation and community service programs towards the inclusion of victims and community members into these practices. These changes were part of a larger shift towards the court’s adoption of “restorative justice,” a loosely aligned set of juvenile and adult justice practices that have become increasingly popular within the United States and elsewhere over the last two decades.
In this research I seek to better understand two questions, namely how or under what conditions do organizations such as juvenile courts change, and what do people do with restorative justice? I look first at the organizational changes that have taken place at the court in relation to its implementation of restorative justice and the integration of such practices throughout the court. I map the degree to which victims, offenders and community members have been afforded new decision-making capacities within the court’s diversion and probation processes. Within this organizational framework, I also consider how the court has navigated constraints and opportunities related to legal and political structures, funding, community support, support from other organizations, and internal problems related specifically to the culture of the court itself.
Secondly, I look at the experiences of victims, offenders and community members within three of the court’s restorative programs and interventions. Here, I give consideration as to what these groups and individuals do with restorative justice, as well as to how the standardization of juvenile justice practices in Washington State informs the limits and scope of the type of restorative work that can be done within this framework.
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Juliet Schor, Diane Vaughan
Readers: Sarah Babb, Jessica Hedges
Allen Fairfax, Ph.D.
Challenging the Rules: The Merrimack Valley Project and the Construction of Public Space
The Merrimack Valley Project (MVP) is a regional organization of congregations, labor unions, and other community groups that began to come together in 1989 to address issues of common concern across the historic industrial district along the Merrimack River in northeastern Massachusetts. The MVP is a modern Alinsky-style organization (ASO). This means that it is a grassroots coalition working on multiple issues with a diverse set of participants and connected to an evolving community organizing tradition rooted in the work of Saul Alinsky and the Industrial Areas Foundation. This case study of the MVP provides an analysis of an exemplary ASO from the framework of participatory democracy. The particular question addressed is whether or not groups such as the MVP are able to find ways to institutionalize participatory democratic practices in the local/regional polity. As well as simply telling the story of the Merrimack Valley Project, the study also presents a conceptual framework for understanding the political “rule patterns” that dominate a local/regional polity and how the MVP organizes/constructs public spaces through its organizing work. These public spaces are the ground from which new rule patterns are practiced and linkages built with various power structures in the polity. In short, the study looks at how the MVP organizing practices challenge the dominant rule patterns and examines the internal organizational practices that allow those challenges to be sustained over the long run.
Chair: Paul Gray
Member: Severyn Bruyn, Charles Derber
Adria Goodson, Ph.D.
Bridging Institutions and Social Policy: Philanthropic Foundations and the Development of Federal Funding for After School Programs
Between 1997 and 2002, federal funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, an initiative that funds after school programs for school-age children, jumped from $1 million to $1 billion. This increase made this small federal program one of the fastest growing federal social provisions over the past half-century. This dissertation utilizes Skocpol and Amenta’s polity-centered approach of federal policy development and social movement theory to explain the process by which organizational actors worked over twenty years to transform the federal government’s relationship to after school programs. It demonstrates the opportunities for institutions and individuals to influence the development and structure of social provisions. The historical institutional model undertheorized the importance of philanthropic foundations due to a lack of focus on the pre-figurative processes that bring a particular social provision to the federal level in the first place. In this case, philanthropic organizations played a critical role as a bridging organization. This role is similar to and yet quite different from the role that voluntary organizations played in the early 20th century. Using in-depth interviews and historical evidence from federal legislative documents, philanthropic foundations and grassroots organizations, I document the process by which philanthropic foundations, and individuals within these organizations, collaborated with grassroots organizations, national advocates, and federal agencies to build national support for increased federal funding for after school programs, ultimately resulting in a significant increase in federal dollars for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. In this case, philanthropic foundations are identified as one of the keys to political leverage in the development of United States federal policy. Finally, this case demonstrates that philanthropic foundations and state agencies are potential allies for grassroots advocacy organizations and social movement actors, not simply adversaries.
Chair: William Gamson
Member: Eve Spangler
Aimee Van Wagenen, Ph.D.
Doing Outreach, Doing Sexual Citizenship: Meanings of HIV Prevention Outreach to Men Who Have Sex with Men
This dissertation explores the meanings of HIV prevention outreach to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. I begin the investigation of the meanings of outreach from the perspectives of outreach workers, but also expand my angle of vision to include an examination of the broader institutional discourses of public health and the state in which outreach is situated. In this, I conceive of outreach as an interpretive practice in which outreachers actively construct the meaning of the work but not wholly on their own terms; the meanings of outreach are constrained by discursive structures. The research combines ethnographic methods and includes participant observation as an outreacher in a state-funded, largely volunteer outreach program and in the audience at several HIV prevention conferences, in-depth interviewing with outreachers and outreach program managers, and analysis of public health documents guiding HIV prevention.
Meanings of outreach cohere around differential understandings of the effectiveness of outreach and its measurement, around the tension between fixity and destabilization of sexual identity, and around the tensions between sexual liberation and regulation in understanding outreach. In the dissertation, I devote a chapter to each of these themes and also review the history of HIV prevention in the context of the history of the AIDS movement. Throughout the dissertation, I conceive of doing outreach as doing sexual citizenship. As volunteers, outreachers actively engage in civic participation in the realm of the sexual. They model a different kind of good sexual citizenship that rejects the compromises of mainstream sexual citizenship including the essentialization of sexual identity, the privatization of sexuality and the marginalization of gender dissonance and sexual deviance.
Chair: Steven Pfohl
Members: Juliet Schor, Diane Vaughan
John Shandra, Ph.D.
The Economics and Politics of Deforestation: A Quantitative, Cross-National Analysis
Most previous cross-national studies of deforestation have been criticized for being largely atheoretical. While these studies provide some initial insights into deforestation, the absence of theory is problematic because the choice of variables for models remains unguided in that variables are included according to data availability or other ad hoc reasons. I address this concern by conducting an empirical analysis of deforestation informed by five different perspectives using the stochastic impacts (STI) by regression (R) on population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T) or STIRPAT analytical framework. In doing so, I include variables not taken into account in previous research but theoretically relevant to any study of deforestation. These measures include democracy, international non-governmental organizations, and political protests. Initially, these variables do not explain a significant amount of variation in deforestation. However, subsequent analyses incorporating interaction terms suggest international non-governmental organizations and political protests reduce deforestation more in democratic nations than in repressive nations. Analyses also reveal that export partner concentration, commodity concentration, multinational corporate penetration, and International Monetary Fund conditionality increase deforestation more in repressive nations than in democratic nations. I increase the validity and reliability of the findings by estimating the models with three missing data techniques including listwise deletion, group mean substitution, and full information maximum likelihood estimation. Similarly, I use a variety of different model specifications. The findings remain stable and consistent regardless of the method for handling incomplete data and the indicators included in the models.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Robert Kunovich, Bruce London, Juliet Schor
Sandra George O’Neil, Ph.D.
Environmental Justice In The Superfund Clean-Up Process
In this work, I examine the concerns of the next generation of environmental justice — namely tracing the impacts of race, class and family composition on environmental remediation, or clean-up efforts. This study focuses on environmental “cleanup” justice, and the differential process of Superfund listing across different socioeconomic, racial, gender, and family variables. The overall logic of my argument remains the same; poor people, people in communities of color, and single parent families are at an on-going disadvantage in the remediation process, as they are in the processes which lead to initial exposures. The influence of demographic variables in the Superfund clean up process however, is not as straightforward as past environmental justice research, which supported a more clear-cut relationship between poor and minorities and exposure to environmental hazards. The association between Superfund listings and marginalized populations is one with many fine distinctions since a Superfund listing is dependent on several changeable factors such as: the Superfund budget, community pressure and organization, the availability of alternative cleanup strategies outside the scope of the EPA, and changes in the implementation of the Superfund program itself. Given these complexities, we would expect to see the pattern of association between race, class, family composition and environmental clean-ups to have far more nuances than the relationship between these factors and environmental exposures.
Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Daniel Faber, Robert Kunovich
Eitan J. Alimi, Ph.D.
The 1987 Palestinian Intifada – Cracks in the Israeli Second Republic
The study promotes a new perspective of inquiry into the analysis of the unprecedented 1987 Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation. Combining theories of social movements and conflict study, I attempt to account for the so far neglected aspect in the literature on the Intifada: the reasons for the specific time context in which the Intifada consolidated. For accomplishing this, I combine two methods for data collection. As an exploratory method, I use in-depth interviews with several Palestinian grassroots activists and Israeli journalists and officials. Next, as an explanatory method, I analyze the content of three Palestinian dailies for examining the framing processes that take place in regards to (1) contention with Israeli forces and (2) internal Israeli events and developments throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The style and nature of Palestinian newspapers as a resource of political mobilization provides a rare opportunity for a researcher to grasp the process of social construction of meaning by a consolidating challenging collective actor. The study suggests that the Intifada’s inception is determined by a deepening Palestinian shared perception regarding ripe conditions to act collectively — an internal Israeli system-wide conflict over the future status of the occupied territories and the Palestinian populace inside them. The study suggests further that such a shared perception affects the internal relations among various rival Palestinian political actors and organizations such that a specific mode of action evolves and is elevated as the appropriate strategy for contentious politics. Finally, I argue that the tactics for contention Palestinian insurgents employ during the Intifada should be seen as a deliberate attempt to capitalize on their favored strategy, an attempt to influence the Israeli sociopolitical system and the international community, thereby increasing the prospects for political goals.
Chair: William Gamson
Members: Robert Kunovich, Charlotte Ryan, Diane Vaughan
Isabel Araiza, Ph.D.
How Alternative Definitions of Retirement and Social Class Shape Conclusions about the Retired Population
The conceptualization and operationalization of retirement remains a challenge in retirement research. Those studies which have examined multiple conceptualizations of retirement often limit the investigation to two, three, or four definitions of retirement. These studies also produce contradictory results with respect to the degree of overlap among various definitions of retirement. Moreover, in the investigation of the relationship between predictor variables and the probability of retirement, push and pull factors (such as pension receipt and health) are often the focal point of the inquiry. While most studies include in their analysis a class measure as a control variable for the model, seldom is the relationship between social class and the probability of retirement the focal point of investigation. This study employs data from the 1998 wave of the Health and Retirement Study to perform an extensive analysis of seven operationalizations of retirement and five operationalizations of social class to evaluate how the use of alternative definitions of retirement and social class shape conclusions drawn about the composition of the retired population. Analyses are performed for the entire sample selected for this study, as well as for Non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, and Non-Hispanic Black subgroups. The results of the analyses indicate that different operationalizations of retirement affect the characterization of the retired population; moreover the use of different operationalizations of social class influences the perception of the socio-economic condition of the retired population. Despite socio-economic achievements, the findings suggest that initial inequalities associated with ascriptive traits like race and gender continue to constrain women and minorities’ life course trajectories. While it is not possible to conduct a comprehensive examination of operationalizations of retirement in Gerontological literature, this study includes operationalizations of retirement that acknowledge retirement as an event, an identity, and a process.
Chair: John Williamson
Members: Michael Malec, Michael Smyer
Julia Childers, Ph.D.
Achieving a ‘Beautiful Birth’: Holistic, Feminist and Medical Discourse in a Free-Standing Birth Center
In this dissertation I suggest that scholars should take seriously the social movement organizing that occurs inside mainstream institutions. My research takes up the issue of insider politics through examination of one of the most powerful discourses in our society: medical discourse and its incarnation in the institution of the hospital. I use ethnographic methods to develop a case study of the Baytown Birth Center, a free-standing birth center on the East Coast. In a renovated Victorian house on the campus of a public hospital, women are empowered to give birth according to a holistic, non-medicalized philosophy while attended by their family of choice, midwives, and doulas.
I argue that the Baytown Birth Center cultivates an identity as an alternative, counter-hegemonic health care group that remains part of the conventional Baytown Hospital. In order to achieve what midwives call a ‘beautiful birth’ and to continue to practice within the traditional institution of medicine, Birth Center midwives and staff draw on three discourses, strategically, to explain, justify, and negotiate their existence: holistic discourse, feminist discourse, and medical discourse. Organizational identity is not easy to categorize and is better understood as a weaving together of ideas rather than strict adherence to one set of beliefs. The maintenance of this complex identity requires the negotiation of situations in which these discourses come into conflict with one another. My findings contribute to the study of alternative health practices, social movement change within institutions, third wave iterations of the women’s movement, and organizational identity and culture.
Chair: William Gamson
Members: David Karp, Diane Vaughan
Cheryl Holmes, Ph.D.
Sacred Meets Secular: Commonality and Difference Associated with the Self-Determined Nature of the Sacred Christ-Centered and Secular Assertive Life Practice
This study describes what happens when sacred and secular meet in the day and life of the sacred Christ-centered Disciple and the secular assertive practitioner. It suggests there is a difference between ritualized Christianity and sacred Christ-centered life practice. The term orthodox is used to describe how the sacred Christ-centered population learns to view the Holy Bible as the literal Word of God. The term reflexive describes how individuals within the population learn to believe that the person of Christ lives within the heart of the Disciple of Christ. Individuals within the sacred Christ-centered life practice suggest that they surrender individual free will to Christ by accepting him as Savior and Lord. It is a life practice engulfed by reflecting on how Christ responded to tension-generating dilemmas and then normalizing the character of Christ when bombarded by contemporary tension-generating dilemmas. The three tension-generating dilemmas considered within the study are:
- Sexual propensity to act on sexual desire while single
- Gossip and speaking ill of others
Within the study the above life practice is juxtaposed against secular Assertiveness in the attempt to uncover areas of commonality and difference associated with the two self determined life practices. The term self-determined is used suggesting that at some point in a practitioner’s life, individuals self-determine that it is best to adopt precepts associated with either life practice. The individual desire becomes the acquisition of greater inner stability while living within a violent and confused world.
Moreover, the study assists in developing an appropriate vocabulary bridging the sociological, secular humanistic psychological, theological and literal orthodox Christ-centered domains. One might ask why study the relationship between these populations? The answer to this question is twofold. The field of sociology has neglected comparative discourse of these groups. In neglecting this area of study, sociology can not comprehend the unique import of commonality and differences associated with the relationship existing between both life practices and the secular society wherein they exist. Additionally, the study provides the field of sociology opportunity to explore the import and impact Christcentered Disciples have within the secular world as they attempt to adopt biblical narrative while living within contemporary secular society.
Primary framing data is drawn from full-participant observation, in-depth interviews conducted with more than twenty five individuals and a survey of secular humanistic psychological literature. With one exception research participants are African American. Yet, research participants indicate that issues addressed in this project extend to anyone who self-ascribes to the literal-orthodox Christ-centered life practice. Diversity was sought in gender, education, economics and age. The sample includes men and women 25-40, and over, who completed college, high school or less. Clusters consist of at least five individuals in each group.
Chair: William Gamson
Member: Eva Garroutte
Charles Sarno, Ph.D.
Power and the Spirit: Methodological Studies in a Black Apostolic Church
This dissertation examines the sociological workings of the Holy Spirit in a Black Apostolic Church located in the Boston area. Using both participant observation and intensive interviewing techniques, this research explores the variety of meanings the experience of the Holy Spirit has for church members at God’s Victorious Tabernacle. At the same time this research attempts to locate these subjective meanings of the church and its members within the immediate organizational and broader institutional contexts within which and against which they are generated. This research has three distinct but interrelated objectives that should make a significant contribution to the field of sociology in both the areas of religion and research methodology: 1) to provide a thick and rich ethnographic account of the worldview, meaning structures and rituals found in a black Apostolic Pentecostal church which would further add the few existing case studies on this topic; 2) to further exemplify and develop the theoretical concerns of a critically interpretative (phenomenological) sociology which links up this approach with questions about the structuring effects of power in history, while not engaging in a completely form of reductive analysis; and 3) to follow the logic of a power reflexive methodological approach and thereby explore the knowledgeable possibilities, limitations and tensions of interpretative sociology itself as it desires to achieve understanding of a “sectarian” religious worldview vastly different from its own.
Chair: Steven Pfohl
Members: Paul Schervish, Eve Spangler
Leah Schmalzbauer, Ph.D.
Striving and Surviving: A Daily Life Analysis of Honduran Transnational Families
Sociologists and anthropologists have focused considerable attention on contemporary transnational flows of capital, labor and culture, as well as on the ways in which communities create and maintain transnational ties. However very few have studied the specific role of the family in transnational processes and fewer still have looked at how families actually function in a transnational space. In this dissertation I address this gap in the literature by investigating how transnationalism works as a survival strategy in which families use the difference in living costs between Honduras and the United States to support household consumption. Drawing on data I gathered in Honduras and the United States from one week time diaries, in depth interviews, participant observation and interpretive focus groups, I look specifically at the experience and prospects of transmigrant labor in the United States; the aspirations and consumption practices of transnational family members in the United States and Honduras, especially as they relate to the American Dream; and I explore the ways in which families negotiate caretaking responsibilities, both financial and emotional, while striving and surviving in a transnational space. This is the first daily life study of undocumented immigrants and the first transnational analysis of Honduran families.
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Lisa Dodson, Eve Spangler