Recent Ph.D. Graduates

Jaclyn Carroll

Title: “Eating Clean”: Negotiations of Power, Politics, and Knowledge Within Alternative & Fringe Health Movements in the US

Abstract: This dissertation explores the ideological undercurrents of fringe and alternative health movements throughout US history and within today’s wellness industry - specifically the "detox" movement. By investigating health behavior and health ideologies that deviate from or exist in opposition to mainstream medicine, the project examines what is communicated through these movements beyond claims about health. It explores how alternative practitioners discern between good and bad information, how they build knowledge and networks, and how they are driven by broader political ideologies to participate in alternative practices. Using historical analysis, interview data, and case studies of radicalized wellness influencers, the project considers the potential and the limitations of alternative health movements. Because research took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, both the regulatory environment and ideological debates about healthcare were heightened; this enabled an exploration of radicalization pathways within alternative health movements as well. Overall, the project characterizes and evaluates the norms that govern information-seeking within alternative health movements and identifies elements of the “radicalization pipelines” that exist within fringe movements. The first chapter uses historical data to explore how alternative health movements throughout history have been shaped by both epistemological values and bids for class, gender, and race supremacy. The second chapter describes and evaluates the norms that govern information quality and expert legitimacy outside of traditional channels of expertise within today’s wellness industry. And the third chapter investigates radicalization pathways within these movements.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Stephen Pfohl, Natasha Sarkisian
Members: Sara Moorman

Annika Rieger

Title: From MACRO to MESO: A Multi-Level Analysis of the Effect of National Context on Corporate Emissions, 2010-2020

Abstract: According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), over 25% of the global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 are attributed to 9,000 corporations. Clearly, corporations contribute disproportionately to the climate crisis, but the factors influencing these emissions have been understudied. In this dissertation, I examine the relationship between the “macro-level” of the nation-state and the “meso-level” of the corporation to identify national characteristics that impact corporate carbon emissions. I draw from several macro-sociological theories: first, the Varieties of Capitalism theory proposes that corporate outcomes depend on the form and extent of national government and corporate coordination. Second, I draw from World Society and World-Systems theories, which propose that national emissions are dependent on integration into global civil society and position in the global political-economic hierarchy, respectively. By testing how well these theories explain variation in corporate emissions, this dissertation extends our understanding of the macro-level factors influencing corporate environmental outcomes, especially those contributing to the climate crisis. The first series of analyses focuses on national characteristics and institutions. The Varieties of Capitalism theory suggests that Coordinated Market Economies (CMEs), where the government has greater control over and connections to corporations, will be more successful in mitigating emissions. To test this hypothesis, I estimate a multilevel model using a decade of longitudinal corporate emissions data from the CDP. I find that overall, corporations in CMEs have lower emissions than corporations in non-CMEs—especially those in critical industries such as fossil fuels, infrastructure, materials, and apparel. However, CMEs are not successful across the board. Large corporations in CMEs have higher emissions than similarly sized corporations in non-CMEs, suggesting that tight coupling between powerful corporations and the state contributes to increasing emissions. Recognizing the limitations of governments’ ability to control corporations, the second series of analyses focuses on non-state actors and the intersection of civil society and economic hierarchy. When taken together, World Society and World-Systems theories suggest that nations highly integrated into international civil society will be most successful in mitigating emissions, but that the economic position of those nations can temper or strengthen the association. To test this hypothesis, I estimate a multi-level model and include three measures of civil society integration. I find that the relationship between civil society pressure and corporate emissions varies by a nation’s position in the world-system. Non-core nations experience increased emissions according to two measures, while core nations experience decreased emissions according to one measure. I argue that reducing corporate emissions requires accounting for increasingly complicated macro-sociological contexts, as corporations are pressured by and incorporated into the world society and constrained by the world-system's structure. Overall, this dissertation examines which nation-level conditions mitigate corporate emissions and which exacerbate them. My results suggest that while civil society pressure and close coordination between corporations and governments are associated with decreased emissions in some contexts, emissions increase when corporations are powerful and nations are weak. I build upon the World Society, World-Systems, and Varieties of Capitalism theories to show that these macro-level contexts matter for corporate environmental outcomes.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Andrew Jorgenson
Members: Juliet Schor, Wesley Longhofer

Cedrick-Michael Simmons

Title: The Trouble with White Fragility: Towards a Class Analysis of Resistance to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work by Administrators

Abstract: In this dissertation, I show how the racial conflict theory promoted in the book White Fragility isn’t the only useful perspective to explain negative responses to the training and other activities by DEI administrators. Specifically, I argue a class analysis can illuminate the antagonistic relationship between DEI administrators and other stakeholders. Since DEI professionals are an extension of the management class, which is responsible for regulating the behavior of students and employees on behalf of employers in educational institutions, it is predictable that some students and employees will respond with silence, anger, and disengagement. If it is true that these negative responses cannot be reduced to White Fragility, then DEI professionals need to appeal to the interests of their audience and clearly show how their activities can actually be beneficial for students and employees despite the fact that they are extension of management. This dissertation includes three of my articles on administrators in higher education that helped me to develop the aforementioned argument. The first article argues that we should expect race-conscious student services administrators to experience role conflict when students complain about the ways that the executive-level administrators contribute to the reproduction of racial inequality. I contend that role conflict arises because student-centered administrators have to navigate the contradictory expectation of being an advocate for students with grievances about the institution while helping the executive-level administrators improve the reputation and revenue-stream for the university. Therefore, students cannot always expect student-centered administrators to effectively highlight and address their grievances. The second article argues that students who complain about inequity on campus should expect student-centered administrators to respond with self-help coaching. I use the term self-help coaching to capture the process when administrators teach complainants how to highlight and remedy organizational problems themselves. The third article focuses on the ways that student equity administrators (i.e. specialists who work in offices focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and multicultural affairs) frame their work as beneficial for students. Specifically, I describe three types of frames: expert accountability, affirmation, and advocacy. In the conclusion, I show how DEI professionals can use this information to appeal to the interests of students and employees who recognize their antagonistic relationship with management.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Shawn C. McGuffey, Zine Magubane
Members: Natasha Sarkisian

Ryan Thombs

Title: Resource Dependency and Sustainability in the United States

Abstract: Recent research suggests that no country in the world meets its social needs in a sustainable manner. The U.S. is a prime example, as it has achieved a high standard of living but at a substantial cost to the environment. Although, research also suggests that subjective and objective measures of well-being are declining in the U.S. Thus, not only must the country reduce its emissions and environmental resource use, but it must also rethink its development strategy as well-being continues to deteriorate. However, these trends are not homogeneous as there are significant differences in ecological degradation and well-being across the states. What could explain these differences? Resource dependency, which refers to economic overspecialization in the extractive natural resource sector, offers a promising theoretical perspective to apply to this question. In my four-part dissertation, I explore whether and how resource dependency impacts sustainability-related measures in the U.S. Using state-level panel data, I assess the effects of resource dependency on the carbon-intensity of well-being, the renewable energy-fossil fuel nexus, and CO2 emissions in chapters two through four. In the fifth chapter, I describe three Stata commands (eiwb, xtasysum, and lreff) that I developed as part of my dissertation. Taken together, I show that resource dependency undermines environmental and social well-being outcomes in the U.S., but it does so in complex ways. I conclude by discussing the implications of my findings, this dissertation’s contributions to sociology and sustainability science, and paths for future research.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Andrew Jorgenson
Members: Juliet Schor, Sarah Babb

Emily Barko

Title: Perceptions of Anorexia Nervosa and Presumptions of Recovery: A Phenomenological Analysis of Performance, Power, and Choice in Healing

Abstract: With recognition of health and illness as both private and social experiences, I sought to understand how individuals experience anorexia nervosa (AN) and recovery in their everyday lives. I conducted mixed-methods qualitative research among individuals who identified as having had experience with AN. In article one, I focused on how individuals experience AN and recovery in everyday self-presentation. A central implication is that AN and recovery can be recognized as interactional accomplishments that are un/successfully “done.” Thus, while conventional portrayals of AN often depict a person with AN looking into a mirror and seeing a distorted perception of their own body, respondents demonstrated how they relied on the interpretations of others to inform their impressions. In article two, I investigated how respondents evaluate weight as a metric of AN recovery. Respondents portrayed weight as a weak criterion, underscoring how it is a physical measure for a mental illness. Yet, respondents pivoted emphasis from weight as a catalyst for AN, to weight as an obstacle to recovery. In article three, respondents articulated how others’ expectations for healing did not always resonate with personal experience. This disjuncture led to treatment strategies that were often incompatible with respondents’ recovery realities. In article four, respondents further illuminated juxtapositions between clinical and personal definitions of AN healing. Notably, respondents positioned the development of positive relationships with others as among the most efficacious ways to heal. Collectively, the article themes overlapped, with AN manifesting as: an identity, role, entity, experience, and status. Ultimately, some respondents felt they had fully recovered from AN. However, most respondents, regardless of illness status, spoke about others’ misunderstandings of AN, which, from their perspectives, collaborated to fashion a masquerade of recovery that immobilized healing. The voices of respondents in the dissertation are profound, as they expose how the validity and legitimacy of their illness experience, as uncertain and negotiable, become the definition of the AN situation. Consequently, AN history remains a composite of social constructions that continually reposition questions of cause, meaning, and blame. The answers to these inquiries, which mold into illness etiologies, shape academic, clinical, conventional, personal, and professional responses.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Sharlene Hesse-Biber
Members: Sarah MoormanC. Shawn McGuffey

Matthew Del Sesto

Title: Transforming Correctional Landscapes

Abstract: In a moment when the legitimacy of institutions that respond to crime is being challenged in new ways, there is also a growing interest in the use of ecological sustainability and environmental justice initiatives as a possible intervention in this context. These initiatives take many social and spatial forms across correctional landscapes, from prisons, jails, and youth detention centers to communities impacted by incarceration. Across three articles, this dissertation critically examines some of the contexts, limits, and possibilities of ecological sustainability initiatives as a means to transform correctional landscapes. Considering that ecological sustainability programs can involve some form of work done by incarcerated people, the first article explores the social-historical context of prison labor. It reviews the contested development of theories about prison labor among scholars, reformers, and activists. The article examines how the role of prison labor has been imagined in society, from punitive and rehabilitative theories to the more recent restorative and abolitionist or transformative ones. Contested theories of prison labor across time and space suggest that although work programs have often been exploitative, there are pathways, within and outside of the present system, towards forms of labor that might better contribute to crime prevention and public safety. The second article looks at some current efforts to intervene in correctional landscapes through the lens of environmental justice and ecological sustainability programs in the Northeastern United States. It explores these efforts through surveys, workshops and experiences of practitioners who have been trying to implement green interventions in correctional landscapes over the last ten years. The article denaturalizes the commonsense assumption in sustainability discourses that green interventions are necessarily good for individuals and institutions, and instead looks to the social contexts within which practitioners aim to implement interventions towards the possibilities of transformation. Overall, the article shows how some educators and activists have sought to seed transformative possibilities from within the constraints of existing theories and practices of correctional rehabilitation, as they work to design and implement specific program protocols, practices, curricula, networks, and collaborations. Finally, the third article turns to a case study of the emerging role of social cooperatives in Italy, as a crime response and prevention strategy that promotes social inclusion. It situates the model of Italian Social Cooperative movement in the context of W.E.B. Du Bois’s coopertivist thought and the emerging field of design for transitions. It looks at specific Italian laws, policies, and organizations that relate to the transformation of correctional landscapes and have possible applications to U.S. context. The Italian case, which emphasizes the role of ecological sustainability and cooperative practices in the context of incarceration, is used to better understand how future interventions might become pathways to decarceration, environmental justice, and sustainable communities.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Charles Derber, Brinton Lykes

Xiaorui Huang

Title: Not All Emissions are Created Equal: A Multidimensional Approach to Examining Human Drivers of Climate Change

Abstract: Global climate change is among the greatest crises facing humanity in the 21st century. Despite the urgency, climate actions are lacking in many nations. A rich body of cross-national research on human drivers of emissions is devoted to identifying effective leverage points for emission abatement, which primarily focuses on aggregate emission measures such as production-based accounts and consumption-based accounts. However, a nation’s carbon-emitting activities are not monolithic, but can instead be classified into distinct components based on important characteristics such as the supply chain stage to which they belong. These emission components likely have heterogeneous relationships with certain anthropogenic drivers or mitigation measures. Yet, analyses using aggregate emission measures are unable to detect such heterogeneity or inform the unique strategy that might be required to effectively mitigate each emission component. I address this gap using the three empirical chapters of this dissertation. In the first empirical chapter, I propose an analytical framework of Multidimensional Emissions Profile (MEP), which situates nations’ contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions into four distinct components: (1) emissions generated by domestic-oriented supply chain activities; (2) emissions embodied in imports; (3) emissions embodied in exports; and (4) direct emissions of end user activities. I then apply the MEP framework to analyze the relationships between national affluence and the four emission components for 34 high-income nations. I find that as these nations grow wealthier, affluence is increasingly decoupled from direct emissions of end user activities but remains positively associated with the other three emission components in various ways. The findings suggest that emission-suppressing mechanisms associated with growing affluence are effective in mitigating direct end user emissions—typically the smallest component—but not the other three emission components. Therefore, high-income nations should prioritize mitigating emissions generated by supply chain activities outside the end use stage. The second empirical chapter is an examination of how renewable energy deployment is related to these emission components in high-income nations. I find that renewable energy deployment mitigates emissions by domestic-oriented supply chain activities, and with increasing effectiveness over time; yet it remains ineffective in curbing the other three emission components, indicating the existence of structural barriers that prevent the decarbonization effect of renewables from spilling over to these three emission components. These barriers must be overcome in order to achieve the full decarbonization potential of renewable energy deployment. In the third empirical chapter, I investigate the time-varying relationships between domestic income inequality and the four emission components, in order to unpack the multiple pathways linking income inequality to emissions. The results suggest that the relationships change over time, vary across emission components, and differ between measures of income inequality, which indicate variations in the causal pathways, both over time and across emission components. The findings from all three empirical chapters support the validity of the MEP framework. The relationships between greenhouse gas emissions and national affluence, renewable energy deployment, and domestic income inequality are multidimensional: these anthropogenic forces curb some emission components but spur others. Climate policies targeting these anthropogenic forces should optimize their decarbonization benefits while neutralizing the mechanisms through which they drive growth in emissions.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Andrew Jorgenson
Members: Juliet Schor, Sarah Babb

Maheen Haider

Title: Keepers and explorers: An acculturation case study of the multi-faceted identity of Pakistani graduate students navigating US culture

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

Dissertation Committee
Chairs:  Eve Spangler, C. Shawn McGuffey
Members: David Takeuchi, Mary Waters

Kathryn Olson

Title: Farms, Fish & Forests: An Ethnography of Climate Change in Maine

Abstract: The aim of the dissertation, broadly conceived, is to particularize climate change and locate it in the embodied relations of people and places in Maine. I draw from 45 ethnographic interviews, extensive participant-observation, a participant survey, and participant photography to co-investigate the profound ecological shifts farmers, fishers, and foresters are experiencing, and explore how climate meanings are locally constructed and shaped by repeated encounters within multispecies communities in place. In addition, I explore the ways in which livelihood conditions in Maine are entangled with processes of gentrification and shifting economic conditions that, along with climate change, are putting additional pressures on nature-based livelihoods there. The dissertation contributes to an understanding of how climate change is a bundle of processes that cannot be neatly separated as natural or social. It also demonstrates the central role of livelihoods—and their contingent identities—in understanding and adapting to climate change. Ultimately, the dissertation bears witness to precarious land- and sea -based livelihoods, and agitates for greater attention to ways in which people, places, and climate change are irrevocably bound.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Julia ChuangBrian Gareau

Samantha Eddy

Title: Captive Imaginings: An Ethnography of Live Action Role Play

Abstract: The live action role play community prizes escapism and yet, their imaginative worlds often reconstitute the very social realities that inspire reverie. This emerging social practice actualizes fantasy landscapes through immersive costuming, sets, props, and interaction. Unlike tabletop games, live action role players physically manifest their characters and build the story through collaborative, improvisational play. Live action role players go to great lengths to ensure that their fantasy “feels real”, arguing that this allows for momentary escape and creative catharsis. In this three-part ethnography, I explore what it means when social realities insidiously inform the imaginary worlds of live action role play. In the first section of the dissertation, I expose a tension in the community’s recent growth. Live action role players are torn between courting new participants and maintaining the materials standards of the hobby. I argue that the community justifies material investment in imaginary play through a collective memory of the hobby’s past. Considering a different kind of investment, the second section of the dissertation explores the community’s stake in maintaining “race” during their fantasy gaming. I argue that these fictional games expose the social processes that scaffold racecraft and maintain racism. In the final section, I reflect on the community’s ability to welcome gender diversity by abandoning predetermined roles. I compare this with the community’s strict adherence to racial categories as necessary elements of world-building. This final section highlights the existing weaknesses in intersectional theory. This critique considers new strategies for anti-racist and feminist interventions.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Julia Chuang, Zine Magubane

Jared Fitzgerald

Title: Working Time, Inequality and a Sustainable Future

Abstract: In 2015, the United Nations implemented the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues. While there is a virtual international consensus regarding the importance of these goals, and reconsidering the ecological costs of human development, there are disagreements on the best approaches to actually achieving sustainability. In this dissertation I examine alternative pathways to sustainable development that move beyond the growth-consensus. Across three empirical chapters, I investigate the effects of working hours and inequality, and their interaction, on measures of environmental and human wellbeing across US states over time. In the first chapter, I assess the relationship between average working hours and CO2 emissions from 2007 to 2013. This chapter is the first examination of this relationship at the US state level and finds that longer working hours are associated with increased emissions over time. The second empirical chapter takes this research one step further and examines how inequality shapes the relationship between working hours and emissions from 2005 to 2015. The results of these analyses again find that longer working hours are associated with increased emissions but that the relationship becomes more intense at higher levels of inequality. The third empirical chapter investigates the claim that a working time reduction could be a multi-dividend sustainability policy by examining the relationship between work hours and life expectancy from 2005 to 2015. I also examine how inequality shapes this relationship as well. Results indicate that longer working hours are associated with decreases in life expectancy, and that this effect is larger at higher levels of inequality. In all, these studies provide more evidence that reducing working hours could potentially be an effective sustainability policy that could contribute to achieving multiple sustainable development goals. Further, they show that inequality is an important factor shaping socio-environmental relationships and population health relationships.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Andrew Jorgenson
Members: Wen Fan, Juliet Schor

Orla Kelly

Title: The Silver Bullet? A Cross-National Investigation of the Relationship between Educational Attainment and Sustainability

Abstract: The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda (2015-2030) urges nation-states to engage in concerted efforts toward building an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future for people and the planet. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets offer a roadmap for policymakers to achieve this complex agenda. An essential component of the quest for global sustainability is to understand the synergies and potential tradeoffs between these economic, social, and environmental targets. The theoretical and empirical tools developed in the sub-discipline of environmental sociology are particularly helpful in this regard because it is dedicated to unpacking the connections among people, institutions, technologies, and ecosystems. The first portion of this dissertation considers some of the theoretical and empirical contributions of social scientists — and in particular environmental sociologists — to our understanding of sustainability. In the second portion of the dissertation, I engage development frameworks and macro-comparative sociological theories in two cross-national empirical investigations into the relationship between education and sustainability. Chapter three builds on the findings of chapter two by assessing how economic factors affect the interplay between education and CIWB. In all, my research contributes to sociological understandings of sustainability and if — and under what conditions — population gains in educational attainment can strengthen both human and ecological wellbeing.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Andrew Jorgenson
Members: Sarah Babb, Thomas Dietz

Caliesha Comley

Title: Dismantling the Criminal Justice Empire: A Feminisms Analysis of U.S. Law, State Violence, and Resistance in the Digital Age

Abstract: The Internet is as a force of liberation that also extends existing power structures. In five parts, I examine what happens when these two forces clash.

This dissertation analyzes the impact of U.S. law on women of color at home and abroad, as well as the ways in which women of color respond to and resist U.S. law. In their resistance, they challenge the domestic failings of the U.S. criminal justice system as well as the systems which connect state violence internationally. The first article of this project explores the space of the sentencing hearing as a site for rhetorically reclaiming Black motherhood in the face of its pathologization. I use the case of Marissa Alexander to show how the defendant and her family resist the exclusionary politics of legal protection. The second article examines the relationship between police militarization and strategies of black digital resistance and theorizes Black Lives Matter as a cyborg feminist social movement that can serve as a base for a global, intersectional resistance against systems of state violence. The third article challenges the dominant narrative of liberal imperialism in the U.S. anti-human trafficking project which positions U.S. as sole capable leader in the fight against “modern-day slavery” and the liberation of poor women of color in the global South and East. Though each article employs a slightly different framework, my dissertation is grounded in a qualitative sociological approach to content analysis and is informed by interdisciplinary concepts from legal studies and critical rhetorical approaches. My research centers multiple feminisms, including Critical Race Feminism, cyborg feminism, and postcolonial legal feminism, and incorporates important scholarship on technology and social movements. In this project, I demonstrate affinity between feminist theoretical approaches. More broadly, I contribute to bodies of research that challenge the notion that institutions such as the criminal justice system, digital spaces, and humanitarian aid are designed to protect and provide remedies for victims of domestic and state sponsored violence. I propose framework of feminisms in dialogue for both analyzing and resisting the hegemony of U.S. law which legitimizes and reproduces interlocking systems of racism, sexism, and imperialism.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Zine Magubane, Shawn McGuffey
Members: Anjali Vats

Isak Ladegaard

Title: How Drug Market Actors Use Information and Communication Technology to Build Community, Overcome Crackdowns, and Broadcast Consumption

Abstract: The Internet is as a force of liberation that also extends existing power structures. In five parts, I examine what happens when these two forces clash.

Following a brief genealogy of the Internet as a space for radical cultures, corporate surveillance and profit-making, and state control, I examine how a “digital backspace” for anonymous actors was affected by a law enforcement crackdown. Durkheim claimed that punishment of crime generates social cohesion as “honorable” people are united in emotional, passionate condemnation of those who transgress society’s moral boundaries, but critics have argued that punishment might extend divisions rather than produce unity, because societies are not as homogeneous as the populace Durkheim depicted in his work. Today, a singular exception is the online community, which is often utterly homogenous, as it is typically centered around shared interests and concerns. A crackdown on a digital backspace is therefore a good case for empirically testing a novel take on Durkheim’s original theory: will punishment unite the punished group?

In the third part of the dissertation, I explain how major disruptions to an e-commerce market for banned goods created problematic situations that forced market actors to innovate. The Internet is in many ways reproducing the world we already know and one might therefore expect that the struggle between law enforcement and law-breakers in cyberspace will be much like it is in the offline world, where the two camps are engaged in a seemingly never-ending game of cat and mouse and things fundamentally stay the same. But I argue that because the Internet expands the opportunity structure for creative and collaborative action, legal pressure do not rein in group activities, but actually stimulates innovation and resistance. That is, a police crackdown might not cripple a market, but inadvertently improve it. Specifically, I explain that when police shut down a dominant e-commerce market they forced thousands of actors to reorganize, and unintentionally spurred resisting efforts that ultimately produced a decentralized, more sophisticated, and more resilient economic field.

In the fourth part of the dissertation, I explain that e-commerce for banned drugs has made it possible for pseudnonymous drug-takers to talk openly about the goods they buy and consume, and as such, actors can frame their behavior as they see it, or as they want it to be seen by other market actors. With this newfound capacity for broadcasting, how do drug-takers present their consumption? To answer this question, I a nalyze “consumer reports” of LSD, cocaine, and cannabis products that the authors have purchased in digital drug markets. Drawing on this analysis, I discuss if the digitalization of drug trade is more likely to promote alternative cultures, such as the anti-capitalist “cannabis culture,” and/or if orderly Ebay-like trade of drugs will support and accelerate the normalization of drug use, and thus reduce its counter-cultural potential.

In the fifth and final chapter of the dissertation, I argue that open trade of banned goods has profound implications for social control activities in cyberspace. This is primarily because newfound capacities for collective resistance render traditional crime control methods counter-productive. In the case of digital drug trade, police crackdowns have had some notable success, for example when police reduced the number of available markets in the short term. However, I argue that crackdowns on digital drug markets are on the whole counter-productive, for three concrete reasons that I examined in the dissertation. Firstly, social control efforts unite the targeted group, because actors now have means for mass communication and collective reorganization. Secondly, crises stimulate resistance and innovation, which motivated groups will thrive on. As such, a crackdown will strengthen and not weaken the group it targets, given it has the means and the will to resist. Lastly, law enforcement crackdowns bring media attention to banned websites and thus inadvertently disseminate alternative framing of crime. In light of these outcomes, I argue that the myth of the sovereign state’s ability to control human behavior is further eroded. Not only is the state unable to eradicate crime, it is also unable to foresee the outcomes of their efforts and will at times make matters worse, as when the markets it tries to stop are united and empowered, rather than divided and weakened.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Juliet Schor, Sarah Babb, and Wen Fan

Iyar Mazar

Title: 'On a Good Day No One Knows:' Management of Disease Impacts in Barth Syndrome

Abstract: Improved survival for medical conditions that were previously fatal in infancy has led to more individuals living longer with chronic illnesses. These individuals, some of whom have largely unapparent, unpredictable, and yet severe symptoms from birth, may experience a unique set of physical, social, and emotional impacts associated with their condition as compared to youth with less severe, treatable pediatric conditions or individuals with adult-onset conditions. This dissertation explores these challenges using the case of youth with Barth Syndrome (BTHS), a rare, severe, genetic condition in males associated with life-limiting and life-threatening symptoms. Research questions explored: (1) how symptom severity, visibility, and controllability informed individuals' social management and legitimization of BTHS; (2) how awareness regarding their limited, uncertain prognosis impacted life planning for youth with BTHS; and (3) which coping strategies individuals with BTHS used to manage the physical, social, and emotional impacts associated with their incurable, life-limiting condition. Thirty-three sixty-minute interviews were conducted in two groups: individuals with BTHS ≤15 years of age (n=18) and/or their caregivers, and individuals with BTHS ≥16 years of age (n=15). Interview transcripts were analyzed using Atlas.ti. Results demonstrated that (1) the severity, visibility, and lack of control over BTHS symptoms was associated with individuals needing to seek social support for their condition, rather than attempting to pass as healthy as other males with chronic conditions have been found to do; (2) individuals opted to forgo socially ""on-time"" goals (i.e., long-term, knowledge-based goals) based on their perceptions of their limited, uncertain time horizons and struggled to identify alternative goals; and (3) individuals used secondary coping strategies (i.e., regulating their emotional responses to their external stressor rather than controlling the stressor itself) to cope with the impacts associated with having an incurable, severe, and chronic health condition. These results can be used to inform practices for providing increased social and institutional support to chronically ill youth, including promoting positive coping strategies and facilitating meaningful, attainable, goal selection. These interventions may alleviate some of the challenges faced by the growing number of youth living with chronic illnesses seeking to safely and meaningfully engage in the realms of work, family, education, and social life.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Sara Moorman
Members: Wen Fan and Zine Magubane

Jeremiah Morelock

Title: Elements of Authoritarian Populism in Diseased Others Science Fiction

Abstract: This work addresses the globally urgent need to understand the social origins of the recent surge in authoritarian and populist social movements across Europe and the Americas. It analyzes how themes of tribalism, confidence in medical science, and confidence in military violence changed over the years in the retelling of stories in popular culture. The focus is I Am Legend and Day of the Dead – two series of American film remakes of popular science fiction stories that feature pandemic disease and the threat of what are here referred to as “Diseased Others” – the transformed, humanoid Others who have caught the disease. The qualitatively-driven approach exhibits an original methodological contribution to the discipline of sociology, offering several innovations via the coding schemes used and an adaptation of grounded theory for multiple sample sets of films. The data consulted include transcriptions of dialogue from films, reviews in popular news sources, interviews with cast and crew, box office data, and data from the General Social Survey. Within these examples of “Diseased Others” science fiction, themes of tribal morality and confidence in medical science and the military have followed a discernible trajectory. This trajectory is of narrowing moral scope toward loyalty to one’s own in opposition to outside groups, and embracing military violence as a positive solution to threats to the “normal” population. In general, medical science is also increasingly positioned as dangerous and blameworthy (even if also capable of positive intervention). This trajectory thus displays a heightening of what are identified for the present study as three “elements of authoritarian populism”: tribalism, distrust of rational institutions, and willingness to resort to violence.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Zine Magubane and Eve Spangler

Marya Mtshali

Title: Gray Matter: The Roles of Race, Gender, and Racialized Gender Ideologies in the Management of Racial Difference in Heterosexual Black/White Intimate Relationships

Abstract: One of the common beliefs in American society is that interracial couples transcend race. It is a curious belief considering that there is not a parallel logic that heterosexual couples transcend sexism. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 55 members of heterosexual Black/White intimate couples, I have investigated the internal dynamics involved in maintaining a relationship across race in our racially stratified society in three areas of these couples’ lives: public interactions, racial discussions, and childrearing. Most literature about interracial couples looks at race as the main determinant of the experience of these couples as a unit and as individuals. However, I argue that race, gender and racialized gender ideologies interact to shape how members of heterosexual Black/White intimate couples perceive certain social situations and their options for negotiating social norms and issues. Not only has the intersection of race and gender been under-theorized in research on interracial couples, racialized gender ideologies have been virtually absent. In particular, these racialized ideologies of gender result in situational privilege at different times for Black women and Black men, thus nuancing our understanding of how racism operates.

Dissertation Committee
Chairs: Zine Magubane, C. Shawn McGuffey
Members: Martin Summers, Amy C. Steinbugler

LTC Darcy Schnack

Title: Environmental Attitudes, Intentions, and Behavior: Informing Conservation Education, Policies, and Programs in the U.S. Military

Abstract: The Department of Defense not only acknowledges the current ramifications of climate change but also recognizes the threat it poses to U.S. national security. The Department of Defense is a major domestic and international organization, and despite the Department’s impact in many areas, including the environment, the relationship between national security and environmental concern has not been studied nearly to the extent it could. Furthermore, no study using data from a large military organization exists that could help the Department of Defense progress toward the sustainability it desires. This dissertation addresses this problem by reviewing the U.S. Army’s greening directives and initiatives and providing a short history of these efforts at the United States Military Academy. It examines how and why attitudes, intentions, and behavior regarding the environment differ among military, both ROTC and West Point cadets, and civilian college students, and whether they view environmental problems to be a threat to our national security. This project has five broad findings of interest. First, the relationship between environmental attitudes and environmental behaviors and intentions remained as predicted and was always strongly significant. Second, ROTC cadets were never significantly different in their survey responses when compared with civilian students, and USMA cadets were rarely different. Third, civilian students’ political views were almost never significantly related to their environmental attitudes, behaviors, or intentions, while military cadets’ political views were always significantly related to lower scores on the environmental attitude scale. Fourth, being a U.S. Military

Academy cadet, compared to civilian students, was significantly related to stronger agreement with the statement that the so-called ‘ecological crisis’ facing humankind is a threat to the United States’ national security. Fifth, women were more likely than men to report higher scores on the environmental attitude scale and make a special effort to recycle but also more likely than men to express weaker agreement with the statement that the ecological crisis is a threat to national security. This project has the potential to inform the military’s conservation policies and programs, while the military is uniquely positioned to be an agent of change in the efforts to combat climate change.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Brian Gareau, Ryan Kelty

Robert Wengronowitz

Title: A Field Analysis of the Climate Movement: The Perils and Potentials of Climate Activist Capital

Abstract: This dissertation examines the climate movement as a social field where actors vie for position and capital. This competition strongly influences framing, tactics, and strategy, while it ultimately bears on the effectiveness of mobilization. I analyzed the climate activist field (CAF) through a case study of resistance against a gas pipeline project. In the first phase of resistance, I found there to be a divergence between local activists with little to no experience in the CAF and climate activists operating within it. In the second phase, after climate activists had taken over, there was a division among climate activists themselves. Here, climate activists carried themselves and made decisions based on what they thought was objectively the correct thing to do. However, activists’ practices (encompassing decisions around tactics and strategy but also their judgments and disposition) were structured through the competition for the rewards of the CAF—Climate Activist Capital (CAC), especially Symbolic CAC—and the associated increased status for activists.

I used a mixed method approach involving a survey (N=146), participant observation (200 hours), and interviews (N=51). The survey collected data on activist background and preferences, as well as subjective assessments of their own participation and indicators of economic and cultural capital. Participant observation in a range of groups and social spaces allowed for analysis of activist practices in real, observable ways. Both the survey and participant observation informed a purposive interviewing strategy that collected data from the most heavily involved to more peripheral activists.

The analysis sought to locate patterns in activist background, quantity and composition of capital, and practices. Differences in activist practices were hypothesized to be the outcome of the interrelation among: an actor’s background embedded in the habitus; an actor’s volume and composition of capital, as well as their social trajectory; and the competition for capital and position within the CAF (itself structured by actors, their backgrounds and practices, and influence from other fields). The hypothesis received mixed support in the data. Participants in the resistance were not conscious of how their preferences for tactics and strategy were guided by the competition to valorize Symbolic CAC inflected by activist orientation, relatively internal or external. Structured by the field that they help construct, climate activists’ practices and the overall effort to stop the pipeline project became increasingly internally oriented, situated antagonistically with the field of power. This resulted in an increased distance between climate activists and non-climate activists as well as a focus on civil disobedience to the exclusion of other tactics.

The dissertation represents a novel approach to understanding dynamics within the climate movement and contributes to three areas of research. First, my research on resistance against fossil fuel infrastructure addresses a deficit of empirical scholarship on climate activism, especially at the local level. Second, I contribute to the social movement scholarship on strategic choices by locating them between individual rational calculation and predetermined agency-less decisions by focusing on the effects of activist field position. Third, the research extends Bourdieusian scholarship by testing his theoretical schema built around social reproduction in a field that is organized around social change. In bringing a Bourdieusian approach to movement scholarship and the climate movement in particular, the research delivers an analysis that weaves together micro-level social processes—activists and their practices objectively positioned in the CAF—with an historically developed CAF at the macro-level. The analysis is pertinent not just to scholars but to climate activists and activists more broadly. Ultimately, I argue that the climate movement will be served best by drawing on the distinct advantages of the internal and external space in the CAF. This requires more reflexivity and introspection among climate activists so they may understand how their position informs their practices and how they can more consciously mediate the position-to-practices process and bend them in contextually appropriate ways.

Dissertation Committee
Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: William Gamson, Andrew Jorgenson

Will Atwood-Charles

Title: Post-Bureaucratic Organizations: Normative and technical Dimensions

Abstract: In this dissertation, I study dynamics of inequality in three post-bureaucratic organizations: a makerspace and two on-demand labor platforms for couriers. Collectively, these cases explore how institutional orders are created, reproduced, and transformed in organizations that reject interpersonal authority relationships. In a completely rationalized bureaucracy, coordination is achieved through rigid adherence to codified roles and procedures, as well as deference to designated superiors within a bureaucratic hierarchy. Post-bureaucratic organizations, by contrast, eschew formalized interpersonal authority relationships - typically emphasizing normative and technical controls. For example, many high-tech organizations group workers into teams that negotiate and enforce norms. Material technology may also be used by organizations as a method to coordinate and manage workers, as in the case of on-demand labor platforms that direct workers via software technology. Like conventional bureaucracies, post-bureaucratic organizations are susceptible to a variety of pathologies. Two tendencies, however, are particularly salient: anomie and reification. Technical control involves reifying aspects of an institutional order that otherwise would be imparted through socialization. One risk in reifying an institutional order is that it will be incapable of responding to changes in the environment. In contrast to the problem of an institutional order that is too stable, anomie is a quality of normlessness and an ambiguous institutional order. Previous research suggests commitment forms of organizing are susceptible to anomic tendencies. In such weakly institutionalized environments where norms are open for negotiation, there can be considerable competition between individuals over how to define norms and practices. These individual status competitions may come at the expense of collective goals, in addition to being an avenue by which race, gender, and class inequalities are produced and reproduced.

Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Sarah Babb, Natalia Sarkisian, Steven Vallas (Northeastern)

Julia Bates

Title: The Occlusion of Empire in the Reification of Race: A Postcolonial Critique of the American Sociology of Race

Abstract: In a series of case studies, I problematize the reification of race in the American Sociology of race from a postcolonial perspective. I argue prominent theories within the American sociology of race tend to essentialize race as a cause of racial inequality in the United States. These theories assume the existence of racial categories and then discuss how other entities become racialized into racialized social systems (Bonilla-Silva 1997), or racial projects (Omi & Winant 1994). These theories emphasize national structures, but occlude empire. I argue the occlusion of empire in the American sociology of race, particularly in theorization of racial categorization, is problematic. Empire is the structure that links race to class inequality, and produces race as a social category of exclusion. Therefore, a sociological theory of American racial inequality, which does not analyze imperialism as a structure that produces race, and rather focuses solely on national-structures, or a definition of capitalism severed from imperialism, cannot provide a thoroughly structural explanation for the persistence of racial inequality in the United States.

Chairs: Zine Magubane, Stephen Pfohl
Members: Martin Summers, Julian Go

Mehmet Cansoy

Title: “Sharing” in Unequal Spaces: Short-term Rentals and the Reproduction of Urban Inequalities

Abstract: In my dissertation, I argue that questioning the relationship between technological change, specifically the new types of markets and practices enabled by the “sharing economy” and inequality has become an urgent need. While the sector promotes itself as the harbinger of egalitarian access to economic opportunity and consumption, independent studies of its operations and impacts point towards significant discriminatory dynamics favoring the already privileged. I focus on one sharing economy platform, Airbnb, which facilitates the practice of “home-sharing,” or more accurately short-term rentals. I investigate the relationship between Airbnb and inequality in three papers that focus on how the deeply unequal urban settings where much of the economic activity on Airbnb takes place operate within the context of economic activity enabled by the platform. In the first paper, I look at how race determines the patterns of participation and outcomes for people who rent out their properties. I show that the economic opportunities generated by the platform are unequally distributed across the urban landscape. There are fewer listings in areas with higher concentrations of non-White residents, the listings that are located in these areas charge lower prices, and have lower earnings. The second paper investigates the relationship between the public reputation system on Airbnb and racial discrimination. I show that characterizing the reputation system as a racially neutral tool, which has the potential to reduce discriminatory outcomes, is highly problematic. Airbnb listings located in neighborhoods with higher percentages of non-White residents have a harder time generating reputation information when they first come on the platform and tend to have systematically lower ratings. The third paper focuses on how short-term rentals generates new dynamics of gentrification in cities, by providing evidence for a new type of “rent gap” between long-term and short-term rentals, and how property owners are exploiting it. I argue that short-term rentals, in the absence of further effective regulation from governments, are likely to drive increasing levels of gentrification as they remain highly profitable and occupy an increasing number of housing units.

Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Sarah BabbNatalia Sarkisian

Lindsey Carfagna

Title: The Pedagogy of Precarity: Laboring to Learn in the New Economy

Abstract: The relationship between learning and labor has long been a topic of concern for sociologists of education. In this dissertation, I conduct an ethnography of open learning in the United States following the 2008 economic crisis and argue that a new style of learning is emerging amidst changes in the labor market. I call that new style of learning the pedagogy of precarity and emphasize that it challenges credentialism (Collins, 1979), or how U.S. society confers status, jobs, and life chances according to one’s accumulation of academic qualifications. This study is the first sociological ethnography of open learning conducted from the vantage point of learners (Ito et al, 2009) and offers a perspective of how mostly digitally mediated learning practices are utilized within the growing precarity of the new economy. In this dissertation, I show how a sample of open learners sought a different way to connect their learning to their labor when neither felt valuable after the 2008 crisis and subsequent recession. Engaging literatures in the sociology of education, economic sociology, and cultural sociology, this dissertation expands upon the concept of the precariat (Standing, 2011; Gill and Pratt, 2008) in order to explain how “entrepreneurial vagueness” emerges from lived experiences of precariousness. Entrepreneurial vagueness works to buffer subjective status aspirations amidst dwindling objective life chances in the new economy (Bourdieu, 1984a; Sennett, 1998; 2006). In my study, precarity becomes pedagogized (Bernstein, 1996; 2001) and participants “labor to learn” rather than learn to labor. The pedagogy of precarity relies upon autodidactic communalism (Pearce, 1996), a model for learning that puts the burden of self-education on the individual and the community that she can access by successfully adopting a “habitus of trainability” (Bourdieu, 1984a; Bernstein, 1996; 2001). This burden is hard work, but is also described as enjoyable and life giving. The pedagogy of precarity instilled quasi-dignity as participants learned to embody the habitus of trainability. The habitus of trainability entailed developing a taste for usefulness, a taste for craftsmanship, and a taste for association. However, these tastes are not separate from a taste for risk (Neff, 2012; McMillan Cottom, 2017), and thus the pedagogy of precarity lacks sustainability. The findings are relevant to other studies of institutional challenge through peer-to-peer connection as well as work regarding the future of higher education in the new economy.

Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Sarah Babb, Stephen Pfohl, Julian Sefton-Green

Lauren Diamond-Brown

Title: Contingent Care: Obstetricians’ Lived Experience and Interpretations of Decision-Making in Childbirth

Abstract: This dissertation seeks to understand obstetricians’ lived experience of decision-making in childbirth and investigate how they interpret and respond to social forces that affect this process. Understanding how obstetricians make decisions in childbirth is important because maternity care in the United States is in crisis. Our system is failing women on multiple accounts: between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality more than doubled in the United States, and is higher than most other high-income countries. In global comparison the U.S. ranks 39th in the world for maternal health (WHO 2014). Furthermore, women continue to suffer from abusive practices by maternity care providers who dismiss their concerns and sometimes outright refuse to honor their self-determination in childbirth (Exposing the Silence Project). Today multiple stakeholders acknowledge a need for maternity care reform; this creates new challenges for health care policy and opportunities for social science research. Obstetrician-gynecologists provide the majority of maternity care to American women, and this dissertation examines their lived experience of decision-making in birth and analyzes how a range of social forces affect this process. To investigate this phenomenon I performed 50 in-depth interviews with obstetricians from Massachusetts, Louisiana and Vermont about how they make patient care decisions in birth. The specific research questions and analysis for each article evolved through an iterative process that combined analytical grounded theory and template analysis. Through the lens of the obstetrician I show how decision-making in birth is contingent upon social forces from multiple levels of the clinical context. I present this in a three-article format that draws on a wide range of interdisciplinary literature including medical sociology, sociology and anthropology of reproduction, health services, public health and health communication. Each article offers individual contributions to debates about medical practice, health care delivery, and maternity care. Taken together they offer a rich understanding of the complexity of medical decision-making in the field of obstetrics that ultimately suggests we need reform efforts that include ideological and organizational changes in order to better serve the needs of childbearing women and medical professionals.

Chair: Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber
Members: Sara Moorman, Stephen Pfohl

Elizabeth Magner

Title: The Role of Collective Identity and Framing Processes in Advocacy Efforts to Implement Farm Animal Protection Policy

Abstract: This study explores efforts by the farm animal protection movement to pass anti-CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) farm animal protection legislation in Massachusetts and Rhode Island from 2012 to 2015, aiming to understand why successful outcomes were limited, through the theoretical lenses of collective identities and collective action frames. CAFOs, the predominant source of food animals in the United States, rear animals in intensely confined conditions, which raises significant animal welfare concerns, and also exact serious damage on workers, the environment, public health, and rural communities. Given the animal cruelty inflicted by CAFOs, animal protection organizations have invested much time and effort into passing legislation to ban intensive confinement practices, yet have encountered significant challenges in doing so in some states. This thesis aims to help explain why and how some of these challenges arise, and how they might be avoided or overcome in future efforts. To this end, I describe the collective identities of Massachusetts and Rhode Island farmers and professional farm animal advocates, and analyze the ways that these collective identities interact with and inform framing strategies. I conclude that some elements of the farm animal advocate identity conflict with farmer collective identity, and, further, that consequent advocacy framing strategies at times significantly hinder attempts to pass farm animal protection legislation.

Chair: Brian Gareau
Members: Sarah Babb, Charles Derber

Monique Ouimette

Title: Common Scents?: Regulating the Use of Fragrances in Workplaces

Abstract: Fragrances in consumer products have become a contested topic in daily life. Workplace fragrance policies problematize fragrances, which, for many people, are normal aspects of consumer products. This mixed-method dissertation focuses on employees in a large non-industrial workplace with a fragrance-free policy. It examines employee reactions to a policy that requests behavioral changes based on claims that everyday consumption of fragranced products may be harmful to employee health. In order to develop an understanding of how and to what extent fragrances and indoor air quality are problematized in the workplace, I engage a number of different constructs from environmental and consumer sociology. The dissertation expands upon constructs of contested illness (Brown, Kroll-Smith, & Gunter, 2000; Phillimore, Moffatt, Hudson, & Downey, 2000; Shriver & Webb, 2009); framings of environments in bodies (Kroll-Smith & Kelley, 2008); lay assessments of health impacts (Burton-Jeangros, 2011; Collins, 2010; Heikkinen, Patja, & Jallinoja, 2010; O'Sullivan & Stakelum, 2004; Scammell, Senier, Darrah-Okike, Brown, & Santos, 2009) and understandings of the role of scents in social life (Largey & Watson, 1972; Low, 2006; Synnott, 1991).

My findings show that a majority of participants understand fragrance impacts through an individual health frame, as an allergy, that locates the problems associated with fragrance within the bodies of specific individuals who exhibit symptoms due to fragrance exposures. While this orientation has had positive impacts on the implementation of the policy and reducing corresponding impacts on those who are Fragrance Sensitive, the degree to which fragrances have been problematized is limited by understandings of fragrance impacts as allergies. The limiting framework of fragrance sensitivity as allergy has practical efficacy because it helps employees to connect with the idea that fragrances cause health issues for some individuals. However, it also stymies assessments and connections to potential broader environmental health impacts of fragrances in part because allergens such as pollen are generally viewed as benign and only problematic to the anomalous individuals who experience reactions. Limitations of the framework are reinforced by established moral and cultural assessments of good and bad fragrances and the appropriate use of fragrances (Low, 2006; Synnott, 1991).

Chair: Juliet Schor
Members: Brian Gareau, Eve Spangler

Jeffrey Stokes

Title: What’s Love Got To Do With It? Marital Quality And Mental Health In Older Age

Abstract: The present dissertation examines the associations among older husbands’ and wives’ marital quality and well-being, using two sources of dyadic data, a range of measures of marital quality and well-being, and advanced analytic strategies appropriate for longitudinal and cross-sectional data. Older couples can differ from their younger and midlife counterparts, as both men and women trim their broader social networks in later life and increasingly focus on their closest and most rewarding relationships, such as marriage (Carstensen, Isaacowitz, and Charles 1999; Mancini and Bonanno 2006). Gendered roles may shift in later life, as well, as older adults cease activities such as child-rearing and full-time employment (Bookwala 2012). Thus, potential differences according to gender are also explicitly tested. Together, the three papers in this dissertation examine whether and how older spouses’ reports of marital quality and well-being are associated with one another, with a particular emphasis on assessing emotional contagion as a potential explanation and mechanism for dyadic partner effects. The results of these articles contribute empirically and theoretically to the literature(s) on marital quality and well-being; spousal interdependence; and emotional contagion. I discuss the implications of these articles for theory and future research concerning marriage and well-being in later life.

Chair: Sara Moorman
Members: Natasha Sarkisian, John Williamson


Amanda Freeman

Title: The Myth of Self Sufficiency as Success for Low-income Single Mothers

Abstract: With large numbers of low-income single mothers facing a difficult job market while simultaneously experiencing the erosion of social welfare aid, it is vitally important to understand their efforts and the obstacles they face, trying to move out of poverty. This dissertation examines the ways in which a group of low-income single mothers, who were at the center of the enthnographic study presented here, struggled and also succeeded. The research is presented in three articles. Attention is paid to the institutional and personal obstacles that impacted the progress of the women. The research, including annual interviews, took place over a three-year period from 2009–2012, as part of a larger ethnographic study on the low-income single parents who were participants in a community based antipoverty program in South Boston. The articles call into question the ways in which social institutions like schools, workplaces, and social services agencies affect the progress of single mother-headed families, raising challenges to conventional approaches and embedded assumptions about social mobility. The mothers' stories presented in the articles speak directly to the myth of the welfare queen single mother by offering a view of a group of low-income single mothers working very hard to parent, work and attend school.

Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Lisa Dodson, William Gamson

Fatima Sattar

Title: Rights, Responsibilities, and Resettlement: The Competing Notions of Refugee Belonging in a U.S. Welfare Program

Abstract: Historically, the U.S. has been among the top nation-states of global refugee resettlement, and it continues to be, despite recent domestic political rhetoric against this policy. The U.S. welfare state provides resources to contracted nonprofit immigrant-serving organizations to carry out the U.S. resettlement policy. However, scholars under-examine front-line welfare policy practices with refugees. This area is critical to examine in this historical moment, because scholars argue the rise of neoliberalism has negatively affected the nonprofit human service sector’s capacity to provide social rights to the most vulnerable (Hasenfeld and Garrow 2012). Drawing on participant-observation at a northeastern resettlement organization and 50 semi-structured interviews with front-line bureaucrats and refugees between 2010-2015, I examine how bureaucrats perceive and shape refugees’ initial processes of resettling in the U.S., and how refugees also view this experience. My dissertation found competing restrictive and inclusionary perceptions of and practices with Iraqi, Darfurian, and Bhutanese refugees, which calls into question how, and why, welfare subjects with legal refugee status, are perceived distinctly by their social locations in the shrinking and stigmatized U.S. welfare context. Additionally, my dissertation illuminates how refugees evaluate their resettlement experiences and belonging in the U.S.

Chair: C. Shawn McGuffey
Members: Eve Spangler, Candace Jones

Sarah Woodside

Title: Social Mission or Revenue Generation?: Challenges and Opportunities in Social Enterprise from Competing Institutional Logics

Abstract: Social enterprises are nonprofit, for-profit or hybrid organizations that use business methods to create social change (Dees 2007; Light 2005; Martin and Osberg 2007; Neck, Brush, and Allen 2009;). If it succeeds, the social enterprise model could prove to be a viable pathway to greater social justice in an era of decreasing funding for government services and nonprofits (Emerson and Twersky 1996; Harding 2004; Murphy and Coombs 2009; Wilson 2008). However, skeptics worry that the perils of privatization, bottom-line thinking, and deceptive marketing potentially embodied by the “business methods” that social enterprises employ may undermine the potential of this new approach to solving social problems (Bateman and Chang 2012; Farmer 2009; Nega and Schneider 2014). The three articles that make up this dissertation examined the ways social entrepreneurs perceived and managed tensions between social mission and market institutional logics. Their ability (or lack thereof) to reconcile these contradictory imperatives could contribute to whether social enterprises ultimately succeed or fail as vehicles for positive social change.

Chair: Eve Spangler
Members: Natalia Sarkisian, Sandra Waddock

Selen Yanmaz

Title: "The Revolution will not be Televised, It will be Tweeted": Digital Technology, Affective Resistance and Turkey's Gezi Protests

Abstract: The Gezi Park protests, which started in May 2013 in Istanbul, rapidly turned into a movement for democracy across the country. Through in-depth interviews with protestors in Turkey, observation and content analysis, my research examines the role digital technologies played in the protests. These technologies, especially social networking tools, were used by protestors to construct personalized frameworks and forms of action. I show that this process depended on the individuals’ interpretations of their current political and cultural context, their alternative frameworks of reality. By expressing these frameworks individuals, first and foremost, challenged the politico-cultural adjustment of the society by various powerful actors. Moreover, as individuals got together in protest, alternative frameworks of reality interacted, leading to the emergence of empathy and dialogue among the protestors for long-term movement success. Digital technologies provided the necessary alternative sources for news and other information for the reconstruction of these frameworks. Moreover, they became the primary space for the production and circulation of jokes in various forms, as protestors used humor and creativity as central strategies to voice their dissent. Affective and humorous creations challenged the discipline of the political authority, hacked its presentations of reality and contributed to the formation of a carnivalesque society, where empathy and dialogue were maintained through collective effervescence.

Chair: Stephen Pfohl
Members: Brian Gareau, Juliet Schor