2011 Student Paper Winning Abstracts
Congratulations to the student winners! The abstracts for all winning student papers are listed alphabetically by division below.
The student paper competitions awards are sponsored by the Special Problems Divisions.
COMMUNITY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT DIVISION
Winning Title: Gentrification, Creative-Class Style: Theorizing the State in Cultural Space- and Place-making
Author: Mary Scherer
Affiliation: University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Political-economic support for market-led gentrification has prompted some compelling research, but we know less about state actors’ support for cultural capital-led neighborhood change. Gentrification scholars now more or less agree that culture, in some form, should be taken seriously as part of both cause and outcome of the process whereby private capital is reinvested in poor urban areas, often leading to some form of displacement. However, the dominance of one type of cultural capital over another varies over time and across context, requiring specificity if it is to invoke shared meaning. Therefore, planners’ selection of cultural products for place representation is far from arbitrary; in fact, it is increasingly based on professional consultation for mounting “re-branding” campaigns. The most popular consultant is economist Richard Florida, whose creative class theory explains that cities which foster a distinctive taste culture are more likely to experience revitalized local economies and enhanced global competitiveness. Although the privileging of creativity seems unproblematic at first, creative city planning is reliant on continually reproduced divisions between the creative class and those they seek to distinguish themselves from. This may have broader implications for the organizing principles we use to study inequality: creativity, as a catch-all for lifestyle, a values-based aesthetic, and a state-sanctioned habitus may signal a complex new schema indicative of new social divisions. I explore how city planning boards implicate the state in cultural capital-led gentrification.
CONFLICT, SOCIAL ACTION, AND CHANGE DIVISION
Winning Title: Explaining Women’s Activism: Rethinking the Women’s Environmental Justice Narrative in California’s San Joaquin Valley
Author: Tracy E. Perkins
Affiliation: University of California, Santa Cruz
This paper explores women’s pathways to participation in environmental justice advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Many scholars depict women becoming environmental justice activists according to a common set of experiences in which apolitical women personally experience an environmental problem that launches them into a life activism in order to protect the health of their families. While a small group of the 25 women I interviewed fit this description, overall my interviews reveal a much more diverse array of paths into environmental justice activism. Exploring this diversity provides another way to push back against common stereotypes of women as politically naïve and less capable of holding and acting on abstract political commitments as compared to men. I conclude with a call for scholars to re-open the question of women’s pathways into environmental justice activism, paying particular attention to regional variation, changes over time, and the strategic role of motherhood in communicating movement concerns to the general public.
CRIME AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY DIVISION
Winning Title: When the Elderly Turn to Crime: Revisiting the age-crime curve in an aging population
Author: Naomi Sugie
Affiliation: Princeton University
The age-crime curve—with a peak in offending in adolescence and steady decline in older age—is a well-established social fact in criminology theory. Theories of offending were developed in this context and cannot readily explain the recent rise of elderly crime (65 years and older) in aging societies. Drawing on social control theory, the life course perspective on crime, and the concept of anomie, the author proposes that increases in elderly crime are due to weakened social and institutional attachments in elderly age. The importance of attachments is related not only to desistance, as proposed in previous research, but is also associated with elderly onset of criminal behavior.
Using interviews with elderly ex-offenders and administrative data on all elderly arrests in Japan from 1995 to 2004, the author finds that weakened attachments—as associated with divorce and unemployment—are related to increases in elderly arrest rates. The author analyzes elderly offending by gender, finding that economic factors are most relevant for men and social factors are most pertinent to women. Together the results suggest that attachments are mediators for onset of elderly offending, are gendered, and derive meaning from the cultural context in which they are located.
Winning Title Humor as Social Identity in a Disability and Queer-Themed Alternative Theater Group
Author: Jennifer Caputo
Affiliation: Indiana University
A variety of provocative work examines the ways that humor and joking are used by individuals conversationally in small groups to ease interactions, brooch taboo subjects, and create shared meanings. However, no prior research explores the use of humor as a characteristic of groups that defines their social identity. In this study, I investigate the use of absurd performance humor by a disability and queer-themed alternative theater group in a mid-sized southeastern city. My data consist of field notes collected during group productions and meetings, and six interviews with group members. Using grounded theory methods, I find that subversive humor serves several distinct purposes within the group, including creating a collective identity, maintaining a positive group image, and pursuing social change. I argue that theater group members see their unique approach to humor as characterizing their group’s social identity and setting them apart from mainstream groups. I discuss the implications of my research for exploring the use of humor among marginalized groups with relatively little power as a creative tool for defining themselves, creating community, and communicating dissent with mainstream culture.
Honorable Mention: Governing the Eugenic Home: Propaganda for Responsible Parenthood and American Citizenship, 1936-1942
Author: Simone Diender
Affiliation: Brandeis University
In the late 1930s and especially during World War II, “eugenics” became a dirty word in the American lexicon. The general public associated it with coercive Nazi policies while scholars dismissed it as unscientific. Academics and social workers who still advocated family planning as a means to a healthier population hired PR agents to boost the image of the American eugenics movement. The result was a series of folders, articles, flyers, and other popular media trying to “sell” eugenics to American families.
An important claim of these publications was that parents should consider family planning as a civic obligation. Contrary to popular perception, the flyers claimed, eugenics was profoundly American and democratic. The debate among eugenicists and their message to American families is remarkable because it attempted to reconcile sacrifices such as coerced sterilization of the ‘unfit’ and voluntary family expansion of the ‘fit’ with the practices of a democratic society. It also brought about the claim that a contribution to a healthier population was as patriotic as buying war bonds. Finally, not just the message but also the methods of eugenics propaganda could be seen as typically American. It used marketing and popular culture to persuade American parents, as opposed to the coercive methods of Nazi and fascist eugenics.
DRINKING AND DRUGS DIVISION
No award given
EDUCATIONAL PROBLEMS DIVISION
Winning Title: The Influence of Habitus in the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status, Cultural Capital, and Academic Success
Authors: S. Michael Gaddis and Andrew Payton
Affiliation: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Scholars routinely use cultural capital theory in an effort to explain class differences in academic success but often overlook the key concept of habitus. Support for both reproduction and mobility models and concern of omitted variable bias suggest the need for a closer examination of the individual effects of cultural capital and habitus. Drawing upon the work of Pierre Bourdieu, I use longitudinal data to examine the effects of multiple operationalizations of cultural capital and test habitus as a mediator. I find that typical operationalizations of cultural capital (e.g. high-arts participation and reading habits) have positive effects on GPA that are completely mediated through habitus, although results vary by SES. The results also indicate that previous estimates of cultural capital are likely overstated due to omitted variable bias. Overall, these results strongly suggest the importance of habitus in the relationship between socioeconomic status, cultural capital, and academic success.
ENVIRONMENT AND TECHNOLOGY DIVISION
Winning Title for the Brent K. Marshall Award: The Role of Values and Beliefs in Public Attitudes towards Wind Farms
Author: David Bidwell
Affiliation: Michigan State University
Renewable sources of energy are widely viewed as a solution to multiple social problems. Public acceptance for the deployment of renewable technologies, however, has proven a challenge. Proposals for one common form of renewable energy, commercial wind farms, are frequently met with forceful local opposition. Dissatisfied with simplistic explanations for this opposition (i.e., NIMBY), social scientists have urged a more nuanced understanding of public attitudes towards wind farms and other renewables. Based on a survey of residents of coastal Michigan, this article explores the role of general values and beliefs in shaping attitudes towards the potential development of wind farms in or near respondents’ communities. Structural equation modeling reveals that support of commercial wind farms depends largely on a belief that wind farms will provide economic benefits to the community. Underlying values have substantial and important indirect effects on beliefs regarding the likely economic outcomes of wind farm development. Altruistic values buoy wind farm attitudes, while values of traditionalism diminish wind farm support.
Winning Title Oh, did the women suffer, they suffered so much: Impacts of Gendered Based Violence on Kinship Networks in Rwanda
Author: Nicole S. Fox
Affiliation: Brandeis University
In 1994 the world stood idly by as one million Rwandans were violently killed by machetes in only 100 days. The long-standing conflict, a consequence of colonialism, resulted in the destruction of a nation. This violence resulted in thousands of orphaned children, a majority-female nation, hundreds of thousands of survivors who contracted AIDS due to rape, and institutions (e.g. schools, churches) that were stained with blood and filled up with bones and rotting bodies. Sociologists, historians and women’s studies scholars have begun to make a significant contribution to understanding the role that gender played in both the mass atrocities and the possibilities for peace in post-genocide Rwanda. Based on qualitative in-depth interviews, this paper draws on women’s and men’s narratives of gendered based violence, particularly rape, perpetuated on their siblings and cousins during the 1994 genocide. In understanding some of the consequences of gendered based violence on Rwandan survivors, a kinship analysis is utilized that takes into account the trauma of family members who knew of the rape and the ramifications of fractured familial relationships on the survivors.
GLOBAL DIVISION/CRITICAL THEORY GRADUATE STUDENT PAPER AWARD
Winning Title: From the Developing World to the West: Transnational Networks and Policy Change
Author: Erica Blom
Affiliation: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Opposition to the privatization of plant genetic material historically has had little impact on political outcomes across much of the developed world. In 2004, this began to change when the Canadian government proposed amending its Plant Breeders' Rights Act. Contention immediately broke out across Canada over the proposed amendments. The financially and politically powerful intellectual property movement championed the amendments while the comparably weaker farmers' rights movement opposed them. Yet it was the farmers' rights movement's framing of the amendments that ultimately dominated the debate, shifting public opinion, causing widespread mobilization and forcing the government to kill the amendments or risk its own legitimacy. Through a comparative analysis of the two movements, I show that alternative transnational networks provided differing resources to each movement and account for the movements' disparate success. My analysis demonstrates that ultimately it was actors based in the developing world who had the expertise and preparedness to provide the support necessary for the farmers' rights movement to triumph during the amendments debates. These findings contribute to a dearth of social movement analyses examining developing-to-developed world flows of influence.
Honorable Mention: Cross-national Interaction and Cultural Similarity: A Relational Analysis
Author: Bart Bonikowski
Affiliation: Harvard University
The study examines the relationship between the structure of cross-national relations and the dyadic cultural similarity of 19 countries over 10 years, based on the assumption that patterns of interaction between state, private sector, and civil society actors influence national cultures. The relations analyzed include trade, military alliances, IGO memberships, phone calls, and military conflicts. The findings demonstrate that cross-national interactions, particularly trade and IGO memberships, are strong predictors of cultural similarity and complement the modernizing effects of economic development. In addition to explaining variation in cultural similarity between country dyads,the study challenges primordialist approaches to comparative cultural research that rely on civilizational country classifications. Instead, systematic measures of religious tradition, geographic region, linguistic heritage, and imperial history are used to identify factors that shape countries’ dyadic cultural similarities. Of these, only membership in former empires is a significant predictor of cultural similarity.
HEALTH, HEALTH POLICY, AND HEALTH SERVICES DIVISION
Winning Title: Gender and Physical Health: A Study of African American and Caribbean Black Adults
Author: Christy L. Erving
Affiliation: Indiana University-Bloomington
Although gender disparities in health in the U.S. remain a primary concern among health professionals, less is known about this phenomenon within the Black American population. Using the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), I examine gender differences in self-rated health, chronic illness, and functional limitations among African Americans (N=3,330) and Caribbean Blacks (N=1,562) and the extent to which the availability of resources explain these differences. The results reveal a consistent disadvantage among African American women across indicators of health. The gender-health relationship among Caribbean Blacks is somewhat weaker but there is a health disadvantage for immigrant women and U.S.-born Caribbean men when certain resources are taken into account. These findings illustrate the importance of the intersections of race, ethnicity, and nativity in our understanding of gender differences in health.
2nd Place: Black Churches and HIV/AIDS: Factors Influencing Congregations’ Responsiveness to Social Issues
Author: Brad Fulton
Affiliation: Duke University
Historically, black churches have served as institutional hubs within their communities. However, the ambivalent response of many black churches to current social issues has caused some scholars to question their central position. Using a nationally representative sample of black congregations, this study engages the debate about the institutional centrality of black churches by focusing on their response to HIV/AIDS. While many congregational studies treat black churches as a monolithic whole, this analysis identifies heterogeneity among black churches that shapes their responsiveness to contemporary social problems. Contrary to prior claims, a congregation’s liberal-conservative ideological orientation does not significantly affect its likelihood of having an HIV/AIDS program. Beyond assessing churches’ internal characteristics, this study draws on institutional theory to analyze churches as open systems that can be influenced by their surrounding environment. In doing so, it demonstrates that externally engaged congregations are significantly more likely to have a program. These results indicate that some black churches are maintaining institutional centrality by engaging their external environment.
INSTITUTIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY DIVISION
Winning Title for the George W. Smith Award: Mandatory HIV Testing Policy and Everyday Life: A Look Inside the Canadian Immigration Medical Examination
Author: Laura M. Bisaillon
Affiliation: University of Ottawa
Findings from qualitative research that detail the social organization of practices associated with the government policy of mandatory HIV screening of refugee and immigrant applicants to Canada are reported in this article. These findings are presented from within the standpoint of a woman who applied as a refugee applicant to Canada and who was diagnosed with HIV through mandatory immigration HIV screening. Using institutional ethnography as a method, I investigate interactions between HIV-positive applicants and immigration physicians during the official immigration medical examination. Mandatory HIV testing gives rise to serious and difficult disjunctures for HIV-positive applicants to Canada, which are produced within broader socio-political contexts. Applicant, physician and federal government employee work practices associated with this HIV testing are discussed. I show how these practices contribute to the ideological work of the Canadian state, and I point out how the interests bound up in the examination serve state interests rather than those of applicants. Empirical research set in the material circumstances and concerns of people’s everyday lives is relevant, practical, and useful for Canadian nurses and other health care professionals who work with, and who are well positioned to advocate on behalf of, HIV-positive applicants to Canada. Findings will also be relevant to immigration and health policy makers whose work it is to develop functional and constructive strategies that can address issues that matter in people’s lives.
LABOR STUDIES DIVISION
Winning Title for the Harry Braverman Award: The Hidden Costs of Contingency: Contingent Worker Use and Standard Employees’ Outcomes at Work
Author: David S. Pedulla
Affiliation: Princeton University
The U.S. labor market has changed dramatically over the past thirty years. Industrial shifts, declining unionization, and the rise of contingent labor arrangements have fundamentally altered employment relations in America. Existing sociological research has addressed in great depth the consequences for workers who have been directly impacted by these changing macroeconomic structures, such as contingent workers. However, less research has explored how these economic shifts affect nominally stable workers, such as standard, full-time, permanent employees. Using a national sample of matched individual- and establishment-level data from the 2002 General Social Survey and the 2002 National Organizations Survey, this article examines how employers’ use of three forms of contingent labor – temporary workers, on-call workers, and independent contractors – is related to standard employees’ perceived job security, subjective attachment to their workplaces, earnings, and relationships with managers and co-workers. Findings provide evidence that the use of contingent labor has consequences for standard employees’ outcomes. The consequences, however, vary depending on the type of contingent labor that is used in the workplace. These results suggest that current research may be underestimating the consequences of the changing economic landscape for the outcomes of standard, permanent, full-time workers.
LAW AND SOCIETY DIVISION
Winning Title for the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award Locking Up Social Order: Incarceration, Organizational Leadership, and Street Corner Violence
Author: Robert Vargas
Affiliation: Northwestern University
MENTAL HEALTH DIVISION
Winning Title: From Structural Chaos to a Model of Consumer Support: Understanding the Roles of Structure and Agency in Mental Health Recovery for the Formerly Homeless
Author: Dennis P. Watson
Affiliation: Loyola University Chicago
Current understandings of the effect that mental health services on consumers’ daily lives are still heavily informed by research conducted during the era of institutional treatment. This is problematic considering that changes to mental health care have shifted the locus of treatment to community settings for the majority of those living with serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI). With this shift there has been a greater focus on consumer-centered recovery in mental health care. In this paper I seek to develop a deeper understanding of the effect that the organization of mental health services offered in community settings has on the recovery process. I do this by presenting findings from the analysis of focus group and interview data collected from research informants (consumers and staff) at four Housing First programs located in a large Midwestern city. Housing First is based in a human rights approach to services that has been demonstrated to be more successful at housing chronically homeless consumers with dual diagnoses than traditional approaches to housing. My findings highlight the importance of understanding the connection that exists between social structure and personal agency and the recovery process.
POVERTY, CLASS, AND INEQUALITY DIVISION
Winning Title: The Moral Entrepreneur’s Bind: The Institutionalization of Silence in a Poor Neighborhood
Author: Robert Vargas
Affiliation: Northwestern University
RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES DIVISION
Winning Title: Expressions of Relatedness: Ethnography of Everyday Talk and Interactions in the Barbershop
Author: Shatima J. Jones
Affiliation: Rutgers University
The phrase “black community” is ever-present in academic literature, the media, political discourse, and everyday conversations. The term suggests that there exists a symbolic and/or tangible collectivity organized around race. The notion of a black community assumes commonality and solidarity based primarily on race; but the existence of such solidarity is an empirical matter and likely variable. My ethnographic research begins in an institution that is historically recognized as being significant to “the black community”—the barbershop—in order to allow the people who gather there to tell me what they perceive as creating a sense of relatedness between them, if anything. My findings highlight how the black men who gather at the barbershop express a sense of relatedness through: performances that highlight shared social norms, informal mentoring relationships, and conversations that tacitly and explicitly frame whites as “the other.”
SEXUAL BEHAVIOR, POLITICS, AND COMMUNITIES DIVISION
Winning Title: Revanchist Masculinity and the Framing of Identity: How Pimps View Women, Domination, and Themselves
Author: Max Besbris
Affiliation: New York University
While research on street-level sex work has focused on the mindsets of prostitutes, the challenges they face, and the changing structural aspects of the surroundings that affect their lives, this work as generally ignored pimps, the men who often “manage” and live off of the profits of prostitution. Using observations in two large cities in Northern California, and semi-structured interviews with current and former pimps, this paper presents a rare analysis of the worldviews and attitudes of a culturally ubiquitous character. This paper deals specifically with pimps’ conceptions of masculinity and domination, and argues that pimps frame themselves in contrast to women and non-pimp men to produced a type of “revanchist masculinity.” This form of masculinity is a response to a perceived gender imbalance, and reclamation of the “right” way men and women “should” interact. This paper explores three mechanisms: (1) decision making power, (2) sexual capital, and (3) moral superiority, to highlight the process of revanchism, and argues that pimps provide explicit examples of this type of masculinity. Finally, this research points to how individuals overcome dissonant facts when presenting their identities as codified, and argues that “revanchist masculinity” can be a part of mainstream gender performance.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS THEORY DIVISION
Winning Title: Points of Connection and Divergence between Organizational and Personal Narratives of Social Problems: Ideology, Identity Work, and Battered Women’s Stories
Author: Amanda M. Gengler
Affiliation: Brandeis University
This paper draws on data collected at an 18-bed battered women’s shelter to explore how battered women’s personal stories and understandings of the violence they have faced are shaped by social problems claims-makers and organizational narratives. Building on Loseke’s (2001, 2009) work on the uneven influence of public narratives of “wife abuse” on battered women’s personal narratives in support groups, I show here how battered women were likely to incorporate public and organizational narratives into their personal understanding of abuse when these narratives meshed with hegemonic cultural ideologies and helped them construct active and agentic selves, while tending to ignore, resist, or reject these narratives when they clashed with these ideologies and conceptions of self. These findings help extend our understanding of the links between public, organizational, and personal narratives (Loseke 2007) and equip claims-makers with a better understanding of the barriers they may confront in shaping victim’s own understandings of the problem they face.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIAL WELFARE DIVISION
Winning Title: Human Rights vs. Neoliberalism: Welfare State Spending as institutionalization of Human Rights Norms in 18 Latin American Nations, 1980-2008
Author: K. Russell Shekha
Affiliation: Florida State University
This study uses pooled time-series statistical techniques to test world society and world systems theory integration with classic welfare state theories and their applicability for explaining the determinants of social spending in Latin American nations. Specifically, it draws on the “spiral model” based in the world society perspective to explain variation in rejecting, negotiating and institutionalizing human rights norms and rules. This study uses social spending levels as an indirect measure for a nation’s effort towards institutionalizing and habituating Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) norms and rules and showing “rule-consistent behaviors”. Social spending levels act as proper proxies for the effort nations make toward norm institutionalization and habituation because of the specific language in international human rights documents. The study introduces the modern international human rights system and the theoretical approaches that inform and guide analysis of human rights treaties and National Human Rights Institution (NHRIs). After discussing classic welfare state theories, reworking globalization-based welfare studies under the world systems rubric, it focuses on the contributions of word society theory to analysis of social policy, and the spiral model to processes of normative socialization. The findings reveal that classic welfare state theories have significant if inconsistent relationships with social spending in Latin America. The results also show the negative impact the neoliberal project has on social spending in the region, probably aggravated by the region’s semi-periphery status. Finally, they show human rights instruments and institutions most often have a positive relationship with social spending; which shows the utility of measuring the effort a nation makes to institutionalize human rights norms and rules using social spending levels.
SPORT, LEISURE, AND THE BODY DIVISION
No award given
TEACHING SOCIAL PROBLEMS DIVISION
Winning Title: Hopping on the Tips of a Trident: Graduate Students of Color Reflect on Teaching Social Problems at Predominantly White Institutions
Author: Chandra Waring and Samit Bordoloi
Affiliation: University of Connecticut
Much literature has concentrated on transformative pedagogical practices when teaching courses that challenge existing hegemonic arrangements, such as social problems. However, there is a dearth of scholarship that highlights the distinct dynamic of teaching critical content with a critical and/or feminist pedagogical lens as a graduate instructor with little to no pedagogical training. To further complicate this reality, we underscore the contentious, layered challenge of disrupting the classroom power dynamic as a person from an underprivileged background (i.e. person of color and/or a woman) while teaching at a Predominately White Institution (PWI) and inevitably, confronting resistance from privileged students. Drawing on two auto-ethnographic accounts from a black/white biracial American female graduate student and an Indian international male graduate student, this paper will attempt to fill this void in the literature. By integrating these two auto-ethnographic narratives, we call attention to the anxiety that accompanies teaching about social problems as a graduate instructor from a marginalized group, and we recount strategies that we have employed to create engaging and stimulating classroom settings that do not negate our position as a graduate instructor.
YOUTH, AGING, AND THE LIFE COURSE DIVISION
Winning Title: Remaking Reciprocal Rules of Geriatric Care: The Case of Aging Taiwanese Immigrants
Author: Ken Chih-Yan Sun
Affiliation: Brandeis University
This article uses the accounts of older Taiwanese immigrants who migrated to the United States at a younger life stage as a case to examine how aging migrant populations reconstruct norms of intergenerational reciprocity. Drawing on fifty-five interviews with older Taiwanese immigrants, I argue that aging immigrants fashion rules of intergenerational reciprocity in order to pursue a dignified later life and to sustain connections with their children and their children’s family. First, I discuss reciprocal rules of aging and elder care in traditional Chinese culture. Second, I demonstrate how the fact that many of my participants did not look after their own parents undermines their senses of entitlement to receive care from younger generations. Furthermore, I highlight how the structural squeeze between work, family and care-giving with which the younger generation struggle further discourages my participants from relying on their children. Finally, I underscore how aging immigrants invoke the concept of Americanization to reconstruct their expectations of how they should be taken care of in their twilight years. By so doing, I describe and examine how my participants grapple with the tension between modernities and traditions.