Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Other Tribeca: Immigrant Work and Incorporation amid Affluence

    Author:
    Elizabeth Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foner
    Abstract:

    Tribeca, a small, affluent neighborhood in the lower west side of Manhattan, is a microcosm of the service-and-information-based economic structure that characterizes many communities in other American cities today, and thus provides an opportunity to study the effects of this system. Tribeca residents are predominantly wealthy and work in high-end service-oriented professions, so they consume low-end personal services produced locally. Many of the people who provide these personal services in the neighborhood are foreign born. Although they share space and have regular interactions, conventional assumptions might suggest that Tribeca residents and immigrant service workers lack much in common, and have little meaningful interpersonal contact with one another. This study explores the actual nature of intergroup contact and how the people in Tribeca navigate the symbolic and social boundaries between them. In order to understand these processes of contact and boundary navigation, I collected extensive ethnographic and interview data from 66 participants. The perspectives of both immigrant workers and Tribeca residents--as well as Tribeca's local history, identity, and culture--are taken into account to clarify how their perceptions of the neighborhood and of one another influence their interactions, their feelings of belonging, and their criteria for inclusion in the community. Although intergroup contact between residents and immigrants fails to alter the host of boundaries that separate them, they are still able to interpersonally connect in ways that are meaningful to them. They do this by bridging, or overlooking, the significance of symbolic and social boundaries. Because of these interpersonal interactions that go beyond service transactions, the local community is defined in a way that incorporates the immigrants who work in the neighborhood in a social way. Tribeca has become an inclusive and unexpected community--to borrow a term from Hochschild (1973)--one in which residents and workers from varying backgrounds are considered an integral and social part.

  • VETERAN ROLE SALIENCE: A STUDY OF STUDENT VETERAN REINTEGRATION IN THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

    Author:
    Demond Mullins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    The research question that informed this dissertation was: in what ways do military identities impede or enhance student veteran engagement in higher education institutions? This research was designed with a mixed methods approach; a 40 question survey instrument (N=300) constituted the quantitative portion of the study; 20 in-depth interviews and one semester of ethnography with several student veteran clubs constituted the qualitative portion of the study. All data collection was conducted in the City University of New York (CUNY) with student veterans attending 4-year and community colleges. My findings confirmed a correlation between military occupational specialties and the differential quality of relationships student veterans experience with nonveteran students, faculty, administrators, and amongst themselves. This research also discovered a number of issues CUNY could address at an administrative level in order to facilitate the academic success of these particular nontraditional students. Some of these issues were: the tendency toward marginalization of female student veterans in student veteran clubs and campus spaces, the need to take affirmative measures to encourage student veteran and nonveteran student communication to the benefit of both groups, and the need to develop a standard system to assess military service for college credit.

  • NEGOTIATING VIOLENCE, NAVIGATING NEOLIBERALISM: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCACY EFFORTS IN SOUTH ASIAN COMMUNITIES IN POST-9/11 NEW YORK CITY

    Author:
    Soniya Munshi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the relationship between legislative acts and community-based efforts to address intimate violence in the lives of South Asian women in the New York City metropolitan area in order to analyze the complexities that community-based organizations, situated in the matrices of neoliberal governance, face in their everyday advocacy practices. The first chapter offers historical context of the role that South Asian women's anti-violence organizing in the U.S. has had in interrupting, forging, and replicating different forms of community politics and argues that the cultural frameworks utilized by South Asian women's organizations, and the construction of populations of South Asian survivors, are constituted by and contribute to the logics of neoliberalism. Chapter 2 examines the epistemological implications of funding and professionalization of anti-violence efforts to argue that the culture of funding has produced discourses of specialization and expertise that impact groups that work on gender-based violence as well as other community-based organizations that see domestic violence appear in their constituencies. Chapter 3 examines the treatment of immigrant survivors in the Violence Against Women Act, to argue that VAWA produces populations of recognizable battered immigrant women that are offered the opportunity to be folded into life, while immigrant survivors of domestic violence whose experience is not legible are neglected, or, in Foucauldian terms, left to die. Policy advocacy discourses reveal that anti-violence efforts not only manage populations but also produce them. Chapter 4 examines how domestic violence advocates working with South Asian survivors of violence negotiate the everyday terrain that has been produced through the U.S. anti-violence movement's alliance with the criminal legal system and argues that advocates take up discursive strategies of "flexible ambivalence" with respect to the criminal legal system that are communicated through frameworks of "choice" that are compatible with the machinations of neoliberal governance. Chapter 5 offers case studies that present imaginative possibilities that community-based organizers forge to address the needs that appear in their communities, and looks at the constraints that they face, internal community exclusions that persist as well as potential openings for further connections.

  • Growing Just Foodscapes: A Case Study of East New York Farms!

    Author:
    Justin Myers
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Gould
    Abstract:

    There is a growing literature focusing on the social problems of industrial agriculture and food deserts. The former critiques industrial agriculture for being environmentally unsustainable, putting small farmers out of business, and making people unhealthy. Instead, it looks to the alternative food movement and how small-scale local production and consumption networks can be a viable counter to industrial agriculture. The latter focuses on where and whether food deserts exist, the effects of living in food deserts, and how to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for residents living in food deserts. However, neither of these literatures have generally focused on how lower income communities are responding to the social problems of industrial agriculture and food deserts. Many lower income and nonwhite communities are self-organizing to address food deserts, food flight, and food redlining by re-building local food economies under the slogan of food justice, spaces I refer to as just foodscapes. This research interjects into the literature on industrial agriculture, food deserts, and the alternative food movement through a case study of a food justice organization located in a lower income African-American and Caribbean community in Brooklyn, that of East New York Farms!. In focusing on how East New York Farms! is self-organizing to address inequities in the food system, how race and class positionalities shape its food justice projects, and how its food justice projects attempt to realize social justice and environmental sustainability this research documents four major aspects of the food justice movement. First, food deserts are not natural but social products of particular political, economic, and racial processes. Second, public subsidy of farmers markets is necessary in order to produce these market spaces as a win-win for out-of-town farmers and lower income consumers. Third, race and class positionalities are central to the ecological, economic, and cultural processes embedded in food justice movements. Fourth, food justice organizations frame food justice as an alternative to both the corporate dominated conventional food system and the race and class privileged alternative food movement, one that seeks to create an anti-racist food movement as well as a food system devoid of institutional racism.

  • Mayibuye! Let Us Reclaim! Assessing the Role of Memorialization in Post-Conflict Rebuilding

    Author:
    Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    John Torpey
    Abstract:

    MAYIBUYE! LET US RECLAIM! ASSESSING THE ROLE OF MEMORIALIZATION IN POST-CONFLICT REBUILDING by Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman The past decade has seen a global increase in scholarly and practitioner interests in memorialization and social memory studies. While memorialization initially gained social and political significance after the Holocaust, as it served as a symbol of recognition of the millions of victims, it gained increased recognition with the growth of the transitional justice field. Initially subsumed under the banner of symbolic reparations, memorialization has over the past few years become a transitional justice mechanism in its own right. Increasingly, victims turn toward memorialization as a mechanism for recognition, justice and healing, and more truth commissions are recommending memorialization as a tool for post-conflict rebuilding. Despite this growth in the field, there is limited understanding of the actual impact that memorialization has in social rebuilding. Using a case study approach, this dissertation employs a qualitative research methodology, asking the question: under what conditions do the mechanisms associated with transitional justice, most specifically memorialization, contribute to peace and social rebuilding? The study draws on research conducted mainly in Liberia and South Africa. Twenty-two expert interviews and six focus group interviews with a total of 90 participants inform this research project. This dissertation concludes that memorialization's role in peace and social rebuilding is varied. However, there are certain conditions--such as an integrated approach to the implementation of memorialization and the delivery of other forms of reparations, a survivor-centered approach to memorialization and the use of memorialization as a catalyst for critical education--that may increase memorialization's potential to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction.

  • Becoming Normal: The Social Construction of Buprenorphine and New Attempts to Medicalize Addiction

    Author:
    Julie Netherland
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    Drawing on theories about the social construction of knowledge and the sociology of the body, this dissertation analyzes the social construction of buprenorphine, a medication being used to treat addiction to opioids, to better understand the processes of medicalization. Buprenorphine was central the passage of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, a law which overturned an almost one hundred year prohibition preventing physicians from prescribing narcotics for the treatment of addiction in an office-based setting. Buprenorphine is seen by many as central to moving addiction treatment into the medical mainstream. Using documents from government regulators, industry, and addiction researchers, I show that there are many different "buprenorphines," each being strategically constructed and deployed to serve different political and economic interests. I also use qualitative interviews with individuals taking buprenorphine to examine the ways in which their embodied experiences of the medication shape and are shaped by different discourses about buprenorphine, addiction, and addiction treatment. I show how buprenorphine and medical theories of addiction act as a new system of constraint, while allowing new possibilities for agency and action. I conclude with a discussion of how the discourses about and embodied experiences of those taking buprenorphine challenge but also reflect the larger sociopolitical context in which they are contained. This research builds upon and challenges existing theories about the medicalization of social problems.

  • City Nights: The Political Economy of Postindustrial Urban Nightlife

    Author:
    Richard Ocejo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Sharon Zukin
    Abstract:

    This study examines the impacts that broad economic and political forces have had on neighborhoods in postindustrial cities. As urban economies have shifted from being production-based to consumption-based, industries that were peripheral to city growth, such as forms of entertainment (i.e. nightlife, shopping, cultural activities), are today central. As a result, city governments have taken great steps towards encouraging private investment in and economic development that is based on these sectors. The very physical and cultural makeup of the contemporary city has been reconfigured as city centers and downtowns have become sites for large-scale entertainment projects. Another significant development has been the construction of nightlife scenes in gentrifying neighborhoods. Through the case of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a formerly disinvested slum that has become one of New York City's premiere areas for nighttime entertainment in bars as well as a desired neighborhood for real estate actors and wealthy residents, this study analyzes the effects that "neighborhood nightscapes" have on the social relations, residents, and cultures in contemporary cities. While the development of nightlife and the intertwined processes of gentrification are often lauded as benefits for the improvement of neighborhoods and the growth of cities, an in-depth, critical analysis reveals a number of issues that they cause. New bars that have opened on the Lower East Side since the 1990s have formed dense concentrations throughout the neighborhood that emphasize the consumption of their nightlife experiences as well as material products. This has transformed the Lower East Side into a destination for a wide array of nighttime activities for new residents and visitors from both within and outside of the city. While neither a formal public-private partnership nor a state-led effort, its many bars opened as a result of a liquor licensing policy based on economic development and in conjunction with the city's consumption-based growth initiatives and the neighborhood's gentrification. New forms of social control have been implemented by the local state and police to handle disorderly conditions generated by nightlife scenes and protect urban nightlife's image as a place for safe consumption. For Lower East Side residents, however, the development of the nightscape has had significant negative impacts--damaging their quality of life, fraying their civic bonds with local government and communal bonds with business owners, and resulting in social and cultural displacement. As an example of a common urban development, the neighborhood nightscape of the Lower East Side serves as an analytical lens for understanding the local impacts of broad economic and political changes occurring in postindustrial cities.

  • BODY, HONOR, AND DOMINATION IN MARGINALIZED URBAN SPACES. An Ethnography of Bodybuilding in an American Black Ghetto and Thai Boxing in a French Working-Class Banlieue

    Author:
    Akim Oualhaci
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    This work is a comparative analysis of ethnoracial domination and urban marginality in the United States and France that aims at studying two social spaces of relegation, the black ghetto in the U.S. and the working-class suburbs in France. The ethnographic study of bodybuilding and Thai boxing in the black American ghetto and the French working-class suburb has allowed me to account for the incorporation of the social through a bodily practice and its translation into social strategies. Because they have adopted a new cosmogony, the young men of working-class suburb and the black ghetto build a carnal solidarity in practice and reproduce the social honor of the group challenged by various social mechanisms of stigmatization and marginalization in a the context of job insecurity and unemployment. At the same time, these bodily practices prevent practitioners from getting involved in a deviant career because they occupy and fix the agents, and because they internalize a set of "values" that give a meaning and a direction to their everyday life.

  • Renewal and Disposability: Projects and Narratives of Development and Dispossession in the "new" New Orleans

    Author:
    Allison Padilla-Goodman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Robert Smith
    Abstract:

    When much of the physical landscape of New Orleans was destroyed with Hurricane Katrina, expedited change and a need to redefine the city's future rushed in. The "new" New Orleans would be decisively different: it would be change-oriented, optimistic, and a leader in progressive reform movements. Discourse around post-Katrina New Orleans was focused on making New Orleans "better than before" and becoming a national leader for cutting-edge urban renewal. On-the-ground change mirrored this discourse, as the city's institutional landscape was dismantled and reconfigured along lines of privatization and newness as the trend of "accumulation by dispossession" (Harvey, 2005) blanketed the city. To create this new city, a narrative of an ideal new resident was necessary to embody this change and represent the city's future. I refer to this ideal in this dissertation as the "Renewers" who are young, idealistic, recent college graduates working in justice-oriented professions to be a part of the movement for urban renewal that has swept New Orleans. These Renewers further and justify the narrative of reform, as they represent the ideal future of the developing city. At the same time, their narrative completely excludes the narrative of many New Orleanians who are being left behind by renewal. These residents, whom I refer to as the "Disposables" of post-Katrina New Orleans, live and function everyday amongst the ghosts of neoliberal reform as they struggle to not be defined by what seems to be a planned dispossession of their lives. Through years of ethnographic research in public schools in New Orleans with a non-profit organization, I show the effects of urban renewal and reform on those excluded from the narrative. This has fundamentally altered the sense of place and local identity of New Orleans, as the city relies on Disposable's cultural contributions and Renewer's economic and social status.

  • Voice and Advocacy in the Urban Ghetto

    Author:
    Jean Phelps
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    Abstract VOICE AND ADVOCACY IN THE URBAN GHETTO By Jean Phelps Advisor: Professor William Kornblum This study was conducted to ascertain whether poor and powerless urban dwellers could develop the skills to speak out on their own behalf when dealing with institutions of power. The research explored the conditions and processes, which facilitate or hamper the development of self-advocacy skills. The subjects of this study were observed, over an extended period of time, struggling under the domination of institutions that use methods of control to keep the poor in inferior positions in society. This study has showed that poor individuals can develop the voice to speak out on their own behalf, effecting positive outcomes in situations that heretofore were beyond their power and scope to change. It also indicates that the urban poor may not necessarily step out on their own against a system that has oppressed and exploited them. They may require encouragement from people who are in positions of influence. The study concludes that newly learned and acquired self advocacy skills can lead to self-empowerment, if performed regularly.