Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Birthing, Blackness, and the Body: Black Midwives and Experiential Continuities of Institutional Racism

    Author:
    Keisha Goode
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz-Rothman
    Abstract:

    Within the last decade, historical and contemporary accounts of midwives, along with the efficacy of the Midwives Model of Care for pregnancy, childbirth and general women's health, have become increasing popular in mainstream publications and documentaries. Yet, very few of these accounts represent historical or contemporary black midwives (and midwives of color, more generally). Despite a long history of midwifery in the black community, black women currently represent less than 2% of the nation's reported 15,000 midwives. Relatedly, black women and infants experience the worst birth outcomes of any racial-ethnic cohort in the United States. In the early 20th century, as the obstetrics-gynecology specialty sought to advance and secure professional boundaries and homogenization, physicians of this time began recording the "midwife problem." Publicly labeling the primarily immigrant and midwives of color (the majority of whom were black women) attending approximately 50% of the nation's births at the time as dirty, ignorant, evil and the like had a profound effect in nearly eradicating midwifery. Despite a revival of midwifery during the 1960s and 1970s, 1% of today's United States births are attended by midwives, of which black midwives and black mothers are but a fraction of that 1%. This qualitative study of 22 contemporary black Certified Midwives, Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives, of varying ages, years of experience and U.S. region, seeks to understand how a very racist and classist denigration of black midwives in the early 20th century is still manifesting itself in their experiences and perceptions of predominantly white midwifery education programs and professional organizations. These reported experiences of institutionalized racism and negative, controlling images of blackness is what I have framed as "the contemporary midwife problem." This samples' perceptions of the social operation of racism, and its impact on poor black birth outcomes and black women's relative underutilization of black midwives, is also explored. Federal and local policy implications are discussed.

  • "Loose Lips Sink Ships": A History of Rumor Control in the United States

    Author:
    Jeffrey Graham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    Throughout its history, rumor control has been comprised of efforts to monitor, suppress and/or spread messages which travel through word of mouth communication. Fundamentally, rumor control is a form of propaganda, often used in concert with other techniques aimed at influencing attitudes and behavior. Organized rumor control emerged during World War II, when the FDR administration viewed rumors as a threat to social stability and war morale. As a result, in 1942 the Office of War Information recruited barbers, librarians, school teachers and other civilians to submit rumors they overheard to the government for analysis. These efforts coincided with poster campaigns warning people not to talk about the war. After the war, the CIA funded extensive rumor research to learn about the flow of word of mouth communication, including experiments in which thousands of leaflets were dropped on unsuspecting American towns. During the civil unrest in the 1960's, dozens of "rumor control centers" were established ostensibly to help control violence, but mainly functioned to provide information to police and reassure white citizens. During the same period, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI spread false rumors to destabilize Black political groups. Corporate advertisers turned to marketing techniques that drew upon rumor control principles in the 1990's as a result in the perceived decline in mass advertising. Indeed, contemporary public relations can be seen as a form of rumor control, given its focus on suppressing negative word of mouth and promoting the spread of positive messages from person to person. Using primary historical data and interviews, the dissertation reveals that the themes of power, surveillance and social control are evident throughout rumor control history, and sheds light on why and how our attitudes are monitored and shaped by corporations and the government.

  • CLASS, CULTURE, OR BOTH: ASSESSING CONSUMPTION PATTERNS WITHIN MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY

    Author:
    Roderick Graham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    What is the best way of understanding contemporary consumption patterns in the United States? Using the classical theories of Marx and Weber, and the contemporary theory of omnivorousness developed by Richard Peterson, this research examines the consumption of a symbolic good (music) and a material good (technology). The data for this research comes from two nationally representative surveys. Music analyses were done using the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (N = 17135). Technology analyses were done using the 2006 Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project's Annual Gadgets Survey (N = 4100). This research uses statistical methods - correspondence analysis and classification and regression tree analysis - that classify respondents. These methods were used in order to group respondents with similar music or technology preferences together. These homogeneous groups were then compared to the predictions made by Marxian, Weberian, and Omnivorous theories. This research suggests that the best way to explain contemporary consumption patterns in the United States is through a particular combination of Marxian and Weberian indicators, and that Peterson's theory of omnivorousness is less applicable. A new concept, lifestyle clusters, is proposed. Lifestyle clusters combine economic Marxian indicators and cultural Weberian indicators into one conceptual framework. The conclusions drawn from this dissertation suggest that the ways in which sociologists have traditionally understood consumption patterns need to be reconsidered.

  • CLASS, CULTURE, OR BOTH: ASSESSING CONSUMPTION PATTERNS WITHIN MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY

    Author:
    Roderick Graham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    What is the best way of understanding contemporary consumption patterns in the United States? Using the classical theories of Marx and Weber, and the contemporary theory of omnivorousness developed by Richard Peterson, this research examines the consumption of a symbolic good (music) and a material good (technology). The data for this research comes from two nationally representative surveys. Music analyses were done using the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (N = 17135). Technology analyses were done using the 2006 Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project's Annual Gadgets Survey (N = 4100). This research uses statistical methods - correspondence analysis and classification and regression tree analysis - that classify respondents. These methods were used in order to group respondents with similar music or technology preferences together. These homogeneous groups were then compared to the predictions made by Marxian, Weberian, and Omnivorous theories. This research suggests that the best way to explain contemporary consumption patterns in the United States is through a particular combination of Marxian and Weberian indicators, and that Peterson's theory of omnivorousness is less applicable. A new concept, lifestyle clusters, is proposed. Lifestyle clusters combine economic Marxian indicators and cultural Weberian indicators into one conceptual framework. The conclusions drawn from this dissertation suggest that the ways in which sociologists have traditionally understood consumption patterns need to be reconsidered.

  • Enchanted Entrepreneurs: The Labor of Esoteric Practitioners in New York City

    Author:
    Karen Gregory
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, this dissertation weaves portraits of urban esoteric practitioners together with contemporary social theories of labor in order to explore the embodied and subjectifying project of becoming a psychic or intuitive practitioner capable of offering emotional and psychological "support" to city dwellers. By placing this project in a larger, contemporary political-economic framework, this dissertation looks to explore how spirituality is "entangled" (Bender 2010) in both social structures and cultural practices, as well as shifting configurations of work and the nature of labor. Here, we meet a network of individuals who are predominantly Tarot card readers (although they also combine practices such as Spiritualism, Paganism, Ceremonial Magical practice, Astrology, Numerology, and Reiki into their work) who have come to study and use the cards not only as a part of a personal "quest" for meaning or experiences but also as an attempt to make Tarot "work" for them. This work is personal and subjective, taking the form of self-management (Rose 1989, 2006) and investing in the self (Fehrer 2007), as well as social, entrepreneurial, and increasingly digital in nature. This dissertation explores this spiritualized entrepreneurial project by tracing the ways in which the shifting nature of work and labor in the United States has been experienced by individuals as both destabilization and opportunity, or what has been called "precarity" (Precarias a la deriva 2004; Beradi 2009; Neilson and Rossiter 2005; Mitropolous 2006; Ettinger 2007; Dowling 2007; Berlant 2007, 2011; Gill and Pratt 2008; Hardt and Negri 2009). In the wake of market demands for increased worker flexibility, as well as the increased privatization of risk, these esoteric practitioners have repurposed "New Age" practices and older American metaphysical traditions as a way of recalibrating both the self and the structure and potential of their work life. Here, links between Tarot card flips, the affectivity of symbols, the desire to articulate or speak one's "truth," and marketing logics are entangled and seen as sites for the possibility of enchantment, as well as sites that invoke both subtle and overt forms of labor.

  • THE PROVOCATIVE COCKTAIL: INTELLECTUAL ORIGINS OF THE ZAPATISTA UPRISING, 1960-1994

    Author:
    Christopher Gunderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    Drawing on critical currents in the study of contentious politics and the formation of class, racial and political identities, this dissertation seeks to account for the intellectual origins and global resonance of Zapatismo, the distinctive political discourse and practices of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army or EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. It is an historical sociological case study that combines archival research and interviews with participants in, and observers of, the indigenous campesino movement in Chiapas to construct an intellectual history of the indigenous Mayan communities that form the EZLN's bases of popular support. It elaborates a theoretical account of anti-systemic social movements and other forms of contentious politics as expressions of what Marx called the realization of "species being," "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things" or communism. The study finds that the training of catechists by the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas produced a layer of organic indigenous campesino intellectuals who became first the leaders of the indigenous campesino movement and later of the EZLN. The study argues that Zapatismo is a product not only of transformations in the political economy of Chiapas and Mexico but of a process of emergent collective revolutionary political subjectivity on the part of the indigenous communities that occurred in the context of a global crisis in revolutionary theory arising out of the contradictory experiences of the socialist revolutions of the 20th century. Specifically the study argues that Zapatismo is a synthesis of proto-communist elements from the traditional religious worldview of their communities, the liberation theology of the Diocese, the Maoism of several organizations that assisted the communities in the construction of independent peasant organizations, and the left-wing revolutionary nationalism of the EZLN's parent organization, the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN) inspired by the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions. The dissertation is a contribution both to the literature on the origins of the Zapatistas and to the development of a Marxist theory of revolutionary social movements and peasant insurgencies.

  • Technologies of Spirit: The Digital Worlds of Contemporary Christianity

    Author:
    Sam Han
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the interrelation of religion, particularly American evangelical Christianity, and digital technologies. In showing both the religious use of technology and the religiosity of technological practice, it aims to contribute to recent discussions on modernity and secularism that have taken place in sociology as well as philosophy and anthropology. Specifically, it troubles the assumed link between secularization and modernization, which, in effect, views technology as largely a proxy of science, and therefore an instrument of "disenchantment." Contrary to this, my research suggests that the relation of new media and religion bears a more complicated picture than secularization theories would allow. Drawing from a variety of methods, including content and discourse analysis, ethnography and media studies, I examine the technological mode of worship and ministry increasingly favored by today's Christian churches, including the highly technologized contemporary worship spaces, which feature multiple projection screens and theater-grade audio and lighting systems, and online churches (i.e., churches that meet strictly online through web sites and social media such as Facebook). Additionally, I offer an analysis of the ways in which new media technologies have produced a certain religious, God-like mode of subjectivity especially evidenced in popular mapping software such as Google Maps. In this way, contemporary religion, specifically Christianity, and digital technologies, I suggest, hold an intrinsic and interimplicated relationship.

  • A Gift We Can't Keep Giving: An Analysis of the Prevalence and Consequence of Educators' Unpaid Labor

    Author:
    Jared Hanneman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Marnia Lazreg
    Abstract:

    Unpaid labor by educators is an important topic of social inquiry. With over half of all urban teachers leaving the profession within five years, it is of vital importance to examine the current U.S. educational system and take steps in minimizing the teacher burnout and attrition that is so costly to both students and the educational institutions. Most of the previous literature on unpaid labor focuses on domestic labor in the home rather than work performed by an employee above and beyond their ordinary contractual obligations - either by arriving early, staying late, or bringing work into the home. With over 7 million educators in the U.S., even small amounts of unpaid labor add up to very significant issues affecting the teachers, educational institutions, and the students. Education is among a class of occupations of human transformation where the work is, in principle, limitless. I am investigating a more effective method of measuring educators' unpaid labor. National survey-based quantitative methods of measuring educators' reported working hours have consistently underestimated the actual amount of unpaid labor being worked. I performed semi-structured interviews with a sample of primarily New York City educators to more accurately assess the actual amounts of labor that educators are performing unpaid. I also examined the motivations and justifications educators offered to explain the significant hours of labor worked unpaid each week. Using classical and neo-classical economic theory and Marxist political economic theory to frame the phenomenon of unpaid labor was not sufficient. The theoretical perspective of gift and gift giving proved more fruitful. Educators misrecognize employer-employee labor relationships as having elements of gift relationships and frequently discussed a sense of gratitude after having been hired to their teaching positions. Educators reciprocate this misrecognized gift of employment through their performance of unpaid labor to meet their professional obligations and administrations' expectations. The gratitude reported by educators fades over time, hastened by the structural deficiencies in the U.S. educational system. When faced with such systemic obstacles and administrative and parental performance expectations, educators frequently rationalized their unpaid labor by invoking a standard of professionalism. However, the rates of burnout and attrition among educators call into question the limits of professionalism as a practice rather than as pure ideology. Increasing occupational requirements, decreasing institutional support, and recent media accounts characterizing teachers as entitled bureaucrats that are coasting off an out-dated tenure system are poisoning the gift of an educational career. This poisoned gift de-motivates educators and contributes to increasing teacher attrition, especially among less-experienced teachers in urban school systems. With a more complete understanding of the explanations, motivations, and rationalizations of unpaid educational labor it is possible to better address educators' work conditions and overall educational policy to increase teacher retention and effectiveness.

  • Run for Health: Health(icization), Supplements, and Doping in Non-Elite Road Running

    Author:
    April Henning
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Pitts-Taylor
    Abstract:

    Running races are commonly viewed as one of the clearest examples of competition and it is less common to view training or racing as a non-competitive health practice. However, the majority of non-elite runners who participate in races do so in order to reap benefits from the training process many undertake in preparation for a race. This dissertation is a study of non-elite or amateur runners' pursuit of health, their varied understandings of health, the ironies and inconsistencies of healthism, and the folk measures of health employed within the running community. Through qualitative interviews with amateur runners in New York City about their perceptions of running, health, doping, and supplements, I explore the value non-elite runners place on health and fitness, the ways running is used to signal one's commitment to these values, and the relationship between healthist demands and training methods that border on harmful, such as the use of over the counter (OTC) pain medications to mask pain or use of unregulated and potentially dangerous dietary supplements. I demonstrate that non-elite runners rarely engage in training or participate in a race with the expectation or desire for a zero-sum victory. Rather, I argue that non-elite runners engage in running as part of healthicized body practice, through which each defines herself as a healthy, morally good neoliberal citizen. Performance enhancing substances (PES) are viewed as a way to circumvent the struggle, pain, need for intense dedication to improve one's performance--the experiences that non-elites runners feel they must experience in order to claim the identity of runner. Non-elite runners avoid intentionally using PES in favor of nutritional supplements, based on the incorrect belief that such products marketed specifically to improve health or performance are well regulated for safety and regarded as effective. Often these products are unregulated and of questionable quality and safety--many of the same reasons offered by non-elite runners for avoiding banned PES. Given the contradictions inherent in healthiest practices undertaken by runners, the study also addresses the underlying ethos of healthicism at work, which I argue are rooted in neoliberalism.

  • THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT ONLINE: TEEN GIRLS' EXPERIENCES WITH SELF-PRESENTATION, IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT & AGGRESSION ON FACEBOOK

    Author:
    Alison Hill
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    Abstract THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT ONLINE: TEEN GIRLS' EXPERIENCES WITH SELF-PRESENTATION, IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT & AGGRESSION ON FACEBOOK by ALISON M. HILL Online social network participation is widespread among American adolescents. Prolific creators, consumers and curators of content, they write themselves into being (boyd, 2007) on social network sites like Facebook. Drawing on Erving Goffman's study of symbolic interaction in the form of dramaturgical perspective and The Third Person Effect, this research explores how young women ages 14-17 craft their self-presentations, engage in impression management, and experience aggression and bullying on Facebook. I propose that the majority of this age cohort craft online self-presentations that are consistent with their offline selves, yet they believe that other girls their age use their profiles to craft distinct online portrayals. I hypothesize that girls who restrict their privacy settings to "viewable by friends only" have fewer experiences with aggression and bullying than those who don't. I analyze these data from the perspective of youth culture on Facebook and the discourse of digital citizenship. Data for this research comes from the Girl Scouts Research Institute's "Who's that Girl? Image and Social Media Survey," fielded through online interviews in 2010 to a geographic mix of individuals consistent with U.S. Census figures. Respondents are 1,026 young women (Girl Scouts and non- Girl Scouts) evenly distributed across the ages of 14-17 who have profiles on at least one social network site, including Facebook. The majority of respondents report that they craft self-presentations on Facebook that reflect their offline self-portrayals, yet they believe most other girls their age do so in ways that make themselves look different and cooler than they really are. Those who restrict the three sections of their Facebook profiles to viewable by friends only experience fewer incidences of aggression than those who don't. These findings suggest strategies for understanding the lives of youth online and how to connect their behavior to the conversation around digital citizenship.