Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • It's Not 'Just a Headache': The Lived Experience of Migraines in the Workplace

    Author:
    Lisa Pollich
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This research explores the self-reported experiences of people with migraines in the workplace by examining individuals' own accounts. Specifically, I analyze: the employment experiences, perceptions, and workplace challenges of people with migraine headaches. Using a qualitative approach, this study examines various aspects of migraines from the individual employee's perspective in order to explore different topics as they relate to the workplace. In particular, the study concentrates on factors surrounding employee disclosure of migraines at the workplace. Migraine is a serious neurological disorder. However, migraines are often not viewed as the legitimate neurological condition that they are. Migraines, while typically not a visible condition, are an intermittently disabling illness. Since migraines are, for the most part, a hidden condition (not visible to others), in order for an employee to receive workplace support, it requires that other individuals know about and understand the employee's condition. If the employee chooses not to tell those at work about his/her migraines, the employee might not receive support. The choice to disclose a hidden illness at work may be complex and influenced by many factors. There is limited scholarly research in the area of sociology that pertains to migraines in the workplace. The social construction of illness is a major perspective in medical sociology. This study presents a unique examination of individuals with a hidden disability, migraine headaches, in the workplace. This exploratory study investigates the impact of migraines on the individual's work experiences, the consequences of migraines on their work (such as attendance, productivity, work performance), how work affects migraines, the processes involved in disclosure, the factors that contributed to their decision whether or not to disclose, their experiences with workplace accommodations, challenges faced at work, perceptions of stigma, and examines how a condition such as migraines affects one's perceived self-identity in the workplace, and other related topics. I explored the different accounts that study participants offered to make sense of their workplace encounters in various situations and how they assigned meanings to their interactions in the workplace. Using a social construction frame to interpret and analyze their accounts, I examined the lived experiences of migraines in the workplace. I conducted qualitative interviews with 40 individuals who get migraines, from various ages, educational backgrounds, employment settings, and working in different occupations, in a range of titles, from across the United States. This study presents several findings. The majority of individuals in this study cited stressful work environments, or other factors in the work environment, as contributing to migraines. Overwhelmingly, the theme that I heard most often, regardless of occupation, and regardless of the specific topic being discussed, was the lack of understanding in the workplace regarding what migraines really are and how migraines are different from a `regular headache'. A related theme was that of people at work not taking migraines seriously. These attitudes most likely originate from lack of knowledge. I provide examples that illustrated dramatic stories of long term career impact, individuals who made life-changing decisions, and others who had other long-term opportunities that were affected by migraines. Migraines impacted not only people's careers, but also interfered with goals and plans. I examine interview data to analyze how the participants managed the issue of disclosing their disability in the workplace. I examined the underlying factors behind the decision whether or not to disclose. I found that there were a range of factors that went into the decision to disclose, to whom to disclose, and even how much to disclose. I examined the factors that each individual took into consideration to make the `disclosure decision.' Some participants took many factors into consideration, including a complex weighing of risks vs. benefits, whereas for others it was more of a natural decision. The majority of people who chose not to disclose, did so for reasons relating to stigma. A condition like migraines can be very challenging to an individual's identity. My selection of migraine as the condition for this research was a strategic choice aimed at providing an answer as to how disclosure of a hidden disability is handled at the workplace. This research places this topic within the range of different theoretical approaches to the study of hidden disability and medical sociology. By studying people's own accounts of their experiences in the workplace, this analysis reveals the subjective experience of illness. The issues of disclosure, stigma, embodiment and identity, disability, health/illness, discrimination, accommodations, and the individuals' perceptions, insights, and experiences, all fall within the realm of medical sociology and sociology of disability. The sociological study of migraines in the workplace has implications for these fields. For the field of disability studies, it can provide insight into the perspectives of persons with a hidden condition such as migraine. For the study of medical sociology, it focuses on the perceptions of people with a hidden illness on their everyday situations, which helps ground our conclusions empirically. This work serves to raise awareness of migraine as a legitimate neurological disorder. My study demonstrates the burden that migraine placed on peoples' careers, employment status, and ability to work. For many, work life was a struggle to maintain the worker identity they wanted to project. Aside from its contribution within the field, my study offers valuable information to family members, employers, policy makers, and practitioners who want insights relating to work. This exploratory empirical analysis contributes to the literature in medical sociology, disability studies, and occupational sociology, by including the first- person accounts and narratives of individuals with migraines. I explore understanding of the experience of migraines in the workplace within the wider scope of the lived experience of an invisible, episodic disability. This study offers a useful report through which the personal accounts and lived experiences of people with migraines at the workplace can be examined.

  • Incarceration, Gender, and Health: Real Men and Social Implications

    Author:
    Megha Ramaswamy
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    Drawing on theories of gender, race, inequality, and delinquency, this dissertation explores progressive masculinity and social exclusion among young men leaving jail. This project examines how young men, rather than matching stereotypes of hyper-masculine at-risk individuals, endorse a masculinity that is not necessarily misogynistic or violent, and does not correlate with expected risky sex behaviors, drug use, violence, and recidivism. Additionally, this project examines how social structures and policies (economy, gender, race, education, criminal justice) prevent these young men from achieving pro-social goals or experiencing the potential benefits of progressive views of masculinity. For this dissertation, I analyze data from the Returning Educated African-American and Latino Men to Enriched Neighborhoods (REAL MEN) study conducted between 2003-2007, which enrolled 552 adolescents in a New York City jail and followed 397 of them one year after their release. I use logistic regression to examine the association of sex partner experience with sex risk, drug use, violence, recidivism, and to examine the extent of social exclusion for these young men based on school, employment, criminal justice, housing, and health care characteristics. Focus groups I conducted in 2008 with 38 young men at an alternatives-to-incarceration program in New York City serve as a second data source for this dissertation. I explore and analyze participants' perceptions of masculinity based on these data. The findings indicate that young men leaving jail have more complex views about manhood than societal stereotypes suggest, and do not always endorse patriarchal, misogynistic, or violent attitudes about masculinity and relationships. Additionally, when these young men have long-term sex partners in their communities, which many report, they seem to be protected against negative outcomes related to sex risk, drug use, and violence in the short term. Finally, incarceration and housing instability are the most important structural predictors of negative outcomes for young men leaving jail, making progressive approaches to manhood less important. This dissertation fills a gap in the literature on progressive masculinity and social exclusion for young men involved in the criminal justice system. This dissertation also informs interventions designed to improve outcomes for young men with criminal justice histories.

  • Articulated Values, Affecting Figures: Liberal Tolerance and the Racialization of Muslims/Arabs

    Author:
    Mitra Rastegar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes the relationship of articulations of tolerance and sympathy in US liberal media and activist discourses towards Muslims and Arabs to the process of racialization of Muslims and Arabs. These discourses produce "Muslims/Arabs" as racialized category, even as they emphasize the diversity within this category. Building on the work of scholars who have argued that anti-Muslim/Arab racism produces a homogenous Other locked into a cultural heredity, I argue that this cultural determinism actually works at the level of the population rather than the individual. I use "population racism" to refer to the racialization of Muslims/Arabs as a distinct, yet internally differentiated population perceived as having a specific distribution of characteristics. The coherence of this racialization process is evident in the relative consistency with which Muslim/Arab individuals are assessed, as more or less trustworthy or threatening, in relation to a particular set of interconnected variables. These variables include religiosity/secularism, views on gender and/or sexuality, views on tolerance, and perceived alliance with "Western" interests and values. Representations of sympathetic or tolerable Muslims/Arabs contribute to this racialization because they legitimize, reinforce, and circulate these variables of assessment. This analysis is based on four case studies of distinct media events where particular figures of tolerable or sympathetic Muslims/Arabs are constituted and contested: 1) New York Times human interests stories on Muslim/Arab Americans in the six months following the September 11, 2001 attacks, 2) the reception of an Iranian woman's memoir, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, about teaching Western literature in Iran, 3) Western lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist responses to the executions of two youths in Iran, and 4) center-left media responses to a campaign against Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of a New York Arabic/English-language public school. I consider how narratives, images, and words associated with Muslims/Arabs resonate with particular histories, sensibilities and assumptions. These circulate in an affective media milieu to produce forms of identification with and disaffiliation from Muslims/Arabs, along with different assessments of trustworthiness or threat.

  • Consuming Catastrophe: Authenticity and Emotion in Mass-mediated Disaster

    Author:
    Timothy Recuber
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the interwoven fabric of news, entertainment, advertising, and commodities through which Americans have come to experience and understand four disasters of the past decade: the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the financial crisis. Chapter one examines the historical development of the consumption of disaster, from the eighteenth century excavation of Pompeii to the Space Shuttle Challenger's explosion in 1986. It argues that modern culture has increasingly come to value the seemingly fleeting aura or authenticity of mass-mediated images and mass-consumed products, and that this has contributed to the popularity of disasters in mass culture, since disasters are typically viewed as especially authentic. The importance of such authenticity is demonstrated in the second chapter, in which content analysis of television news broadcasts shows that the more immediate, authentic September 11 news coverage generated greater public trust in official risk assessments than did news coverage of the financial crisis, despite the very similar framing techniques employed in coverage of both disasters. The perceived realness of disaster allows even normally skeptical audiences to engage with disaster-related media and products in intensely emotional ways, as is demonstrated in chapter three. By examining two news broadcasts, one documentary film, and one reality television program devoted to Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings, the chapter argues that mass culture has increasingly adopted a kind of depoliticized, empathetic way of viewing the suffering of others. This alternative, empathetic norm is related to the rise of therapeutic, self-help culture, which is discussed in chapter four in conjunction with new forms of online commemoration. By studying digital archives devoted to September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, the chapter reveals that even new, online spaces of disaster mediation evince an individualistic, atomized version of the therapeutic ideal, in which contributing to an online archive is more about helping to heal oneself than helping to heal a community of others. Ultimately, this dissertation argues that disaster consumerism derails the communal or progressive potential of disasters by replacing them with individualistic, depoliticized acts of consumption.