Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • 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.

  • HIGHER EDUCATION AND WELFARE STATE REGIMES: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AND EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES IN THE UNITED STATES AND NORWAY

    Author:
    Liza Reisel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    Countless studies show that college degree attainment is very unequally distributed across socioeconomic strata in the United States. An unresolved question is whether this pattern is primarily explained by differences in priorities and preferences across social strata or whether the widely recognized flaws of the education system itself are actively hindering an otherwise more egalitarian outcome. This dissertation aims to answer this question by comparing the United States with another country, Norway, that is similar on characteristics such as average educational attainment among young adults, but that has more egalitarian social and economic policies. Does it look like the relationship between social background and educational attainment is universal or can the specific social and political context make a fundamental difference? Using recent, nationally representative longitudinal data from the United States and Norway, the overarching goal of this dissertation has been to use directly comparable statistical models to determine how family income, parents' education level, minority background and gender affect educational attainment and earnings in two very different welfare state contexts. I found that there are indeed more similarities than differences in the extent to which family background affects educational attainment in the two countries, when both access to and completion of higher education is included in the analysis. Parents' education level is particularly influential in both countries. My findings lead me to conclude that as a general rule, parents' level of education will influence their offspring's motivation to seek higher levels of education, as well as their academic abilities and their capacity to navigate through the education system. This pattern of inequality is therefore likely to be found in all merit-oriented education systems. The fundamental reason for this consistency is that despite its promise of equal opportunity, a `meritocratic' education system is inherently selective, since only a narrow range of `merits' are rewarded in the education system. Yet, context specific patterns of social stratification interact with historical, and politically engineered, features of the two education systems to produce three distinctively different outcomes nonetheless: first, family finances do matter more for educational attainment in the United States than they do in Norway, especially after students have entered college. Secondly, native minority students stand out as particularly disadvantaged in the U.S. education system. Finally, I show that due to the controlled character of the Norwegian labor market, differences in educational attainment produce much smaller differences in earnings in Norway than they do in the United States.

  • HIGHER EDUCATION AND WELFARE STATE REGIMES: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AND EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES IN THE UNITED STATES AND NORWAY

    Author:
    Liza Reisel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    Countless studies show that college degree attainment is very unequally distributed across socioeconomic strata in the United States. An unresolved question is whether this pattern is primarily explained by differences in priorities and preferences across social strata or whether the widely recognized flaws of the education system itself are actively hindering an otherwise more egalitarian outcome. This dissertation aims to answer this question by comparing the United States with another country, Norway, that is similar on characteristics such as average educational attainment among young adults, but that has more egalitarian social and economic policies. Does it look like the relationship between social background and educational attainment is universal or can the specific social and political context make a fundamental difference? Using recent, nationally representative longitudinal data from the United States and Norway, the overarching goal of this dissertation has been to use directly comparable statistical models to determine how family income, parents' education level, minority background and gender affect educational attainment and earnings in two very different welfare state contexts. I found that there are indeed more similarities than differences in the extent to which family background affects educational attainment in the two countries, when both access to and completion of higher education is included in the analysis. Parents' education level is particularly influential in both countries. My findings lead me to conclude that as a general rule, parents' level of education will influence their offspring's motivation to seek higher levels of education, as well as their academic abilities and their capacity to navigate through the education system. This pattern of inequality is therefore likely to be found in all merit-oriented education systems. The fundamental reason for this consistency is that despite its promise of equal opportunity, a `meritocratic' education system is inherently selective, since only a narrow range of `merits' are rewarded in the education system. Yet, context specific patterns of social stratification interact with historical, and politically engineered, features of the two education systems to produce three distinctively different outcomes nonetheless: first, family finances do matter more for educational attainment in the United States than they do in Norway, especially after students have entered college. Secondly, native minority students stand out as particularly disadvantaged in the U.S. education system. Finally, I show that due to the controlled character of the Norwegian labor market, differences in educational attainment produce much smaller differences in earnings in Norway than they do in the United States.

  • Constructing Spoiled Identity: The Case of the Child Molester

    Author:
    Diana Rickard
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the management of deviant identity in the case of child molesters. It is a micro-sociological investigation of some of the ways in which people labeled sex offenders understand and articulate themselves at a historical moment in which they are vilified and denied full civil rights. Life histories of six sex offenders convicted of charges against minors were collected and analyzed in terms of the narrative strategies employed in the construction of stigmatized identity. The sample was comprised of men in their mid-thirties to early fifties who live in New York State. They had been convicted of a variety of sex offenses, including "statutory" violations, internet-based non-contact offenses, and exhibitionism and public groping. The men in the study were all connected to their community through a variety of social roles prior to their convictions. Although employment bonds were severed with many, bonds with immediate family members remained intact after their conviction. However, many social bonds were severed as a result of their conviction, and an extensive range of civil restrictions imposed on them as part of their probation. The constraints on civil liberties dictated the quality and rhythm of their day-to-day life in ways that emphasized their dependence on the state. Every participant found himself at least partially unemployed or unemployable because of their conviction and all were in downwardly mobile financial positions. All participants developed strategies to retain a viable sense of social self. They did not see themselves as monsters who should be excommunicated. Instead they employed a variety of strategies to assert their social worthiness. These included espousing mainstream attitudes toward sex offenders as a dangerous "other". Significantly, they constructed the idea of an authentic or "real" self that they contrasted with this idea of the dangerous outsider. As insiders with special knowledge of how the system works, these men were able to critique policies in such a way that they reaffirmed the need for the policies at the same time that they distanced themselves from being seen as objects of those sanctions. In this way they reasserted their basic humanity and social worthiness.

  • Constructing Spoiled Identity: The Case of the Child Molester

    Author:
    Diana Rickard
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the management of deviant identity in the case of child molesters. It is a micro-sociological investigation of some of the ways in which people labeled sex offenders understand and articulate themselves at a historical moment in which they are vilified and denied full civil rights. Life histories of six sex offenders convicted of charges against minors were collected and analyzed in terms of the narrative strategies employed in the construction of stigmatized identity. The sample was comprised of men in their mid-thirties to early fifties who live in New York State. They had been convicted of a variety of sex offenses, including "statutory" violations, internet-based non-contact offenses, and exhibitionism and public groping. The men in the study were all connected to their community through a variety of social roles prior to their convictions. Although employment bonds were severed with many, bonds with immediate family members remained intact after their conviction. However, many social bonds were severed as a result of their conviction, and an extensive range of civil restrictions imposed on them as part of their probation. The constraints on civil liberties dictated the quality and rhythm of their day-to-day life in ways that emphasized their dependence on the state. Every participant found himself at least partially unemployed or unemployable because of their conviction and all were in downwardly mobile financial positions. All participants developed strategies to retain a viable sense of social self. They did not see themselves as monsters who should be excommunicated. Instead they employed a variety of strategies to assert their social worthiness. These included espousing mainstream attitudes toward sex offenders as a dangerous "other". Significantly, they constructed the idea of an authentic or "real" self that they contrasted with this idea of the dangerous outsider. As insiders with special knowledge of how the system works, these men were able to critique policies in such a way that they reaffirmed the need for the policies at the same time that they distanced themselves from being seen as objects of those sanctions. In this way they reasserted their basic humanity and social worthiness.

  • Governance and Comprehensive Community Initiatives: A Case Study of the PRYSE Coalition in Far Rockaway, New York, 2000-2004

    Author:
    Michelle Ronda
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    The US response to urban poverty has shifted from a welfare-state model to market-based solutions – toward governance as arrangement of service partnerships among different federal and local agencies, contractors, philanthropies, community facilities, residents and businesses. Economic, political and fiscal pressures and shifting views of poverty, race, crime, health, and service have seen increased federal adoption of comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs). Originally devised by philanthropies, CCIs are cross-sectoral or cross-agency, multi-actor partnerships relying constitutively on social science-crafted, measurable evaluations of strategies and results; modern CCIs adopt an apolitical focus on best practices and forego explicit treatment of race, class or gender. One federal inter-agency program started in 1999, the Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) initiative of the Justice, Education and Health departments, targets school violence and youth health by requiring schools, health facilities, and local law and justice authorities to enter CCI-type coalitions as a condition of grant funding; these partnerships are expected to solicit community participation. This ethnographic case study of an SS/HS-funded CCI in the Rockaway peninsula of Queens, in which the author served as a program evaluator, finds mixed effects of federal requirements; obstacles in engaging community participation; and difficulties in leveraging one-time grant funding into sustainable structures. Roles of police, prosecutors, social workers, educators, mediators, evaluators and community groups are examined, illuminating divides of organizational mission and philosophy, profession, class, race, turf and residency. This gives rise to critiques of national trends in governance; community policing and justice; and evaluation politics. Two critical extremes are considered: Does implementation of community governance extend state authority by calling upon a community to condition itself, generating remote-control government, or do partnership models merely cover for abandonment of public ideals and obligations? Included are a sociology of Rockaway; a quantitative demographic survey of class and racial disparities and resident assessments of neighborhood issues; and findings of focus groups in which targeted Rockaway high school youths reflect on the meaning of safety and health in their lives and neighborhoods.

  • BREASTFEEDING POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN: HOW CAN A GENDERED OR GENDER-BLIND POLICY SERVE AS A CONDUIT OR BARRIER TO EQUALITY?

    Author:
    Akiko Shimizu
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a cross-cultural analysis of breastfeeding experiences in the United States and Japan. I conceptualize women's breastfeeding practice as embodied cultural experiences and constituted by historical, medical, personal and social perspectives on their lactating and nursing bodies. Breastfeeding practice is differently experienced by women as mothers and women as workers. At the same time, differences in a country's public policies and social attitudes toward breastfeeding, in general, and breastfeeding workers in particular, shape the different experiences of breastfeeding mothers and workers. Accordingly, through an analysis of public policies, medical recommendations, and personal and social attitudes toward breastfeeding, I will offer proposals to mitigate problems breastfeeding mothers face in the public sphere in the United States and Japan. In comparing the gendered public policies that have emerged from the dominant cultural ideas of motherhood and "worker-hood" in the United States and Japan, I shed light on pitfalls that stem from an optimistically liberating view of the "mother friendly workplace" in Japan and the "gender-blind professionalized body" at work in the United States.

  • Oh Canada, Your Home on Native Land: Settlement, Development and Conflict in Southern Ontario

    Author:
    Shana Siegel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    On February 28, 2006, members of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations reserve in southern Ontario physically occupied and halted construction on a housing development bordering their reserve. The Haudenosaunee claimed that the site was part of a larger tract of land that they had never surrendered, and they vowed to remain on the land as long as necessary prevent the planned development from taking place. When police had still not removed the Haudenosaunee protesters almost two months later, some 2,000-3,000 local non-Native residents began voicing their frustration and anger in regular anti-protest rallies. On some occasions, these rallies escalated to the point of what one local politician called "intense, irrational anger" and even "near riots." This Sociological study examines some of the factors motivating both the 2006 protest, and the reactions to it by local non-Native residents and their federal, provincial and local government officials. Based on legal, archival and ethnographic research; media analysis; GIS mapping; and 45 interviews with residents of the town of Caledonia and the Six Nations reserve, as well as with local government officials, a few conclusions are reached. In examining the motivations for the 2006 protest, the results of the legal and archival research suggest that the Canadian government violated its own Supreme Court of Canada rulings, as well as its binding international legal commitments regarding the human rights of indigenous peoples. This research also suggests that these violations of the rights of indigenous peoples have long constituted the norm in Canadian society, producing a climate in which Native peoples are regularly dehumanized and dispossessed. In examining the various responses to the protest, the dissertation pays particular attention to the ways that non-Native residents and government officials constructed and acted upon various settler-colonial narratives when seeking to justify their responses to the protest. The dissertation argues that both these narratives and the legal violations can only be understood within a broader context of problematic patterns of thought and behavior that have long been inherent in -and even foundational to--Western society and the Western cultural worldview.