Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • TOGETHER BUT APART: FILIPINO TRANSNATIONAL FAMILIES AND CARING FROM AFAR

    Author:
    Valerie Francisco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Carolina Bank-Munoz
    Abstract:

    For this dissertation, I conducted multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork for three years in New York City with Filipino domestic workers and their families in Manila, Philippines. This study makes three interventions to the scholarship on transnationalism, family and care by suggesting the model of "multidirectionality of care" to understand the reorganization of providers, definitions, and forms of care within families separated by migration. First, I prioritize both biological and fictive family members left behind as providers of care in a transnational family. Second, rapidly developing computer technology changes definition of presence and of care migrant mothers and families left behind participate in. Third, form of care expands as members of transnational families come to include other migrants in the diaspora in what I call "communities of care". Broadly, this project is concerned with impacts of globalization and migration on the intimate and material operations of families. Specifically, I propose that transnational families are using all the resources they have available to them to innovate and participate in care work to maintain family life despite separation. My dissertation contributes directly to studies in technology, immigration and transnationalism, family and motherhood, and globalization. Further it tackles issues in gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and social inequality.

  • Vanishing Point: "Diversity" and Race at Predominantly White Independent Schools

    Author:
    Bonnie French
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the management of racial integration at predominantly White, unaffiliated Independent schools in the northeastern United States. Once gatekeepers for the WASP elite, prep schools have made pointed efforts, especially in the last fifty years, to recruit students who would not otherwise have access to Independent schooling. When it comes to race, schools have shifted focus from a civil-rights-era language of "Opportunity" to a current language of "Diversity". By conducting in-depth interviews with "Diversity" policy developers and implementers within the Independent school community, I explore current efforts toward racial integration and the relationship between integration and "Diversity". Data collected from interviews is supplemented with numerical analysis of enrollment data of students of color at Independent schools as well as content analysis of on-line and printed materials from schools and supporting institutions such as the National Association of Independent Schools. The findings show that the proportional representation of Black students in Independent schools has been virtually stagnant for the past decade, despite growth in the proportional representation of Asian and Multiracial students. Schools have chosen to focus on broader themes of "Inclusivity" forgoing directed attention on race. As evidenced by financial, recruitment, and programming choices, the "Diversity" movement in Independent schools has not furthered movement toward integrating Black students into predominantly White schools. In fact, the "Diversity" movement, by not seeking to challenge the current state of inequality in a meaningful way, only serves to strengthen the segregated status quo.

  • The intern economy: Laboring to learn in the music industry

    Author:
    Alexandre Frenette
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    As internships become an increasingly normal part of early careers, there is a need to examine how internships really function, if--and how--they benefit interns and companies. Through participant observation at two firms and semi-structured interviews, I focus on one of the major users of unpaid intern labor--the music industry--to analyze the meanings of intern work, both for the interns themselves and their supervisors. Consequently, this research provides an account of how aspiring and current workers in a competitive industry make sense of and reproduce precarious work conditions. By focusing on how interns and employees construct the importance of the music business within a context of routinized work, I analyze how the "charisma" of artistic production generates a powerful, but short-lived source of commitment for workers. I show how the lure of the music industry attracts people who want to do "important" work, though participants must learn to convey their excitement according to an informal code of conduct. Moreover, I show how music industry personnel generally devalue formal educational pathways to music industry employment, instead privileging on-site learning as an ennobling rite of passage. Aspiring and paid employees interpret and accept what I call the mailroom model for training. The responsibility for training thus falls on the intern and occurs under challenging circumstances. I find that interns perform provisional labor - work that is temporary, conditional, and ambiguous ("what you make of it"). Interns embody a flexible pool of labor for a host company, allowing for a range of formal and informal benefits for all parties concerned. Analyzing how people do succeed within the intern economy, I find that it is possible for interns to elevate their status and move beyond the characteristics and constraints of the role, though notions of race, class, age, and gender inform the selection and evaluation of interns. Taken together, the above suggests how the intern economy exacerbates class and other forms of inequality while nonetheless allowing some especially skilled interns to secure advancement. I conclude with an analysis of current intern activism and legal challenges to unpaid work.

  • Own Nothing, Have Everything: Peer-to-peer Networks and the New Cultural Economy

    Author:
    Greg Goldberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Ticineto Clough
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the relation between digital piracy and the economic viability of reproducing and distributing cultural content online. While scholars often characterize piracy as resistant or oppositional to capitalism, I propose that peer-to-peer networks played an integral role in the success of markets for content online. Drawing from historical and technical documentation in information theory and network science, and from Marxist cultural criticism of film and television, legal analysis, and social and political-economic theory, I argue that peer-to-peer networks, in circumventing the technical inefficiencies and juridical obstacles that held back other forms of piracy, catalyzed a novel form of economic value native to the Internet. Responding to what Marxist cultural critics have written about film and television, I explicate how the Internet produces value not only though the attention of its users (as television does), but through the transmission of data--value realized by Internet Service Providers. This is made possible, I argue, by the socialization of a non-human mode of the time: the time of uploading and downloading data. Lastly, I examine how lossy digital audio compression technologies, such as the MP3, participate in the socialization of this "transmission time."

  • PLANETARY IMPROVEMENT: DISCOURSES AND PRACTICES OF GREEN CAPITALISM IN THE CLEANTECH SPACE

    Author:
    Jesse Goldstein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Kenneth Gould
    Abstract:

    PLANETARY IMPROVEMENT: DISCOURSES AND PRACTICES OF GREEN CAPITALISM IN THE CLEANTECH SPACE by JESSE GOLDSTEIN ADVISOR: KENNETH GOULD There is money to be made in saving the planet. A whole host of actors, such as investors, entrepreneurs, engineers, and policy makers have mobilized around our ecological problems, seeking to innovate new `green' and `clean' technologies that can serve a rapidly changing environment. The presumption that such technologies are both necessary and necessarily profitable anchors visions of a `green' capitalism that can and must be brought into existence. However, just as free markets have never been all that free, why should we presume that green capitalism would be all that green? Instead of attempting to arbit whether or not the greening of capital is or can `work' - this work seeks to understand whether and how `green capitalism' coheres around new justificatory frames, or what Boltanski and Chiapello call a new spirit of capitalism. The emerging spirit of green capitalism is positioned somewhere between the maintenance of the current neoliberal form of accumulation and a desire to return to romanticized visions of more stable, centrally coordinated economic systems. It is an attempt to make sense of capitalism in crisis, and a crisis caused by capitalism. This research focuses specifically upon individuals within the broad field of green capitalism who are actively grappling with the ways in which the infrastructure of global capitalism has irrevocably shaped world ecology, and who are experimenting, in thought and practice, with a wide range of new techno-social configurations intended to mitigate, or even reverse, these negative ecological effects. The project is divided into two parts. The first is grounded by a critical discourse analysis of mass-market texts published over the past 25 years that advocate for green capitalism. Four distinct `motifs' can be found in this literature, each of which is analyzed in turn. These are: Planetary Improvement; Eco-Utopian Socialism; EcoFordism; and Green Developmentalism. This critical discourse analysis then connects with an ethnographic investigation of the `cleantech space' in New York City. Through my ethnographic work I explore the performativity of abstract market imperatives in this field, which encompasses a wide array of technologies that boast some form of material or energetic efficiency over prevailing norms. The cleantech space is filled with innovative entrepreneurs, inventors and investors, all of whom want to see new technologies succeed. And yet, in the eyes of capital (or the fiduciary responsibility of investors) not all innovations are created equal. Only those innovations that promise sizeable and rapid returns are likely to receive support. In other words, there are many good technologies out there that make for bad investments. And so, while it may be the case that we will need new technologies to provide the infrastructure for any ecologically viable future economy, it is not so clear that the specific technologies being produced by the prevailing funding streams will ever be able to get us there.

  • 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.

  • 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.