Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • "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.

  • 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.  

  • "The Japanese New Yorkers": "Adventurers in Adventure Land" in Globalized Environments

    Author:
    Hirosuke Hyodo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    After the Immigration Act of 1965, the volume of almost all Asian immigrants drastically increased; however, the proportion of Japanese immigrants, which used to be the largest in the prewar years, dropped to being the smallest. In mainstream studies of American immigration, contemporary Japanese migrants to the United States seem to have disappeared. If the lens of "immigrants" is removed, however, a quite different picture emerges. The number of native Japanese living in the United States today is actually three times as large as that of the prewar Japanese-American community on the U.S. mainland. Removing the lens of "immigrants" also enables us to see some new forms of contemporary international migration. This study explores Japanese-born persons living in the United States today called the shin-issei ("new first generation"), drawing upon several sets of data, theories, and previous studies, and concluding with an interview analysis of those living in New York--or "Japanese New Yorkers." A basic assumption of this study is that migration in our highly transnational environment no longer necessarily entails a change of nationality, or permanent settlement, or even a socio-cultural transition from one society to another. The statuses of Japanese New Yorkers include: the chuzaiin ("corporate transferees"), entrepreneurs, international students, their families, and others. My research reveals that: (1) the Japanese New Yorkers are mainly from middle- or upper-middle-class families; (2) the primary "push factor" behind their migration stems from the constricting aspects of the Japanese traditional social organization while the "pull factor" seems to be liberating images of New York that have been widespread in Japan; (3) their exodus seems to have been initiated largely by the example of Japanese celebrities who began utilizing New York as their vacation home in the late 1980s, during Japan's bubble economy; (4) contrary to the seeming indifference among Japanese to the "open-handed" U.S. Immigration Act of 1965, a large number of them actually struggle to obtain a green card; (5) nonetheless, they are not interested in naturalization; (6) these Japanese migrate as individuals not as families, and, unlike other Asians, do not engage in "chain migration"; (7) customarily, almost all return to Japan once in a while, typically every summer; (8) a majority including those married to Americans say that they will return to Japan permanently "someday" although very few have a clear plan for it. I argue that Japanese New Yorkers are, so to speak, "adventurers" in highly transnational environments, placing themselves in ongoing self-adjusting processes in their journey. Most of them, unlike the issei ("the prewar Japanese emigrants"), willingly exit Japan as if resisting its traditional social organization. Like the issei, however, they almost inevitably encounter dilemmas in terms of legal status, culture, and social identity in the United States, and experience an unexpectedly rough transition into the society with which they try to identify.

  • Point of Consumption: Work, Consciousness and Organizing in the Retail Sector

    Author:
    Peter Ikeler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Ruth Milkman
    Abstract:

    Abstract POINT OF CONSUMPTION: WORK, CONSCIOUSNESS AND ORGANIZING IN THE RETAIL SECTOR by PETER RICHARD IKELER Advisor: Professor Ruth Milkman The decline of the American labor movement is a well-known phenomenon. Of its most salient causes, globalization, employer resistance and union bureaucratization have been thoroughly investigated. But the ascendance of service work--a fourth oft-cited cause--has not. Specifically, the internal dynamics of private-sector services have not been sufficiently examined as a possible explanation for union decline. This study derives a series of hypotheses from the sociology of service work, labor process and union revitalization literatures, and then explores them through three qualitative case studies of work and organizing in America's largest low-wage service industry: retail trade. Two cases--Macy's and Target stores in New York City--are compared to assess the structure and trajectory of contemporary dynamics in the low-wage service workplace, and a third--the Retail Action Project (RAP), an innovative workers' center in the same city--is used to assess three strategies for service worker organizing. Data consist of more than 80 in-depth interviews with frontline workers, managers, RAP members and officials as well as documentary analysis and participant observation. At Macy's, I find that an adversarial model of work organization engenders opposition and union receptivity among workers, while Target's team-based consensus model--based on a deskilled labor process and explicit anti-union initiatives--mitigates the emergence of similar attitudes among its workforce. Age and job tenure, however, are decisive factors at both stores, with Target employing a higher proportion of younger and Caribbean workers than Macy's. Analysis of the Retail Action Project displays the limitations of organizing large retail firms on a local basis, but also the promise of open-membership models for the future of service worker unionism.

  • It Will Become: Modern India and the Labor of Aspiration

    Author:
    Patrick Inglis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    This study combines political economy and twenty-two months of fieldwork to understand the limits of social mobility for poor and working class people in modern India. Despite more than two decades of economic liberalization, access to quality education, well paying jobs, and high standards of living, remain largely tied to class and caste advantages. Main informants include lower class golf caddies and middle and upper middle class members at golf clubs in Bangalore, India's "Silicon Valley." The study shows that members, many of them entrepreneurs, white-collar professionals, and civil servants, simultaneously educate the caddies in the rhetoric of bootstrap capitalism, on the one hand, and also foreclose opportunities to assert their independence, on the other: first, by refusing the caddies control over their labor process; and, second, paying them insufficient wages ($1-2 a round) that keep them dependent on additional handouts to cover health care, children's school fees, and other household expenses. The result is a form of social, economic, and cultural exchange that encourages servility and reinforces existing inequalities. The study underscores the limits of trickle-down-economics as a means to development--absent effective industrial policy and jobs programs, as well as adequate investments in health care, education, and basic social services, these caddies, and others of similarly impoverished backgrounds, have little choice but to seek out relationships of this sort, and even then, chances at social mobility are slim.