Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 'Banding Together:' Biosociality, Weight Loss Surgery, and Neoliberal Discourses Around Obesity

    Author:
    Zoe Meleo-Erwin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Pitts-Taylor
    Abstract:

    Drawing on post-structuralist and feminist theories about the relationship between knowledge, power, bodies, health, and subjectification, in this dissertation I critically analyze the experience of individuals who were medically diagnosed as obese or morbidly obese and underwent bariatric (weight loss) surgery. During the late 20th and early 21st century, the United States saw an explosion of discourse and anxiety about rising population body weights. In national public health addresses, obesity was commonly referred to as a threat to the nation state. During this same time period, anti-fat stigma significantly increased and the number of bariatric surgeries performed skyrocketed. I argue that these concurrent phenomena must be understood within a neoliberal political-economic and healthist context in which `proper' citizenship is held to involve `proper' health (and by extension `proper' weight). Fat bodies, within this framing, suggest `failed' citizenship and moral laxity. Through the use of qualitative interviews with bariatric patients and surgeons, as well as brief participation at peer-led weight loss surgery conferences, I explore the ways in which bariatric patients take up or refute medicalized notions of fatness. I do so by examining why formerly fat individuals underwent bariatric surgery as a means of weight loss, and the physical, physiological, psychological, and social transformations involved in this process. I show that participants experienced pervasive anti-fat stigma and that this stigma operated in ways that were simultaneously discursive, emotional, and material. I argue that choosing weight loss surgery was not just a means of achieving a visually more normal appearance, but a means by which these individuals took responsibility for their current and moreover, their future states of health. I document how, following surgery, bariatric patients reported substantial improvements in physical health as well as emotional well being. However, they also experienced significant physiological and physical side effects from both rapidly loosing a tremendous amount of weight and also living with a dramatically altered digestive system. Because of this, bariatric patients effectively trade one set of embodied health concerns for another. I demonstrate that bariatric surgery not only shifts the relationship to the body but to others as well: patients must learn to both socially manage the impact of their new eating rituals and navigate the complexities of new attentions, envy from others, and criticisms for having taken the `easy way out.' I argue that these new embodied and social concerns are helping produce the formation of online and in-person communities around bariatric surgery. I conclude this dissertation by documenting both the forces that help push bariatric patients together, as well as those factors that pull them apart, creating divisions within bariatric communities in the process.

  • Intersecting Systems of Oppression: Race, Class, and Gender Differences among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Hate Crime Victims

    Author:
    Doug Meyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Pitts-Taylor
    Abstract:

    Drawing on intersectionality theory, hate crime studies, and feminist and sexuality research, this dissertation project employs an intersectional approach to examine race, class, and gender differences among an interview sample of 44 people who experienced violence for being perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). In contrast to previous studies of LGBT hate crime victims, which have focused on the psychological effects of bias-motivated violence, this dissertation examines the sociological components of hate crime. In particular, this dissertation builds on research questions that have been explored in the hate crime literature - specifically, how LGBT people evaluate the severity of their violent experiences and how they determine whether violence is based on their sexuality or gender identity. Results are based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews, conducted in New York City, and reveal significant differences along the lines of race, class, and gender. White gay men, for instance, generally expressed certainty as to the cause of their violent experiences, while LGBT people of color sometimes expressed uncertainty because they could not be sure whether racism had also played a role. Moreover, with regard to evaluating the severity of their violent experiences, middle-class white respondents were more likely than low-income people of color to perceive their violent experiences as severe, even though the latter experienced more physical violence than the former. By employing an intersectional approach to examine these research questions, this dissertation augments our understanding of the ways in which LGBT people perceive their violent experiences, revealing how forms of anti-LGBT violence are linked with institutional power structures such as race, class, gender, and sexuality. Entrenched in the disciplinary crossroads of sociology, criminal justice, and feminist and sexuality studies, this dissertation suggests that the social position of LGBT people plays a significant role in structuring their experiences of hate-motivated violence.

  • The Other Tribeca: Immigrant Work and Incorporation amid Affluence

    Author:
    Elizabeth Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foner
    Abstract:

    Tribeca, a small, affluent neighborhood in the lower west side of Manhattan, is a microcosm of the service-and-information-based economic structure that characterizes many communities in other American cities today, and thus provides an opportunity to study the effects of this system. Tribeca residents are predominantly wealthy and work in high-end service-oriented professions, so they consume low-end personal services produced locally. Many of the people who provide these personal services in the neighborhood are foreign born. Although they share space and have regular interactions, conventional assumptions might suggest that Tribeca residents and immigrant service workers lack much in common, and have little meaningful interpersonal contact with one another. This study explores the actual nature of intergroup contact and how the people in Tribeca navigate the symbolic and social boundaries between them. In order to understand these processes of contact and boundary navigation, I collected extensive ethnographic and interview data from 66 participants. The perspectives of both immigrant workers and Tribeca residents--as well as Tribeca's local history, identity, and culture--are taken into account to clarify how their perceptions of the neighborhood and of one another influence their interactions, their feelings of belonging, and their criteria for inclusion in the community. Although intergroup contact between residents and immigrants fails to alter the host of boundaries that separate them, they are still able to interpersonally connect in ways that are meaningful to them. They do this by bridging, or overlooking, the significance of symbolic and social boundaries. Because of these interpersonal interactions that go beyond service transactions, the local community is defined in a way that incorporates the immigrants who work in the neighborhood in a social way. Tribeca has become an inclusive and unexpected community--to borrow a term from Hochschild (1973)--one in which residents and workers from varying backgrounds are considered an integral and social part.

  • The Other Tribeca: Immigrant Work and Incorporation amid Affluence

    Author:
    Elizabeth Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foner
    Abstract:

    Tribeca, a small, affluent neighborhood in the lower west side of Manhattan, is a microcosm of the service-and-information-based economic structure that characterizes many communities in other American cities today, and thus provides an opportunity to study the effects of this system. Tribeca residents are predominantly wealthy and work in high-end service-oriented professions, so they consume low-end personal services produced locally. Many of the people who provide these personal services in the neighborhood are foreign born. Although they share space and have regular interactions, conventional assumptions might suggest that Tribeca residents and immigrant service workers lack much in common, and have little meaningful interpersonal contact with one another. This study explores the actual nature of intergroup contact and how the people in Tribeca navigate the symbolic and social boundaries between them. In order to understand these processes of contact and boundary navigation, I collected extensive ethnographic and interview data from 66 participants. The perspectives of both immigrant workers and Tribeca residents--as well as Tribeca's local history, identity, and culture--are taken into account to clarify how their perceptions of the neighborhood and of one another influence their interactions, their feelings of belonging, and their criteria for inclusion in the community. Although intergroup contact between residents and immigrants fails to alter the host of boundaries that separate them, they are still able to interpersonally connect in ways that are meaningful to them. They do this by bridging, or overlooking, the significance of symbolic and social boundaries. Because of these interpersonal interactions that go beyond service transactions, the local community is defined in a way that incorporates the immigrants who work in the neighborhood in a social way. Tribeca has become an inclusive and unexpected community--to borrow a term from Hochschild (1973)--one in which residents and workers from varying backgrounds are considered an integral and social part.

  • VETERAN ROLE SALIENCE: A STUDY OF STUDENT VETERAN REINTEGRATION IN THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

    Author:
    Demond Mullins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    The research question that informed this dissertation was: in what ways do military identities impede or enhance student veteran engagement in higher education institutions? This research was designed with a mixed methods approach; a 40 question survey instrument (N=300) constituted the quantitative portion of the study; 20 in-depth interviews and one semester of ethnography with several student veteran clubs constituted the qualitative portion of the study. All data collection was conducted in the City University of New York (CUNY) with student veterans attending 4-year and community colleges. My findings confirmed a correlation between military occupational specialties and the differential quality of relationships student veterans experience with nonveteran students, faculty, administrators, and amongst themselves. This research also discovered a number of issues CUNY could address at an administrative level in order to facilitate the academic success of these particular nontraditional students. Some of these issues were: the tendency toward marginalization of female student veterans in student veteran clubs and campus spaces, the need to take affirmative measures to encourage student veteran and nonveteran student communication to the benefit of both groups, and the need to develop a standard system to assess military service for college credit.

  • NEGOTIATING VIOLENCE, NAVIGATING NEOLIBERALISM: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCACY EFFORTS IN SOUTH ASIAN COMMUNITIES IN POST-9/11 NEW YORK CITY

    Author:
    Soniya Munshi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the relationship between legislative acts and community-based efforts to address intimate violence in the lives of South Asian women in the New York City metropolitan area in order to analyze the complexities that community-based organizations, situated in the matrices of neoliberal governance, face in their everyday advocacy practices. The first chapter offers historical context of the role that South Asian women's anti-violence organizing in the U.S. has had in interrupting, forging, and replicating different forms of community politics and argues that the cultural frameworks utilized by South Asian women's organizations, and the construction of populations of South Asian survivors, are constituted by and contribute to the logics of neoliberalism. Chapter 2 examines the epistemological implications of funding and professionalization of anti-violence efforts to argue that the culture of funding has produced discourses of specialization and expertise that impact groups that work on gender-based violence as well as other community-based organizations that see domestic violence appear in their constituencies. Chapter 3 examines the treatment of immigrant survivors in the Violence Against Women Act, to argue that VAWA produces populations of recognizable battered immigrant women that are offered the opportunity to be folded into life, while immigrant survivors of domestic violence whose experience is not legible are neglected, or, in Foucauldian terms, left to die. Policy advocacy discourses reveal that anti-violence efforts not only manage populations but also produce them. Chapter 4 examines how domestic violence advocates working with South Asian survivors of violence negotiate the everyday terrain that has been produced through the U.S. anti-violence movement's alliance with the criminal legal system and argues that advocates take up discursive strategies of "flexible ambivalence" with respect to the criminal legal system that are communicated through frameworks of "choice" that are compatible with the machinations of neoliberal governance. Chapter 5 offers case studies that present imaginative possibilities that community-based organizers forge to address the needs that appear in their communities, and looks at the constraints that they face, internal community exclusions that persist as well as potential openings for further connections.

  • 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.

  • Mayibuye! Let Us Reclaim! Assessing the Role of Memorialization in Post-Conflict Rebuilding

    Author:
    Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    John Torpey
    Abstract:

    MAYIBUYE! LET US RECLAIM! ASSESSING THE ROLE OF MEMORIALIZATION IN POST-CONFLICT REBUILDING by Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman The past decade has seen a global increase in scholarly and practitioner interests in memorialization and social memory studies. While memorialization initially gained social and political significance after the Holocaust, as it served as a symbol of recognition of the millions of victims, it gained increased recognition with the growth of the transitional justice field. Initially subsumed under the banner of symbolic reparations, memorialization has over the past few years become a transitional justice mechanism in its own right. Increasingly, victims turn toward memorialization as a mechanism for recognition, justice and healing, and more truth commissions are recommending memorialization as a tool for post-conflict rebuilding. Despite this growth in the field, there is limited understanding of the actual impact that memorialization has in social rebuilding. Using a case study approach, this dissertation employs a qualitative research methodology, asking the question: under what conditions do the mechanisms associated with transitional justice, most specifically memorialization, contribute to peace and social rebuilding? The study draws on research conducted mainly in Liberia and South Africa. Twenty-two expert interviews and six focus group interviews with a total of 90 participants inform this research project. This dissertation concludes that memorialization's role in peace and social rebuilding is varied. However, there are certain conditions--such as an integrated approach to the implementation of memorialization and the delivery of other forms of reparations, a survivor-centered approach to memorialization and the use of memorialization as a catalyst for critical education--that may increase memorialization's potential to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction.

  • 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.