Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • BODY, HONOR, AND DOMINATION IN MARGINALIZED URBAN SPACES. An Ethnography of Bodybuilding in an American Black Ghetto and Thai Boxing in a French Working-Class Banlieue

    Author:
    Akim Oualhaci
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    This work is a comparative analysis of ethnoracial domination and urban marginality in the United States and France that aims at studying two social spaces of relegation, the black ghetto in the U.S. and the working-class suburbs in France. The ethnographic study of bodybuilding and Thai boxing in the black American ghetto and the French working-class suburb has allowed me to account for the incorporation of the social through a bodily practice and its translation into social strategies. Because they have adopted a new cosmogony, the young men of working-class suburb and the black ghetto build a carnal solidarity in practice and reproduce the social honor of the group challenged by various social mechanisms of stigmatization and marginalization in a the context of job insecurity and unemployment. At the same time, these bodily practices prevent practitioners from getting involved in a deviant career because they occupy and fix the agents, and because they internalize a set of "values" that give a meaning and a direction to their everyday life.

  • Renewal and Disposability: Projects and Narratives of Development and Dispossession in the "new" New Orleans

    Author:
    Allison Padilla-Goodman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Robert Smith
    Abstract:

    When much of the physical landscape of New Orleans was destroyed with Hurricane Katrina, expedited change and a need to redefine the city's future rushed in. The "new" New Orleans would be decisively different: it would be change-oriented, optimistic, and a leader in progressive reform movements. Discourse around post-Katrina New Orleans was focused on making New Orleans "better than before" and becoming a national leader for cutting-edge urban renewal. On-the-ground change mirrored this discourse, as the city's institutional landscape was dismantled and reconfigured along lines of privatization and newness as the trend of "accumulation by dispossession" (Harvey, 2005) blanketed the city. To create this new city, a narrative of an ideal new resident was necessary to embody this change and represent the city's future. I refer to this ideal in this dissertation as the "Renewers" who are young, idealistic, recent college graduates working in justice-oriented professions to be a part of the movement for urban renewal that has swept New Orleans. These Renewers further and justify the narrative of reform, as they represent the ideal future of the developing city. At the same time, their narrative completely excludes the narrative of many New Orleanians who are being left behind by renewal. These residents, whom I refer to as the "Disposables" of post-Katrina New Orleans, live and function everyday amongst the ghosts of neoliberal reform as they struggle to not be defined by what seems to be a planned dispossession of their lives. Through years of ethnographic research in public schools in New Orleans with a non-profit organization, I show the effects of urban renewal and reform on those excluded from the narrative. This has fundamentally altered the sense of place and local identity of New Orleans, as the city relies on Disposable's cultural contributions and Renewer's economic and social status.

  • Voice and Advocacy in the Urban Ghetto

    Author:
    Jean Phelps
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    Abstract VOICE AND ADVOCACY IN THE URBAN GHETTO By Jean Phelps Advisor: Professor William Kornblum This study was conducted to ascertain whether poor and powerless urban dwellers could develop the skills to speak out on their own behalf when dealing with institutions of power. The research explored the conditions and processes, which facilitate or hamper the development of self-advocacy skills. The subjects of this study were observed, over an extended period of time, struggling under the domination of institutions that use methods of control to keep the poor in inferior positions in society. This study has showed that poor individuals can develop the voice to speak out on their own behalf, effecting positive outcomes in situations that heretofore were beyond their power and scope to change. It also indicates that the urban poor may not necessarily step out on their own against a system that has oppressed and exploited them. They may require encouragement from people who are in positions of influence. The study concludes that newly learned and acquired self advocacy skills can lead to self-empowerment, if performed regularly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.