Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • INCOME INEQUALITY AND VULNERABIILITY TO FLOOD HAZARD IN BRAZIL

    Author:
    Rebecca Rasch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Janet Gornick
    Abstract:

    Social theorists suggest that income inequality within a society leads to a breakdown of social cohesion, spatial segregation, and as a result, uneven public resource access. I will assess whether this social phenomenon is important to consider when measuring vulnerability to climate change in urban, middle-income countries. To test this relationship, I create a flood hazard vulnerability index at the municipality level and determine whether income inequality, measured at the municipality level, is a predictor of municipality vulnerability to flood hazard. The flood hazard vulnerability index incorporates socioeconomic, built environment and natural environment data, providing a more holistic approach to vulnerability assessment. I draw on socioeconomic and spatial data from urban municipalities across 25 Brazilian states. Using multi-level regression models, which account for state-level political economy impacts, as well as for the spatial dependence of flood hazard vulnerability, I test whether income inequality in a municipality, controlling for absolute poverty level and environmental hazards, predicts vulnerability to flooding, the most prevalent climate hazard in Brazil. I use several measures of income inequality to determine whether the effect of income inequality varies depending on where along the income distribution the income inequality lies. The measures of income inequality I select are: the Gini index, two measures of both bottom and top half income inequality and two specifications of the Atkinson index (inequality aversion parameter=0.5 and 1). I find that the Gini index and the Atkinson index (inequality aversion parameter=0.5, calibrated to give more weight to the top end of the distribution), were the only two significant predictors of vulnerability. These results provide strong evidence in support of the two hypotheses in this dissertation, mainly that a certain type of income inequality is a predictor of vulnerability and that the location of the income inequality along the distribution does matter in terms of its impacts. It appears that top end, not bottom end income inequality significantly predicts vulnerability. Next I dig further into the data and separately test each of the factors which comprise the composite vulnerability score: socioeconomic status, infrastructure quality and governance. This line of analysis yields some illuminating results. I find that while all types of income inequality positively predict socioeconomic status, when I control for absolute poverty, municipality size, and environmental conditions, top end and top half income inequality predict the poor governance component of the vulnerability index, the factor most closely correlated with the presence of slums, informal settlements and high population density. In sum, these findings suggest that the level of absolute poverty does not fully explain the presence of slums, informal settlements, and high-population density within a municipality. Top end and top half income inequality also play a role. My data illustrate that considering income inequality, and specifically top end and half income inequality, as part of vulnerability assessments can significantly aid in crafting more effective, sustainable adaptation efforts by helping to better identify which municipalities are most vulnerable to climate change.

  • 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.

  • Undocumented Youth Living Between the Lines: Urban Governance, Social Policy, and the Boundaries of Legality in New York City and Paris

    Author:
    Stephen Ruszczyk
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Robert Smith
    Abstract:

    This dissertation compares the transition to adulthood of undocumented youth in New York and Paris, along with analysis of the construction of illegality in each city. In both the United States and France, national restrictions against undocumented immigrants increasingly take the form of deportations and limiting access to social rights. New York City and Paris, however, mitigate the national restrictions in important but different ways. They construct "illegality" differently, leading to different young adult outcomes and lived experiences of "illegality." This project uses seven years of multi-site ethnographic data to trace the effects of these mitigated "illegalities" on two dozen (male) youth. We can begin to understand the variation in these undocumented young men's social lives within and between cities by centering on (1) governance structure, the labyrinth of obtaining rights associated with citizenship, (2) citizenship, the possibility of gaining a legal status, steered in particular by civil society actors, and (3) identity, here centered on youths' negotiation of social mobility with the fear of enforcement. Biographical narratives show the shifts in social memberships as youth transition to new countries, new restrictions at adulthood, and new, limiting work. In New York, most social prospects are flattened as future possibilities are whittled down to ones focusing on family and wages. Undocumented status propels New York informants into an accelerated transition to adulthood, as they take on adult responsibilities of work, paying bills, and developing families. In Paris, youth experience more divergent processes of transitioning to adulthood. Those who are more socially integrated use a civil society actor to garner a (temporary) legal status, which does not lead to work opportunities. Those who are less socially integrated face isolation as they wait to gain status and access to better jobs. Paris undocumented youth are thus characterized by a decelerated transition to adulthood as most lack sufficient resources for adult responsibilities. The comparison of Paris and New York shows how different institutional, social, and political contexts--including different systems of state and local governance, political culture and labor market characteristics--produce specific contours of social life for undocumented youth, with varying outcomes. Using boundary theory to represent these different socio-legal and socio-economic contexts over time, we see the more flexible regularization practices in Paris helping youth cross the legal boundary but remaining stratified vis-à-vis the social boundary. With a low deportation risk, New York's legal boundary is blurred. Federal restrictions, however, mean youth also end up stratified vis-à-vis the social boundary. A key difference, however, lies in the family and romantic relationship benefits of available low-end work in New York.

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

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

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

  • The Lives of Kong, Labor and Moviemaking in Three Acts

    Author:
    Andrea Siegel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    Investigating the globalization process called runaway production—Hollywood film studios moving production to other countries and regions largely to avoid organized labor—is at the heart of The Lives of Kong: Labor and Moviemaking in Three Acts. It demonstrates that runaway production's devastating impact on the majority of unionized American film workers today emerges from an often bitterly contested history. Over three periods, from the 1920s – 1971, from 1972 – 1998, and from 1999 – the present, domestic and foreign film studio management, workers and their unions, artists and craftspeople, and state, federal and other nations' government officials struggled over this issue in significantly different ways. The re-historicizing of runaway production scholarship found in The Lives of Kong reclaims a much-needed scope for discussion of its causes, consequences, and remedies. This study also contributes to labor history scholarship by recovering aspects of the complex breadth of entertainment labor union history. The project further contributes to nascent studies of globalization's impact on the middle and creative classes. In addition, this dissertation demonstrates how links between film production processes and film content—a little-researched area—provide essential insight into conditions under which runaway production emerges. Using a multi-sited methodology appropriate to studying a globalization phenomenon, this project employs ethnographic methods, including oral history and participant-observation; analysis of 809 newspaper reports; and examination of production and content analysis. The iconic 1933 film King Kong, famous for its depiction of a giant gorilla, simultaneously dramatizes an overseas American film production that goes terribly wrong. Each ensuing version, first Dino De Laurentiis's (1976), and then Peter Jackson's (2005), joins with the original to provide a time-specific springboard for discussion of runaway production, including complicated portrayals of attitudes toward film work, film workers, and related explosive tensions involving race, gender and class. By re-connecting film process and product, while simultaneously re-historicizing the runaway production debate, The Lives of Kong shows the efficacy of interdisciplinary approaches to studying creative labor, leading to the potential for wide-ranging discussion about relationships between image and power, which have public policy implications on both the national and international levels.