Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • When Wives Migrate and Leave Husbands Behind: A Jamaican Marriage Pattern

    Author:
    Elaine Douglas-Harrison
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    cynthia fuchs-epstein
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT WHEN WIVES MIGRATE AND LEAVE HUSBANDS BEHIND: A JAMAICAN MARRIAGE PATTERN by Elaine Douglas-Harrison Adviser: Professor Cynthia Fuchs Epstein For over a hundred years Jamaicans have been migrating to make the proverbial `better life' for themselves and their families. In the early 20th century husbands migrated, leaving wives behind. As economies of the United States and Canada have become more service-oriented, wives migrate leaving husbands behind. The experiences of Jamaican immigrant women are documented in Caribbean migration studies, but the marriages of Jamaican legally-married immigrant wives and their husbands left behind in Jamaica are so far unstudied. The main research question of this study is what maintains these transnational marriages over time, sometimes for decades, when spouses see each other sometimes only once or twice a year. Data for the study come from: in-depth interviews conducted between 2005 and 2007; conversations held over the past fifteen years with participants in these marriages in the United States and in Jamaica; and participant observation of U.S. and Jamaican societies. The findings reveal that daily companionship in marriage is not as essential a Jamaican cultural value as migration, but that the institution of marriage, although not the dominant form of coupling in Jamaica, is important enough to last. Moreover, divorce still bears a stigma in Jamaican culture. Outcomes of these marriages vary but may not be unpredictable, depending on their pre-migration state and the nature of the living-apart experience. By focusing on these Jamaican transnational marriages, this study hopes to cast another light on Jamaican migration, as well as to encourage further discussion and research of legal marriage in Jamaica and in the Afro-Caribbean.

  • Hucksters and Trucksters: Criminalization and Gentrification in New York City's Street Vending Industry

    Author:
    Kathleen Dunn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Sharon Zukin
    Abstract:

    The expansion of the informal economy since the 1970s developed in tandem with a growing militarization of urban public space, creating extreme precarity for street vendors, a leading occupational group within the informal sector. Based on over three years of participant observation and seventy interviews with street vendors and their advocates, this dissertation examines the present-day street vending industry in New York City, which has long been comprised of first-generation immigrants, but has in recent years seen a marked growth in highly educated, native-born gourmet food truck owners. The research illustrates how two processes, inherent to what I term the post-industrial complex, are increasing stratification within New York's street economy. First, there is a dramatic criminalization of immigrant street vendors who regularly encounter arrests and ticketing. This blocks their upward mobility, most acutely for women, and locates vendors in a liminal class position, possessing elements of proprietorship that are subjugated by the governance of public space. Second, a new wave of commercial gentrification has occurred within street vending, where more affluent native-born vendors are able to effectively capitalize on vending to rapidly establish brick-and-mortar businesses, and in so doing inflate the price of vending permits in the underground economy. These divergent conditions reveal how the governance of post-industrial urban space reinforces the criminalization of poor and working class people of color, while facilitating the advancement of more affluent and predominantly white professionals. The streets of the post-industrial complex are policed as a border for immigrant vendors, and are pioneered as a frontier by native-born food truck owners. Yet criminalization has produced street vendor solidarities, evidenced in a growing street labor movement amongst immigrant vendors in New York. Like most vendor organizations across the Global South, two immigrant street vendor worker centers in New York press the municipal government to uphold vendors' right to the city. In contrast, the city's native-born food truck owners have established a business association not to achieve social justice but to increase profitability. Post-industrial urban governance thus deepens inequalities within the informal economy while spurring new movements to claim the enduring resource of urban public space.

  • Black Males, Money and More: Conduits and Barriers to Academic Success

    Author:
    Wayne Edwards
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    Much ink has been spent and theories proffered unpacking the societal, school and community factors that impact educational outcomes of Black male students in the United States. Employing the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), this dissertation seeks to add to this important discourse on academic achievement by contrasting the conduits and barriers to educational success for a nationally representative sample of Black males of low socioeconomic status versus Black males of not-low socioeconomic status across a series of demographic, behavioral, and attitudinal variables. The theoretical framework for this undertaking will include, but not be limited to, social and cultural capital (Bourdieu and Coleman), alienation thesis (Yancy), oppositional theory (Ogbu), and Black sexual politics (Collins). This dissertation will conclude with micro (individual level) and macro (policy level) suggestions.

  • THE CRISIS AND BERNIE MADOFF: CAPITALISM, MEDIA, AND CULTURE IN THE US AND UK

    Author:
    Colleen Eren
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Lynn Chancer
    Abstract:

    Adviser: Lynn S. Chancer During the maelstrom of uncertainty and panic produced by crisis of 2007-2008, the "Bernie" Madoff Ponzi scandal erupted into headlines in the US and UK press. The punitive responses and corresponding discourse surrounding the case were remarkable, as social scientists have generally focused on the `criminological' poor and `street' crime, not wealthy financial fraudsters or white collar crime, under a presumption of public apathy. What themes emerged from this discourse, and what was their significance during a time of financial crisis? Were there differences in US coverage versus that in the UK, and what did this say about culture and capitalism? This dissertation, contributing to the literature on crime and media, follows the work of Lynn Chancer on high profile crimes using a mixed methods, comparative approach. Content analysis of 8 newspapers was performed using the qualitative research program Atlas.ti, and interviews with major journalists, editors, SEC officials, and Bernie Madoff were conducted. I explore how the Madoff case provided an intelligible, human narrative through which issues seen as causing the crisis and threatening capitalism could be explored, contested and solutions proposed. I also argue that the entire cultural performance of seeking harsh justice for Madoff provided a symbolic resolution to the dissonance that emerged as a result of the financial crisis, but did not address deeper structural concerns with free market capitalism that would prevent the occurrence of future financial frauds of this scale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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