Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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."

  • "Loose Lips Sink Ships": A History of Rumor Control in the United States

    Author:
    Jeffrey Graham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    Throughout its history, rumor control has been comprised of efforts to monitor, suppress and/or spread messages which travel through word of mouth communication. Fundamentally, rumor control is a form of propaganda, often used in concert with other techniques aimed at influencing attitudes and behavior. Organized rumor control emerged during World War II, when the FDR administration viewed rumors as a threat to social stability and war morale. As a result, in 1942 the Office of War Information recruited barbers, librarians, school teachers and other civilians to submit rumors they overheard to the government for analysis. These efforts coincided with poster campaigns warning people not to talk about the war. After the war, the CIA funded extensive rumor research to learn about the flow of word of mouth communication, including experiments in which thousands of leaflets were dropped on unsuspecting American towns. During the civil unrest in the 1960's, dozens of "rumor control centers" were established ostensibly to help control violence, but mainly functioned to provide information to police and reassure white citizens. During the same period, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI spread false rumors to destabilize Black political groups. Corporate advertisers turned to marketing techniques that drew upon rumor control principles in the 1990's as a result in the perceived decline in mass advertising. Indeed, contemporary public relations can be seen as a form of rumor control, given its focus on suppressing negative word of mouth and promoting the spread of positive messages from person to person. Using primary historical data and interviews, the dissertation reveals that the themes of power, surveillance and social control are evident throughout rumor control history, and sheds light on why and how our attitudes are monitored and shaped by corporations and the government.

  • CLASS, CULTURE, OR BOTH: ASSESSING CONSUMPTION PATTERNS WITHIN MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY

    Author:
    Roderick Graham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    What is the best way of understanding contemporary consumption patterns in the United States? Using the classical theories of Marx and Weber, and the contemporary theory of omnivorousness developed by Richard Peterson, this research examines the consumption of a symbolic good (music) and a material good (technology). The data for this research comes from two nationally representative surveys. Music analyses were done using the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (N = 17135). Technology analyses were done using the 2006 Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project's Annual Gadgets Survey (N = 4100). This research uses statistical methods - correspondence analysis and classification and regression tree analysis - that classify respondents. These methods were used in order to group respondents with similar music or technology preferences together. These homogeneous groups were then compared to the predictions made by Marxian, Weberian, and Omnivorous theories. This research suggests that the best way to explain contemporary consumption patterns in the United States is through a particular combination of Marxian and Weberian indicators, and that Peterson's theory of omnivorousness is less applicable. A new concept, lifestyle clusters, is proposed. Lifestyle clusters combine economic Marxian indicators and cultural Weberian indicators into one conceptual framework. The conclusions drawn from this dissertation suggest that the ways in which sociologists have traditionally understood consumption patterns need to be reconsidered.