Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • Enchanted Entrepreneurs: The Labor of Esoteric Practitioners in New York City

    Author:
    Karen Gregory
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, this dissertation weaves portraits of urban esoteric practitioners together with contemporary social theories of labor in order to explore the embodied and subjectifying project of becoming a psychic or intuitive practitioner capable of offering emotional and psychological "support" to city dwellers. By placing this project in a larger, contemporary political-economic framework, this dissertation looks to explore how spirituality is "entangled" (Bender 2010) in both social structures and cultural practices, as well as shifting configurations of work and the nature of labor. Here, we meet a network of individuals who are predominantly Tarot card readers (although they also combine practices such as Spiritualism, Paganism, Ceremonial Magical practice, Astrology, Numerology, and Reiki into their work) who have come to study and use the cards not only as a part of a personal "quest" for meaning or experiences but also as an attempt to make Tarot "work" for them. This work is personal and subjective, taking the form of self-management (Rose 1989, 2006) and investing in the self (Fehrer 2007), as well as social, entrepreneurial, and increasingly digital in nature. This dissertation explores this spiritualized entrepreneurial project by tracing the ways in which the shifting nature of work and labor in the United States has been experienced by individuals as both destabilization and opportunity, or what has been called "precarity" (Precarias a la deriva 2004; Beradi 2009; Neilson and Rossiter 2005; Mitropolous 2006; Ettinger 2007; Dowling 2007; Berlant 2007, 2011; Gill and Pratt 2008; Hardt and Negri 2009). In the wake of market demands for increased worker flexibility, as well as the increased privatization of risk, these esoteric practitioners have repurposed "New Age" practices and older American metaphysical traditions as a way of recalibrating both the self and the structure and potential of their work life. Here, links between Tarot card flips, the affectivity of symbols, the desire to articulate or speak one's "truth," and marketing logics are entangled and seen as sites for the possibility of enchantment, as well as sites that invoke both subtle and overt forms of labor.

  • THE PROVOCATIVE COCKTAIL: INTELLECTUAL ORIGINS OF THE ZAPATISTA UPRISING, 1960-1994

    Author:
    Christopher Gunderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    Drawing on critical currents in the study of contentious politics and the formation of class, racial and political identities, this dissertation seeks to account for the intellectual origins and global resonance of Zapatismo, the distinctive political discourse and practices of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army or EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. It is an historical sociological case study that combines archival research and interviews with participants in, and observers of, the indigenous campesino movement in Chiapas to construct an intellectual history of the indigenous Mayan communities that form the EZLN's bases of popular support. It elaborates a theoretical account of anti-systemic social movements and other forms of contentious politics as expressions of what Marx called the realization of "species being," "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things" or communism. The study finds that the training of catechists by the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas produced a layer of organic indigenous campesino intellectuals who became first the leaders of the indigenous campesino movement and later of the EZLN. The study argues that Zapatismo is a product not only of transformations in the political economy of Chiapas and Mexico but of a process of emergent collective revolutionary political subjectivity on the part of the indigenous communities that occurred in the context of a global crisis in revolutionary theory arising out of the contradictory experiences of the socialist revolutions of the 20th century. Specifically the study argues that Zapatismo is a synthesis of proto-communist elements from the traditional religious worldview of their communities, the liberation theology of the Diocese, the Maoism of several organizations that assisted the communities in the construction of independent peasant organizations, and the left-wing revolutionary nationalism of the EZLN's parent organization, the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (FLN) inspired by the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions. The dissertation is a contribution both to the literature on the origins of the Zapatistas and to the development of a Marxist theory of revolutionary social movements and peasant insurgencies.

  • Technologies of Spirit: The Digital Worlds of Contemporary Christianity

    Author:
    Sam Han
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the interrelation of religion, particularly American evangelical Christianity, and digital technologies. In showing both the religious use of technology and the religiosity of technological practice, it aims to contribute to recent discussions on modernity and secularism that have taken place in sociology as well as philosophy and anthropology. Specifically, it troubles the assumed link between secularization and modernization, which, in effect, views technology as largely a proxy of science, and therefore an instrument of "disenchantment." Contrary to this, my research suggests that the relation of new media and religion bears a more complicated picture than secularization theories would allow. Drawing from a variety of methods, including content and discourse analysis, ethnography and media studies, I examine the technological mode of worship and ministry increasingly favored by today's Christian churches, including the highly technologized contemporary worship spaces, which feature multiple projection screens and theater-grade audio and lighting systems, and online churches (i.e., churches that meet strictly online through web sites and social media such as Facebook). Additionally, I offer an analysis of the ways in which new media technologies have produced a certain religious, God-like mode of subjectivity especially evidenced in popular mapping software such as Google Maps. In this way, contemporary religion, specifically Christianity, and digital technologies, I suggest, hold an intrinsic and interimplicated relationship.

  • Run for Health: Health(icization), Supplements, and Doping in Non-Elite Road Running

    Author:
    April Henning
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Pitts-Taylor
    Abstract:

    Running races are commonly viewed as one of the clearest examples of competition and it is less common to view training or racing as a non-competitive health practice. However, the majority of non-elite runners who participate in races do so in order to reap benefits from the training process many undertake in preparation for a race. This dissertation is a study of non-elite or amateur runners' pursuit of health, their varied understandings of health, the ironies and inconsistencies of healthism, and the folk measures of health employed within the running community. Through qualitative interviews with amateur runners in New York City about their perceptions of running, health, doping, and supplements, I explore the value non-elite runners place on health and fitness, the ways running is used to signal one's commitment to these values, and the relationship between healthist demands and training methods that border on harmful, such as the use of over the counter (OTC) pain medications to mask pain or use of unregulated and potentially dangerous dietary supplements. I demonstrate that non-elite runners rarely engage in training or participate in a race with the expectation or desire for a zero-sum victory. Rather, I argue that non-elite runners engage in running as part of healthicized body practice, through which each defines herself as a healthy, morally good neoliberal citizen. Performance enhancing substances (PES) are viewed as a way to circumvent the struggle, pain, need for intense dedication to improve one's performance--the experiences that non-elites runners feel they must experience in order to claim the identity of runner. Non-elite runners avoid intentionally using PES in favor of nutritional supplements, based on the incorrect belief that such products marketed specifically to improve health or performance are well regulated for safety and regarded as effective. Often these products are unregulated and of questionable quality and safety--many of the same reasons offered by non-elite runners for avoiding banned PES. Given the contradictions inherent in healthiest practices undertaken by runners, the study also addresses the underlying ethos of healthicism at work, which I argue are rooted in neoliberalism.

  • "The Japanese New Yorkers": "Adventurers in Adventure Land" in Globalized Environments

    Author:
    Hirosuke Hyodo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    After the Immigration Act of 1965, the volume of almost all Asian immigrants drastically increased; however, the proportion of Japanese immigrants, which used to be the largest in the prewar years, dropped to being the smallest. In mainstream studies of American immigration, contemporary Japanese migrants to the United States seem to have disappeared. If the lens of "immigrants" is removed, however, a quite different picture emerges. The number of native Japanese living in the United States today is actually three times as large as that of the prewar Japanese-American community on the U.S. mainland. Removing the lens of "immigrants" also enables us to see some new forms of contemporary international migration. This study explores Japanese-born persons living in the United States today called the shin-issei ("new first generation"), drawing upon several sets of data, theories, and previous studies, and concluding with an interview analysis of those living in New York--or "Japanese New Yorkers." A basic assumption of this study is that migration in our highly transnational environment no longer necessarily entails a change of nationality, or permanent settlement, or even a socio-cultural transition from one society to another. The statuses of Japanese New Yorkers include: the chuzaiin ("corporate transferees"), entrepreneurs, international students, their families, and others. My research reveals that: (1) the Japanese New Yorkers are mainly from middle- or upper-middle-class families; (2) the primary "push factor" behind their migration stems from the constricting aspects of the Japanese traditional social organization while the "pull factor" seems to be liberating images of New York that have been widespread in Japan; (3) their exodus seems to have been initiated largely by the example of Japanese celebrities who began utilizing New York as their vacation home in the late 1980s, during Japan's bubble economy; (4) contrary to the seeming indifference among Japanese to the "open-handed" U.S. Immigration Act of 1965, a large number of them actually struggle to obtain a green card; (5) nonetheless, they are not interested in naturalization; (6) these Japanese migrate as individuals not as families, and, unlike other Asians, do not engage in "chain migration"; (7) customarily, almost all return to Japan once in a while, typically every summer; (8) a majority including those married to Americans say that they will return to Japan permanently "someday" although very few have a clear plan for it. I argue that Japanese New Yorkers are, so to speak, "adventurers" in highly transnational environments, placing themselves in ongoing self-adjusting processes in their journey. Most of them, unlike the issei ("the prewar Japanese emigrants"), willingly exit Japan as if resisting its traditional social organization. Like the issei, however, they almost inevitably encounter dilemmas in terms of legal status, culture, and social identity in the United States, and experience an unexpectedly rough transition into the society with which they try to identify.

  • Point of Consumption: Work, Consciousness and Organizing in the Retail Sector

    Author:
    Peter Ikeler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Ruth Milkman
    Abstract:

    Abstract POINT OF CONSUMPTION: WORK, CONSCIOUSNESS AND ORGANIZING IN THE RETAIL SECTOR by PETER RICHARD IKELER Advisor: Professor Ruth Milkman The decline of the American labor movement is a well-known phenomenon. Of its most salient causes, globalization, employer resistance and union bureaucratization have been thoroughly investigated. But the ascendance of service work--a fourth oft-cited cause--has not. Specifically, the internal dynamics of private-sector services have not been sufficiently examined as a possible explanation for union decline. This study derives a series of hypotheses from the sociology of service work, labor process and union revitalization literatures, and then explores them through three qualitative case studies of work and organizing in America's largest low-wage service industry: retail trade. Two cases--Macy's and Target stores in New York City--are compared to assess the structure and trajectory of contemporary dynamics in the low-wage service workplace, and a third--the Retail Action Project (RAP), an innovative workers' center in the same city--is used to assess three strategies for service worker organizing. Data consist of more than 80 in-depth interviews with frontline workers, managers, RAP members and officials as well as documentary analysis and participant observation. At Macy's, I find that an adversarial model of work organization engenders opposition and union receptivity among workers, while Target's team-based consensus model--based on a deskilled labor process and explicit anti-union initiatives--mitigates the emergence of similar attitudes among its workforce. Age and job tenure, however, are decisive factors at both stores, with Target employing a higher proportion of younger and Caribbean workers than Macy's. Analysis of the Retail Action Project displays the limitations of organizing large retail firms on a local basis, but also the promise of open-membership models for the future of service worker unionism.

  • It Will Become: Modern India and the Labor of Aspiration

    Author:
    Patrick Inglis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    This study combines political economy and twenty-two months of fieldwork to understand the limits of social mobility for poor and working class people in modern India. Despite more than two decades of economic liberalization, access to quality education, well paying jobs, and high standards of living, remain largely tied to class and caste advantages. Main informants include lower class golf caddies and middle and upper middle class members at golf clubs in Bangalore, India's "Silicon Valley." The study shows that members, many of them entrepreneurs, white-collar professionals, and civil servants, simultaneously educate the caddies in the rhetoric of bootstrap capitalism, on the one hand, and also foreclose opportunities to assert their independence, on the other: first, by refusing the caddies control over their labor process; and, second, paying them insufficient wages ($1-2 a round) that keep them dependent on additional handouts to cover health care, children's school fees, and other household expenses. The result is a form of social, economic, and cultural exchange that encourages servility and reinforces existing inequalities. The study underscores the limits of trickle-down-economics as a means to development--absent effective industrial policy and jobs programs, as well as adequate investments in health care, education, and basic social services, these caddies, and others of similarly impoverished backgrounds, have little choice but to seek out relationships of this sort, and even then, chances at social mobility are slim.

  • CORRUPTION EVERYWHERE? A CENTRAL EUROPEAN CASE

    Author:
    David Jancsics
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    Both petty and large-scale corruption are widespread in Central Europe. The granting of government contracts is frequently subject to political and monetary influence. Small-scale transactions, from avoiding a traffic ticket to obtaining a license, are sometimes the occasion for bribes. My dissertation examines corruption through several lenses. First, I review a large research literature that spans disciplines from economics to political science, management to anthropology, and I identify the main theoretical positions that scholars have taken towards corruption in its various forms. I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of alternative conceptualizations and suggest areas for theoretical synthesis and development. Second, I present a set of empirical studies that depart from the dominant approach that uses reputational sample surveys of national populations. Instead, I undertook a multi-year interviewing project in Hungary, using a snowball technique to access individuals who had first-hand experiences with petty or larger-scale corrupt transactions. Based on 50 interviews, I provide detailed empirical portraits of several types of corruption, reporting the motives of the parties involved, their social class and other demographic characteristics, and their organizational positions. I recount the voices and opinions of Hungarians at all levels of society about their involvement in these transactions. Some are condemnatory; others provide justifications and rationales for their actions. Third, I develop separate analyses of corruption at the top, in the middle layers, and at the bottom of organizations, drawing out the distinctive purposes and dynamics of corruption in each setting. I also examine the importance of go-betweens or middlemen and the roles they play in some types of corruption, and the emergence of entire corrupt networks in certain contexts.

  • Assembling Autism

    Author:
    Kate Jenkins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    Autism is a growing social concern because of the epidemic-like growth in diagnoses among children. The lives and experiences of adults who have an autism diagnosis, however, are not as well documented. This dissertation project seeks to resolve that dearth of research. I conducted a year of participant observation at four locations of social, self-advocacy, and peer to peer support groups. I also conducted interviews with leaders and participants. I also participated (as a researcher) in an experiment in social skills acquisition led by participants from my ethnographic field work, fulfilling the planned participatory action research component of my original proposal. I found that many of the problems my participants experienced were both mundane and routine for individuals who are marginalized, but at the same time, made extraordinary by the presence of autism. I found that the affective and sensory components of the disorder were primary in the lives of my participants, though these issues are generally secondary to the social complications that typify the social construction of autism elsewhere. I also found that my participants struggled to control the very meaning of autism, especially as the diagnostic criteria were rewritten. Autism has implications for Western notions of citizenship and subjectivity, as well as identity politics and social movements, namely that capacity for rationality is not necessarily associated with capacity for social interaction or independent living. Autism presents as a spectrum and constellation of impairments and differences, and as such, contests the notion of a unified self.