Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Exchanging Affect: The Migrant Domestic Workers Market in Turkey

    Author:
    Ayse Akalin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    Since the second half of 1990's, Turkey has received a migration flow of women from the postsocialist countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucuses and Central Asia, into the domestic work sector. The demand for the migrant domestics is mainly for their live-in services, which also distinguishes them from the indigenous domestics since the latter prefer working strictly as live-outs. The migrants' willingness to work as live-in's has consequently caused them to be employed in three subfields of domestic work; care giving for the elderly, care giving for children and housekeeping in suburban houses. This research explores the emergence and expansion of "the migrant domestic workers market" as an ethnic niche in Turkey in the postsocialist period when migration and employment relations have formed a mutually fostering alliance. It argues that the migrant domestics of postsocialist origin are not demanded for an inherent ability. Rather the demand for their labor is a consequence of a capacity that they acquire by turning into transnational migrants. In this process, their subjectivity that was earlier shaped by an upbringing in a formerly socialist system also gets molded by a state of "migrancy". The latter then causes them to serve their employers in a distinct way that is characterized by a specific type of labor, which in this research is called "availability".

  • The Problem of Malawi in Western Discourse: Power, Patronage, and the Politics of Pity

    Author:
    Norma Anderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Barbara Katz Rothman
    Abstract:

    While recent sociological work on African social problems tends to focus on particular areas such as HIV/AIDS, this dissertation considers relationships and links between diverse social issues to argue that western-defined African social problems are not only disconnected from what Africans themselves see as their major needs but are also rooted in an historical pattern of power and inequality. Using Malawi as a case study I compare discourse about four diverse social problems--slavery, HIV/AIDS, climate change, and homosexuality. I demonstrate how these vastly different issues are related: each is framed and funded by foreigners and each is depoliticized, often blaming Africans themselves for various negative outcomes of global inequality. But despite the blame, these social problems are presented to the western public through a frame of pity that underscores the need for immediate western intervention. Since the mid-1800s Malawi has experienced numerous and distinct cycles of western "help," interest, and involvement but each individual issue revolves around a central troublesome notion--that Malawi and Malawians are flawed and in need of western guidance and assistance to (re)achieve a more ideal state. In this way, even the most "well-meaning" attempts to address legitimate health and social problems further long-standing stereotypes of African helplessness and western superiority. Engaging theories of stratification, development, and realist constructionism, and relying on interviews, ethnography, and survey data, I interweave historical and contemporary western discourse about Malawi to analyze shifting and competing conceptions of what is wrong with the country as well as how these understandings have influenced western interventions. By contrasting western understandings and images of Malawi with Malawians' views of the same problems, this dissertation not only builds on stratification and development theories but also investigates practical reasons why western policy interventions have so often failed to create sustainable change.

  • Economic Episodes: Crisis and the Affective Politics of Everyday Life

    Author:
    John Andrews
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    This dissertation advances critical scholarship around the performative character of "the economy" in the wake of neoliberalism. I argue that public moods - what Paolo Virno calls the emotional situation - have become fundamental to how "the economy" is understood and represented by economists, politicians, pundits, and everyday people alike. Moreover, the emotional situation affects how the economy is experienced - both psychically and culturally. I examine four economic moments in the last 40 years - stagflation, Reaganomics, dotcom bubbles, and most recently mass home foreclosures - alongside the respective moods attendant to them - depression, burn-out, euphoria, and rage. A goal of my dissertation is to demonstrate how depression, burn-out, euphoria, and rage shape understandings and ideologies of what is economic or non-economic at different points in history since the 1970s. I argue that the barring of feelings and mood from the strictly economic has become a key mode of governance in the United States, even as "the economy" increasingly becomes the object of public concern and attention. Thus my dissertation takes to task how "the economy" functions as a kind of genre with reverberations in policy-making, mental disorders, social protest, to name a few.

  • INTANGIBLE HERITAGE'S UNCERTAIN POLITICAL OUTCOMES: NATIONALISM AND THE REMAKING OF MARGINALIZED CULTURAL PRACTICES IN TURKEY

    Author:
    Bahar Aykan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Clough
    Abstract:

    The scope of cultural heritage management has been extended from tangible to intangible products in the few last decades. Debates surrounding the field of heritage raise fundamental questions about its inherent political character, calling particular attention to the ways in which heritage programs are dominated by nationalistic concerns. This study examines UNESCO-initiated intangible heritage making in Turkey. I focus on the complex relationship between heritage and nationalism, and the various levels of heritage making of marginalized cultural practices by national governments. This study shows that global heritage protection mechanisms have diverse and uncertain outcomes even in the same country. Yet when examined together, these outcomes reveal how heritage mechanisms nonetheless continue to be dominated by nationalist government interests. Drawing on interviews, ethnographic research, and content analysis of the UNESCO documents, I offer three case studies of recent heritage management programs in Turkey launched by the Justice and Development Party (JDP) government to safeguard marginalized cultural practices. These are the Mevlevi Sema ceremony, Nevruz festival, and Alevi-Bektaºi Semah ritual. Radical differences in the Turkish government's methods of handling the heritagization processes of these three practices uncover a recent transformation in the official nationalist policy and discourse in Turkey, from secularist Turkish nationalism (of Kemalism) to Islamist Turkish nationalism (of the JDP). It is these shifting nationalist trends that make Turkey's intangible heritage practices not only an aspect of the politics of recognition (in the case of the Mevlevis), but also of nonrecognition (in the case of the Kurds), and misrecognition (in the case of the Alevi-Bektaºis) regarding the extent these marginalized ethnic and religious identities comply with the current government's nationalist agenda.

  • "Young, Brown and Down:" Second-Generation Indo-Guyanese Americans Constructing their Ethnicity in New York

    Author:
    Nazreen Bacchus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Hester Eisenstein
    Abstract:

    This study offers a new approach to understanding the role of nostalgic performances carried out by second-generation Indo-Guyanese Americans through ethnic institutions as a route into the American mainstream. The Indo-Guyanese are an Indian Diaspora group who arrived in the Caribbean during the Indian Indenture and who have been "twice removed from India." They have limited or no ability to speak Hindi, but their religious beliefs (Hinduism and Islam) have enabled them to maintain certain Indian traditions (e.g.. wearing saris). However, they have also adopted several Caribbean cultural practices, such as musical tastes, that have augmented their cultural hybridity. There has been a significant Indo-Guyanese migration to Queens, New York since the early 1990s, which has led to the creation of an Indo-Guyanese ethnic enclave which facilitates the provision of cultural goods, services and houses of worship. Taking Gans' (1979) concept of symbolic ethnicity a step further, my research shows how the American born children of this unique immigrant group carefully select traditions from their hybrid mix of Indian and Afro-Caribbean cultures to attain racial recognition in New York. Additionally gendered expectations significantly shape the Indo-Guyanese identity. Gendered pressures create and augment disparities between men and women in the second generation as they move towards negotiating their ethnicity within the American mainstream. Inter and intra-generational gendered expectations usually place women in the position of maintaining ethno-religious traditions, which may set limits on their ability to achieve an assimilation status similar to second-generation Indo-Guyanese men within the American mainstream. Therefore, I show how New York provides a space for ethnic navigation and negotiation with gendered constraints.

  • Neocontradictions: The Politics and Ideology of American Welfare State Decline

    Author:
    Darren Barany
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Aronowitz
    Abstract:

    This study historically investigates the circumstances - economic, political, and ideological - out of which the American political culture would shift to the right and become hostile to welfare. It is in part a genealogy of contemporary welfare reform discourse, which is comprised by the synthesis of varied and contradictory components of conservative philosophy about family, work, responsibility, and the role of government. This study also contextualizes that discourse within the development of a conservative politico-ideological apparatus. Today's conservative movement in the United States is the fusion of other sub-strands of conservatism and has successfully defined the parameters of acceptable discourse around the issue of welfare. It has developed a large pool of resources, become adept in the arena of activist and electoral politics, built a vast infrastructure for the production and deployment of ideas, and established a resilient presence in the everyday lives of Americans. Therefore a study of the erosion of the American welfare state must trace the development of these ideas and the means by which they became policy orthodoxy. Argued here is that the conservative movement's success in affecting welfare reform can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, it can be attributed to the consolidation and organization of libertarian and traditionalist conservatism and to the mastery of ideological production by a conservative politico-ideological apparatus or policy planning network. Secondly, it can be attributed to the emergence of varied conservative ideas on work, family, equality, and personal responsibility as a new policy consensus which was itself a consequence of important transformations in social and economic conditions. The post-war conservative movement has been dynamic and has managed its own ideological tensions by continually refining its argument and perfecting its methods of framing issues. It has contributed to altering the political culture in relation to the welfare state and related issues The subjection of welfare state programs to ongoing critique has enabled the social safety net to become vulnerable to reforms which have gradually altered them to be more consistent with the shifting requirements of the economic system and elite preferences.

  • Don't Push Me Over the (Knowl)Edge: The Social Correlates of Latino High School Dropouts

    Author:
    Robert Baskerville
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Juan Battle
    Abstract:

    According to the forecast of the US Census Bureau, Latinos are the largest, fastest-growing ethnic group within the United States today and will comprise the majority of the US labor force sometime during the mid-21st century. Yet today, the youth of this diverse segment of the population are plagued by alarmingly high high school dropout rates, about double that of African-Americans youth and triple that of white youth. This yawning disparity prompts the examination of the social conditions contributing to this social crisis. How do demographic, aspirational, school-level, and socioeconomic variables affect the decision that so many Latino youth make to drop out of high school? Employing three waves from the Educational Longitudinal Study (2002, 2004 & 2006), this study seeks to add to the discussion of the causes of dropping out among Latinos by examining factors that influence high school persistence rates for a nationally representative sample of Latino youth. This dissertation's theoretical framework combines Bourdieu and Passeron's theory of societal reproduction, labeling theory, and social motivation theory. Variables from all three levels exerted some influence on dropout patterns among Latino youth. Attending a high school located in an urban center was especially significant in predicting the likelihood that a Latino in our sample would drop out of high school, despite the well-known personal costs.

  • GENDER (IN)EQUALITY IN POLAND FOUR YEARS AFTER ENTERING THE EU: YOUNG POLISH FEMINISTS SPEAK THEIR MINDS - CASE STUDY OF KONSOLA ORGANIZATION

    Author:
    Maria Biskup
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Hester Eisenstein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation concerns the study of gender (in)equality in Poland as it is experienced by the young Polish feminists themselves. Through in depth interviews, an ethnographic study of young Polish feminists belonging to the most active feminist organization in Poznan, Poland, supplemented by works of contemporary Eastern European as well as Western feminists I have tried to show how feminism is experienced, explained, lived through, fought for and talked about in contemporary European Union belonging Poland. I argue that feminism, although known on a large scale in Poland, still has a status of a problematic word on which a spell of suspicion had been set due to particulars of Polish history, including the treatment of gender issues by the Communist government, the Solidarity Trade Movement and the understated power of the Polish Catholic Church in this matter. Because each of these institutions created their own meaning of gender rights and feminism overall, these confusing messages have for years entangled and problematized the meaning of feminism, creating unflattering stereotypes of what feminism is as a movement, who feminists are, what they are fighting for and in what manners. Feminism became associated with images of burly women who burn bras, don't shave their legs and hate men. Although feminism in Poland is still largely relegated to the academic sphere, the actions these young active feminists take, such as their growing presence on the local scale through organizing, sponsoring and coordinating feminist events, cooperation with other women's organizations in organizing, conferences and publications on the issues of women's presence on the local and national levels in the media, have been slowly paying off. Because of the efforts of women from KONSOLA, feminism is becoming a less problematic word in the contemporary Poland.

  • Impact of Ethnic Conflict on Development: A Case Study of Guyana

    Author:
    Visnoonand Bisram
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Stanley Kornblum
    Abstract:

    Abstract Impact of Ethnic Conflict on Development: A Case Study of Guyana By Visnoonand Bisram Adviser: Professor Stanley Aronowitz The study presents an alternative framework, from the dominant political and economic theories, for explaining the feeble and relatively slow pace of development of an ethnically divided, resource rich country. The study, using primary and secondary sources, empirical evidence, and interpretive analysis, examines the emergence and role of racial conflict and its stifling impact on national development in Guyana, which represents an extreme case of a society plagued by racial division. Organizations including labor unions and political parties, as well as occupations and aspects of the economy, among other social constructs, are all racially divided. Utilizing an inter-disciplinary (sociology, political science, economics, history, anthropology, culture) scope of investigation, the study explains: how Guyana became a multi-ethnic state, how ethnic rivalry emerged during colonialism; how ethnicity has shaped its development; how racial conflict was advanced by colonial forces to serve their interests; how it became institutionalized; how it was used by the US and UK to delay the independence of the colony; and how the race conflict affected the political and economic development of the post-colonial state including its debilitating impact on social change. The study determines that the failure of development in Guyana is tied to a range of interrelated social issues and problems associated with ethnic identity and rivalry. The study discusses various theories on economic development and on ethnic conflicts in order to explain Guyana's ongoing racial conflict and illustrates some effects of conflict on Guyana's development. It examines, discusses, interprets, and analyzes various variables (power and economic control) impacting on ethnic relations and politics in Guyana and their effects on the country's overall development. It also looks into the causes for heightened ethnic competition and conflict attributing blame to both major (largely ethnic) political parties, PPP and PNC, and their respective founding leaders, Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Mr. Forbes Burnham as well as their respective supporters, Indians and Africans. The study also proposes solutions as models of governance to manage ethnic conflict to facilitate development. The study has implications for similar societies serving as a guide to help resolve ethnic conflicts that could affect national development.

  • The Myth of the Unteachable: Youth, Race and the Capacity of Alternative Pedagogy

    Author:
    Cathy Borck
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Sociology
    Advisor:
    Paul Attewell
    Abstract:

    My research consisted of three years of qualitative inquiry, including 62 interviews with members of the Department of Education, school administrators, teachers and students, as well as a yearlong ethnography at a transfer school that I chose because of its history of success with the city's hardest- to-reach youth. To my knowledge, mine is the first formal study of New York City transfer schools. "Transfer schools" are New York City's public alternative schools, which serve "over-age, under- credited" high school students (i.e. students who are "behind" in school). These students experience many challenges and interruptions to their education, including homelessness, incarceration, immigration, financial hardship (that can require students to work during school hours), being (teen) parents, drug addiction, and having to care for sick or dying family members, to name a few. There are presently 44 transfer schools in the city, and the overwhelming majority of students who attend them are poor youth of color. I engage existing scholarship on education policy, social reproduction, and critical race theory, and prioritize the voices of students and teachers in my analysis. In The Myth of the Unteachable: Youth, Race and the Capacity of Alternative Pedagogy, I make three main arguments. First, I describe how schools contribute to the reproduction of race and class inequalities. However, my data show that when economically disadvantaged students of color are instructed to locate their own academic "failures" in the historical context of an education system that has consistently produced unequal outcomes, those students can learn to see the difference between their personal failures, and the failures of the school system, and this helps them to regain the self-esteem necessary to make significant educational progress. Second, I show how accountability-era (2001-present) education policies like the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Obama administration's Race to the Top (RTT) undermine public education and especially frustrate the work of transfer schools that serve "at-risk" youth. Contributing the case of transfer schools to extant scholarship on the more general harms of NCLB and RTT, I follow education policy from the national to the local level, describing how policies trickle down to affect individual transfer schools, teachers and students in damaging and destructive ways. Lastly, using psychoanalytic theory, I apply the concept of "working alliance" to student-teacher relationships, articulating how these relationships affect student outcomes. In educational contexts, working alliance refers to generative and productive relationships between teachers and students. The development of a working alliance entails achieving consensus about what school is for, and how learning occurs. This requires agreement about goals and tasks, and is especially strengthened by the development of interpersonal bonds between students and teachers. I describe how working alliances can be achieved, and illustrate how the development of these alliances increased student retention and achievement.