“The Occlusion of Empire in the Reification of Race: A Postcolonial Critique of the American Sociology of Race”: In a series of case studies, I problematize the reification of race in the American Sociology of race from a postcolonial perspective. I argue prominent theories within the American sociology of race tend to essentialize race as a cause of racial inequality in the United States. These theories assume the existence of racial categories and then discuss how other entities become racialized into racialized social systems (Bonilla-Silva 1997), or racial projects (Omi & Winant 1994). These theories emphasize national structures, but occlude empire. I argue the occlusion of empire in the American sociology of race, particularly in theorization of racial categorization, is problematic. Empire is the structure that links race to class inequality, and produces race as a social category of exclusion. Therefore, a sociological theory of American racial inequality, which does not analyze imperialism as a structure that produces race, and rather focuses solely on national-structures, or a definition of capitalism severed from imperialism, cannot provide a thoroughly structural explanation for the persistence of racial inequality in the United States.
My dissertation is a study of religion and race in the context of contested globalization. I examine contemporary movements within African American Christianity that engage with Israel and Palestine. These vary from Christian Zionists that work closely with the religious right, to Palestinian solidarity activists that emphasize a common emancipatory project between African Americans and Palestinians. Considering a wide range of black church responses to the conflict, I approach questions about what black churches are, how they understand their social role, and how race, religion, and politics converge within American Christianity. I analyze expressions of black religious politics in the United States that diverge significantly in their interpretations of the Bible, their public theologies, and their modes of political engagement. But, across the theological and political spectrum, I find that the Christians I study all concern themselves with understanding the implications of their faith in the context of the global Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I argue that black religious politics can be studied as a field of contestation, analyzing connections between national- and global-level fields of black religious politics.
University at Albany, SUNY
“Marriageable Us, Undesirable Them: Reproducing Social Inequalities through Marital Boundaries”: Previous efforts applying a one identity at work model suggest that upward mobility serves as an engine for marital assimilation. However, it does not fully explain the racial and gender asymmetry associated with intermarriage. My dissertation is based on evidence culled from interviews with highly achieving, Chinese-speaking immigrants residing in the San Diego area. I am applying an intersectionality approach to addressing issues concerning why, when and how group differences affect the construction of marriageability, defined as marital boundaries based on distinctions between “us” and “them.” I found that although Taiwanese immigrants are very similar to Chinese ones, the former generally views the latter as “them” because of the group’s strong feelings of Taiwanese national identity. Yet, both groups show similar patterns in terms of redrawing their marital boundaries along race, class, and gender lines. Generally, white supremacy makes the immigrants embrace white people regardless of their class differences. Yet, one’s upper-class background can mask his/her undesirable racial and ethnic differences. Further, the immigrants’ essentialist approach to care manifested by their evaluations of their non-Chinese in-law’s performance has sufficient power to undo marital boundaries, suggesting that gender trumps on the family level. Finally, I found that morality serve as sources of legitimacy for the immigrants’ preferences. I identify dynamic movement between marital and moral boundaries by showing an arbitrary relationship among perceived moral traits and group difference perceptions.
“The Unequal Neighborhood: Poverty, Privilege, and Beautiful Blight in Detroit”: How do poverty and privilege live in the same places? My dissertation draws on nearly three years of ethnographic fieldwork while I lived in Northwest Detroit to answer this question. Northwest was an extremely depopulated poor black neighborhood. Residents spotted wild deer as often as they heard gunshots. Nevertheless, since 2010 white urban farmers had moved into Northwest, who bought houses from $500 and started gardens on vacant lots. In seven substantive chapters, I newly theorize the relationship of disadvantage and advantage to the city. Moving beyond a geographical understanding of place inequality as only distributed in space, I show how historical and contemporary inequalities shaped how residents differently experienced place. I develop the concept of the “unequal neighborhood” to explain how disadvantage and privilege, and stigma and distinction, can co-exist and be (re)produced in the same place. My chapters examine street life, violence and trauma, relationships to the home, nature, and blight, and racial politics in Northwest, to better understand how unequal experiences emerge, co-exist, and may depend on each other in place.
Joel Michael Crombez
University of Tennessee – Knoxville
“The Anxiety and the Ecstasy of Technical Vertigo: Developing a psycho-sociological framework for critical socioanalysis”: My research is rooted in critical theory and comparative historical methodology. My goal is to demonstrate the social roots of anxiety, to explain how anxiety developed and transformed throughout the history of modern (and postmodern) societies, to frame the role that political economy and technology play in the spread of anxiety as they shape social and identity structures, and finally to propose a method to improve the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety. I call this method critical socioanalysis. It shares common elements with psychoanalysis, including a foundation in talk therapy which places the onus for defining the ailment on those who suffer from it, while creating a space and time for guided conversations with the self, designed to unblock anxiety. Critical socioanalysis focuses on the psychosocial structures that shape our thoughts and actions throughout the life course as direct consequences of the logic of capital and the technologization of our reality and builds on the theories developed by Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Freud, the first-generation of the Frankfurt School, and French social theory.
Stony Brook University
“Redoing Gender: how non-binary people navigate the gender binary system”: Gender scholars have begun to adjust gender theory to account for the experiences of transmen and transwomen; however, these adjustments fail to account for the experiences of those who reject the gender binary altogether, such as non-binary/genderqueer people. This oversight is unfortunate, given that those who defy binary gender classification are uniquely well-positioned to illuminate a new angle of the sex/gender/sexuality nexus. Redoing Gender: how non-binary people navigate the gender binary system advances gender scholarship by exploring how 47 non-binary people from around the world experience and navigate the gender binary system—or the institutionalized belief in two and only two genders (man and woman). These interviews illuminate the regulatory impact of the gender binary system, as well as the effect that this ideology has upon people’s gender identity, gender expression, relationships with their bodies, relationships with others, and interactions with institutions. More broadly, this research contributes to sociological efforts to understand the social mechanisms that enable—and inhibit—social change.
In my dissertation, “Lawfully Entrapped: The Creation of Risk in the ‘War on Terror,’” I ask how domestic terrorism sting cases with numerous indicators of entrapment prevail in federal court despite case law designed to prevent these very policing practices. Employing a narrative-approach to the legal construction of innocence and guilt, I analyze over 5,000 pages of court filings and trial transcripts, supplemented with in-depth interviews with current and former legal practitioners and law enforcement officials. I find that the peculiar nature of the entrapment defense—as it has developed over the 20th century—is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by government officials granted broad legislative leeway and unprecedented surveillance capabilities in the pursuit of national security. I argue that the judicial branch is ill-equipped to adjudicate cases laden with such national security exceptions. The result is a system of speculative justice that targets—and overwhelming convicts—primarily Muslim men of color based on vague “threat assessments” rather than clear intent to do harm, and induces the kinds of risks it simultaneously seeks to prevent.
University of Washington
In late medieval Europe, emperors, landgraves, guilds, and town councils wrestled over determining the relevant authority over Jews in a patchwork landscape of overlapping jurisdiction. My dissertation examines urban expulsions of Jews as policy decisions reached within a political economy that placed increasing value on religiously-based concepts of the political community. My project accomplishes three key contributions. First, I center political dynamics as the relevant backdrop against and through which expulsion occurs. I have developed a new geocoded data set that tracks city and regional political institutions alongside Jewish community development and anti-Semitic pogroms and expulsions. Second, I give closer attention to the intersection between political and religious values. Drawing on sociological research, I include several conceptions of the presence of religiosity in medieval life. Third, I am producing a quantitative and systematic analysis of what is often narrative and not theory-driven. Historians have produced excellent regional and period-specific accounts of expulsions of Jews, but there is limited social scientific research, none of which identifies expulsion as a unique political outcome.
University of Chicago
“Learning to Listen: Knowledge of Value in Auditory Culture”: Though auditory culture is quickly emerging in the gallery arts, with exhibitions popping up at prestigious museums around the world, the art world is still learning to listen. Based on 105 semi-structured interviews and four years of ethnographic observation in Chicago, New York, and Berlin, this dissertation considers the relationship between the senses and aesthetic value. Disciplinary boundaries are not only worked out in organizational contexts, but actors also contest the definitions of what objects constitute their own disciplines. Sound art has had to rely, paradoxically, on conceptual texts for understanding. These textual value devices are the tools of economic agencement, rendering the aesthetic economic. Hearing is an embodied sensory process particular to the attention, adumbration, and affect of the listener, and it is unclear if sonic percepts are heard in common by evaluators. These findings suggest that language is the rhizome rendering the aesthetic economic. If embodied listeners are free to associate meanings without a mediating text, these emancipated spectators may engage in expanded discourse.
University of South Florida
In my Ph.D. dissertation project, titled “Geopolitics of Race and Contours of Whiteness: Census Categories and Racialization of People from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the United States,” I draw on historical documents, ethnographic research, and qualitative interviews to study why, despite their century-old fight for achieving “whiteness,” Middle Eastern and North African Americans have shifted their identity campaign for a racial re-categorization to the MENA category on the U.S. Census. My findings illustrate that theories of assimilation, which assume an “irreversible” and “progressive” move towards the middle class white center, are incapable of explaining the MENA campaign as a move in the opposite direction. These theories leave whiteness unexamined, psychologize racial differences, and due to their neglect for the structural barriers, hold immigrants responsible for their lack of integration. I also argue that theories of assimilation which center their analysis on “objective gains,” ignore, subjective aspects of belonging which, according to my participants, are impacted by global geopolitics and historical relationship between the metropole, namely the US, and the periphery.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
My dissertation, “Caught between Rights and Vows,” investigates how U.S. citizens negotiate immigration officials’ demands that they prove their marriages are authentic to obtain their spouses’ green cards. U.S citizens who have intimate partners in regions that U.S. Immigration defines as having “high marriage-fraud risk” face the challenge demonstrating their marriages are “real.” Using a multi-forum, self- help U.S. immigration website containing 2.2 million conversation threads, I conduct quantitative and qualitative content analysis on their postings along with a two-year virtual ethnographic immersion on the site. I show how gendered constructions of race/ethnicity, age, and family structure the ways that marriage fraud is debated. I argue that the virtual space allows petitioners, in their interactions with one another to essentially become border patrollers even before a case might reach an actual immigration authority. Policing the border is fundamentally connected to the petitioners reifying and reinforcing hegemonically racialized, gendered and ageist sexuality and family norms that define the criteria for legitimacy. This is the power the petitioners’ citizenship confers on them. However, that power is differently experience by women and men petitioners as framed by intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class and age. The onus appears to be higher on women, whether petitioners or beneficiaries to prove their compliance with the hegemonic norms.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
I study the social consequences of economic crisis. My dissertation explores how the structural and cultural processes of industrialization shaped the economic and social precarity characterizing contemporary, post-industrial communities in the United States. My contention is that industrial corporations played an undervalued role in shaping contemporary structural and cultural precarity. More generally, I show that non-state, institutional power structures can and do organize and constrain localized experiences of economic change, even generations after those institutions dissolve. Ultimately, I argue for a new framework for understanding deindustrialization: companies as governments, and workers as citizens, and deindustrialized regions as living landscapes of both sacrifice and promise. I use archival sources, interviews, and ethnography to analyze trajectories of economic history, cultural negotiation, landscape-scale change, and political economies of growth and decline. This project is part of my broader research agenda, which centers on how historical structures of capitalism–social, spatial, and economic–inform localized outcomes and lived experiences of home and community. I am interested in how place-based, working class communities adapt to globalizing economies and changing environments over time.
katrina quisumbing king
University of Wisconsin - Madison
I study racial exclusion from a historical perspective that foregrounds the state’s authority to manage populations. I focus especially on how the state defines colonized populations and how these people fit into the U.S. racial order. In my dissertation, entitled The Political Uses of Ambiguity: Statecraft and U.S. Empire in the Philippines, 1898-1946, I extend theories of state rule. I demonstrate how, in addition to projects of legibility, states institutionalize ambiguous classifications to expand their legitimacy. When the United States acquired the Philippines in 1898, U.S. lawmakers were faced with new questions about how to define the United States and its acquisitions. To resolve competing viewpoints about the scope of the constitution and the rights of colonial subjects, the Supreme Court decided that the territories would be considered “foreign in a domestic sense.” They belonged to, but were not part of the United States. For the next half century, ambiguity allowed the U.S. politicians to classify the Philippines and Filipinos in multiple, co-existing ways, exclude Filipinos from citizenship, and maintain geopolitical supremacy abroad.
University of Illinois at Chicago
“The Politics of Circumvention: The Off-Grid Eco-Housing Movement of Earthships”: This ethnographic study of Earthship home dwellers examines the agentic capacities of nonhuman materials in the processes of social caging and circumvention. Historically as humans began enrolling nonhumans into assemblages they conjuncturally gave rise to more delineated social relations. From artificial irrigation to electricity grids and the subsequent deontologies, individuals are discouraged from enacting a politics of escape, exodus, or in my language the Politics of Circumvention. The off-grid movement is the latest attempt at self-extrication from dominant socio-material relations. To make this lasting, off-gridders overcome labor specialization by connecting with other off-gridders. Together they terraform an assemblage that heats/cools itself, collects/reuses rainwater, treats waste, generates electricity onsite, and grows produce. This assemblage allows limiting relationships to the “grid,” generally defined as material and political relations that produce feelings of insecurity, harm, and dependence. While never completely off-grid, proponents practice voluntary simplicity, personal responsibility, and autonomy. Drawing off of Science Technology Studies, New Materialism, and other fields I develop a framework for an Object-Friendly Sociology.
University of Kansas
“America Versus the Environment? Nature, Humanity, and the Sacred, 1884-2014”: My dissertation combines social theory with historical and statistical analysis in order to examine the role of religious traditions in cultivating, or attenuating, environmental concern in the United States. Existing historical research anchors American environmentalism in specific religious denominations, while recent decades have seen an increase in calls for environmental action among religious leaders. Using data from the General Social Survey, I analyze changes in environmental concern across religious groups by birth cohort (from 1884 to 1996), religious upbringing, and calendar year (1973-2014). I also examine how religion differs in salience by race, class, gender, and political party affiliation. Finally, I analyze official church documents (such as Papal Encyclical letters in the case of Catholicism) to triangulate the statistical findings. Thus far I have uncovered evidence indicating that religious traditions exert variegated influences on believers with regard to environmental concern, but that a general upward trend in levels of environmental concern is present across the majority of faith traditions, which is in part influenced by official church pronouncements on environmental issues.
University of Notre Dame
My dissertation examines the micro and cultural processes enabling and constraining campaigns for social equality and cultural inclusion. Empirically, I draw on my in-depth ethnography with a social movement of religious minorities. This organization mobilizes for a range of causes including gender discrimination, preventing practices of female genital mutilation, and to “reclaim the swastika” as a peaceful religious symbol. By integrating theory from cultural sociology, microsociology, and cognitive social science, I create a framework for analyzing the situational conditions influencing the production and reception of protest events. I develop my dissertation in three main chapters. The first article integrates Goffmanian concepts and the dual process framework to explain how actors experience and resolve situations with emotionally conflicting meanings. The second chapter explains how the unequal distribution of attention structures interaction and the social organization of collective action. The third article uses embodied cognition to explain the mechanisms undergirding the situated of experience of shock, while explaining how shock becomes a mechanism enabling activists to use interaction for cultural change.
University of Toronto
In my dissertation, I address recent sociological debates about how culture shapes action. To do so, I re-construct the history through which recent debates emerged and analyze three sets of data: conversations between pedophiles on a public Web Forum; 39 secondary in-depth interviews with British seniors tasked to think about death and dying; and 32 in-depth interviews conducted with individuals living in the Toronto, Canada area who work in sales. By re-constructing the history of current debates, I demonstrate how the rejection of Parsons had the unintended consequence of leading sociologists to frame the internalization of cultural elements as unmediated by individuals’ broader identities. This tendency becomes most visible in recent uses of the dual-process model where individuals are framed as relying on shared schematic information that they seamlessly internalize through everyday experience. In my data analysis, however, I find that individuals demonstrate great – yet patterned – variation in the extent to which they understand and mobilize such information. I draw on recent developments in the study of intuition to make sense of this finding.