It’s always nice to take a break in the busy start to the Fall semester and welcome our new colleagues. Friends new and old gather on the patio for refreshments and good company. Welcome!
In our celebrity obsessed culture, it’s easy to forget that the lives of everyday people have interest and value. Austin, Texas has built a reputation on the cultural capital of its live music scene and the many artists and “keeping it weird” citizens that make it a funky oasis in a very conservative state. The Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City collaborative book project (edited by Dr. Javier Auyero) looks at another side of the phenomenal growth and relentless drone of Austin’s self-promotion. From the website:
Born out of a graduate seminar at the University of Texas, twelve graduate students—inspired and sometimes disturbed by the academic work on poverty in the Americas—set forth to create something different. We initially called ourselves the “OSA group”, referencing our interest in the “other side of Austin.”
This collective enterprise was not the product of a clearly defined research project, but what we came to see as an intellectual adventure. We read extensively, brainstormed over potluck dinners and started to get to know the people that would become the inspiration for each chapter.
Invisible in Austin launches at Book People on Friday, September 4th and will be a major event, just the beginning of talks held on campus and in schools around Austin that will take the project into classrooms and onto book club reading lists (like Senator Kirk Watson’s, for example). The word is spreading fast, Publisher’s Weekly put it on the August 31 pick of the week list. It’s heartening to see how interested people are in the stories of those who are being pushed aside in the mad rush of gentrification.
I asked three of the book’s co-authors (Caitlyn Collins, Katie Jensen and Marcos Perez) how the project continues to inform their experience of Austin, collaborative authorship and continuing friendships with the people who opened their lives to this ethnography. I found the stories to be compelling and compassionate portrayals of fellow citizens who are giving us the opportunity to engage our humanity.
I asked them what stayed with them the most from the interviews and their connections with the person they wrote about:
Marcos Perez – Manuel: The Luxury of Defending Yourself
One of the most gratifying aspects of doing ethnography is that you really get to know people. Ethnography gives you the opportunity to learn about people’s ideals, history, fears and hopes. Every individual life is a complex mix of events, contexts and dispositions, and the methodologies we used in the book allowed us to capture that. In the case of Manuel, I was amazed from the very beginning by his capacity to overcome barriers, and by his enthusiasm in helping others overcome obstacles as well. My interviews with him also reminded me that people cannot be limited to one category: only half of the time in our meetings dealt with immigration and activism. The other half we talked about countless other topics, from sports to travel plan to family to school.
Katie Jensen – Kumar: Driving in the Nighttime
What stays with me the most from my interviews with Kumar is the warmth, kindness and generosity of Kumar and his family. When I first met Kumar and asked if I could interview him as part of a project about Austin, he was affirmative –“Yes, yes, that’s good”– and yet unconcerned with what I was going to ask him about. He simply wanted someone to help him with his English; his night schedule as a taxi driver made it difficult to attend formal classes. He had little concern for what was the trade. And, as a former teacher and professor in Nepal, he is very used to answering questions! Our meetings followed a predictable pattern; first we’d discuss English while drinking Nepalese coffee, and then I asked him my questions as we ate dinner. For the first few times that we met, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I waited for him to change his mind about opening up his home and his life to me, to decide it was too invasive, not worth it to share so much with a stranger. But that never happened. Instead, Kumar, Manu, Sobika, and Rabin continued to welcome me. I have eaten more meals with Kumar and his family than I can count. I have celebrated their holy days with them. Even now, long after the interviews finished, I’m still in touch with Kumar and his children. Kumar always asks me how my studies are going. They’ve even invited me to go to Nepal with them year after next. Once Kumar is eligible for U.S. citizenship, he will be able to return to his home country for the first time since he fled. That will be a very joyous day.
Caitlyn Collins – Raven: “The Difference between a Cocktail Waitress and a Stripper? Two Weeks”
I continue to be astounded by Raven’s strength, poise, and optimistic outlook given all that she has witnessed and overcome. Her stubborn positivity really struck me. What stays with me the most is our friendship; I really value our coffee dates, happy hours, and chats over pancake breakfasts that we’ve continued since our interviews came to a close. I feel lucky to watch her life unfold as time passes, and am even happier to report that she is in a stable job and happy partnership now. She shared so much with me that made it into the book, and I hope she has a sense for how powerful that act of sharing can be for others who read her words. I really feel honored to be able to tell her story.
Has it changed the way they look at Austin?
Katie Jensen: I think more than change the way I look at Austin – which, even after four years, still does not feel like “my” town – it has expanded my understanding of the city. Hearing and reading about the eleven individuals who fill the pages of Invisible in Austin over the course of years, who are rich in details beyond those which could fit into our chapters, very much changed the level of detail with which I see the city and imagine it in my mind. I cannot hear about or drive by a W hotel without thinking of Ethan and his life trajectory. I cannot pass by a domestic cleaning service car without thinking of Xiomara and her family. I cannot think of a storage unit without remembering Clarissa. When I fret about gentrification in Austin, I remember the tour de force that’s Ella. I cannot see an office printer without wondering about Chip and his health. And in this way, these labor fields or social groups become more than vague entities in my mind but filled with the lived experiences of real people. All of which have had lives, as Kumar says, not like a straight line, but “like the way a snake moves.”
Caitlyn Collins: I don’t sense that it has changed my outlook on Austin (I walk around with my sociology brain turned on constantly — too often, really), but I get the feeling that it will really change OTHER people’s outlook, and I am really excited about that. The first responses we’ve gotten from folks here have been overwhelmingly positive and people seem to respond strongly to the stories we tell. I think this momentum will only grow as we start doing talks and panels around town in the coming months, and as it is taught in undergraduate and graduate classes hopefully nationwide.
Marcos Perez: One of the first titles we considered for the book was “Through Their Eyes”. We eventually decided against it, but the phrase still conveys how many felt about the project’s main contribution: we are able to see the city through the eyes of eleven people. The chapters in the book (and the amazing photographs taken by Eva and Julia) hopefully will have the effect of making it impossible to see the city the same way after reading each of them. You cannot see aspects of urban life the same way, now that you know how they look from the perspective of others.
Will you consider creating another collaborative book project in the future?
Marcos Perez: Oh, yeah. I hope that projects like these continue at the Ethno Lab after the current cohort of students has graduated. And I sincerely expect that we will do a similar project from our new positions at different universities across the nation and the world.
Caity Collins: Absolutely. This project makes me believe even more in the beauty, power, and strength of collaborative ethnography. None of us on our own could have done this project – this was truly an instance of the total being greater than the sum of its parts.
Katie Jensen: It’s my hope that as the graduate students become professors, we may be able to repeat such a project in the future cities we will call home. Nothing in my life has taught me as much as this book about writing and treating with care and respect those who share their lives with us. We spent years together reading about interviewing, about social suffering, about the “creative class;” conducting interview after interview after interview; crafting narratives from those many hours of interviews; and finally figuring out the particular themes around which those narratives would hinge. During all that time, listening to Javier and the other graduate students (and probably talking too much), I came to more deeply understand the great responsibility we have as sociologists — to write well, to do justice to those we write about, and to try as hard as possible to make the book impact others in some of the ways it has impacted us.
As I read the book, I hear each chapter in the voice of its author. It conveys the intimacy and nuanced experience of storytelling and keeps me wondering how the people in these stories are doing . It is a testament to the personal commitment of the authors and the individuals who are portrayed in the book. This is how we share the best of what our community has to offer and how what starts here changes the world.
Sexualities in the Modern World? @UTAustinSOC says yes, in a big way. While our faculty, graduate students and alumni always represent at ASA, Longhorns will steer this year’s sexualities’ conversation in many directions. In glancing over the schedule, I found 82 presentations and table sessions and I’m sure there are more. I include a few of our graduate student presenters below.
“I Want Ghana to Continue to Live in the United States”: Cultural Identity among Second generation Ghanaian immigrants
Claims about the absence of transnational activities among second-generation immigrants do not often consider how racialization shapes these processes. This paper examines the extent to which the U.S.-born children of Ghanaian immigrants participate in a “transnational social field” (Glick-Schiller 2005; Levitt and Glick-Schiller 2004) where they simultaneously engage in Ghanaian life and culture, while fully immersed in American life. Ethnographic investigation of an organization that comprises 1.5- (foreign-born immigrants who moved to the United States prior to or during adolescence and attended school here) and second-generation Ghanaians in Houston, Texas leads me to ask why a group of ostensibly American youth would so strongly identify as Ghanaians. This ethnography examines the ways in which identifying with Ghana and as Ghanaians helps these mostly U.S.-raised youth make sense of their difference as racialized Americans and foreign Ghanaians.
Shantel Gabrieal Buggs
‘Your Momma Is Day-Glow White’: Questioning The Politics Of Racial Identity, Loyalty, And Obligation
This article utilizes discourse analysis and an autoethnographic approach to explore the impact of U.S. racial and ethnic categorization on the experiences of an individual marked as ‘mixed-race’ in terms of individual identity and familial/cultural group loyalty and obligation(s). This essay focuses on an incidence of public policing through the popular social networking platform Facebook, centering on the invocation of racial obligation by white friends and family members. I analyze how racial loyalty is articulated by friends and family members in their posts on my personal Facebook page and how this ‘loyalty’ is used as means of regulating my mixed-race identity performance. This essay aims to understand several things, namely how identity is mediated through the invocation of racial obligation and how tension around identity plays out in the multiracial family.
Work-Family Policies And Working Mothers: A Comparative Study Of Germany, Sweden, Italy, And The United States
Despite women’s common struggles to balance motherhood and employment, western countries have responded with drastically different work-family policies. Drawing on 100 in-depth interviews and field observation with middle-income working mothers in Germany, Sweden, Italy, and the United States, I examine how different ideals of gender, motherhood, and employment are reflected in and reinforced by the work-family policy regimes of these four countries. Given these different policy regimes, I investigate how working mothers negotiate the constraints and opportunities facing them daily as they balance motherhood and employment. Depending on a country’s level of policy support for women’s employment and caregiving, I observed variation in (1) how closely mothers identify with their policy regime’s ideal of motherhood and the “ideal worker,” and (2) the extent to which they experience guilt and tension about their identities as a mother and a worker. This is the first comparative study to incorporate mothers’ voices into the scholarly debates about the relationship between gender inequality and work-family policy around the world. Understanding women’s perspectives about what works – and what hinders – their achievement of work-family balance should be central to any scholarly endeavor to craft, advocate for, and implement work-family policy as a force for social change.
Elizabeth Cozzolino and Christine L. Williams
Child Support Queens and Disappointing Dads: Gender and Child Support Compliance
Despite increased spending on child support enforcement in the U.S. over the past 30 years, child support collections remain around 40%. Existing literature focuses on three main explanations for this low compliance: poor enforcement, inability to pay, and unwillingness to pay. These explanations either neglect gender or rely on outdated assumptions about gender. Our analysis of in-depth interviews with 21 members of separated families reveals two controlling images of separated parenthood—the child support queen and the disappointing dad—that may help explain the underpayment of child support. In a reversal of traditional parenting roles, we find that separated mothers are now evaluated on their ability to financially provide for their children while separated fathers are evaluated on the time and care that they provide. We argue that these changing expectations of fatherhood and motherhood may contribute to men’s unwillingness to pay child support and women’s reluctance to demand compliance.
Intergenerational Changes and Health: the Effects of Downward Educational Mobility
A clear majority of high school graduates in the United States decide to enroll in college. In addition to many economic benefits, higher levels of education create opportunities for better health. Social stratification by education creates inequalities in education and health that are socially reproduced within families. Given the context of educational expansion in the United States, this study used data from the General Social Survey to explore the detriments to self-rated health when adult children receive less education than their parents and how these detriments differ by sex and race/ethnicity. Binomial logistic regression models of self-rated health indicated that an individual completing less years of education than his/her mother (downward intergenerational educational mobility) increases the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health. In an era where an increasing number of Americans are completing higher levels of education, these findings illustrate the detrimental effects on health for those who are left behind.
Prevalence and Trends in Morbidity and Disability among Mexican American Elders in the Southwestern United States, 1993-2011
The aim of this study was to examine trends in morbidity and disability among elderly Mexican Americans residing in the southwestern United States. Seventeen-year panel data from the Hispanic Established Population for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly were used to make detailed comparisons specific to nativity, gender and five-year age groups. Results show that foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexican Americans, with a few exceptions, have similar prevalence rates for morbidity regardless of gender. Conversely, IADL prevalence is higher for foreign-born women. Nativity is found to be a significant predictor of IADL disability for females and ADL disability for males. The differences we report have important implications for health services and health policy. Given the rapid aging of the Mexican American population, the prevention and treatment of medical conditions and disabilities, particularly among the foreign-born should be a major public health priority to reduce ADL and IADL dependence in the community.
A “Safe Space” for Undocumented Immigrant Workers?: The Case of the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective
In the U.S., more than 117,600 immigrant, displaced, and homeless workers gather daily in public settings such as street corners, storefronts, and in recent years, worker centers, to procure “off-the books” employment. While “informal” or unregulated hiring sites have long been a common feature of the urban landscape, day labor worker centers represent a new organizational model that emerged in recent years to halt the exploitative practices associated with curbside hiring. Worker centers are thus said to represent a “safe space” for marginalized immigrant workers, particularly a growing number of women who are turning to these organizations to secure employment. While these immigrant organizations are increasingly taking on the role of labor market intermediary, creating recognizable day labor markets and sorting low-wage workers into the world of work in the U.S., they have been largely overlooked by scholars. This article examines new (day) labor organizing in the Latin American immigrant community through an ethnographic case study of the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective (SFDLP-WC). Through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with SFDLP-WC staff, members, and volunteers, I show that assumptions about gender difference are encoded into the worker center’s organizational practices, ideologies, and distributions of power, ultimately placing undue burden on the women members. I find that while worker centers are purported to be “safe havens” for undocumented workers, particularly women, they may actually reproduce existing structures of gender, race, and class inequality.
“Rutas y Desvios: Gender-based Violence, Bureaucratic Practices and (in)Justice in Nicaragua”
In Nicaragua, like other countries in Latin America, women’s police stations serve as the critical first point of contact with the state for women experiencing various forms of domestic violence. With the passage of Law 779 (Ley Integral contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres) in 2012, new requirements, such as prohibiting mediation and detaining suspected offenders, were introduced. A year later, Law 779 was reformed to permit mediation again under limited circumstances. Then, in August 2014, Nicaragua’s President Ortega signed an executive decree altering Law 779 to incorporate the involvement of community-level “Gabinetes de Familia” in the resolution of certain domestic violence cases. Drawing on participant observation in women’s police stations and in-depth interviews with women victims, this paper analyzes the relationship between these legal and political developments and the everyday interactions that women have with police. In doing so, it highlights both the constraints of local state actors embedded in a web of partisan bureaucracy as well as their agentic role in shaping different women’s ability to access legal justice in domestic violence cases.
Attendance at Museums and Live Theaters: Ethnic Disparities in Highbrow Out-of-the-House Leisure Consumption in Houston
Dynamics of compensation for the deprivations of segregation and discrimination, and the support of multiculturalism derived from ethnic cohesion explain the consumption of out-of-home highbrow leisure events by minority/ethnic individuals, immigrants, and their descendants as efforts toward their integration and assimilation in metropolitan areas. Using data from the Houston Area Survey, I examine whether there are any significant ethnic disparities in the attendance at museums and live theatres, which represent a relevant dimension of out-of-home highbrow leisure in Houston. I found that the odds of frequently attending museums and live theatres are lower for Anglos compared with non-Anglos, and higher for U.S.-born individuals with at least one foreign parent compared with U.S.-born individuals with U.S.-born parents. These findings reveal that the audiences of museums and live theatres in Houston are already characterized by a noteworthy ethnic diversity.
What About my Parents? Three Dilemmas of a Community-Based Campus Organization.
Based on a year of ethnographic research on a large organization of undocumented college students, this paper explores the contradictions experienced by activists in one of today’s most important social movements in the United States: the DREAMers. I argue that the dual nature of the organization under study, which is both community-grounded and campus-based, generates three dilemmas that severely affect the group and its members. The first dilemma concerns the organization’s goals, and is experienced as the hard choice between focusing on the needs of undocumented students and pursuing a more inclusive agenda that incorporates their families. The second dilemma is related to the organization’s mobilizing structures, and is caused by its strong ties to the local Latino community, which provides many types of resources but at the same time hinders the group’s appeal to other ethnic and national groups. Finally, the third dilemma stems from the clash between the member’s own identities as hard-working Americans and their experiences of exclusion and discrimination. I describe how these contradictions generate tensions among activists and how they complicate the relations with allied organizations. I also discuss how my findings apply to the nation-wide immigration reform movement. I conclude by exploring how the three dilemmas might shed light on the challenges currently faced by immigrant communities in the United States.
Is there really a “female advantage” in higher education? Reconceptualizing the “boy crisis” in education
A topic that dominates education these days is the “crisis” faced by boys’ due to underachievement relative to girls in education. In her best selling book, The War Against Boys: How misguided feminism is harming our young men (2001), Christina Hoff Sommers writes that “it’s a bad time to be a boy in America” (p. 13). She claims that misguided efforts of feminist and women’s groups have resulted in pathologizing boys and men, leading boys to be shut out of educational attainment because of teachers’ perceptions of their “bad behavior” compared to girls’ “good behavior.” This sentiment is accentuated in higher education, as scholars and others are alarmed over an apparent “dominance” of women, who earn a larger proportion of college degrees than men. However, it is not statistics but rather: (a) moral claims about discrimination against boys (particularly boys of color); and (b) a “female advantage” that is to blame for boys’ “disadvantage,” which are misguidedly at the root of most scholarly work done on this topic. In this paper, I will address current understandings of a “boys’ educational crisis” and show that it is a dangerous framing that follows heteropatriarchal logics without challenging gender norms. I argue that: (1) Men of color can easily fall into the trap of speaking ONLY from personal experience, blinding them to the way in which masculinity and male privilege also shape their experiences and their relative disadvantage; (2) A dichotomy that reproduces male dominance is re-created, disguised as “true equality.”
Doing Sexual Responsibility: Gay Men Navigating HIV Online
In this article, the author draws on 15 in-depth interviews with self-identified HIV negative gay men who use Adam4Adam.com for sexual purposes. The author examines how HIV discourses influence these men’s lives as they navigate their intimate and sexual relationships in cyberspace, and the author introduces the concept of doing sexual responsibility to illuminate how managing sexual health, HIV, and risk plays out on the interactional level within gay men’s online encounters. Specifically, the author shows how these men use the website interface to screen other users for HIV and how these men disclose one’s own status and safe sex practices. The author also exposes how these practices lead to the stigmatization of HIV positive individuals on the website. Lastly, the author uncovers how trust can lead to a contradiction of how gay men feel they should act and how they do act in certain sexual encounters. The author concludes that new ways of discussing sexuality, HIV, and sexual health need to be engendered.
“From La Migra to El Amigo: The INS Campaign to Befriend Undocumented Immigrants during IRCA”
Before the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), the relationship between undocumented immigrants and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was highly antagonistic. Undocumented immigrants were distrustful of the immigration service due to its deportation mission that implemented deceitful tactics, including using children to lure their undocumented parents and sending letters to immigrants promising legalization only to deport them once they arrived to INS offices. However, this changed for a brief period after the passage of IRCA when INS transformed its image in the eyes of immigrants and became their amigo – their friend. INS accomplished this by engaging in a furious public relations campaign and training their staff to be supportive of immigrants as they applied for legal status – unprecedented measures for an agency that was set on deporting immigrants. This paper explains why INS, an organization that was defined by its enforcement duties and attempted to push out undocumented migrants, became an organization that altered its mission during IRCA to help undocumented migrants gain legal status. The author differs from other explanations of INS’ behavior during IRCA by extending interest-convergence theory and the implications that converging interests have on undocumented immigrants and racial minorities. Using a historical and content analysis of INS interviews, government documents and independent reports, the author expands interest-convergence theory to examine INS’ motivations for helping undocumented immigrants and transforming from the antagonistic migra to their amigo.
Race and Ethnic Differences in Reconstructing Childhood Health
Using the Health and Retirement Survey (n = 9,696) we analyze how race/ethnic disparities in retrospective ratings of child health and current levels of functional limitations are influenced by controls for specific sets of childhood health and socioeconomic conditions. This research is important because the lifecourse framework has become reliant on retrospective measures to operationalize child health. Generally, it’s assumed that reports of childhood health, socioeconomic status and diseases operate similarly across racial and ethnic groups, a questionable supposition considering substantial stratification in life experiences and access to medical care. Indeed, we find considerable race/ethnic differences in retrospective reports of child health with Blacks and Hispanics having higher odds of “fair/poor” child health than Whites. These differences are strengthened when childhood diseases are controlled for, and mediated when socioeconomic conditions are controlled. The lack of access to the health care system likely leads to underreporting of specific childhood conditions among minorities which leads to a suppressor effect when childhood diseases are controlled. Results from negative binomial models predicting the current number of functional limitations largely echo, albeit less strongly, the findings from the retrospective measures. Our results suggest that race/ethnic health disparities begin in childhood but also that childhood health is appraised differently between race/ethnic groups. Due to the observed differences, future life course work should use more general measures of child health than specific when exploring the origins of health disparities.
Change Over Time in Attitudes about Abortion Laws Relative to Recent Restrictions in Texas
Recent laws and regulations in the state of Texas have severely restricted access to abortion care; however, less is known about public opinion regarding such legislation. This study used the Houston Area Survey to investigate attitudes about abortion laws in 2009 (n = 1,393) and 2013 (n = 1,213), as a before-and-after comparison of 2011 restrictions. Descriptive results indicated a decrease in the proportion of Houstonians who were against restrictive abortion laws and who also reported conservative stances on welfare and immigration. Logistic regression analyses revealed that both before and after the 2011 legislation, the strongest predictors of public opinion on abortion laws were attitudes about gay marriage and political party affiliation. Multivariate results also suggested that Houstonians who were older and foreign-born were less supportive of restrictive abortion laws only following 2011 legislation. The findings of this study thus revealed continuity and change in attitudes (and correlates of attitudes) about abortion laws among respondents in the biggest city in Texas before and after the implementation of legislation severely limiting women’s access to abortion.
The study also has implications for current and future impacts on public opinion of the 2013 legislation, which received national attention following state Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster. Nationally, one in five pregnancies in 2008 end in abortion and in Texas this statistic is slightly lower at 15% of all pregnancies (Guttmacher 2011). Abortions performed in Texas account for 7% of all abortions in the United States; however, in 2008 33% of women lived in one of the 92% of Texas counties without an abortion provider (Guttmacher 2011). Although legal, abortion is an increasingly difficult procedure for Texas women to obtain because of recent laws targeting providers. Legislation in 2003, 2011, and 2013 not only inhibited providers’ ability to serve their patients but also created obstacles to women seeking abortions. Tied to the recent legislation is the increasingly vitriolic public discourse and debate surrounding abortion laws. In this study, I take advantage of a unique dataset, the Houston Area Survey (HAS), to investigate public opinion about abortion laws before and after the 2011 legislation.
Social Effects of Immigrant Detention, Removal, and Return
The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) marks a restrictionist and punitive turn in contemporary United States immigration enforcement. The IIRIRA has made it significantly easier to deport non-U.S. citizens (Hagan, Eschbach and Rodríguez 2008; Rodríguez and Hagan 2004) and accounts for the nearly ten-fold increase in deportations since its passage, with Mexican citizens representing the vast majority of deportations. Despite these trends, few studies have examined the social impacts of IIRIRA, particularly such impacts of increases in detention and deportation. My research addresses this lacunae in immigration literature by assessing the intended and unintended consequences of IIRIRA for Mexican nationals, the largest group impacted by the legislation. In this paper, I uncover and examine the social effects of post-IIRIRA deportation law and practices on returning migrants in Mexico—Mexican nationals who recently returned to Mexico after living in the U.S. without documents, including deportees and other non-deportee returnees. I consider how current U.S. immigration enforcement affects their lives now, how it stays with them (or not) back in Mexico. I consider how this enforcement constrains them in Mexico—the various tangible and intangible, concrete and abstract forms of constraint they experience as a result of interacting, in some capacity, with the system of U.S. immigration enforcement.
Thanks in part to the generous support of the College of Liberal Arts, our Chairperson, Rob Crosnoe and our Graduate Studies Chair, Pamela Paxton each led a 4-day writing workshop to help students boost their summer journal submissions.
Rachel, a 2014 cohort member tells us how she felt after the first session with Rob Crosnoe:
As a first year graduate student, the Summer Writing Workshop with Dr. Rob Crosnoe was incredibly beneficial. Producing and publishing research is pivotal to our success as current graduate students and future assistant professors, and I feel more knowledgeable and confidant after this 4-day workshop than after a year of coursework. Learning Dr. Crosnoe’s strategies, applying them to my own paper, and receiving his feedback helped me develop skills that will be useful for all current and future projects. I find myself already applying his advice on organization and framing to papers that I am co-authoring in addition to my own sole-authored projects. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this workshop so early in my graduate school career. The experience was invaluable.
The 14 participants in each workshop were initially paired to give each other feedback. Each person submitted a paper they wanted to develop from a prior class project or their thesis or dissertation chapters for Rob’s review and critique. They will work in groups of 3 or 4 throughout the summer, using what they learned in the sessions to improve their papers and chances of an R & R or acceptance. Chelsea, a fourth year student writes:
The biggest thing I took away from the writing workshop was how to structure the argument of a paper. I now have a template for writing papers that relies on sequential logic that is clearly laid out in a conceptual model. The template for the introduction section is especially helpful because I used to struggle with getting started on writing yet keeping a concise and focused introduction. Tied to the overall paper structure, Rob had us complete consistency reports, which checked for consistency within each aim/hypothesis/research question/theme across each section of the paper. The first hypothesis, for example, should be clearly stated in the introduction, explained in the lit review, described how it will be tested in the method section, findings shown in the results section, and assessed in the discussion section. I plan to use the template and consistency report in all papers I write from now on.
Tracking the writing group meetings and subsequent journal submissions will provide outcomes and data that will be useful in assessing the success of this pilot program. It’s exciting to encourage students in every stage of their program to engage in the conversation and the practice of writing. As Robert states:
The most important thing the writing workshop offered was the opportunity to discuss our plans for our papers in a guided, productive, and informative way. I’m referring both to the structure of the papers themselves and the journal submission process. Rob did a great job of condensing a lot of the writing process down into a solid introduction, a continuity plan, and a conclusion that ties everything back together — with a mind towards your audience and, as Christine put it, “Who you’re in conversation with.” The simple exercises we did along the way served as a great foundation to begin or revise writing, and after even just one meeting with the writing group we formed I can already tell it has increased my productivity.
Ellyn, no stranger to the world of publishing, still learned valuable lessons and gained inspiration from her colleagues:
I found the writing workshop to be so helpful because it provided an organizational framework that I can take with me into my different writing projects. It made me focus and identify my research questions, forced consistency throughout the different sections of my paper, and gave me the support and encouragement of peer feedback. This workshop really motivated me to set specific goals for submitting my work to a journal, and with the help of my writing group I am confident that I will be able to meet that goal.
Looking forward to hearing from the writing groups as they join forces to stay motivated and focused on polishing and publishing their research. Many thanks to our peerless leaders, Rob and Pam!
UT Austin Sociologists addressed fallout from two gender stories in the news this week. Dr. Christine Williams, responded to a highly publicized and embarrassing training session offered by the City of Austin to prepare it’s employees to work effectively with the new city council, an unpredented majority of whom are women. In her blog post for Work in Progress (the ASA Organizations and Occupations blog) Dr. Williams discusses some of the issues diversity training faces.
Diversity training not only reinforces gender stereotypes, it teaches men and women that they have personality differences that suit them to different roles in the organizational hierarchy. In one case, a senior geophysicist explained that after taking a company sponsored Myers-Briggs test, she learned that supporting others is what she truly wants and needs to thrive and that she lacks the “personality” to be a leader. In her case, diversity training provided a justification for why men monopolize the top positions in the corporation, and why women with their “soft skills” are men’s ideal “supporters.”
Diversity training sessions are often an embarrassment, but they do not have to be that way. Imagine if Austin had hired consultants to teach staffers to spot and respond to gender stereotypes, and to help them to develop a deeper understanding of how stereotypes bolster privilege and exclusion. Instead of teaching men and women to accept the “facts” of gender differences, training sessions could focus on how to promote gender equality. Now that would be worth celebrating.
Caitlyn Jenner has stepped into her role as champion for transgender people with the determination of an Olympic athlete, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. The privilege she enjoys as a wealthy, beautiful woman with an established public forum in reality television gives her an unusual platform for advocacy. While she has plenty of detractors, she enjoys a level of public interest and sympathy most transgender people never know. Her voice is being heard.
Thatcher Combs, a graduate Sociology student in our program was interviewed by Alberta Phillips for a recent article published in the Austin American Statesman. He makes a powerful statement about the nuances of gender conformity and privilege.
“Caitlyn Jenner’s “coming out” was received with a mix of applause and criticism. She has become a symbol of transgender rights, joining others such as Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black,” reaching the mainstream as never before. But critics charge that she would not be so celebrated were she not beautiful, rich and glamorous. It is, after all, difficult to emulate such a dramatically polished femininity without Jenner’s economic resources. The question remains whether Caitlyn’s coming out will further the interests of the transgender community and the LGBT movement overall.
The mainstream LGBT movement has focused most of its attention thus far on the acceptance of gays and lesbians. The success of the movement is due in large part to the politics of conformity and respectability. The choice to pursue equality through gay and lesbian rights by challenging barriers to military service and marriage rights reinforces the value of conventional lifestyles. Pursuing these avenues to acceptance made gays and lesbians seem “normal” in the eyes of many heterosexuals.
As the nation waits to hear the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage later this month, many wonder what will come next for the mainstream LGBT movement. With the fight for same-sex marriage drawing to a close, is it possible that we are now witnessing a newly burgeoning “mainstream” transgender movement?
Having captured global attention first as an Olympic champion and more recently as a member of the Jenner/Kardashian reality television family, Caitlyn may be the one person in the U.S. today who has the potential to normalize transgender people and gain acceptance for transgender rights.
But there are costs to making Jenner the movement’s new poster child. She conforms to feminine beauty standards — in facts she excels at them, just as she excelled at masculine standards when she lived as a man. But what she does not do is challenge society’s stereotypes of masculinity and femininity. Where does this leave the majority of transgender people who may not be able to, or may not want to, fit normative standards of masculinity or femininity?
We must not forget, as we celebrate Jenner’s “coming out,” that financial success has allowed her to transition into the beautiful woman she is, yet there are transgender people who cannot physically transition for financial or medical reasons. In fact, many transgender people of lower socioeconomic status continue to pay a heavy price for attempting to live as who they are.
The fight for transgender rights and acceptance should also focus on the many children who are thrown out of their homes or who run away because their genders do not match the norms. We must address the fact that many transgender women, especially women of color, meet daily with verbal and physical assault, even murder.
Caitlyn Jenner has helped bring visibility to the transgender community. But broadening the fight for transgender rights beyond the world of the rich and famous will require recognizing that our current definitions of gender are simply too narrow, and our social policing of gender boundaries is inhumane.”
The struggle for our humanity requires challenges to norms which hinder the acceptance of our very real diversity. Gender norms are front and center in a very competitive field of necessary changes.
At this weekend’s Computational Social Science Summit at Northwestern University, scholars working at the intersection of computer science, social science, and information science converged to share their work. As someone who applies computational methods to answer sociological questions, the summit was like a reunion with people I never see at my usual conferences but whose papers I read enthusiastically. The summit began with workshops (computational basics like bash commands and version control with git, text analytics, R for social network analysis, and Python for natural language processing) and a Datathon (basically a hackathon for social science). The general sessions included panels and a series of five stellar keynotes.
The keynotes provided deep insights from leaders at the cutting edge of computational methods in social science research. David Ferrucci (led the team that built Watson – the computer that won Jeopardy) provided high-level insights into learning, meaning, and statistics, as well as the processes underlying computational approaches for stitching together processes into products. A sociologist by training, Sandra González-Bailón has been at the forefront of using social media data and sophisticated computational methods to understand social movements as they increasingly employ online platforms. Neuroscientist Moran Cerf discussed the brain and highlighted the social forces and processes that shape the brain on the most basic, physical level. Michael Macy made a strong argument for big data as the end, not of theory, but of statistics. Information science professor Katy Börner presented and discussed her film Humanexus, a collaboration with two artists illustrating how knowledge and communication have changed and are changing through the ages.
There is so much opportunity in this high-profile interdisciplinary field and this summit provides training, exposure to the most recent findings and methodological innovations in the field, and an opportunity to get to know the folks doing the work. The summit’s small size (it sold out!) and lots of integrated breaks and social events made it easy to get to know lots of potential collaborators. I hope that next year UT Austin can have a stronger contingent of sociologists at the Summit!
It’s always fun to meet our future cohort members and finally put a face to a name. As Austinites, we have a natural inclination to talk about how much we love it here, perfect for recruiting our new colleagues. Who will be back in the fall?
By: Pamela Neumann
This past weekend, Dr. Harel Shapira and the Department of Sociology’s Ethnography Lab hosted the 5th Annual Craft of Ethnography Workshop—an informal workshop that gathers a small group of graduate students and faculty ethnographers from around the country to share their work, exchange ideas, and promote the development of a community of scholars. One of the highlights of the workshop this year was a special “Master Class” with Dr. Jack Katz (UCLA). Reflecting on his distinguished career as an ethnographer–and a keen observer of social life–, Katz offered a number of valuable insights for those of us, like me, who are just beginning to learn and practice this craft.
One key point that Katz repeatedly emphasized is that in any ethnographic analysis of social life, it is critical to consider at least three main dimensions: (1) interaction, (2) sequence, and (3) embodiment. Much of what goes on in the world around us, Katz emphasized, is driven by the kinds of interactions that occur between individuals or groups. However, it is not enough to note the interaction itself, but the myriad situational characteristics that provide context for whatever verbal or non-verbal exchange is occurring. The task of the ethnographer is not merely to note these interactions, but also take into account their sequence, and the ways in which the order of interactions influences how subsequent events unfold. At the same time, the meanings of situations are not solely to be found in language, or discourse, but are also embodied in various ways, such as through emotions.
Katz, who is the author of How Emotions Work (2001), argued that while emotions sometimes get short shrift, they are in fact a key way to better understand social ontology—that is, why people act the way they do in particular situations. In our quest to understand “why people do what they do,” Katz encouraged participants to consider how actions can be seen as people’s attempts to solve or resolve existential or moral questions. From this point of view, seeming “inconsistencies” or variation in the same individual’s strategies for dealing with similar situations (or their narratives about those actions) might no longer be seen as necessarily contradictory but rather an evolving set of responses based on affective or experiential knowledge acquired in prior situations.
In addition to these theoretical insights into the process of data analysis, Katz also offered some helpful practical tips for the writing process, which can be summarized by a particularly pithy remark: “show me the people.” In other words, don’t spend too much time at the abstract level before presenting a concrete illustration, or a real person’s story, to substantiate your claims. Good writing moves back and forth between the theoretical to the empirical to build a coherent narrative.
All in all, the workshop was a wonderful opportunity to learn from and build new relationships with a diverse array of junior and senior scholars. Although ethnography is often thought of as a solitary craft, this past weekend provided a much needed dose of inspiration, collective effervescence and solidarity. I am glad to be on this journey.
While efforts in the corporate world to promote gender diversity have been ongoing since the 1990s, the representation of women at higher corporate levels is still relatively poor – more than 83 percent of board directors are still male. In new research on women scientists in the oil and gas industry, Kristine Kilanski examines the effectiveness of corporate diversity programs. She finds that despite the good intentions of these programs, they can work to shift an organization’s focus away from the sources of gender inequality, and often do little to help women advance through the corporate ranks.
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