Category Archives: Political Sociology

Maro Youssef in Carnegie on Gender and Radicalization in Tunisia

UT Austin sociology doctoral candidate Maro Youssef and co-author Hamza Mighri have written an op-ed for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Women’s Groups and Radicalization in Tunisia.

They write:

Tunisian women’s associations aim to lead efforts to prevent radicalization among women, but insufficient funding and inter-organizational divides hamper their efforts. […]

As much as what drives the radicalization of young men, economic disparities, high unemployment and disenchantment with the democratic transition also drive women’s radicalization. […] More broadly, women’s associations also see women’s inclusion in society as key to preventing marginalization that could lead to extremism. By lobbying for gender equality and representation, cultivating civic engagement, and providing women with better economic opportunities, women’s organizations thereby reduce the risk of radicalization. […]

The role of women and feminist associations in tackling the roots of radicalization through combatting violence against women, improving access to education, providing opportunities for entrepreneurship, and encouraging participation in the political process through civil society or politics is crucial to solving Tunisia’s security problems in the long run.

To read the full op-ed, see Carnegie Empowerment for International Peace.


Maro Youssef is a doctoral candidate in sociology at The University of Texas at Austin and a Fulbright-Hays Fellow.  Her research is on gender, democratization, and social movements in the Middle East and North Africa.

New book by department alum Caitlyn Collins

By Jamie O’Quinn

Caitlyn Collins, a UT Austin sociology PhD  and now Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is making waves with her brand-new book, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving. This cross-cultural analysis is based on her dissertation research and explores the interconnectedness of motherhood, work, and the state across four countries: Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United States.

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Princeton University Press

Caitlyn’s recent New York Times op-ed, “The Real Mommy War is Against the State”, details more about the book:

“In the course of my interviews, I discovered that American working mothers generally blame themselves for how hard their lives are. They take personal responsibility for problems that European mothers recognize as having external causes. The lesson here isn’t for overwhelmed American parents to look longingly across the Atlantic; it’s to emulate the Swedes, Germans and Italians by harboring the reasonable expectation that the state will help ….

‘Balance’ is a term that came up relentlessly in my conversations with women in the United States. But framing work-family conflict as a problem of imbalance is merely an individualized way to justify a nation of mothers engulfed in stress. It fails to recognize how institutions contribute to this anxiety.

The stress that American parents feel is an urgent political issue, so the solution must be political as well. We have a social responsibility to solve work-family conflict. Let’s start with paid paternal leave and high-quality, affordable child care as national priorities.”

Caitlyn’s call for us to use the sociological imagination and shift our focus from the individual to the institutional when it comes to parenting, gender, and labor is crucial in this current political moment. The stakes for paid parental leave are higher for communities of color since they already face systematic marginalization in the workforce, and state-funded social programs and services seem to occupy a more precarious space than ever in the weeks following the reopening of the U.S. government.

Caitlyn will be visiting the department on April 25th to discuss the book and will hold a workshop for graduate students in the Urban Ethnography Lab from 10-11:30am on how to conduct international ethnographic research. Please email me at joquinn@utexas.edu if you would like to RSVP for the workshop!


Jamie O’Quinn is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and the manager of the Urban Ethnography Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research investigates state and institutional efforts to regulate young people’s sexualities. You can follow her on Twitter at @JamieOQuinn1.

Meet Our New NSF Awardees!

To add to an already incredible year of funding acceptances for the department, four UT Austin sociology graduate students have received dissertation awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Below is some information about their research, as well as their advice for future applicants.

Katie Kaufman Rogers

Katherine Rogers

Dissertation: “Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Gender, Race, and Class in the U.S. Legal Cannabis Industry”
Advisor: Christine Williams
Year in the program: 4

This project investigates how the emerging multibillion-dollar U.S. legal cannabis industry is stratified by race and gender. Employing the techniques of ethnographic assemblage (Collins 2017), this multi-method study uses content analysis, in-depth interviews, and field research in dispensaries to explore stratification in the emerging industry. This research will have theoretical implications for studies of gender, race, drug economies, and labor inequality, and contribute to policy debates around these issues. 

What is some advice you would give students who are applying to NSF in the future?

My two pieces of advice are to get started early, so you have ample opportunity to revise the proposal, and to begin by reading successful proposals from past years, if you can. The NSF wants a particular style and framing and it helps to see examples.

Samantha Simon

Samantha Simon

Dissertation:The Police Force: Gender, Race, and Use of Force Training in Police Academies
Advisor: Christine Williams
Year in the program: 5

If you ask police officers why they chose a career in law enforcement, most will tell you that they wanted to help people and serve their community. These honorable motivations stand in stark contrast to the patterns of racially-biased and excessive force that have given rise to protest movements across the country. In this project, we examine police training to discern how high-minded ideals are transformed into the excessive use of force. At the academy, cadets are exposed to the institutional ideologies, practices, and embodiments of U.S. law enforcement, including when, how, and on whom they can or should use force, and thus, the academy is a key site of study to better understand why racially-biased and excessive force persists. In this study, I address three questions: (1) How do police departments decide who to hire? (2) How are police officers trained to use force? (3) What do the recruitment strategies and training practices reveal about how police departments conceptualize gender, race, and violence? I turn the focus away from explanations of police violence that point to officers’ individual racial biases, the purported necessity of using force in high-crime areas, or inadequate de-escalation training, to instead examine how the ways in which police departments choose applicants and train cadets may play a role in the use of excessive force. By focusing on training, this study will help scholars, policy makers, and police departments better understand how previous reform efforts – for example, increasing the racial and gender diversity of the police force, implementing de-escalation training, or requiring body cameras – may be ineffective, and will provide important insights into developing new approaches to training recruits.
What is some advice you would give students who are applying to NSF in the future?
I would definitely advise that anyone applying to NSF read as many past proposals as possible. Reviewing colleagues’ proposals gives great insight into how to structure the document, what kind of language to use, and how to frame the project.

Ilya Slavinski

Dissertation: “The Racialized and Gendered Governance of the Poor in Low Level Misdemeanor Courts”
Advisor: Becky Pettit
Year in the program: 4

There are about ten million misdemeanor cases every year in the United States, almost five times the amount of felony cases. Focusing on misdemeanor courts gives insight as to how the criminal justice system regulates and manages millions of people. This view goes against the dominant narrative that punishment has abandoned its productive functions and simply locks people away and warehouses them. Misdemeanor courtroom interactions suggest that courts regulate those that walk through its doors. Meanwhile, stringent court requirements and norms paradoxically make the fulfillment of court-mandated requirements more difficult sometimes even impossible. How do we reconcile such contradictory demands? Drawing on ethnographic methods, including participant observation of 15 misdemeanor courtrooms around Texas and interviews with misdemeanor court defendants, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges, this project explores the ways in which misdemeanor courts actors and practices manage and regulate marginalized populations and how these populations react and resist to this regulation.

What is some advice you would give students who are applying to NSF in the future?

Read examples of winning submissions, don’t start from scratch! Use the resources in the department and the PRC [Population Research Center] that help with the process. Have colleagues and faculty read and give feedback before you submit.

Haley Stritzel

Haley Stritzel

Dissertation: “Interagency Collaboration, Child Welfare Involvement, and its Consequences for Children and Families”
Advisors: Rob Crosnoe and Shannon Cavanagh
Year in the program: 4

The majority of child maltreatment reports received by child protective service agencies in the United States come from professionals such as teachers, healthcare providers, and social workers. Informal and formal data sharing between the child welfare system and other institutions thus facilitates the investigation of and intervention in cases of child maltreatment. One consequence of this collaboration, however, is that families may avoid institutions that provide necessary resources out of fear of coming into contact with the child welfare system. My research analyzes under what circumstances institutional engagement is associated with a greater likelihood of child protective services involvement, as well as how child protective services involvement is related to future institutional engagement. Exploring how interactions with the child welfare system constrain families’ willingness to access needed services sheds light on one understudied mechanism in the reproduction of social stratification. In addition, this project will generate practical suggestions for encouraging greater service uptake and collaboration between social service workers and clients.
What is some advice you would give students who are applying to NSF in the future?
The application itself looks really intimidating with all of the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with this part! Faculty and other staff who regularly deal with grants can help make this part much easier. Your most important job is to concentrate on describing the actual research.

___________________________________________________________________________

Applications for for the Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards for sociology are due in October and are awarded based on four criteria:

(1) the theoretical grounding of the research

(2) the ability for the research to be empirically observed or validated

(3) the appropriateness of the research design to the questions asked

(4) the ability for the research to advance understanding of social processes, structures, and methods

Here’s to hoping for an equally successful round next year!

 

Maro Youssef in OpenDemocracy on State-Civil Society in Tunisia

UT Austin sociology doctoral student Maro Youssef has written an op-ed for OpenDemocracy on state-civil society in Tunisia.

She writes:

The Tunisian state appears both open and cautious to accommodating civil society.

Over the past few months, Tunisia has witnessed several victories for civil society, with the government making moves to promote gender equality in particular. Yet contradictory actions by the president’s office and parliament, which established a National Registry for Institutions on July 27, capture the Tunisian state’s appearance of being both open to and cautious about accommodating civil society during the democratic transition. […]

For Tunisia to reach its full democratic potential, the state must continue to strengthen its relationship with civil society and build trust with its leaders. The state must continue to listen to civil society grievances and consider their policy recommendations through formal mechanisms such as the Truth and Dignity Commission tasked with addressing past grievances and transitional justice. The state should also continue to engage civil society members and work with them on legislation as it did on the violence law.

Read more from Maro at OpenDemocracy.


Maro Youssef is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. She is also affiliated with the Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Power, History, and Society Network, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the Urban Ethnography Lab. Her research interests include democracy, women’s rights, civil society, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Mounira M. Charrad and Maro Youssef in the Baker Institute Blog on Feminism in Post-Revolution Tunisia

Professor Mounira M. Charrad and doctoral student Maro Youssef have a new post on the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy blog. The piece focuses on feminist associations in post-revolution Tunisia, specifically the transition of women’s associations from the Ben Ali regime.

They write:

While the ATFD [Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates] and the AFTURD [Association des Femmes Tunisiennes pour la Recherche et le Développement] remain highly active on women’s issues in post-revolutionary Tunisia, they are no longer working on their own as they did prior to the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime in 2011. They are now operating in partnership with newly emerged associations. The new associations cover a broad range of issues and address the concerns of women in diverse constituencies. Many are open to a dialogue between Islamist and secular women, and some are actively engaged in efforts to construct bridges between ideological tendencies.

You can read more from the authors here. 


Mounira M. Charrad, PhD, is a nonresident fellow with the Women’s Rights in the Middle East Program and an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on state formation, colonialism, law, citizenship, kinship, gender politics and women’s rights.

Maro Youssef is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on gender politics, democratization and civil society.

Alex Diamond in NACLA on Murder in Colombia’s Peace Laboratory

Doctoral student Alex Diamond has a piece up on North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) based on summer fieldwork on farmers and dissident violence in Briceño, Antioquia.

Hunger and lack of opportunity aren’t the only things driving youth to join [the dissidence]. Community leaders say the dissident group harnesses fear and anger against state institutions, including the military and the government’s failure to follow through with the promises of the peace process. The people of Briceño understand the substitution as a quid pro quo agreement: we pull out our coca plants, in exchange, the government gives us the necessary support to develop new economic activity. They feel cheated, tricked into pulling out the coca plants that fed their children based on the expectation of government aid that has yet to materialize.

You can read more from Alex at NACLA in both English and Spanish.


Alex Diamond is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on the implementation of the peace accords between the FARC and the Colombian government and the transition in areas previously under insurgent control.

Eldad Levy in OpenDemocracy on Violence in Mexican Society

UT Austin sociology doctoral student Eldad Levy has written an op-ed for OpenDemocracy on the effects of violence in Mexican society.

He writes:

After Syria, Mexico is today the most violent country in the world. What is worse: Mexico is falling apart as a political community. For over a decade now, as a result of the drug wars, Mexico has been systematically disintegrating as a territorial sovereign state in many parts of the country. Poverty, impunity and the ensuing violence are tearing apart any remnants of a sense of social solidarity. […]

The neoliberalization of the Mexican economy has not only failed miserably in bringing prosperity to the population, it has also failed in terms of much simpler standards such as economic growth: since 2000, Mexico has grown on average at a yearly rate of 2%. While President Trump is fond of focusing his rhetoric against trade with Mexico, the Free Trade Agreement has been a disaster for the Mexican working class and the farmers.

Read more from Eldad at OpenDemocracy in both English and Spanish.


Eldad Levy is a graduate student in the department of sociology at UT Austin. His research interests are social movements, Latin American societies, and political violence.

Maro Youssef Explores Civil Society, Democracy, and Women’s Participation in Tunisia

By Maro Youssef

Maro Youssef, Strauss Center Brumley Fellow and Doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, is currently researching civil society, democracy, and women’s participation in Tunisia as part of the Brumley program. Over Spring Break, Maro visited the country to perform interviews with leaders of Tunisia’s women’s movement. She fills us in on her work and more for us here:

Maro: “My Brumley research project is on civil society, democracy, and women’s participation in Tunisia. My trip to Tunisia this spring helped me better understand the environment and landscape in which women’s civil society associations operate. The findings from my interviews with key leaders in the women’s movement highlighted their participation in the democratic transition; they join coalitions composed of different women’s groups and government ministries, draft legislation related to women’s issues, and serve on committees and commissions related to transitional justice. This trip also helped me clarify the issues women are currently working on including: giving women equal inheritance rights as men, eliminating violence against women, increasing women’s political participation, and combatting violent extremism.”

What led to your interest in this research?

“There is a right-wing conservative trend that is taking place on a global level where national figures use rhetoric on religion, nativism, xenophobia, or nationalism to marginalize other groups and monopolize resources. In Tunisia, Tunisians are attempting to reconcile sharp divisions among religious conservatives and nationalists that became visible in both politics and society after the 2010-2011 Jasmine Revolution. Civil society and women’s groups help ensure that the democratic transition from authoritarian rule is pluralistic, participatory, and representative of all Tunisians. Other nations struggling with their own ideological and ethnic differences could learn how to resolve some of their issues by studying the Tunisian case.”

What challenges have you run into?

“Some of the challenges I have faced include learning how to switch between academic and policy-style writing. Another issue is identifying what busy policymakers need to know and how to draw their attention to important “soft” issues such as women’s political participation that affect American interests and stability.”

Maro’s faculty mentor in the Brumley program is Professor Paul Pope, Senior Senior Fellow with the Intelligence Studies Project. In general, mentors provide research and career guidance to their Brumley Fellows in a hands-off manner so that the Fellow is the ultimate director of their own research.

Has Prof. Pope opened up new ways of thinking for you, or perhaps changed the direction of your research? If not, how has he helped you generally in your project and professional development?

“Professor Pope has been very supportive of my work. He has given me the space to create my own project and highlight the importance of women’s issues and their link to democracy and stability. In terms of my professional development, he has introduced me to several influential figures in my field. He also helps me refine and tighten my policy-writing skills.”

What do you predict doing with your research at the end of the academic year?

“My research will be integrated in my doctoral research as part of my dissertation.”

What do you have in store after receiving your PhD?

“I am interested in working in foreign policy at the government level or at a Think Tank institution. My background as an Arab-American woman who lived in the Middle East and North Africa and researched the region over many years inspired me to want to have a voice and have an influence on US foreign policy.”

We thank you Maro for your time!

See here for more information on the Strauss Center’s Brumley Fellowships.


Maro Youssef  is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. She is also affiliated with the Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Power, History, and Society Network, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the Urban Ethnography Lab. Her research interests include democracy, women’s rights, civil society, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Russia in the Middle East: It’s Not All About Syria

By Maro Youssef

On Tuesday, April 3, 2018, the Robert Strauss Center welcomed Peter Clement, Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University, for a talk on Russia in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Photos of the event can be accessed here. A video of the event can be found here.

Dr. Clement discussed Russia’s diverse economic and political interests in the region. President Putin’s desire to have a voice on all geo- political issues is perhaps one of the main drivers behind Moscow’s interest in the region, according to Dr. Clement. Russia also has major economic and political interests that affect both its international standing and domestic affairs.

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Russia has several economic interests and investments across the MENA region that have domestic ramifications on the Russian economy. Its economic interests include: 1) diversification and expansion of its energy sector; 2) expansion of its nuclear energy program; 3) and an increase in arm sales. Since the price of oil determines the annual Russian budget, Russia is now cooperating with Saudi Arabia on stabilizing oil prices globally. It is also becoming a share-holder in several foreign companies in MENA in order to further become integrated into the global economy and protect its revenues even if its own supply becomes volatile. It seeks to be deeply entrenched in the nuclear energy sector and has agreements with both and Egypt and Jordan. It has also entered into negotiations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Finally, Russia is the United States’ major competitor for arm sales on a globaly. It has arm sale agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Cooperation Council states such as Bahrain.

Clement1

According to Dr. Clement, Russia also has major political interests and relationships in the MENA region that have global and domestic ramifications. Its political interests include: 1) increasing its counter terrorism efforts; 2) becoming or maintaining its status as a power player on a global scale; and 3) improving public opinion of President Putin in Russia. There are over 9,000 foreign fighters in Syria from Central Asia, 4,000 of whom are Russian. Russia is improving its counter-terrorism measures and increasing its cooperation with MENA actors in order to prevent a spillover of foreign fighters and violent extremism into mainland Russia.

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In addition to its domestic concerns, Russia seeks greater involvement and a louder voice on a geopolitical scale at the United Nations and other avenues where its cooperation with MENA region and efforts on Syria can be interpreted as a sign of its strength as a political actor. Finally, Putin seeks to improve his public opinion ratings by keeping the financial costs of Russia’s efforts and casualties low in Syria. Once the conflict ends, Putin is concerned about the reconstruction costs required to rebuild Syria. Finally, Putin fears the return of Russian foreign fighters and increased terrorist events in mainland Russia.

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Peter Clement is a senior research fellow and adjunct professor at Columbia University. He recently retired from CIA, where he held a number of senior analytic and management positions, including eight years as Deputy Director for Intelligence for Analytic Program, Director of the Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis, and most recently, Deputy Assistant Director of CIA integrated Europe and Eurasia Mission Center. Mr. Clement served as the PDB daily briefer for Vice-President Cheney, NSC Adviser Rice and Deputy NSC Adviser Hadley in 2003-2004 and did a brief tour at the National Security Council as the Director for Russia and later as the senior CIA representative to the US Mission to the United Nations. Mr. Clement has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2001 and is a longtime member of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies. He has taught Russian history and politics for over 10 years at the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia’s northern Virginia campus, and two years at Columbia’s School of International and Public affairs. Mr. Clement has published some 10 journal articles and book chapters on Soviet and Russian foreign policy, Central Asia, and the Cuban missile crisis. He holds a PhD in Russian history and an MA in Modern European history from Michigan State University, and a BA in liberal arts from SUNY-Oswego.

Maro Youssef is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. She is also affiliated with the Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Power, History, and Society Network, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, and the Urban Ethnography Lab. Her research interests include democracy, women’s rights, civil society, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Power, History and Society Kicks Off the New Year

by Andrew Messamore

The Power, History and Society (PHS) network held its Fall Social last week on September 20th  to network and have fun in the field of political, historical and comparative sociology at UT Austin. Founded in 2006, PHS is now entering its 11th year in the Department of Sociology and continuing to foster a space for intellectual exchange around both classic themes in sociology and new subjects including revolutions in the Middle East, environmental issues and land rights in Latin America, call-out culture in queer activist movements and the global politics of disease and epidemics.

With a full room, drinks and pizza in the Glickman Center, PHS coordinators described opportunities for involvement from first-year students in coordinating events and our successful speaker series. Past speakers PHS has brought include Randall Collins, Theda Skocpol and Ann Swidler, to name a few. Interested students and PHS coordinators also considered resurrecting the Middle East Working Group and Social Movement and Collective Behavior Working Group (SMCB), co-sponsoring events with other Sociology working groups and working towards a workshop on applying for funding in historical and political sociology.

For the fall, PHS is preparing to host a workshop with Dr. Rita Stephan, a UT Austin Sociology alumnus and PHS founder in the U.S. State Department on applied political sociology. Stay tuned for another PHS meet and greet off campus in October!

If you are interested in learning more about PHS, make sure to sign up for the listserv with Mario Venegas at Mario.venegas@utexas.edu


Andrew Messamore is ​a first-year doctoral student in Department of Sociology. His research interests center on welfare states, credit markets and political sociology.