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.

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 incredibly 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.

Katherine 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. 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.

Sociology Roundup: Kavanaugh Hearings

by Katie K. Rogers

Today the United States Senate voted narrowly to advance the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a final confirmation vote, which will take place this Saturday. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will enjoy a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The vote took place in the wake of a polarizing public hearing in which a woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, gave a testimony accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. During the hearing, Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusation, repeatedly interrupting, raising his voice, demanding answers to questions he himself was being asked, and decrying what he has called a “circus,” a “national disgrace,” and a “vicious” attack on his family and good name.

Today’s decision was made in the wake of widespread protests (including an elevator confrontation with swing-vote Republican Senator Jeff Flake), a withdrawn endorsement from the magazine of the Jesuit religious order, and urgings from Yale Law School and the American Bar Association, whose support Brett Kavanaugh cited just yesterday, and which Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called “the gold standard.” The ABA has since stated that Kavanaugh has not been sufficiently vetted for appointment to the Supreme Court. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ABA called for postponing the vote until the FBI completed “an appropriate background check into the allegations made by Professor Blasey and others.”

The Kavanaugh hearing has dominated the news cycle for weeks. It has sent waves of anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, and loss across the country, leaving many of us reeling and unsure how to process our emotions, let alone make sense of the situation.

Fortunately, a variety of social science researchers have published sociological responses to the hearings. This post is an effort to consolidate and share those works of public sociology. The following list includes analyses from scholars with expertise in the areas of law, race, class, gender, sexuality, and sexual violence.

“We Still Haven’t Learned From Anita Hill’s Testimony”
Kimberlé Crenshaw | The New York Times

In this New York Times op-ed, law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who introduced the term “intersectionality,” offers instructive words for white feminists and anti-racists. She shows that what many of us assume justice should look like—be it the outcome or the process—neglects to consider black women’s specific needs and circumstances:

I watched Anita Hill testify as a member of her support team. I worried that she would be trapped between an antiracist movement that foregrounded black men, and a feminism that could not fully address how race shaped society’s perception of black victims. …

Such colorblind feminism did a profound disservice to Ms. Hill. And it marked another key moment of political erasure — in this case, one that effaced modern feminist history. Treating the racial backdrop of the hearing as just noise meant that we missed an opportunity to create a nuanced understanding of sexual harassment. In the great awakening around sexual harassment, race was politely ushered offstage.

“Kavanaugh’s ‘Good Guy’ Defense Reveals a Dangerous Rape Myth”
Sarah Diefendorf | The Huffington Post

Masculinities scholar Sarah Diefendorf analyzes the discourses being proffered in defense of Kavanaugh. She points out that these defenses characterize men’s proclivity to commit sexual violence as something that individual “bad guys” do,  and elide the reality that sexual violence is part of a system of masculine domination:

When Kavanaugh or other men respond to allegations of sexual assault by making themselves look like good guys, they’re trying to pin the blame on other “bad” men as failures of masculinity. This good guy defense is brilliant. It allows men to make the problem of sexual assault and rape about being an individual ― the work of bad men, not a bad culture ― when we know that it is actually a widespread cultural problem. When men point to others as the problem, we are left with individual accounts, denials, and explanations that hide the overarching theme in all of them: masculinity and dominance.

This good guy rhetoric repeats the same cycle we are all taught at an early age: that men are in charge of the conversation and of women’s bodies and that women’s voices are dismissed or berated when we dare speak up.

“A Sociological Take on the Kavanaugh Hearing”
Nicole Bedera | Scatterplot, a blog for public sociology

Sociologist Nicole Bedera, who studies adolescent sexual violence, synthesizes findings from social science about sexual violence. Her blog post (in addition to this Twitter thread) offers context for the hearing by sharing evidence not typically acknowledged in public discourse about sexual violence:

We generally think of sexual violence—and particularly its perpetration—as something rare. When we do recognize sexual misconduct as a common experience, we tend to focus on victimization and the stories we heard during the beginnings of #MeToo and imagine serial rapists as the primary perpetrators of sexual assault. However, sexual assault perpetration is similarly ordinary. According to one of the most recent and rigorous studies, as many as 10.8% of college-attending young men commit an act of rape before graduating (Swartout et al. 2015). The rate might be alarming, but the reasons are different than we traditionally think. … The allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are consistent with what sociologists know about sexual violence: it’s common, rooted in male bonding, and situational.

“Kavanagh is Lying. His Upbringing Explains Why.”
Shamus Khan | The Washington Post

Shamus Khan, whose 2012 book Privilege is an ethnography of an elite boarding school that Khan himself attended, examines the classed dimensions of the hearing. He details how elite institutions such as those Kavanaugh attended (Georgetown Prep, Yale College, and Yale Law School) socialize their members to believe they are entitled to positions of power, special treatment, and the ability to break rules with impunity:

Kavanaugh’s privilege runs deep, and it shows. He grew up in a wealthy Washington suburb where his father spent three decades as CEO of a trade association. There has been a sense among his supporters that his place is deserved, which mirrors the climate of aristocratic inheritance he grew up around. … This collective agreement that accountability doesn’t apply to Kavanaugh (and, by extension, anybody in a similar position who was a youthful delinquent) may help explain why he seems to believe he can lie with impunity — a trend he continued on Thursday, when he informed senators he hadn’t seen the testimony of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, even though a committee aide told the Wall Street Journal he’d been watching. In his furious interview with the panel that afternoon, Kavanaugh appeared astonished that anybody might impugn his character or try to keep him from the seat he is entitled to. ‘I’m never going to get my reputation back,’ he complained.


Katie K. Rogers is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at UT Austin. Her research is on race, gender, and the legal cannabis industry in the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @katie_k_rogers.

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.

UT Austin Sociology at ASA 2018!

The annual meeting of the American Sociological Association is here, with a strong showing from scholars from the UT Austin sociology department. For quick reference, we compiled a list of presentations, talks, discussions, and more featuring our own UT Austin sociologists:

Saturday, August 11th:

8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 406

Emily Paine: “Embodied Disruption: Sorting Out Gender and Nonconformity in the Doctor’s Office”

8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 405

Robert Ressler: “Can Community Nonprofits Help Children from Diverse Families Learn on a National Scale?”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 9

Sharmila Rudrappa: “Reading Stuart Hall in (New) Times of Ultra-Right Nationalism”

10:30 to 11:30am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon G

Yiwen Wang: “Family SES and Depression among College Students in China: Mediating Effects of Self-efficacy and Interpersonal Relationships”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 6

Amanda Bosky, Chandra Muller, Eric Grodsky, and John Robert Warren: “Preparing Students for an Advancing Economy: Academic Preparation and Exposure to Bad Occupations at Midlife”

2:30 to 3:30pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon C

Jamie O’Quinn: “Responsibilizing Girls’ Sexualities: U.S. Child Marriage, Sexual Violence, and the Neoliberal State”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon G 

Bola Sohn, “How Asian Americans Shape their Pathway Frame at the Intersection of Race, Class, and Social Capital”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 2

Ori Swed, John Sibley Butler, and Connor Sheehan: “The Digital Divide and Veterans’ Health: Differences in Self-reported Health by Internet Usage”

4:30 to 6:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113C

“Shaping and Informing Public Conversations by Sharing Your Scholarship”

UT Panelist: Sharmila Rudrappa

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Sunday, August 12th:

8:30 to 9:30am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon G

Aida Villanueva and Maria Carolina Mota Pereira Aragao: “Girls’ Domestic and Care Work in Brazil: Educational Consequences and Connections to Mothers’ Work”

8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 104B

Nino Bariola: “The Peruvian Foodie Crowd and the Fields of Ethical Consumption”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 406

Eldad J. Levy: “Heroes, Villains, and Legacies of Modernization: Transforming Mexican Nationalism”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113C

Michael Garcia: “Marital Strain and Psychological Distress in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples”

12:30 to 1:30pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon G

Ari Adut: “Publicity and Common Knowledge”

12:30 to 2:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 405

Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely: “American Life in Debt”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 104A

Koit Hung: “Private Troubles, Public Secrets: The Self-representation in Help-seeking Posts on Facebook”

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Monday, August 13th:

8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 404

Elizabeth Cozzolino: “Litigating Relationships: Gendered Conflicts in Child Support Court”

8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 111B

Corinne Reczek, Alexandra Kissling, Lauren Elizabeth Gebhardt-Kram, and Debra Umberson: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Spouses as the ‘Strong Arm’ of Health Care”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 111A

Shannon Malone Gonzalez, Katie Rogers, Jamie O’Quinn, Erika Slaymaker, and Jax J. Gonzalez: “Graduate Student Workshop on Collective Organizing”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 105AB

Mark Hayward: “Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health and Mortality”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 411

Maricarmen Hernandez: “Displaced into Toxicity: An Account of Unequal Toxic Exposures in the Latin American City”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113C

Daniel Fridman: “Valuation and Meanings of Money in Psychoanalytical Treatment in Argentina”

10:30 to 11:30am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113A

Marta Ascherio: “Sanctuary Policies and Crime: A County-level Investigation”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 413

Ori Swed, Thomas Crosbie, Jae Kwon, and Bryan Feldscher: “The Corporate War Dead: New Perspectives on the Demographics of American and British Contractors”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 5

Shannon Malone Gonzalez: “Black Girls and the Talk: Policing, Parenting, and the (re)Production of Hegemonic Illegibility”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 414

Christine Williams: “The Deserving Professional: Instability and Inequality in the Oil and Gas Industry”

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Tuesday, August 14th:

8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 107AB

Celeste Curington, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, and Ken-Hou Lin: “Reinforcing the Boundaires of Whiteness and Blackness: The Racial Preferences of Multiracial Online Daters”

8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 105AB

Sarah Brayne: “Technologies of Crime Prediction: Comparing the Reception of Big Data Analytics in Policing and Courts”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 105AB

Rachel Donnelly: “How Precarious Employment in Midlife Shapes Health”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, Franklin Hall 6

“Is the Sociology of Mental Health at a Crossroads? Some Historical Reflections and Where We Go from Here”

UT Panelists: Debra Umberson, Tetyana Putrovska

10:30am to 12:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 104B

Jennifer Karas Montez, Mark Hayward, and Anna Zajacova: “Educational Disparities in Adult Health: U.S. States as Institutional Actors on the Association”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 414

Pamela Paxton, Nicholas Reith, Melanie Hughes, and Wade Cole: “Entering World Society: A Research Note on Measurement and Statistical Modeling”

10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon H

Jess Goldstein-Kral: “Transgender Theory, Queer Measurements, Cisgender Subjects: Discordant Perceptions of Gender and Marital Quality”

Katie Rogers: “Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Colorblind Discourses of Diversity, Professionalism, and Morality in U.S. Legal Cannabis”

12:30 to 2:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 409

Karen Lee: “Multi-Group Attitudes towards Contemporary Black Political Action”

Abigail Weitzman, Leticia Marteleto, and Raquel Coutinho: “Socioeconomic Status and Risk Perceptions: Evidence from the Zika Epidemic in Brazil”

12:30 to 2:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 104B

Andrew Krebs: “Boundary Spanners’ Burden: Exploring the Perspectives of Psychiatric Treatment Providers Working in Texas Jails”

2:30 to 4:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113B

Lilla Pivnick: ” Using Twitter to Investigate Gendered Job-related Stress among U.S. Teachers”

Austin’s “homeless problem” may never be solved – and perhaps it shouldn’t be?

By Marta Ascherio

There are many resources in Austin allotted to ending homelessness, including a nearly two million dollar grant for the Innovation Team “to experiment with new ways to house the homeless” (http://projects.austintexas.io), and $18.2 million for a complex with 50 furnished housing units and mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment funded by The Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The city of Austin uses a “housing first” model to combat homelessness, which prioritizes shelter and medical needs above all else. In a recent report, the city of Austin Innovation Team suggests that this approach is limited and contributes to deteriorating mental and physical health. They suggest a model that is centered around social, emotional, and mental health needs along with the rest (shelter, food, income, etc.) as part of a comprehensive, holistic approach to dealing with the “problem of homelessness”. After spending a semester doing ethnographic fieldwork with homeless service institutions and people in Austin experiencing homelessness, we suggest that rather than trying to end homelessness, perhaps the focus could be on initiatives that make homelessness less bad, less scary, and less dangerous for those experiencing it. The following points were shared at a presentation on Tuesday May 1st , 2018:

Students prepare for the presentation to Austin homeless service providers

1) Social Networks, by Jess Goldstein-Kral. The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), is a location where there are services and day-sleep for all people experiencing homelessness and serves as a men’s shelter at night. There is ongoing conversation about the space right outside the ARCH where many people gather. Business owners are concerned about it as an eyesore, service providers are concerned that it scares away people who need services, the city is concerned that is a hub for selling K2, prostitution, or other illegal activities.

What seems to be missing from this discourse is that this gathering place is an integral aspect of people’s social networks. It operates as an alternative or supplementary source of services and support for people experiencing homelessness. People share phones, food, clothing, sell leftovers, and receive donations that are dropped off here. Others do business, both legal and illegal, which serves both for income as well as relationship building. Couples can sleep next to each other outside the ARCH, which is prohibited in homeless shelters and nearly impossible for heterosexual couples do to the gender segregation of shelters.

2) Sex and Privacy, by Jamie O’Quinn. The people sitting outside the ARCH might be considered a nuisance or an eyesore, but they also do not really have anywhere else to go. Experiencing homelessness means that you are constantly visible. For example, if you’re sleeping outside, in a bunk room at a shelter, or on a mat at ARCH or Salvation Army on the 1st floor, you are visible to either the public, staff and volunteers, or other people experiencing homelessness.

Not having access to privacy also means that people have limited access to sex that is private and pleasurable. While the Condom Distribution Network distributes condoms to people experiencing homelessness, at the ARCH and at other locations, there exists no free, public space where it is legal for people to have sex.

For instance, Daniel, a 46 year-old Hispanic man, told me that he had sex in port-a-johns so that he can have sex in a private place. Taylor, a 30 year-old Black man, told me that he either saves up money to have sex in a motel or has sex outside with a “lookout” so that he can have privacy.

3) Invisibility, by Alex Diamond. Being constantly visible not only structures outer activities but can also result in an internalization of invisibility. One man experiencing homelessness, Tyler, speaks about his time staying by Lady Bird Lake: “You get used to a public audience, get used to having to do things in view of public. You block that out. People become a blur. It’s as if you don’t exist, it’s as if you’re invisible. Generally they don’t acknowledge your existence. You begin to feel invisible. Because of that, you’re a little more relaxed about having to do certain things like comb your hair. That becomes background. That becomes a blur. They become as invisible to you as you become to them.”

To circle back to the opening point – there are a lot of initiatives on homelessness in Austin, they put housing first, community first, or user needs first, what we hope to do here is to put the experience of people who are homeless front and center, not necessarily as users or clients but as people who seek out privacy, dignity, and safety. Tyler, among the many poignant and insightful things he said also brings the issue to its core: “they can tell you a million places they don’t want you to be, but they can’t tell you where to go”. This quote sheds light on the crux of the issue: there is nowhere for people experiencing homelessness to just be.

Professor Harel Shapira responds to a question about positionality at the Q&A

To conclude, there seems to be a mismatch between what services are provided, and what people experiencing homelessness need and value. Perhaps services could be designed with more user input, there could be explicit efforts to include people experiencing homelessness in decision making processes, and programs to serve the homeless could be more effective if there was an explicit role for people who either previously or currently experience homelessness.

Ethnographic methods research team: Marta Ascherio, Alex Diamond, Jess Goldstein-Kral, Alicia Montecinos, Jamie O’Quinn, Felipe Vargas, Abraham Younes

Professor: Harel Shapira


Marta Ascherio is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and a graduate fellow of the Urban Ethnography Lab. Her research interests include immigration, crime, and social control.

UT Austin Staff Highlight: Michael Schmidt

By Karen H. Lee

Another academic year is coming to an end.

But the end of the semester also marks the end of Michael Schmidt’s first year as the Graduate Program Administrator of the Sociology department. I interviewed Michael for this short blog piece to learn more about him, and to thank him for a great first year.

Michael’s roots at the UT go deep. He began at UT as an undergraduate History major, excelling as a History Honors student, and went on to the graduate program to earn his PhD in History in 2014. His dissertation was titled, “The Multi-Sensory Object: Jazz, the Modern Media, and the History of the Senses in Germany.” Soon after earning his PhD, he worked as an Academic Advisor in the History Department, where he was awarded a 2016 Texas Exes James W. Vick Award for Academic Advising. He was then promoted to Graduate Coordinator of the Department of French and Italian. This year, we were fortunate enough to welcome him as the Graduate Program Administrator of the Sociology department.

Michael infuses the department with positive energy. Whether he is advising graduate students, passing out chocolate near the printers, or participating in a departmental event, his kindness and generosity are ever-present. What he loves about being part of a university is the constant exposure to other ways of thinking and new fields of knowledge. In our conversation, he recounts a time when he sat in on a Fem(me) Sem meeting, and saw that the types of questions that historians and sociologists ask are similar but also quite different. Group members asked many questions around “the nitty-gritty” of social dynamics whereas his first questions revolved around transformation over time. Michael says, “Being around sociologists is like a new education.”

Michael’s research interests are largely centered on the history of popular music and the changing ways in which the public perceives these media. He asks fascinating questions such as: how is cultural meaning produced and transformed over time? What is the relationship between material transformations in sound reproduction technology and the shifting cultural meanings of popular music? How do these shifts reflect changes in the audience and social position of the music across history? In speaking with Michael, I was reminded of the value of contemplating the social world from multiple disciplinary standpoints. Just as being around sociologists has been educational for Michael, it was also educational for me to think from a historian’s perspective.

In his words, a graduate program is “like a laboratory for developing one’s mind and capacity to analyze the world… maybe it’s the historian in me, but I like to see the transformation of students.” Ever generous and warm, he tells me that he considers it a privilege to see the work that students are doing because it is like “peeking into the future of the discipline.” However, he also knows that things can get difficult, which is why he works to support and advocate for students throughout the process.

We all have our stories about the time that Michael masterfully problem-solved an issue or gave helpful advice and support through the hurdles of the program. He tells me, “There is always so much going on. I’m not here to put obstacles, I’m here to lift the obstacles.” However, as we spoke more about the university, research, disciplines, and beyond, it became even clearer why Michael is such a wonderful addition. Amidst the bureaucratic noise and neoliberal clamor of the institution, Michael is a melody of curiosity and love for learning. For that, and much more, we are a better department because he is with us.


Karen H. Lee is a second-year graduate student in the Sociology department.  She is broadly interested in intergroup relations and processes particularly as they relate to race, ethnicity, and nationalism. Her current research draws upon experimental methods and large-scale survey data analysis to examine public perceptions of ethnoracial protest. She’s also a co-coordinator of the Race and Ethnicity working group in the Sociology department. 

Graduate Sociology Blog