Category Archives: Latin American Studies

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.

Gloria González-López in Ms. Magazine

Gloria González-López, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, has published a piece in which she asks what the #MeToo movement can do for survivors of sexual violence in intimate spaces, such as the family. In the piece, she draws on research from her recent book Family Secrets:  Stories of Incest and Sexual Violence in Mexico (2015, NYU Press) to articulate a vision for dismantling gender inequality and sexual violence within the family. 

She writes:

What does it mean that uncles are the most frequent perpetrators of sexual abuse? Hollywood moguls aren’t the only ones who feel entitled to girls’ and women’s bodies—men in familial settings sadly often do as well.

One of the most important feminist revolutions has to take place at home. How could the #MeToo movement prompt a reckoning in our most secretive, intimate sector?

Sexual violence against girls and women in the context of family life is deeply rooted in gender inequality. The women who shared their lives with me were socially trained to serve the men in their families—in the most extreme case, an eight-year-old girl was cleaning, sweeping and mopping the room of an uncle in his forties. In these family patterns of gendered servitude, men who are expected to be served by the girls and women in the family may feel entitled to be sexually served by them as well.

Read more at Ms. Magazine.

Women, Regardless of Class, Need Access to Zika Prevention

 

SOURCE: CNN
SOURCE: CNN

Professor Letícia Marteleto discusses the ways that class informs women’s risks of contracting Zika and how governments and medical professionals should work to provide poor women equal preventative care:

Our findings suggest that, while incredibly concerned about Zika, wealthier women, much like Hope Solo, feel in control of preventing the virus by using repellant, netting their homes and postponing pregnancy. Poorer women have a more fatalistic attitude about getting infected with Zika and even about getting pregnant — a fact that can be verified by Brazil’s consistently high rate of unintended pregnancy, particularly among the lower classes.

Poorer women also feel that they can’t protect themselves as well as wealthy women can because they lack the means to do so (money to buy repellents and mosquito nets), and they recognize their living conditions make them more vulnerable to mosquito bites (particularly through exposure to open sewage and stagnant water).

Read more at the Austin-American Statesman!

Exploring Liberation Theology through the lens of Social Sciences

by Paul Kasun

At St. Thomas Aquinas Institute with Eduardo Orellano, from Chile (wearing a t-shirt in support of Liberation Theology)

Several weeks ago, I attended a conference of the founders of the Commission for the Study of the History of the Church in Latin America (CEHILA) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. This year, CEHILA brought together academic scholars to “decolonize” the ideology, practice, and worship of Christianity that has characterized Christian churches in Latin America for centuries, as well as to address the present situation of Christian churches in Latin America and to determine how CEHILA could respond to the present poverty crisis. José A. G. Moreira invited me to the conference because of my interest in Liberation Theology from a sociological perspective. My dissertation focuses on the Mayan K’iche’ of the Western Highlands of Guatemala, so I gave a presentation on the migration of Guatemalans to the United States as a case study to understand the demographics of migration and the influence of migrants on the attitudes of relatives in their home country. Though the conference featured a variety of presentations, I will focus here on just a few.

Brochure for CEHILA, featuring the art of ___
The interior of a brochure for the conference, featuring the art of Adélie Oliveira de Carvalho

I begin with a painting by Adélia Oliveira de Carvalho, a Brazilian artist, whose work is featured on the CEHILA brochure, poetically expressing the overarching themes of the conference. The indigenous woman in the middle symbolizes the strength of humanity in Latin America, which has withstood centuries of struggles against unjust social structures, organized violence, and institutionalized racism. Around the main figure, Adélia paints various aspects of the Latin American reality, including agriculture, industrialization, war, and assassinations.

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At lunch with artist Adélia Oliveira de Carvalho.

One of CEHILA’s founders and most prolific writers is Enrique Dussel, who is currently editing a volume of his collected works. Of the many challenges facing Christianity in Latin America, Dussel focused on the need to re-examine the work of Karl Marx, specifically his main work, Capital. He openly questioned why liberation theologians have not quoted from Marx’s main book for more than twenty-five years. Rather than seeing the end of liberation theology, Dussel sees the downturn in the fortunes of liberation theology as a temporary win for the social forces of neo-colonialism, neo-imperialism, and neo-liberalism. Inequality and various forms of stratification continue to be extreme in Latin America and Dussel sees the need to strengthen liberation theology by sociological analysis. Moreover, he stated that the future of Christianity is tied to its ability to synthesize with the advances in sociology, specifically in its ability to advance the ethical, philosophical, and economic work of Marx.

Johannes Meier, Paulo Suess, and José O. Beozzo described alternative explanations of the meaning of Christianity, which contrasted with colonial and neo-liberal explanations of Christianity’ meaning. They focused on the point of view of the oppressed, which has been obscured. They asked how have Protestant and Catholic institutions been a part of the oppressive structures of society, and how can that change today? As Pablo Moreno (First Baptist University in Cali, Colombia) argues, Evangelical theology has not synthesized its belief system with social policies that benefit the poor.

Panel with (left to right): a) historian Lauri Wirth, Methodist University of São Paulo b) Pablo Richard, Chilean Bible scholar who studied Sociology of Religion in Belgium, and c) Ana María Bidegain, Florida International University

Arguably the most significant moment for Christian churches in Latin America has been during the changes made by the Catholic Church’s Vatican Council II, 1962-1965, and Medellín Scholars Ana María Bidegain, Silvia Scatena, and Mauro Passos discussed how those committed to the poor can use the documents of the Council to advocate for improving the social conditions of the poor. Bidegain focuses on the continued challenges of decolonization, racism, and gender within societies and Christian denominations, while María Luiza Marcílio and Pablo Richard developed themes of de-colonialization in Central America, Brazil, and other parts of Latin America.

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In Ouro Preto, a mining town. In the background is the National Museum.

Overall, the CEHILA conference expanded my understanding of the work of Latin American scholars. My own sociological research complemented the work of Latin American liberation theologians, anthropologists, sociologists, and philosophers and their work complemented mine. A take-away from this conference is that a common commitment to see the world through the eyes of the poor, across different disciplines, may be the best chance to build a unified coalition to build a civil society based on humanism.

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In the Ouro Preto city center with Pablo Richard.

Paul Kasun is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. His doctoral research compares the effects of migration in two sending communities in the western highlands of Guatemala. As a Missionary Benedictine priest, he has worked as an immigration advocate helping people primarily from Mexico and Central America.

 

Toward a Feminist Sociology of Incest in Mexico  

By Brandon Andrew Robinson

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 On November 16, 2015, Dr. Gloria González-López participated in an author-meets-critics panel discussion about her new book Family Secrets: Stories of Incest and Sexual Violence in Mexico. The event was hosted by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Erin Burrows, the Prevention and Outreach Specialist for Voices Against Violence, moderated the panel. It was a lively and necessary discussion where three panelists – Dr. Angela Valenzuela and UT Sociology doctoral students, Erika Grajeda, and Juan Portillo – offered their “compassionate critiques” of Dr. González-López’s work.

The discussion began with Dr. González-López describing why she studied incest in Mexico. She wanted to do something to help her community in Ciudad Juárez, and so she asked people in the community what type of research was urgently needed. A great deal of research had been done on the femicides in Ciudad Juárez, but nothing had really been studied about incest within Mexican families. Heeding this advice and wanting to engage with a community that she cares about, Dr. González-López decided to conduct 60 interviews with women and men who live in four Mexican cities (Ciudad Juárez, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey) and who had experienced incest. She also interviewed 35 professionals who work on this issue. After gathering these stories, Dr. González-López found it ethically and politically important to tell these stories as they were told to her and to not sanitize the stories. For this reason, she writes Family Secrets through the method of storytelling, where she presents the stories together in each chapter before offering any structural analysis. This method captures the complexities and gray areas of people’s lives, revealing how theories and concepts can never fully encompass the nuances of people’s lived experiences.

After Dr. González-López gave this brief overview, Dr. Valenzuela was the first to offer her comments on the monograph. She commended Dr. González-López for her emotionally engaged research and for her provocative concepts. She also expressed her fear of what this book might look like in the hands of someone like Donald Trump, who may use this book to pathologize Mexican people. However, Dr. Valenzuela believes that not telling these stories is a greater cost, and that Dr. González-López does an amazing job of analyzing the stories, giving the reader a way to contextualize and understand incest in Mexican society. Dr. Valenzuela also read what she thought was one of Dr. González-López’s provocative ideas: “Thus, the undercurrent or continuum that flows through a woman’s unique subjective experience and all women’s commonly shared experiences of sexual violence seems to suggest that consensual heterosexual sex and rape may have more in common than what one may want to accept” (pg. 110-111). Given this finding, Dr. Valenzuela raised the question of what is a healthy sexuality? And what are the solutions to ending incest?

Following Dr. Valenzuela, Erika Grajeda offered her thoughts on Dr. González-López’s book. Erika found the book to be brave, especially in Dr. González-López’s challenge to take on the family as an institution that reproduces incest and patriarchy. Erika also appreciated Dr. González-López’s analysis of internalized sexism, where women in the family may also be complicit in these incestuous arrangements and reproduce patriarchy as well. Erika raised some poignant questions that really made the preceding discussion engaging. She asked Dr. González-López: How is her conceptualization of consent and rape different than radical feminists? How do sexual scripts shape how women and men describe their sexual experiences, especially when discussing consent and coercion? And what is the difference between incest and abuse and what is the role of the state in perpetuating and/or solving these issues?

After Erika’s insightful comments and questions, Juan Portillo gave his reflections and comments on Family Secrets. Juan saw Dr. González-López’s two biggest contributions as her ethical methodology and her feminist standpoint, which combined gave a nuanced explanation of sexual violence. As life is more complicated than our concepts and theories, Juan pondered how do we make sense of sexual violence when the same logics that we use to try to end it are potentially the same logics that reproduce it. Given that we live in a society structured by inequality, Juan asked Dr. González-López if sex is ever completely consensual. He also wanted to know more about Dr. González-López’s choice of language – in her not wanting to use “survivor” or “perpetrator” and her writing about a gender non-conforming participant.

After these three wonderfully engaging compassionate critiques, Dr. González-López gave her brilliant responses to each of the three panelists. In response to Dr. Valenzuela, Dr. González-López pondered, what do we mean by healthy? Who defines healthy? Who is privileged enough to even have sex or be sexually healthy? As for solutions, Dr. González-López discussed that laws around sexual harassment in Mexico may expand to include relatives. She also talked about a research participant, whose mother believed her when she disclosed being raped by her father. This mother believing her daughter was a form of family justice and feminist practice that protected this woman from experiencing emotional damage. Other interesting topics that were discussed during Dr. González-López’s responses were that women are sophisticated, so seeing them as just victims does not capture their full lived realities. Also, life is messy and complicated and our abstract concepts will never fully get at the gray areas of our lives.

All in all, the panel discussion was thoughtful, provocative, and an important discussion. Family Secrets is a painful but necessary intervention into the field of sociology, sexualities, and sexual violence. In not sanitizing people’s stories, Dr. González-López pushes all of us to face the complex realities of people’s lives. Only in facing these messy nuances can we truly begin to find solutions to solving this social problem. It is with Dr. González-López’s compassion and ethical wisdom that makes Family Secrets a timely and important book that will re-shape the field of sociology for the better.

Brandon Andrew Robinson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin. His dissertation is a qualitative exploration of the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth in Texas.

ON THE MARKET: Pamela Neumann

Our “On The Market” series is back, featuring 5th-year doctoral candidate and Urban Ethnography Lab fellow, Pamela Neumann:

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Tell me about your research. What have you been working on?

Really broadly, I consider my research to be at the intersection of gender and political sociology. Empirically, my work looks at the dynamics of the state and social movements in Latin America, and theoretically it’s about issues related to gender and power. I started out doing research on women’s participation in development programs in Nicaragua and how that was affecting their lives. I was fortunate to publish that research a few years later.

Then, I worked on a project (as part of an NSF grant that Javier Auyero spearheaded) comparing perceptions of environmental risk in three different countries in Latin America. My piece of that was in Peru, in a small town called La Oroya. I was looking at why more people weren’t mobilizing against this 90-year old lead smelter that had caused so much contamination in the community. Many people work for the company, so that was one reason people weren’t mobilizing; but I was trying to figure out what some alternative explanations might be as well.

For my dissertation, I’m writing about violence against women, feminist activism, and state practice in Nicaragua. What happens when women try to place a legal claim against an abusive partner or someone else? What obstacles do they they face in the midst of that? I also look at local feminist mobilization around the issue of violence against women, and the dynamics of these interactions between women’s organizations and the state.

Where do you see your research going?

In the future, what I’m hoping to do is some more comparative work in Latin America, both related to violence against women and collective action. I’m particularly interested in places where extractive industry is increasing – in Peru, for example, where there are a lot of new open pit copper mines – and trying to explain when and how people mobilize in those settings against those kinds of projects and also, the gender dynamics in those communities.

Sounds like really complex and interesting work. So, how have you been preparing for this process of going on the market?

One of the first steps was to write a ​lot o​f drafts of things like research statements and teaching statements, trying to figure out how to articulate what my project is about beyond the case itself and what kinds of contributions I’m making to the subfields I’m in conversation with. I worked to figure out what those arguments are and then to synthesize them into a few key paragraphs. One thing I spent a lot of time thinking about was: what is the role of feminist activism on the issue of violence against women? Is it effective? In what ways? Is it not effective? And how does that compare or contrast with what women’s actual experiences are, because I feel like sometimes there’s a disconnect between feminist activism and the lived experiences of women. Activists have a particular point of view, priorities and strategies for what they think needs to happen, but for example, in my research I found that a lot of women didn’t necessarily want their partners to be incarcerated. You know, what does that say about feminist activism that’s all about getting laws changed or getting higher legal penalties for these crimes. I’m definitely not saying these crimes shouldn’t be penalized, but why is it that these are the main strategies being used? So, it’s a larger question about how activists try to promote social justice. Are legal strategies always the best?

So, I had to step back from the particularities of women’s situations in Nicaragua to ask a bigger question about the theoretical implications of what I’m doing. That’s one thing. The other big, theoretical issue I thought about as I was preparing my materials is about the state and how the state operates. A lot of how we talk about the state is high-level and kind of monolithic; I was thinking, what is my contribution to that debate, looking at low-level actors like police and prosecutors and the power and influence that they wield in these situations?

So, you spent a lot of time thinking about how to present yourself and your work. Situating where you’re engaging with these broad, sociological questions. When did you start working on materials?

I started writing drafts of my statements this summer, around June when I kind of knew – I had been advised – that I should start preparing. I was assisted by the fact that there were some July deadlines. This is something to be aware of if you’re going to go on the market, there could be deadlines as early as the middle of the summer. It’s good to start watching the ASA job bank, because some of the very early deadlines – July, late August, September 1 – were some of the main places that I wanted to apply. So, being ready by the beginning of the summer to send things out. Also, ASA falls at the end of August and well before that, there’s the ASA Employment Services that opens up– and those jobs start posting months before – so the sooner that you’re ready to send initial contact emails to those places with your updated CV, a brief description of your dissertation (a dissertation abstract) the better off you’re going to be.

How was it being on the market at ASA?

The key to being successful at the ASA-phase is to have already been thinking about this process well in advance and to have made contact with schools well before the Employment Services time period. The way it’s set up, you get 15 minutes with schools. Those schools look at your materials that you’ve already posted when you signed up for the service and they decided whether or not they’re going to contact you. The sooner you’re in the system, the sooner you can be on their radar, and the more likely it is that some of those schools are going to want to meet with you. I hadn’t received any advice early on one way or another about whether I should do that, so I didn’t sign up, unfortunately, until right when ASA started. Something else to be aware of is that you can’t see who the schools are who are signed up until you pay for the service. Many of these schools only send one or two people to ASA to do these interviews and there are potentially thousands of people submitting their materials. So, the sooner you’re on their radar, the sooner you can potentially get a slot.

You’re teaching a class this fall in addition to the doing all these applications and writing. How are you balancing all of your responsibilities?

That is a great question. I think teaching my own class this semester has been a challenge in that it requires a different kind of time management. As a TA, you’re not responsible for the lectures. I didn’t really have an idea of how long it would take to prepare a lecture until I actually had to do it. I learned early on that if I let myself, I could spend 8 hours preparing one lecture. After about two weeks of that, I realized that is not sustainable. So, I started to think: how I can make this process a little more efficient? At first, I spent a lot of time doing extra research but I realized I should focus on helping them learn what I actually assigned them to read. That’s what I can do right now. And I work on making the class interactive.

In terms of balancing, I dedicate Monday morning to prepping for my class and the afternoon, after I teach, to job applications. The days that I teach, that’s the pattern. Prep for class, teach, and job applications. At least two thirds of the day on Tuesday and Thursday, I try to devote to my dissertation, and at least one day of the weekend. So, it’s not ideal, but I guess it would help if I had a Tuesday-Thursday class. But, I’m very happy to be teaching; it’s been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot and it’s helped me write my teaching statement. This is the thing about preparing materials; it’s helpful to give concrete examples and the only way to get those examples is to have taught. I realize, now that I have been teaching for the last month, now I have really good stories that I can share not only in my materials, but in the event that I have the opportunity to interview somewhere. I definitely recommend if you have the opportunity to AI before going on the job market, to do it because it’s really helpful.

That’s great advice! What would be your biggest piece(s) of advice for those going on the market next year or the next few years?

I think I’ve said some of it already. It could be categorized into a few things, like writing your statements – research and teaching statements are only one to two pages long and it’s surprisingly difficult to write one to two really concise pages that are tightly woven and flow coherently. One piece of advice is don’t assume you’re going to be able to do that in your first draft. Even those of us who are good writers, who are practiced writers, it’s a different kind of thing to write. Give yourself a lot of time to do that. Don’t rush it.

Also, try to have some idea of what it is that you want, in terms of what you want to do when you’re done. Are you interested in primarily focusing on research? Are you interested in smaller, liberal arts colleges? Use what you know about yourself to inform how expansive or tailored your search is. I know some people think of their first year on the market as a “soft” search, where they’re really particular about where they apply and put “feelers” out. Other people say you should just apply widely and see what happens. I think it’s good practice and helpful to do a little bit of investigation about each school before you decide. Go to their website, look at who the faculty are, see what their research interests are and don’t think too much about “oh, it’s really cold there.” [laughs] You never know.

There are so many things you don’t have control over. In a way, it’s like what they say about publishing, you know you can’t take it personally. For example, now that I’ve been on the market for several months, I’ve already heard from a few places that I’m not on their list anymore. It’s important to remember that it isn’t necessarily because of my record, it could just be I’m not the kind of scholar they need right now. It’s the cliché thing – you’re not a good fit – but that could also be true. You have to try to not invest too much of your identity in the process.

One of the things I forgot to mention is one of the major parts of this whole process, the recommendation letters. If you’re going to apply to 30-60 schools, you’re probably going to want to use some sort of dossier service like Interfolio or Vitae. Investigate those and then, well before your deadlines, you want to make sure that you have identified three people who have already agreed to write for you, who know in advance where you’re applying, if you’re going to be periodically sending request emails. It’s important that they know to expect those emails; sometimes they go to junk mail. I didn’t have a clear idea of what professors would prefer in terms of the organization of the process until I was in it, so it’s good to find out how they want to handle that.

Also, definitely ask for examples of research and teaching statements and cover letters from people that you know or other people in the department. You can save yourself so much time, to at least see somebody’s final product. Not that your first draft has to be the same as whatever that person’s final draft was, but it’s helpful to see the organization, structure and the kinds of ways that people are framing their research to help you structure your own. That was really helpful to me.

How are you keeping all of this organized?

I’ve got a spreadsheet with all the school names and it had school name, deadline, the name of the position – because sometimes, it’s not just a sociology position, sometimes, it’s a joint – and then what they require from you, because not every school is the same. Some schools only want your cover letter and your CV, some want the CV and teaching statement, or just your research statement. Some want the letters of recommendation immediately. Some will contact your references later. So, have all that there. Once I’ve submitted I color-code it blue. I’ve been using Interfolio for the references, so I have a record of when the letters have been sent and to whom they’ve been sent. I save each individual cover letter for each school as a separate document and I have a couple different versions of my research statement and my teaching statement. I created a document that I thought would serve for the majority of schools and then I modify it for each application. I don’t have a separate folder for each school, but I know which versions of statements I send to each, the gender-specific versus just my standard statement.

Also, I didn’t think about this in the beginning, but don’t wait until the last minute to submit things. Anything can happen, you don’t know if the system is suddenly going to crash on you. So, you don’t’ want to be submitting your job applications at like 11:59pm the day before they’re due. Further, some schools start reviewing as the applications come in. So, if you can get your stuff in earlier, then it’s possible your application is going to get more attention. Also, if you’re submitting letters, you can’t submit at the last minute because your recommenders also need time to meet that deadline. So, you should really try to submit your applications a week before the deadline to give your recommenders time to upload the letters. Even if you’re using generic letters, Interfolio takes like a day.

When do you know that you’re ready to submit?

I sent multiple drafts to two professors to get feedback. With their feedback on the standard cover letter, the research statement and the teaching statement, basically I just tweak those documents on my own and don’t send the faculty any of those tweaked versions. They’ve approved the generic version, so whatever small things I might change for an individual school that isn’t something to bother the faculty with. In terms of knowing, I think it’s when the faculty that you’re working with say, “yeah, this is good.” I don’t think there’s really any other way to know. You start to realize what may be working as the process goes on. So, maybe in a few months I’ll know more, have more insight about that, to know what caught their attention. One thing I know is important is to have a clear puzzle in the letter. What is it you’re trying to explain? That’s not just a publication rule, that’s why should I care about your research, you know?

How are you practicing self-care?

I believe in self-care and so do my advisors. One way I like to practice self-care is through exercise. I like to go running, I go to the gym. Getting out all that physical energy, the stress that builds up. Also, I haven’t done this a lot but getting a massage periodically is also helpful. And of course, the occasional glass of wine. That hasn’t ever hurt anyone. Also, solidarity. Whoever is on the market with you, it’s helpful to talk to each other and share information. Yes, academia is a competitive place but we’re also each other’s future colleagues and our mutual success is important. I’m rooting for everyone in our department to get a job.

We’ve worked really hard for a long time and so it feels like it’s really high stakes. But at the end of the day, I’m still a person, and I have a life and that matters to me.

@UTAustinSOC in Chicago #ASA15

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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.

Anima Adjepong
“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.

Caity Collins
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.

Rachel Donnelly
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.

Marc Garcia
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.

Erika Grajeda
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.

Pamela Neumann
“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.

Cristian Paredes
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.

Marcos Perez
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.

Juan Portillo
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.”

Brandon Robinson
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.

Luis Romero
“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.

Connor Sheehan
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.

Chelsea Smith
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.

Christine Wheatley
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.

The Peddlers and the World Cup: A Brown Bag with Jacinto Cuvi and Calla Hummel

by Eric Enrique Borja

jacinto-finalOn Friday the 20th at 1pm, the UT-Austin Ethnography Lab will host a Brown Bag series with Jacinto Cuvi. Jacinto will discuss his paper entitled, “The Peddlers and the World Cup: Mega Events’ Unequal Impacts on Informal Markets,” which he co-authored with Calla Hummel, who will join the Brown Bag via Skype.

Paper Abstract:

Mega sporting events inject millions of dollars in the local economy. Yet few studies assess how gains and losses are distributed among local actors, especially marginal groups. Under what conditions do informal market actors benefit from mega events? Hummel

This paper analyzes original survey, interview and ethnographic data on street vendors in São Paulo, Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. We find that most vendors lost money and many went into debt, while a minority of vendors made record profits, worked less, and generally benefited from the event. We argue that informal groups like street vendors are both heterogeneous and unequal. We show that World Cup “winners” were high up in preexisting hierarchies or possessed specific assets unequally distributed across gender and age groups. Status differences also skewed the distribution of payoffs from an official program to incorporate peddlers. We conclude that mega event and informal market policies must actively counter these hierarchies in order to benefit all.

Twenty-one days of lynching and three jute bags: A Brown Bag with Jorge Derpic

pic of jorge

by Eric Enrique Borja

On Friday the 13th at 1pm, the UT-Austin Ethnography Lab will host a Brown Bag series with Jorge Derpic. Jorge will discuss his paper entitled, “Twenty one days of lynching and three jute bags. Collective violence and state presence in rural Bolivia,” which he will present at the 2015 American Sociological Association annual conference.

Below is an excerpt from his paper:


During the first week of July 2009, Pedro Condori, 35, asked his nephew, Roberto Mamani, 24, to join him on a trip to Tawa – a rural community ten hours away by bus from the government seat, La Paz. There was a one-night job opportunity at the local school and the possibility to earn some money. At first, Roberto was unsure about the offer – not for nothing his uncle had a dubious reputation among the family – but Pedro finally convinced him, offering 200 Bolivianos ($30 U.S. dollars) in reward for his company.

Early in the afternoon of July 9, the couple departed from Oruro, a small city located five hours away from Tawa. They arrived at 9 p.m., and went straight to the local school named after Pope Benedict. There, they run into Antonio Rodríguez, the janitor, who happened to be wandering around the school’s courtyard. They waved at each other, and seeing there were still people awake, the couple left town. They found a place where to lie down for a couple of hours in the surrounding mountains.

At 1 a.m. Pedro woke Roberto up. They walked back to the school. This time there was no one in the streets. While Roberto waited at the school’s entrance, Pedro ran inside the classrooms. He found nothing. On his second attempt, he walked to the computer lab, and with the help of a kickstand, he broke in. He came back with a heavy jute bag full of stuff and gave it to Roberto. Then he went back inside, half an hour passed when he finally returned with another bag the same size.

The couple had no car of their own, so they put the bags on their backs and walked out of town. Four hours later they arrived at a house Pedro had in Chua, another rural community. There was a hole already dug. They proceeded to bury two computers, three printers, a DVD player, one TV and some accessories. Then they walked to the main road located two hours away. A bus passing by took them back to Oruro.

Twenty-one days later, residents of Lawa brutally murdered Roberto’s younger brother, Ernesto Mamani, who at the time was 20. How did an individual, who had not directly participated in the robbery of the school’s equipment, become a victim of the rage of an entire community? This can only be explained by looking at the development of the events, the actions undertaken by local leaders to solve the crime, and the relative absence of state institutions in the area.