Dissertation Title: “Neighborhood Perceptions and Well-being across the Early Life Course”
Dissertation Chair: Andre Christie-Mizell
Research Interests: Social Psychology, Family, Life Course, Neighborhoods, Quantitative Methods
Dissertation Abstract: “Neighborhoods structure the availability of resources necessary for the healthy functioning of their residents. Because neighborhoods vary greatly in the amount of physical, social, and economic resources available, they have been implicated in creating disparities in health and well-being based on levels of neighborhood disadvantage and disorder. Drawing on social capital, social disorganization, and stress process frameworks, this dissertation examines processes linking neighborhood perceptions to a variety of well-being outcomes during three periods in the early life course: childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. The dissertation consists of three papers which each focus on a single life stage. The data for these studies come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Child and Young Adult surveys.
Paper 1 explores the relationship between maternal perceptions of neighborhood disorder and child distress. In this paper, I find that disordered neighborhoods are associated with higher levels of child distress through maternal distress and strained mother-child relationships. Paper 2 examines how childhood neighborhood perceptions influence the growth of self-esteem and mastery, two aspects of self-concept. I find that these early experiences are related to lower levels of both self-esteem and mastery, but tend not to alter growth trajectories. Nonetheless, these early experiences of disorder appear to establish low levels of self-concept that last through young adulthood. Paper 3 extends the finding from Paper 2 by showing that childhood perceptions of disorder are associated with more depressive symptoms, lower self-rated health, and more arguments between spouses and partners in young adulthood. This relationship appears to be mediated by neighborhood impacts on self-concept. However, these findings were not supported for two other outcomes: alcohol consumption and positive relationship interactions.
The dissertation demonstrates how neighborhoods can influence well-being in different ways at each stage in the early life course. Further, this research supports the assertion that early experiences of neighborhood disadvantage can accumulate throughout life to create worse well-being for those continuously exposed to neighborhood disorder.”
Dissertation Title: “It ‘Just Happened’ One Night: Gender Norms and Consent to Unwanted Sexual Activity on College Hookups.”
Dissertation Chair: Laura Carpenter
Research Interests:Gender & Sexuality; Violence Against Women; Media & Social Problems; Collective Behavior; Family Violence; Intimate Relationships in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
Dissertation Abstract:Popular media often portray college hookups (i.e., casual sexual encounters with no expectation or guarantee of commitment) as harmful to young women and beneficial to young men. Research indicates that hookups tend to be positive experiences for both young women and men, but young women are more likely to report negative hookup experiences (i.e., unwanted sexual activity, lower sexual pleasure than men, negative feelings following a hookup). Rather than being a direct product of contemporary hookup culture, these gender-divergent outcomes may be related to dominant gender norms that can place young men in a privileged position over young women (e.g., sexual double standards and mores that prioritize male sexual desire/pleasure over female desire/pleasure). In this dissertation I present findings from three empirical investigations that use data from the Online College Social Life Survey to examine relationships between gender norms and negative outcomes of college hookups. In the first study I explore relationships between sexual subjectivity (i.e., self-entitlement to pleasure and pursuit of sexual activity) and unwanted sexual activity on college hookups and, as a comparison, dates. In the second study I examine relationships between endorsement of sexual double standards and negative experiences on hookups (i.e., unwanted sexual activity and feelings of regret following a hookup). In the third study I Investigate relationships between unwanted sexual activity, sexual pleasure, and college students’ post-hookup interest in their hookup partners (i.e., interest in a relationship or subsequent hookup). Collectively, findings indicate that (1) hookups can, in some cases, be harmful to young men and (2) negative hookup outcomes may not be inherent to hookup culture itself, as they are associated with gender norms that privilege young men over young women. These findings have implications for outreach efforts targeting adolescents and college students and may inform debates about transforming “sex education,” which focuses on physical health, into “sexuality education,” which includes attention to social aspects of sexuality (e.g., power).
Dissertation Title: Difference or Disorder?: Medical Authority, Intersex Advocacy, and the Politics of Consensus
Dissertation Chair: Laura Carpenter
Research Interests: Medicine, Health, and Illness; Sex and Gender; Health-Social Movements; Qualitative Methods
This dissertation examines the ways in which professional and lay knowledge shape the diagnosis and treatment of intersexuality—reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not correspond to what is typically considered male and female. Although the conditions associated with intersexuality are not typically life threatening, they are almost always treated with surgery and/or hormones in order to modify the body to an assigned sex. In my dissertation, I investigate the changes to the diagnosis and treatment of intersexuality as a result of multiple and often competing forces, including the rise of evidence based medicine (EBM), technological advancements, and the visibility and power of health based advocacy groups. Drawing on 42 semi-structured interviews with medical professionals and intersex individuals and advocates; participant observation at “gender team” meetings at a large, tertiary medical center; published recommendations (e.g., practice-based guidelines, clinical handbooks and texts), and news coverage between 1993 and 2013, I demonstrate how current standards of care not only complicate understandings about what intersex is but how intersex should be treated.
Dissertation Title: The Market Inscribed Landscape: Industry and City Causes of Food Deserts
Dissertation Chair: Richard Lloyd
Research Interests: Crime, Law and Deviance; Economic Sociology; Food Deserts/Food Environment; Historical Methods; Quantitative Methods; Social Problems; Theory; Urban Sociology.
My dissertation contributes to the urban sociology and ‘food desert’ literatures by showing that the ‘neighborhood effects’ of concentrated poverty (popularized by Robert Sampson and William J. Wilson) and concentrated %black (e.g. Massey and Denton) depend on city and industry dynamics. I do this by investigating how city and industry factors affect the relationship between demographics and supermarket placement (and thus the correlates of the ‘neighborhood effect’ of living in an area with limited access to fresh produce).
I first look at how industry dynamics affect the relationship between economic neighborhood characteristics and the number of supermarkets in a zip code. Using self-collected historical data in nine urban areas I find that the relationship between the number of supermarkets in a zip code and the economics of a zip code changed over time: whereas in 1970 the relationship between poverty and supermarkets was positive, from 1970 to 1990 this relationship gradually became negative. Conducting a content analysis of grocery trade journals I hypothesize that a change from an ‘everyday shopping’ to a ‘one stop shopping’ institutional logic from 1970 to 1990 explains this change in the relationship between the poverty of a zip code and supermarket placement.
Finally, I look at how the relationship between neighborhood characteristics (especially %black) and the number of supermarkets depends on city dynamics. I argue that racial threat theory explains the negative relationship between a higher proportion of African Americans in a zip code and a lower number of supermarkets in the zip code. I extend both the understanding of the correlates of food deserts and racial threat theory by arguing that (racial) majority perceptions of the threat of (racial) minorities leads to the ‘hoarding’ of neighborhood resources such as supermarkets by the (racial) majority. Using a ‘geocoded’ 2010 census and zip code business patterns dataset I conduct a negative binomial HLM showing that the city level racial composition (non-linearly) predicts the variation in the zip code level association between %black and the number of supermarkets.
Dissertation Title: Everything but the Funnel Cake: Art and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010
Dissertation Chair: Richard Lloyd
Research Interests: Sociology of Culture; Social Movements; Political Sociology; New Media
My dissertation, Everything but the Funnel Cake: Art and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010, explores the use of art and culture in protest. In the summer of 2010, students occupied the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) for 62 days, protesting the austerity measures of newly elected governor Luis Fortuno. The occupation was striking for its use of artistic and cultural performance; subsequently, it is remembered as the “Creative Strike” due to this overwhelming aesthetic dimension. Drawing upon two years of ethnographic data, including both on-site and virtual observations, 31 in-depth interviews, and movement documentation, my research is situated at the nexus of sociology of culture and social movements.
The use of artistic intervention in protest is not novel; however, contexts specific to the 21st century, including new media, pave the way for an emerging tactical consensus in response to neoliberalism and austerity measures. The UPR protest resembles past actions like the 1999 Battle of Seattle and anticipated coming interventions such as Occupy Wall Street. These actions are notable for the heterogeneity of the participants and a stated commitment to non-hierarchical organization. This dissertation illuminates the elevated role of art as a means to manage this movement pluralism, showing how aesthetics are deployed to both unify and differentiate movement participants. In doing so, it illuminates both longstanding protest challenges and 21st century configurations.
My approach contrasts with existing literature that emphasizes the role of art in creating a single collective identity, in that my data shows that artistic expression allows participants to perform multiple activist identities. In turn, while too much diversity of identity within a movement can lead to infighting among activist groups, artistic and cultural interventions act to ease the tensions among groups. It combines major theoretical perspectives from social movements, the sociology of culture, and political sociology, filling in subdisciplinary gaps in the engagement with movement tactics, “user created” culture and identity formation, and the challenge of political pluralism.
Dissertation Title: Off Center: Art Careers in Peripheral Places
Dissertation Chair: Dan Cornfield
Research Interests: Urbanization and Community; Art and Culture; Stratification; Theory; Race and Ethnicity; Work and Occupations; Public Policy
How do contemporary cultural producers navigate career opportunities and constraints in places where resources for career mobility are lacking? Most studies of visual art worlds take place in their urban centers – New York City and Los Angeles in the U.S. – where robust concentrations of galleries, museums, collectors, critics, and other artists are already known to generate the social and institutional rewards that propel artistic careers. 21st century trends have shifted the geography of cultural production, however, so by the year 2010, most (80%) professional visual artists in the U.S. live in cities other than New York and Los Angeles.
I examine contemporary artistic production using a multi-city, comparative ethnographic study of artists in two theoretically interesting urban contexts: Portland, Oregon and Nashville, Tennessee. Portland and Nashville are similar in size, but differ greatly in their artist populations and population-trends, thus allowing an analysis of both general and context-dependent career patterns. Further, this study takes an artist-centered approach, drawing from two years of participant-observation and 76 in-depth interviews to analyze the structures of the field from the lived experiences of artists themselves. I analyzed artists’ career strategies in domains of exhibiting, networking, and work, their understandings of their cities and scenes, and their definitions of success.
This study extends a Bourdieuian field perspective to contemporary conditions, arguing that artistic careers are dually embedded in local scenes and a global field. I complicate existing center/periphery models of cultural production by inductively deriving a typology of cities as dynamic positions, relative to each other. Cities vary by the institutional and social resources that sustain artistic careers, but also by the place-based symbolic credits that legitimate them. Off-center artists’ careers are also uniquely translocal. Because off-center cities cannot sustain many careers alone, most artists have to struggle to accumulate recognition both within and beyond the city in which they live. One way they can do so is by working to draw attention to their city as a legitimate site of artistic production, recognizable to outside observers and gatekeepers. As such, places are symbolic resources, and they are moving targets in this global, reputational field.