Dissertation Title: Risk Orientation and Risk-Taking Behavior: The Impact of Race/Ethnicity and Gender on Mental Health and Substance Use in Young Adulthood
Dissertation Advisor: C. André Christie-Mizell
Research Interests: Racial and Ethnic Inequality; Crime/Deviance; Mental Health; Social Psychology
In the dissertation, I explore the development of risk-orientation (i.e. the propensity to approve of and seek out risk) as youth transition into young adulthood. I investigate whether and how risk-taking behaviors and risk orientation are related to mental health, the quality of social relationships, and engaging in deviant behavior in the transition to adulthood. Furthermore, I test whether these associations are conditioned by race-ethnicity and gender. As a theoretical backdrop, I utilize parts of the Stress Process Model (Pearlin 1999) as well as Hollister-Wagner, Foshee, and Jackson’s (2001) risk-resilience framework. Utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Child and Young Adult samples and structural equation modeling, I examine outcomes for African Americans, Latinos, and whites. Results indicate that in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, risk orientation is positively related to risk-taking behavior (e.g., unprotected sex and heavy drinking); the size of the effect is larger for males compared to females, but does not differ across race-ethnicity. Furthermore, as they transition through adolescence, white youth experience heightened risk orientation, but as they approach young adulthood, they tend to “age out” of a higher propensity toward risk. Conversely, I find that while age and risk orientation also have a curvilinear relationship among Latino youth, this group tends to “age into” risk orientation as they approach young adulthood. Age is not a significant predictor of risk orientation among the African American youth in my sample. I also find that the relationship between risk orientation and mental health (e.g., depressive symptoms) is reciprocal among all three groups. While increased risk orientation increases depressive symptoms among African Americans and whites, it is a protective factor against depressive symptoms among Latinos. Clearly, these processes work differently across race-ethnic status and gender. My dissertation furthers our understanding of racial/ethnic and gender inequality in mental health and psychosocial outcomes as youth transition into young adulthood.
Dissertation Title: Saving the Sacred Sea: Baikal Environmentalism from the Soviet Union to Globalized Modernity
Dissertation Advisor: Richard Lloyd
Research Interests: Political Economy; Social Movements; Global/Transnational Sociology; Environmental Sociology; Collective Memory; Theory
This dissertation explores the ways in which problems are constructed and solutions made plausible by activists and the public they seek to engage in two contrasted contexts: contemporary global capitalist modernity and behind the Iron Curtain of the single-party state-planned political economy of the U.S.S.R. To ground my investigation, I focus upon environmental activism in Irkutsk, Russia – a city on the shores of Lake Baikal, which is the deepest, oldest, most voluminous body of freshwater on the planet. The lake’s uniqueness draws environmentalist involvement locally, nationally and internationally. To address my research question, I conducted ten months of ethnographic field research amongst environmental organizations in Irkutsk. I also collected archival materials on local environmental activism from the last decade of the Soviet Union and during the period of post-Soviet transition. Preliminary findings show two countervailing forces influencing civil society under conditions of globalization. The first involves creative inspiration, as locals encounter new fodder for thought in the global public sphere. But there are also powerful stakeholders who seek to constrain and channel the activist gaze. Corporations use the “carrot” of philanthropy to steer activists’ efforts toward non-threatening projects, and the state exerts the “stick” of law to shore up its own power sources against insurgent civil society. Both of these tactics are reminiscent of Community Party politics in confronting environmentalism in the USSR. These findings point to a more complex analysis of power under condition of global modernity, both for contentious civil society and for its elite opponents.
Dissertation Title: Varieties of Activism: Pathways of Participation among LGBT Religious Activists
Dissertation Chair: Larry Isaac
Research Interests: Social Movements, Political Sociology, Labor Movements, Gender and Sexuality, Religion, Culture
Although the LGBT movement has made rapid gains in the United States, support for LGBT rights remains low among many religious groups, and LGBT individuals actively face discrimination in conservative faith communities. Despite this context of repression, students are launching movements for LGBT inclusion at a growing number of faith-based colleges and universities across the United States. In this dissertation, I explore the unique pathways along which students join and commit to LGBT groups at Christian colleges and universities, as well as the diverse ways in which students are impacted by their participation in these groups. Specifically, I address the following three questions: (1) why do individuals join LGBT groups at Christian colleges and universities?; (2) why do individuals commit to these LGBT groups?; and (3) how does participation in these LGBT groups affect individuals?
I show that students follow multiple pathways to LGBT groups at Christian colleges and universities: students with “activist identities” generally have well-formed political beliefs supported by years of involvement in social movements, while students with particularly salient “religious identities” or identities based on sexual identity or gender identity often hold beliefs that contradict involvement in LGBT groups and generally have no history of social movement activism. I argue that students’ commitment to these LGBT groups is in turn contingent on a correspondence between their personal identities and the organizational identity: students with salient “activist identities” are drawn to LGBT groups involved in direct action campaigns; students with salient “religious identities” are drawn to LGBT groups focused on education and awareness-raising; and students with salient identities based on sexual identity or gender identity are drawn to LGBT groups that provide opportunities for social activities and support. Finally, I show that different types of LGBT groups produce different types of activists: veterans of LGBT groups involved in direct action go on to participate in other social movement groups; alumni of LGBT groups engaged in education become change agents in humanistic careers; and graduates of LGBT groups that provide social support focus on applying their groups’ values on an interpersonal level.
I base these conclusions on in-depth interviews with 65 participants in LGBT groups at four Christian colleges and universities. I supplement these data through observations at these Christian colleges and universities; content analyses of relevant movement documents; and analyses of a unique database of LGBT groups and non-discrimination policies across Christian colleges and universities in the United States. As I argue, these findings hold important implications for the empirical literature on LGBT-inclusive schools and the broader theoretical literature on social movement participation.
Dissertation Title: Everything but the Funnel Cake: Art and the University of Puerto Rico Student Occupation of 2010
Dissertation Advisor: 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:‘It’s My Pleasure’: Gender, Sexual Subjectivity, and College Students’ Sexual Safety
Dissertation Advisor: Laura M. Carpenter
Research Interests: Gender and Sexuality; Media; Violence Against Women; Social Movements
On college campuses across the United States, which students earn passing grades in sexual safety – those who demonstrate proficiency in a sexual double standard that privileges male pleasure over female pleasure or those who value mutual pleasure with their partners? In my dissertation I examine the relationship between college students’ sexual subjectivity (i.e., entitlement to pleasure) and their sexual safety. I conceptualize sexual safety one’s ability to say “no” to unwanted sex and, when one does engage in sexual activity, the ability to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
Although several scholars have noted that dominant ideals about sexual subjectivity take male sexual subjectivity for granted, the extant research tends to duplicate this oversight by focusing on females and failing to empirically examine male sexual subjectivity. Using data from the Online College Social Life Survey (OCSLS) I examine the relationship between sexual subjectivity and sexual safety for both college women and men. I find that one’s entitlement to sexual pleasure is associated with increased safety for young women, but not necessarily for men. These findings have important implications for sex education and outreach services on college campuses. That is, the relationship between sexual subjectivity and sexual outcomes can provide insight into whether it might be beneficial to modify the messages conveyed to young adults in a manner that acknowledges their sexual subjectivity – and encourages their sexual safety.
Dissertation Title:Racial Hierarchy and Liminality in South Africa: A Case Study of Coloureds’ Social Location, Attitudes, and Experiences
Dissertation Advisor: Tony N. Brown
Research Interests: Race and Race Making; Social Psychology; Sociology of Mental Health
Racial hierarchies are defined as systems of stratification premised upon the belief that some racial groups are either superior or inferior to other racial groups. Racial hierarchies are often similarly constructed in the sense that whiteness is situated at the top of the hierarchy while those marked most starkly as ‘others’ represent the disadvantaged bottom. It is the place of those in between the continuum of white and black that often complicates the system. In my dissertation project, I develop the concept of racial liminality—belonging to a group positioned between a dominant group and a subordinate group in a racial hierarchy—and use the concept to develop a comprehensive research project. Previous research is limited because it tends to focus on either a top-down perspective (e.g., the historical formation of racial liminality) or bottom-up perspective (i.e., identities of racial liminal individuals). The two perspectives are rarely in conversation with each other, minimizing integration of what we know across the macro-, meso-, and micro-levels. I present an intervention by providing a systematic study of racial liminality and using coloured South Africans as a case.
Specifically, my dissertation: (1) explores primary legal sources to assess the South African nation-state’s role in the construction and maintenance of the liminal position of coloureds, (2) employs two waves of the Southern African Barometer to determine whether self-identified coloureds’ report attitudes and perceptions that are consistent with their liminal position (3) develops a multivariate measure of coloured racial identification—derived from latent class analysis of coloured identification and other social factors in the 2005 Cape Town Area Study—to determine whether a subgroup of coloureds represents more conclusive evidence of a racially liminal position, and (4) explores qualitative experiences of coloureds with particular interest in whether they themselves perceive their racial liminality. In sum, I contend that racial liminality has ‘stuck’ for coloureds even in contemporary South Africa; however, this aggregated liminal position hides a great amount of variation within coloureds. This dissertation contributes an understanding of how social positioning can have significant implications for groups’ experience, but also how group boundaries are characterized by greater variation for those positioned liminally.
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.
Dissertation Title: Playing Catch-Up: Legalization and the Labor Market Trajectories of Unauthorized Latin American Immigrants
Dissertation Chair: Katharine M. Donato
Research Interests: International Migration; Research Methods and Social Statistics; Social Stratification
What happens to the labor market outcomes of unauthorized immigrants when they transition to legal immigrant status? The 8 million immigrants in the U.S. labor market that lack legal status are significantly disadvantaged relative to legal immigrants. However, it is unclear if legalization will close the gap between unauthorized and legal immigrants: while the earnings of immigrants legalized through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act did increase, research using more recent data suggests that the benefits of legalization may have deteriorated.
Adopting a cumulative advantage perspective, I hypothesize that legalized immigrants either undergo subsequent disadvantage because of their previous unauthorized status or experience social mobility as a result of their transition to legal immigrant status. I use panel data from the 2003 New Immigrant Survey and the 2001 Survey of Income and Program Participation to analyze the hourly wages and occupational characteristics of one treatment group (unauthorized immigrants that transition to legal status) and three control groups (continuously unauthorized immigrants, continuously legal immigrants, and US-born Latinos).
In contrast to those arguing that legalization’s benefits have weakened, I find that the hourly wages of legalized immigrant women and men are 25 percent higher than they would be without gaining legal status. Further, legalization increases the occupational standing of immigrants: legalized immigrants work in occupations with higher median wages, more employer-provided health insurance, a lower percentage of individuals that classify as working poor, and a smaller share of workers with less than a high school diploma. Thus, the results from my dissertation indicate that legalization persists as a robust mechanism of labor market mobility for unauthorized immigrants.
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: More than Discrimination: The Significance of Race-Based Stress for the Mental Health and Well-Being of Black Americans
Dissertation Advisor: R. Jay Turner
Research Interests: The Black Middle Class, Racial & SES Health Disparities, Medical Sociology, Social Psychology, Methods & Statistics
Despite a large literature outlining the significance of racial discrimination for risk of poor health and well-being among black Americans, there is a growing recognition that current measures fail to reliably and comprehensively capture forms of discrimination relevant to a range of experiences. Specifically, when blacks enter contexts in which they are one of a few or the only person of color, such spaces may make racial identity more salient, which may lead to additional cognitive processing and negative mental health consequences. Using data from the Stress and Health Study and original data collected from four focus groups and 20 in-depth interviews, I aim to examine the significance of race-based stressors for the mental health and well-being of black Americans.
Study 1: “Black in White Spaces: Racial Self-Awareness and the Black American Stress Experience”
The purpose of this study is to define and operationalize “racial self-awareness” (RSA), as well as the strategies individuals employ to cope with it. RSA is a new stress construct that characterizes black Americans’ sense of awareness of their marginalized racial status within a majority context. I argue that RSA acts as a distinct form of stress that leads individuals to enact particular behavioral coping responses, all of which may have negative implications for health and well-being. I plan to develop survey measures of this stressor and related strategies, with the goal of assessing their mental and/or physical health consequences within subsequent studies.
Study 2: “The Stress of Representation (or Lack Thereof): Mental Health Consequences of Racial Composition across Contexts”
This study will examine the significance of racial composition for the stress process of black Americans, investigating the cumulative effect of racial composition across a variety of contexts on mental health and well-being. For example, are there differences in stress exposure for blacks who both live and work in all-black contexts relative to those who live and work in all-white contexts? What about those who live in mostly black neighborhoods, but work in predominately white spaces? This paper examines the mental health consequences of variations in racial composition, focusing on differences in the experience of stress and utilization of coping resources.
Study 3: “Dealing with the Ambiguity: The Significance of Ambiguous Discrimination Stress for the Health and Well-Being of Black Americans”
This study examines the mental health consequences of ambiguous discrimination stress. There is a vast literature outlining the mental and physical health effects of perceived discrimination, but some suggest that it is more problematic when individuals are not easily able to discern whether a particular incident was due to discrimination. In such situations, it may be that the ambiguity of that experience hinders the coping process and leads to negative mental health consequences. Thus, in this study, I aim to test that hypothesis, examining the impact of ambiguous discrimination stress on mental health, as well as its effect in the presence of other stressors.