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Dissertation Directory 2006-2007

Dissertation committees, academic year 2006-07: currently enrolled students who are ABD. Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis. (All faculty are from UC Davis unless otherwise noted.)

Alkon, Alison

Dissertation Title: Fresh Food, Fresh Ideas: The Social Construction of "Environment" and "Community" at Urban Farmers Markets
Committee Chair: Tom Beamish, Sociology
Committee Members: Jim Cramer, Sociology
Kimberly Nettles, Gender and Women Studies
Julie Sze, American Studies

My dissertation looks at how participants in two urban farmers markets articulate and perform visions of environmental and community ideals. The markets I study vary widely by race and class, ranging from an elite, gourmet, 100% organic market in Berkeley's "gourmet ghetto" to one that seeks to support African-American farmers and small business owners while providing access to healthy food in an area with little access to grocery stores or other sources. I am also interested in the ways that participants in each market understand the relationship between local economics and environmental and community goals.

My study combines literature on sustainable agriculture and more general environmental sociology that critiques agricultural production with an environmental justice orientation toward distribution. It also contributes to debates on the social construction of nature and community, offering insights into the role of practice in the establishment of these ideals. Practically, I hope to establish food as an important environmental issue and offer insights on how sustainable agriculture and environmental justice can be useful to each other.

Apesoa-Varano, Carolina

Dissertation Title: Medicine and Caring: Healthcare Providers at Work
Committee Chair: Vicki Smith, Sociology
Committee Members: Carole Joffe, Sociology
Ming-cheng Lo, Sociology
Beth Bechky, Graduate School of Management

This research focuses on a teaching hospital, healthcare providers’ experiences, and the relationship between providers’ organizational positions and their attitudes towards professionalism and caring. I used an ethnographic approach that combines observation and in-depth interviewing. Observations allowed me to collect data on the hospital’s social dynamics as providers perform their jobs, while interviews rendered a deeper understanding of providers’ attitudes towards professionalism and caring. I also interviewed patients informally as they may have an impact on how providers see themselves. I analyze how the culture of the workplace and the organization of the hospital shape occupational identity among healthcare providers. My research seeks to advance our understanding of how workplace conditions in healthcare influence providers’ professional identification and orientations to caring.

Bakehorn, Jill

Dissertation Title: Making Feminism Explicit: The Politics of Women-Produced Pornography
Committee Chair: Laura Grindstaff, Sociology
Committee Members: Lyn Lofland, Sociology
Gayatri Gopinath, Women and Gender Studies

Women-produced pornography is a social phenomena embedded in social debates about the place of pornography in society, the direction that popular culture is moving, the rights of gays and lesbians, the meaning of sexuality in feminism, and the emergence of activist pornography. Thus, the sociological study of women who make pornography is timely. I will draw on my qualifying paper research which examined women's narratives of sex-positive feminism in the context of making pornography as a form of activism. I ill further explore how activist ideologies are not only articulated, but negotiated and refined in the process of making commercial films. I will utilize qualitative methods including n-depth, semi-structured interviews as well as fieldwork.

Biscotti, Dina

Dissertation Title: University-Industry Relationships in the Field of Agricultural Biotechnology
Committee Chair: William Lacy, Community and Regional Development
Committee Members: Fred Block, Sociology
Leland Glenna, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, Pennsylvania State University

In my dissertation I will analyze in-depth interviews with over 200 scientists and administrators from nine U.S. universities and thirty agricultural biotechnology companies to address the following research questions: Is there evidence of increasing organizational homogenization or differentiation between universities and private companies in the field of agricultural biotechnology? What are the interests of academic and industry scientists and administrators in the field of agricultural biotechnology and what are the means by which they pursue these interests? These questions are of sociological significance for scholars of science, organizations and institutions and of broader social significance for those concerned with commercial influence on academic science in fields like agricultural biotechnology.

Many scholars of university-industry relationships assert that the institutional boundaries between academic and commercial science in knowledge-intensive fields like biotechnology are becoming blurred. However, when a field is comprised of organizations embedded in historically variant institutional contexts, institutional legitimacy may hinge on the capacity of certain types of organizations to distinguish themselves from other types of organizations in a field. The predicted homogenization of organizations within a field must be subjected to extensive empirical investigation. DiMaggio and Powell claim that organizations in a field may be diverse along some dimensions while homogeneous along others. I hypothesize that organizational homogenization will occur between organizations in a field along dimensions that enhance their institutional legitimacy and be resisted along dimensions that threaten their institutional legitimacy.

Collins, Gred

Dissertation Title: The Architecture of Somalia’s Conflict Economy: Governance Structures, Regulatory Mechanisms, and Institutional Arrangements in a Failed State
Committee Chair: John Walton, Sociology
Committee Members: Fred Block, Sociology
Nicole Biggart, Graduate School of Management
Outside Member: to be determined

Somalia has been without a central government since the collapse of the state in 1991. Contrary to popular portrayals, however, statelessness has not meant disorder. My research focuses on the emergence, social and historical roots, and conflict-embedded-ness of the non-state structures, regulatory mechanisms and institutional arrangements that have surfaced in the wake of state collapse to govern Somalia’s economy. Of particular interest is the degree to which these represent an amalgamation of clan-based and religious forms that pre-date the state and novel solutions to Somalia’s unique position as a state-less entity in an era of increasing global economic integration. I also examine the degree to which the profitability and power associated with the purveyors of these non-state forms - as well as their reliance on violence as both a regulatory mechanism and means of maintaining the conditions under which they have flourished - are an impediment to state (re)formation.

Collins-Dogrul, Julie

Dissertation Title: Managing Transnational Problems for the National Good: U.S.-Mexico ‘Border Health,’ 1942-2002.
Committee Chair: Vicki Smith
Committee Members: Fred Block
Miroslava Chavez-Garcia, Chicana/Chicano Studies
Michael P. Smith, Community and Regional Development

This dissertation elaborates a broker-centered theory of transnational organizational fields to explain how U.S. and Mexican non-profit and government organizations coalesce around shared public health problems. Using historical comparative methods and multiple data sources, including organizational documents, interviews, and congressional archives, I analyze the emergence, cohesion, and transformation of the border health sector. I explain how broker organizations foster transnational networks, culture, and regulations - but also how they enable the U.S. to pursue national interests in Mexico – interests that shape a particular border health social problem construction that privileges some patients, public health problems, and programs over others. Thus, while this dissertation shows how organizations can work together on transnational social problems is also a cautionary tale that illustrates how power inequalities operate within transnational fields to influence agendas, ultimately creating social problem constructions that reflect the interests of dominant actors.

Ebert, Kim

Dissertation Title: Racialized Organizations, 1950-2000
Committee Chair: Mary Jackman, Sociology
Committee Members: Bruce Haynes, Sociology
Dina Okamoto, Sociology
Tyrone Forman, Sociology and African American Studies; Institute of Government and Public Affairs; Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago

I seek to analyze the conditions that encourage the formation of “racialized” organizations between 1950 and 2000. This sample of organizations includes the spectrum of racial, ethnic, and national organizations, including radical white extremist groups, less radical white supremacist groups, racial and ethnic minority groups, racially conservative organizations, and white ethnic and/or immigrant organizations. My goals in this project are twofold. First, I plan to document the trends in racialized protest, advocacy, and service organizations during the second half of the twentieth century. Second, I plan to analyze some of the patterns revealed by the initial description. Using data from The Encyclopedia of Associations (and supplemented with additional organizational databases) and the U.S. Census, I will address two questions: What conditions encourage the formation of “racialized” protest, advocacy, and service organizations? Does the formation and presence of racial-ethnic minority organizations spark the formation of racially conservative (such as the “colorblind”) organizations?

Francis, Ara

Dissertation Title: Parenting the Problem Child: How Affluent Parents Manage and Make Sense of Their Children’s Troubles
Committee Chair: Lyn Lofland, Sociology
Committee Members: Laura Grindstaff, Sociology
Anita Ilta Garey, Sociology, University of Connecticut

Dominant ideas about parenting are governed by an ideology of “intensive mothering.” Rooted in the notion that children are vulnerable, this ideology holds that parenting requires a great deal of time, energy, expert advice, and material resources. It assumes that women, rather than men, are responsible for this intensive caregiving, and it requires that women place child-rearing above all other obligations and interests. Because children are thought to be vulnerable, people believe that parents will deeply harm their kids if they fail to nurture them properly. Pervasive mother-blame places an immense emotional burden on women with children, particularly when their children have problems. My dissertation research explores the experiences of affluent parents with children who are experiencing significant problems (e.g. drug or alcohol abuse, developmental delays, learning disabilities, mental health problems, and so on). I plan to interview between fifty and eighty parents about their experiences. I hope to learn how mothers and fathers make sense of their children’s troubles. I am particularly interested in parents’ emotional response to kids’ problems, how they attempt to help their children while also managing their own reactions, and whether or not women and men experience children’s problems differently.

Freedman, Lori

Dissertation Title: Abortion Practice Patterns, Life Course and Identity of New Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Committee Chair: Carol Joffe, Sociology
Committee Members: Drew Halfmann, Sociology
Sharon Kaufman, Institute for Health and Aging, University of California, San Francisco


This research investigates the social and professional world of new physicians of obstetrics and gynecology, especially in relation to abortion. In-depth interviews were conducted with obstetricians and gynecologists from residency programs that include strong abortion training components. The subjects of study have graduated between five and ten years prior to the interview and are included regardless of whether they currently offer abortion services or not. Interviews and analyses aim to discern how practice patterns, identity, and general life course may be shaped by exposure to abortion care early in their career. This research is informed by literature relating to the socialization of health professionals, the politics of abortion, stigma, and the conceptualization of personhood. Goals of the dissertation include filling a need for new qualitative data in abortion research, answering questions about why the number of physicians willing to provide abortion care is currently waning, and arriving at a nuanced understanding of this morally complex and highly political arena in medical world.

Jones, Melanie

Dissertation Title: Educational Advantages: Race, Class, and Teacher-Student Relationships
Committee Chair: Mary Jackman (Co-chair), Dina Okamoto (Co-chair)
Committee Members: Eric Grodsky, Sociology
Bruce Haynes, Sociology
Patricia Gandara (School of Education, UCLA)

While scholars have consistently emphasized the importance of teachers in student performance and motivation, especially among minority students, we know little about why or how teacher-student relationships help students gain educational advantages, such as in approaching post-secondary opportunities or access to learning. We also do not know how teachers and students form and sustain relationships. This dissertation uses ethnographic methods, interviews, and observations at multiple points in time at a public high school in California with a substantial African American population and diversity in social class to examine why and how race and social class shape relationships between African American students and their teachers. This project also investigates how these relationships help students to gain educational advantages or additional support from teachers in helping students learn and engage in school. In doing so, this project will highlight the specific roles teachers play in reinforcing or moderating the relationship between social class and educational attainment for African American students.

Keller, Matt

Dissertation Title: The Socio-Cultural Basis of Governance Discourses: Global Intellectual Culture and the Shifting Terrain of Official Explanations of Collective Violence
Committee Chair: Fred Block, Sociology
Committee Members: Patrick Carroll, Sociology
John Walton, Sociology
Sean O’Riain, Sociology, National University of Ireland – Maynooth

For more than two centuries, democratic states have deployed prominent commissions of inquiry to investigate a host of controversial issues. Commission narratives have often critically shaped new legislative initiatives, framed public and policy debates, and stimulated academic research programs. Commission reports have also generated resistance: accusations of a one-sided “whitewash” have often provided a substantial impetus for the generation of counter-narratives, and bolstered the work of a host of social movements. Commissions have, nevertheless, been largely overlooked in much socio-historical research; the rare studies which have taken commissions as a phenomenon sui generis have overwhelmingly regarded them as embedded in either case-specific or nationally-bounded political contexts. In my dissertation I broaden the scope of such analyses through an analysis of 25 commission reports concerned with perhaps the most contentious of dynamics within a state: crises of legitimacy engendered by collective violence and the state’s use of force against its own citizens. Through a comparative and historical analysis of commission reports – the universe of 20th century collective violence commissions across five nations – I show that the explanatory tropes deployed by federal-level violence commissions are historically patterned in distinct, temporally bound logics that cross-cut both local concerns and national political contexts. The patterning of these explanatory logics has substantial implications for the ways that states have historically constructed the “legitimate” use of violence and set in motion particular types of governance regimes. But what causes such global temporal patterning? I argue that global violence commission logics are embedded within a global politico-intellectual culture, a culture which is, in turn, impacted by large-scale political processes and their relation to academic theories and inter-professional territorial struggles. By recasting these high-profile governance discourses as intertwined with broad currents in intellectual and political history, the dissertation suggests a new way of interpreting – and impacting – trends in commission processes and findings, and offers insights into the relation between the construction of knowledge and discourses of governance.

Mermis-Cava, Jonathan

Dissertation Title: A Treatise on Silence: An Examination of its Cultural Meanings and Interactional Production
Committee Chair: Lyn Lofland, Sociology
Committee Members: Laura Grindstaff, Sociology
Milmon Harrison, African American and African Studies

This dissertation is a focused study of human interactional silence, conceptualized here as non-discursive social action within human encounters. It will explore the socially variegated meanings of silence and the contexts within which they are deployed. I propose to carry this out within a two-part dissertation. Part One will consist of a wide-ranging scan of the social landscape in order to explore the multiple manifestations of human interactional silence. The goal of this part is to craft a theoretical taxonomy of the cultural, historical, and situational meanings of silence. The research for this part will involve a survey of published social scientific literature on silence. Part Two will be informed by this general taxonomy, but will ethnographically zoom in on a specific case of silence in contemporary society. Specifically, I will examine the enactment of silence within an international religious organization—the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). Members of this organization engage in extended periods of group silence that they refer to as “Christian Meditation.” I will attempt to analyze this case based upon the general taxonomy by exploring the meanings that silence has for Christian Meditators. Additionally, I will examine the structures and dynamics that are necessary for the interactional production of silence. The research for Part Two will consist of participant observation at meditation groups within California and in-depth interviews.

Meyers, Joan

Dissertation Title: Workplace Democracy and Worker Identity in Worker-Owned Cooperatives
Committee Chair: Vicki Smith, Sociology
Committee Members: Fred Block, Sociology
Ming-cheng Lo, Sociology
Miriam Wells, Human and Community Development

My dissertation research centers on two large (100+) democratic workplaces that initially utilized informal, face-to-face control and became successful, financially stable companies with highly formalized organizational structures. However, while one organization developed managerial control through the hierarchical and wage-stratified division of labor, the other instituted worker control through dense, decentralized participatory and representative democratic practices. I argue that neither was the inevitable outcome of member demographics or market forces, and that greater attention must be paid to the actual enactment of workplace democracy. The project will demonstrate what effects each organization’s structure has on the (re)production of social inequalities within the similarly diverse memberships—an issue crucial not only to start-up labor-managed firms assessing benefits and losses of different organizational structures, but also to scholars seeking to understand how agency is mediated in democratic polities.

As transnational capital moves jobs overseas, sustainable jobs with livable wages are priorities for working-class and marginalized communities. Worker-owned and labor-managed businesses are a possible means to this end, but research is needed to understand how this can be broadly achieved. My dissertation explores how questions of how class, race, gender, and sexuality emerge as workplace issues (or not) as a way in which workers are able to make claims within the workplace. Drawing on records, individual and group interviews, surveys, and participant observation at the organizations over a three-year period, this multi-method study will elaborate the effects of different trajectories of industrial democracy in multicultural societies.

Moorehead, Robert

Dissertation Title: Migrant Castle Town: Japanese Natives, Peruvian Migrants, and the Struggle for Integration in Central Japan
Committee Chair: Lyn Lofland, Sociology
Committee members: Bruce Haynes, Sociology
John Lie, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

Through ethnographic study, this research explores a neighborhood in the city of Inuyama, in central Japan, which has only recently experienced an influx of foreign migrants and has one of Japan’s largest settlements of Peruvians. This study analyzes the impact of that influx on the neighborhood, asking questions such as: What is the nature and extent of Peruvian integration into the surrounding community? What consequences does the Japanese presumption of Japan’s racial and ethnic homogeneity have for Peruvian migrants, and, conversely, what consequences does that settlement have for the Japanese presumption? What are the nature and extent of relations between the Japanese and Peruvian residents? What role can/will an enlarging Peruvian population play in the neighborhood? In addition to participant observation, my methods include taking the role of a volunteer in local community organizations, performing intensive interviews, and inspecting demographic and archival data. My anticipated results will address the growing issue of the integration of foreign migrant workers into Japan, a country that only recently has become a destination for foreign workers.

Negoita, Marian

Dissertation Title: From Coercion to Regulation: Rebuilding the State in Post-Communist Romania
Committee Chair: Fred Block, Sociology
Committee Members: David Kyle, Sociology
Jack Goldstone, Sociology, George Mason University

The present study advances our knowledge by illuminating the process of state reconstruction in one post-communist country, Romania. I studied the trajectories of two state agencies, the National Agency for Children’s Rights Protection (ANPDC) and the National Agency for Persons with Handicaps (ANPH). The protection of marginalized populations is an intricate arena that tests the state’s capacity to interact with the beneficiaries of state policy (children and disabled persons, respectively), civil society groups (professional organizations, NGOs), and international organizations (such as EU and UNICEF). Watching the laborious process of juggling with these combined pressures tells us how - and to what degree - the state acquires the complex technologies of power specific to advanced capitalism.

The tale of the two agencies just presented reiterates the importance of two factors in the context of the transition to advanced capitalism. On the one hand, bureaucratic technical competence is essential because it provides professional solutions to specific problems. On the other hand, the relationship with target populations and organized civil society is equally important because it lets the state test its policies and adapt them to better suit the needs of its beneficiaries. During the post-communist transition, agencies that were able to interact better with the civil society had the upper hand in the transformation process. The rebuilding of the Communist state thus is a fragmented, multi-dimensional, and patchy process.

Oyama, Shizuko

Dissertation Title: Temp Women in Japan: Gender and Nationalism at Work in the Discourse of Globalization
Committee Chair: Nicole Biggart, Sociology & Graduate School of Management
Committee Members: Diane Wolf, Sociology
Masako Ishii-Kuntz, Sociology, University of California, Riverside

This dissertation examines the growth of the temporary help industry since the worst post-war recession in Japan. Although temporary jobs in other industrialized countries also tend to be taken by women, the temporary help industry in Japan is more feminized than most of them. Besides, this phenomenon in Japan seems to be deeply shaped by the discourse of globalization, which has been used by different actors – such as the Japanese government, employers’ associations, the temporary help industry, and managers of corporations – to deregulate and flexibilize the “rigid” Japanese labor policies and practices. In such a juncture of Japanese labor history, Marxian-oriented theories which tended to see Japan as one of the most exploitative countries, as well as some institutional and cultural theories which tended to see Japan as relatively benevolent, need to be revised significantly. In addition, it is necessary to introduce a gender lens to the analysis of Japanese employment, which has been largely absent in those theories.

In this study, I ask how gender and the discourse of globalization have interacted to give birth to a new type of work and prospering industry such as the temporary help industry in Japan. By doing this, I tie together different levels of analysis (such as temporary workers themselves, their workplaces, and larger forces such as policy changes) to show the complexity of the dynamics involved here.

Wylie, Heather

Dissertation Title: A Holistic Approach but a Holistic Profession? Intraprofessional Conflict and Midwifery
Committee Chair: Diane Wolf, Sociology
Committe Members: Carole Joffe, Sociology
Debora Paterniti, School of Medicine and Sociology, UCD

What is the nature of intraprofessional conflict? Is it always detrimental? Or can conflict serve more beneficial purposes? How do internal divisions influence boundaries with related professions? Who benefits from internal conflict? Who doesn’t? These are a few of the questions I will address in my study of intraprofessional conflict among midwives. Examining both historical and contemporary relationships between Certified Nurse Midwives and Direct Entry Midwives (referring to non-ACNM certified midwives including Direct Entry midwives, Lay midwives, and Certified Professional Midwives), I seek to explore how conflict within professions shapes internal boundaries, professional trajectories and relationships with related professions. Does internal conflict undermine a profession’s status and future success? Can conflict actually contribute to professional solidarity? Is internal unity essential to professional stability? Does conflict expand professional boundaries thereby challenging jurisdictional claims of competing professions?

Yamahuchi, Makiko

Dissertation Title: The Japanese Feminist Movement and Right-Wing Resurgence: Framing, Identity, and Visions for the Nation
Committee Chair: Diane Wolf, Sociology
Committee Members: Fred Block, Sociology
Drew Halfmann, Sociology
Sabine Fruhstuck, East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Following the 1975 United Nations initiatives, the feminist movement in Japan became a successful advocate for gender policies. However, in the last five years an anti-feminist movement has surfaced, rapidly expanding its influential network in the state. This has undermined government support for feminist goals such as sex education and the notion of gender as socially constructed. The feminist movement is now reconsidering its relationship with the state. My dissertation research proposes to analyze the Japanese feminist movement's rhetorical strategies for keeping gender equality on the policy agenda amidst the anti-feminist backlash. As anti-feminism is a central aim of emerging conservative and fundamentalist movements around the world, this case study has much relevance beyond Japan.

Through content analysis of the media and official documents and ethnographic research, my project compares the Japanese feminist movement's framing strategies in two policy areas (education and employment) and feminists' participation in two geographic locations. It seeks to answer: 1) How does the feminist movement frame its issues? 2) How are the movement's framing strategies influenced by the external environment and the internal debate about the movement's relationship with the state? 3)What positions does the movement take in specific debates about women's position in society and economy? 4) How does the movement theorize the relationship between the individual and the collectivity? My dissertation research treats Japanese feminists as proactive actors in policy-making rather than passively reacting to the changing political environment.

Zhu, Yifei

Dissertation Title: Globalization and Changes in Local Value Orientations: Gender, Family and Sexual Norms in China
Committee Chair: Xiaoling Shu and Diane Felmlee, Sociology
Committee Members: Mary Jackman, Sociology

My dissertation investigates how Western culture and ideology, accompanying its economic influence, reshaped the Chinese value orientations on gender, family and sexual norms. How have gender, family and sexual attitudes changed in China during the past several decades? What are the major catalysis of these changes accompanying China’s accelerating integration into the world capitalist market? How does macro-level social transformation interplay with micro-level factors in shaping individual attitudes, beliefs and ideology? Through what mechanisms are these changes taking place? I expect the exploration of these questions can shed light on the perception and reality of gender inequality in China in particular, as well as the process of globalization and value change in general.

My analysis is based on data from two levels. Individual-level data come from the 1991 and 2000 Chinese Women's Social Status Survey, the 2000 Chinese Health and Family Life Survey, the 1990, 1995 and 2001 World Values Survey-China Survey, and the 2002 and 2006 Asia Barometer-China Survey. Community-level data are compiled by myself using published Statistical Yearbooks and the 2000 census in China.

Using multilevel models to analyze both individual and community level data, I argue that education is a vehicle of socialization through which values promoted by the Western culture and the Communist Party state are diffused through the Chinese population. The uneven pace of this transition reflects the values advanced by both the globalization forces and the domestic elite at different historical times.

–Compiled by Vicki Smith, Chair


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