January 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 1

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ASA Awards Six Grants for the Advancement of Sociology

Member donations are needed to continue advancing the discipline

The American Sociological Association (ASA) announced seven awards from the June 2012 round of the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD). This program, co-funded by ASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and administered by the ASA, provides seed money (up to $7,000) to PhD scholars for innovative research projects and scientific conferences that advance the discipline through theoretical and methodological breakthroughs. Funding decisions are made by an advisory panel composed of members of ASA’s Council and the Director of Research and Development.

Member donations help build the strong FAD traditions and maintain current funding levels. Therefore, we are asking ASA members to provide the donations needed to allow us to continue to fund six or seven proposals per cycle (December 15 and June 15). FAD has funded a wide variety of projects—quantitative and qualitative, domestic and international, micro and macro. Individuals can contribute online, by phone at (202) 383-9005, or sending contributions to FAD, c/o Business Office, American Sociological Association, 1430 K Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005.

Below is a list of the latest group of FAD-funded projects from the June 2013 round of applications and a brief description of their projects.

Maryann Bylander

University of London, Borrowing across Borders: Migration, Credit and Microfinance.

This study explores how expanding access to credit interacts with international migration in rural Cambodia, specifically focusing on microfinance. There is increasing evidence that the growth of microfinance has resulted in the presence of migra-loans—microfinance loans that are used in tandem with household strategies of international migration. The author argues that little is known about how credit might enable or mediate migration decision making, how it shapes migration experiences, or what the consequences of these connections might be. Through a household survey and life histories in areas where access to credit has recently increased (primarily through microfinance institutions), it explores two related questions: How does increased access to credit shape migration decision-making, ability, and experience? How and why are various forms of credit used in tandem with migration? Through a greater understanding of the links between microfinance, credit, and migration, this project is expected to provide insight into current debates of rural development, international migration, and microfinance.

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Jonathan Eastwood

Washington and Lee University, Tracing the Global Spread of National Identity: A Pilot Study.

The purpose of this study is to gather data in order to systematically test theories about the relationship between national identity, the modern state, and the modern economy because the data to do so are not currently available. This pilot study will focus on Europe and recruit a series of experts to provide knowledge about specific cases, rather than using archival sources. According to the lead author, there are a variety of theories about these processes and relationships and which are causal, but none has been subjected to systematic empirical tests. To develop the data for empirical tests the author proposes to code the entire set of European national identities from 1500 to the present. Eventually, this will result in a major database tracking the global spread and development of national identity itself. Two articles will be produced as a result of this study—one on the sequencing within European national identity and one on the connection between the longevity of national identity and level of economic development. The data set will be made publicly available.

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Wendy Roth

University of British Columbia, Measuring the Diverging Components of Race in Multiracial America.

This project’s goal is to hold a two-day conference on the measurement of race and ethnicity as a multilayered and complex social construction rather than a single dimensional variable (such as checking a racial self-identification on a form). The conference will bring together faculty who do work in this area but have differing perspectives as well as graduate students. A major purpose of the conference is to “interrogate measures” and provide guidance for improving social science data collection. For example, different measures may be needed for different race and ethnic groups. According to the authors, these measures should mirror lived experiences, including how the respondent thinks others identify him/her as well as how they identify themselves. The conference will include paper presentations and a website to serve as a forum for analyzing the quality of measures that are available to the public. A second goal of the conference is to theorize the multiple aspects of race that can be measured. A third goal is to train students on using appropriate measures for different problematics.

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Aliya Saperstein

Stanford University, Surveying the Surveyors: Trends in Measurement and Knowledge Production in U.S. Social Surveys.

This research project will analyze social science knowledge in construcing common race, ethnicity, and gender and sexuality categories on national surveys. The study traces varying constructions of these common categories of difference, through a systematic examination of questionnaires, manuals, and other technical materials from the longest-running and most widely used social surveys. The authors will conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis of the questionnaires, codebooks, interviewer instructions, and user’s guides produced by the American National Election Survey, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the General Social Survey, and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The study examines how methods of measurement have, or have not, changed over time and vary across surveys. The authors will try to uncover the often unspoken assumptions about what it means to be a member of a particular race, sex, or sexual orientation that are implied by aspects of the survey design. These processes not only shape the types of responses that can be recorded, they also constrain the kinds of analysis researchers can conduct.

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Amy Lianne Stone

Trinity University, Hidden in Plain Sight: Gay and Lesbian Inclusion in Urban Festivals of the South and Southwest.

This study examines the involvement of gay men and lesbians in southern and southwestern urban festivals, especially in those cities that do not support gay rights, have low scores on the Municipal Equality Index, lack nondiscrimination laws to protect sexual orientation or gender identity, no LGBT community center, and are without a newspaper that serves the LGBT community. The author argues that studying urban festivals that include a gay/lesbian component may help to create gay and lesbian spaces for new forms of LGBT organizing and create cultural visibility and positive LGBT social change. This study emphasizes that public participation is different from other studies of minority communities, which disproportionately focus on ethnic enclaves that position themselves separate or in opposition to dominant urban culture. The project uses mixed methods, including an emphasis on historical processes through archival work and oral histories as well as content analysis, interviews, and participant observation in current-day festivals. The archival research can help to identify how these rituals may be related to gay and lesbian political presence in these settings and can help create a visible LGBT presence.

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James Michael Thomas

University of Missisippi, The Co-Discursive Formation of Racial Civility and Racial Violence within U.S. Institutions of Higher Education.

This project will explore the contradictions at three colleges between racist incidents and current narratives of diversity and civility. Despite empirical evidence that suggests violent incidents targeting racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities on American college campuses have increased, colleges and universities are still perceived by the American public to be relatively insulated from larger societal ills. According to the author, the violent events at the University of Texas, the University of Mississippi, and Hampden-Sydney College this past year provide the context for the study questions: How are colleges and universities, conventionally understood as sites that actively encourage racial civility, legitimated as sites for perpetuating racial violence? How do the institutional narratives of racial civility among colleges and universities enable and constrain racial violence? Finally, how can such an analysis contribute to ongoing anti-racist efforts at colleges and universities across the United States? The author proposes to use a variety of methods including interviews and participant observation at three college campuses. The results of this analysis should illuminate how institutional narratives of racial civility enable and constrain episodes of racial violence among American colleges and universities.

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