July/August 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 6

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ASA Awards Eight Grants for the Advancement of Sociology

The American Sociological Association (ASA) announces 8 awards from the December 2011 round of the ASA’s 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 for scientific conferences that advance the discipline through theoretical and methodological breakthroughs. Funding decisions are made by an advisory panel comprised of members of ASA’s Council and the ASA Director of Research and Development. Below is a list of the latest FAD Principal Investigators (PIs) and a brief description of their projects.

Orit Avishai, Fordham University, received $7,000 for “Saving American Marriages: Marriage Education and the Politics of Morality.” Since the 1980s, scholarship about American political culture has focused on contentious battles, referred to as “culture wars.” While the term has fallen out of favor, social scientists continue to investigate the contentious debates about sexual morality, gender relations, family formation, and personal ethics regarding abortion and sex education. Yet, not all potentially contentious issues produce opposing movements. This project is a case study of the marriage education movement, a collaborative movement that includes conservatives and progressives. This movement endeavors to reduce divorce rates through relationship education and skills-building. The project aims to discern the mechanisms and modalities of interaction among ideologically opposed constituents of this marriage education movement and the identification of a political middle ground. The project’s research question is why marriage education is marked by collaboration rather than contention. Using fieldwork, interviews, and analysis of print and online sources, the case study will examine the conditions that diffuse potential polarization and inform political dialogues and compromises.

Mary Bernstein, University of Connecticut, received $7,000 for the workshop “Crossing Boundaries:  Workshopping Sexualities.” This workshop is designed to advance the discipline of sociology by uniting junior and senior scholars in an effort to share theoretical and methodological advances, create intellectual networks, and promote rich collaborations within the field of sexualities studies. The workshop will provide a venue where participants can work to overcome the gap between qualitative and quantitative approaches and bring these camps into closer conversation. In addition, participants will join workgroups in their area of study; participate in dissertation master classes focused on methodological design; and consider critical issues within the discipline. Finally, this workshop will seek to bridge the study of sexualities across diverse sub-disciplines within sociology, and explore how the study of sexualities can change how sociologists think of other areas of research.

Shannon M. Gleeson, University of California-Santa Cruz, received a $6,870 grant for “Mobilizing Rights, Navigating Bureaucracies: Assessing the Legal Mobilization of Low-Wage Workers.” Law and society scholars have extensively documented the barriers that employees face when pursuing legal mobilization in the wake of a workplace violation. Using survey research and follow-up interviews, the study examines processes of legal mobilization for low-wage workers, and in particular, the strategies workers use when making claims about their rights. While workplace violations may be commonplace, among the low-wage population claims-making is not. In order to understand the ways legal rights are pursued among vulnerable workers, the study will gather information on the claimants’ workplace experience, knowledge about their rights, and decision-making process. The study will also uncover some of the strategies workers use when making claims on their rights, and identify trends across major categories of workers — including different industries, genders, and immigration statuses. The results should be a broader understanding about how different sub-populations of workers understand and identify their rights.

Amy Lubitow, Portland State University, received $6,914 for the project “Contesting Sustainability: Bicycles, Race and Place.” The goal of this study is to develop a critical sociological theory of sustainable development that updates theories of gentrification. Using interviews, participant observation, and content analysis, the study will research how historical legacies of racial and economic inequality within Portland, Oregon, influence community opposition to a seemingly benign sustainable development project. The central research question is how and why community conflict regarding the proposed bike safety corridor erupted into a divisive issue. Similar conflicts in other parts of the United States suggest that urban planning related to sustainability may not actually serve all community members. Race and class tensions and conflicts such as those currently unfolding in Portland suggest that a generic approach to sustainable planning can become contentious. The research results should provide insights on conflict regarding the planning and implementation of initiatives developed under the guise of sustainability. This project will form the foundation of a larger, national-level comparative study.

Hiroshi Ono, Texas A&M University, received $5,400 for “Globalization and Inequality in the Labor Market: The Study of Career Mobility in the Japanese Financial Sector.” This project studies how macro-level global forces are shaping the behavior of firms and of individuals in the Japanese financial sector, with particular focus on the increasing influence of foreign firms. These firms bring employment practices that are more market-driven and less socially embedded compared to the Japanese status quo. The study will compare financial workers at domestic and international firms. The hypothesis is that the loyalty to the firm—which Japanese workers are known for—is a factor of employment in Japanese firms, but not of Japanese culture. Thus, it is institutional not cultural factors that drive differences found among workers in foreign vs domestic firms. The co-existence of the foreign and the domestic in the Japanese labor market provides a test case for examining how local firms adapt to global pressures, and how workers navigate the changing institutional environment. The study will use in-depth interviews and econometric analysis of finance professionals in Japan.

George Steinmetz, University of Michigan, received $7,000 for his project “Social Scientists and Imperial Politics: Britain, France, and Germany, 1930s-1960s.” This project examines the nexus of science and politics, asking how imperial conditions shape the production of social science and how and whether researchers maintain their objectivity and distance. The middle third of the 20th century was the period in which sociological research became central to French and British colonial reform and in which Nazi Germany mobilized sociologists to plan its policies and strategies in Eastern Europe. The research builds on prior work and reconstructs the academic sociological fields in each of these countries and in their overseas colonies and zones of influence. Using archival research, the project will result in the construction of a database of all sociologists who worked on and in colonies and empires, their published and unpublished work, as well as interview with those who are still alive. The study will investigate the conditions that led some of these sociologists to support colonialism and others to reject it, as well as their lasting contributions to the analysis of empires.

Jessica K. Taft, Davidson College, received $6,700 for “Social Movements and the Meaning of Childhood: Intergenerational Collaboration in the Peruvian Working Children’s Movement.” Public and scholarly interest in children’s political participation has grown significantly in the past 20 years. However, there is little research on children’s participation and the meaning of childhood within social movements. This project begins to fill this gap by exploring the interactions between children and adults in the Peruvian movement of working children—a movement that sees children as political subjects and seeks to create collaborative political relationships across age differences. Through document analysis, participant observation, and in-depth interviewing, this project will examine organizational and cultural discourses about childhood, institutional structures that facilitate and/or limit cross-age partnership, and how these cultural and structural forms shape participants’ lived experiences of childhood, adulthood, and the relationship between children and adults. By examining how childhood is constructed and experienced within this type of organization, this project will examine the durability and fluidity of the meaning of childhood.

Bin Xu, Florida International University, received $7,000 for “Some Sufferings Are More Equal than Others: China‘s Educated Youths and the Difficult Past.” This project identifies and explains different interpretation of memories among the “educated youth” generation in China. Approximately 18 million urban Chinese middle and high school graduates were forcibly relocated to rural areas and “re-educated” in the 1960s and 1970s. These educated youths, now older adults, should have similar narratives about their suffering. However, their interpretations about the meanings and values of the suffering vary greatly. Using in-depth interviews and a survey, the study will answer two research questions: how do the former educated youths interpret their shared experience? What social factors can explain the variations in their interpretations? The hypothesis is that current socioeconomic status leads to variations in their interpretations of the past. Those educated youths who attained relatively higher socioeconomic status after the educated youth years are more likely to have a positive view about what their sufferings mean to their later life than those with lower socioeconomic status. The broader purpose of the project is to further understand the intersection between biography and history.

Contributions and Applications

We are asking ASA members to provide the donations needed to keep the FAD program at current funding levels. Individuals can send contributions earmarked to FAD, c/o Business Office, American Sociological Association, 1430 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005, or call Girma Efa at (202) 383-9005, ext. 306. Potential applicants can reach the program director, Roberta Spalter-Roth, at spalter-roth@asanet.org; the co-director Nicole Van Vooren can be reached at vanvooren@asanet.org. For more information, visit www.asanet.org/funding/fad.cfm.

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