Past CES Fellows
2020-2021 CES Fellows
Isaac’s research focuses on paid in-home care work and policy efforts to raise labor standards within this rapidly growing sector. Through survey and interview methods, his dissertation examines how regulatory bodies and labor organizations affect work conditions across U.S. cities. This project emerged from Isaac’s past research on social movement outcomes and from a commitment to developing research questions in dialogue with those in the field. The issue of labor standards implementation has gained particular salience in recent years, as a surge of mobilization and policy change produced Domestic Worker Bills of Rights, minimum wage increases, and greater unionization in this sector. Isaac’s dissertation studies whether and how such developments impact the lives of in-home workers and those in their care.
Isaac has published articles in New Political Science and Social Movement Studies. Previously he served as the New York Chapter Graduate Fellow for the Scholars Strategy Network, taught sociology at Lehman College-CUNY, and worked at the Participatory Budgeting Project. His dissertation research has been supported by the Labor Research and Action Network, the Center for Equitable Growth, and the National Science Foundation. He received his B.A. in development studies from Brown University.
U.S. policing has faced a mounting legitimacy crisis over the past several years, from Ferguson’s 2014 protests to the rise of the Movement for Black Lives. While police officials insist that unjust killings are the fault of “bad apples” in the force, critics argue that addressing police violence requires massive structural reform. Yet previous attempts at reforming the police have left untouched the institution’s foundational mandates, leading to recurring crises of legitimacy.
Jessica’s dissertation, “Reforming U.S. Police: Crisis, Labor, and Moral Legitimacy in Maryland,” explores why reforms fail to fulfill their promises.
Drawing on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in 20 departments across Maryland, this project examines how police officers absorb and resist reform efforts by translating them into police terms. It traces how police subjects are produced, how they negotiate institutional strictures and working conditions, and how they conceptualize care for their communities. Marrying the insights of critical race studies and American studies with the anthropology of work, ethics, and the state, Jessica’s dissertation interrogates how the everyday labor of policing renders reform into a kind of “productive failure.”
Jessica’s project emerges from a commitment to studying up, or studying the powerful, as a necessary supplement to research with oppressed communities. Her work is grounded in sustained engagement with Baltimore, where she has worked for various human rights and social justice nonprofits. Her research has been supported by multiple National Science Foundation fellowships. Jessica received a BA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA from Brown University.
Micah Khater’s dissertation, "'Unable to Find Any Trace of Her’: Black Women, Genealogies of Escape, and Alabama Prisons, 1920–1950,” examines how black women negotiated encounters with and contested the violence of the carceral state by running away from prisons, jails, and police. She came to her work after finding a series of fragile twentieth-century prison escape notices stored at the Alabama Department of History and Archives. Her involvement in prison abolition guides her project and informs how she thinks and writes about carceral spaces.
Khater’s dissertation sits at the juncture of carceral state studies, social history, cultural studies, and black feminist theory. Using a broad range of archival sources—including handwritten letters, fire insurance maps, jail records, escape notices, bureaucratic correspondence, newspaper articles, court dockets, photographs, and architectural drawings — Khater’s work centers black women’s attempts to reclaim social identities in the “free world.” Her project identifies the act of running away, or transgressively moving through space, as both a rhetoric of protest and an articulation of desire. In this way, “‘Unable to Find Any Trace of Her’” renders alternative narratives of insurgency that acknowledge how kinship, grief, longing, and loss were always bound up with resistive action.
Khater's work has been supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration; the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; and the Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South, among others. She earned her B.A. in History and French from North Carolina State University in 2015.
Lucia Leon grew up in Orange County, California where she began organizing with undocumented youth and their families in the mid-2000s.
Her commitment to social justice and research interest on migration is profoundly shaped by her family’s experience with the family reunification process and her own political and intellectual trajectory as an undocumented immigrant of nearly 20 years. Her dissertation, “Intersectional Illegalities: Latina/o Undocumented Young Adults and the Marriage-Based Legalization Process,” combines a legal consciousness and intersectional framework to examine how discrete, yet intersecting markers of race, gender and sexuality interact to shape the legalization process for undocumented migrants in Los Angeles, California. Her research provides an empirical examination of a high stakes process to demonstrate how young adults interpret, comply with, or challenge a complex immigration system that can propel them into a path to citizenship or further their vulnerability for detention and deportation.
Lucia is currently co-creating a collaborative and community space with fellow scholars of migration through the founding of the Undocumented and Formerly Undocumented Migration Working Group. Through multi-authored papers, projects, and gatherings the workgroup addresses the unique challenges in the research process for current and formerly undocumented scholars who draw on their experiences with migration when theorizing and working with undocumented communities.
Sadé’s research interests broadly include racial inequality, prisoner reentry and employment, incarceration and health, and drug use and policy.
Her dissertation, Effects of Contradictory Signals on Post-Prison Labor Market Outcomes, draws on a field experiment conducted in five states and 100 qualitative interviews with employers and formerly incarcerated men to examine whether and how certifications obtained in prison programs reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by returning citizens in the labor market. Her dissertation has received an award from the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Corrections and Sentencing and is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Sociology Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.
Sadé’s dissertation research is informed by her direct service to incarcerated youth. She spent three years preparing young men in a juvenile correctional facility for reentry through financial and career goal planning and resume-building activities in addition to other activities on fatherhood, education, and health and wellness. Sadé continues work and advocacy surrounding issues of incarceration and reentry through her involvement with local reentry organizations and coalitions.
Sadé received her bachelor’s degree in Criminology and master’s degree in Sociology at the Ohio State University in 2015 and 2017, respectively. She is a Ruth D. Peterson Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, a Center on Democracy and Organizing Fellow, and an Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Doctoral Summit Scholar
Elizabeth Hanna Rubio
Elizabeth’s dissertation, “Contentious Solidarities,” explores how undocumented Korean American organizers conceptualize and navigate solidarity building with Black and Latinx counterparts as they develop visions for immigrant justice that extend beyond legalization and other forms of state recognition.
Responding to the rapid growth of undocumented Korean and other Asian American populations in the US, Korean Resource Center (KRC) and the National Korean American Services and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) have become influential players in the Southern Californian and national immigrant justice movements, respectively. Yet Korean Americans’ complex positioning in U.S. racial imaginaries as both victims of white supremacy, and beneficiaries of anti-Blackness gives rise to discursive, ideological, and material contradictions in KRC and NAKASEC’s work.
The resurgence of more overt forms of white supremacy, urgent calls to center anti-Blackness in racial justice work, and social media’s role in mainstreaming and intensifying debates about effective anti-racist praxis combine to create urgent re-conceptualizations of what constitutes a “progressive” stance, and by who and for whom such stances should be elaborated. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Southern California, New York City, and Washington D.C., “Contentious Solidarities” follows KRC, NAKASEC, and the organizers with whom they ally and diverge to show how progressive Korean Americans navigate and respond to the contradictions that arise from shifting conceptualizations of racialized power and privilege.
A decade of organizing in national and local immigrant justice movements motivated Elizabeth to examine the internal racialized politics of immigrant justice worlds and the ways racialization informs how different organizers conceptualize justice for immigrants. A lifetime of navigating her identity as a mixed-race Korean American informs her exploration of the racialized contours of immigrant justice work.
2020-2021 Honorable Mentions
Isabel Gil Everaert
Isabel is interested in broader understandings of the impacts of restrictive migratory policies in the lives of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Her work focuses on the experiences of Central American migrants and refugees in Mexico, her home country.
As conditions in Central America deteriorate, more and more people have left their homes, in many cases, fleeing life-threatening situations. This situation has led to the consolidation of a narrative of a migrant and refugee crisis. This, however, has not led governments in the region towards policies aimed at protection, inclusion, and social justice. Instead, discourses of crisis have become the backbone of increasingly restrictive migratory and asylum policies, aimed at managing and controlling migratory movements, along with a systematic violation of human rights and deterrence strategies that deny protection to refugees. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in a strategic site in Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, Isabel’s dissertation uncovers unexplored dynamics between mobility, time, and power.
Through a comprehensive empirical analysis of this reality, her research has three main objectives. First, to contribute to current scholarly discussions on mobility/immobility, migration, refugee and human rights, power and inequality. Second, to engage in methodological explorations of and debates over how to study these mobile populations in a way that is ethical, systematic, and broadly sociologically relevant. Third, to engage with debates on who has the right to move and who doesn’t, as well as of who controls these movements and in what ways.
Lineages of Abel’s family migrated from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area, the traditional territory of the Ohlone peoples.
Abel’s dissertation examines place-based belonging and movements to protect sacred sites by diverse Ohlone tribes of the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, even as they are without federal recognition and their territories are sites of major urban centers, migration, and gentrification. Drawing on ethnographic research and insights from religious studies, anthropology, geography, and Indigenous feminisms, Abel’s research engages the meaning of land as a site of ceremony, belonging, political activism, and futurity. These lands embody what Charles Long (1999) describes as “orientation in the ultimate sense,” sites of profound existential meaning.
Abel’s dissertation argues that to varying degrees, these lands are also sites of spiritual presences, transnational relationships, and contested narratives where Ohlone peoples participate in what Mishuana Goeman (2013) describes as “(re)mapping” of traditional and contemporary land relations. Such analysis seeks to support contemporary political movements to protect sacred sites in Ohlone territories such as the burial site at the West Berkeley Shellmound led by the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Ohlone and work of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to defend a ceremonial site called Juristac. In the wake of Standing Rock and Mauna Kea, Abel’s dissertation also situates Ohlone sacred sites protection efforts in the context of global indigenous movements defending land, water, and culture.
Abel earned a BA in philosophy and religion from San Francisco State University and an MA in religious studies from the University of Missouri.
Mo’s research explores questions of racial capitalism and political economy.
His dissertation considers the case of the U.S. Rust Belt, where cities like Detroit and Flint have long suffered the effects of post-industrial decline. The project explores the rise (and ultimately fall) of Michigan’s controversial “emergency financial management” (EFM) legislation. EFM laws allow Michigan’s governor the ability to appoint an “emergency manager” to assume total control of any city deemed to be in a state of financial emergency. These laws have disproportionately restricted local control in majority-Black cities, and ultimately played a key role in producing Flint’s water crisis. Using archival and interview methods, this project seeks to understand how and why EFM came to be by considering the logics and strategies employed by those with political power - especially state lawmakers and political operatives - at the expense of those without.
Mo lived in Detroit and taught in the Detroit Public Schools district while both the city and district were under state control, thus sparking an interest in EFM in particular, and state-urban political tensions more broadly.
Originally from Sacramento, Mo has a master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s in history and Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Davis. At the Harvard Kennedy School, he is a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy, and at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance. He is a first-generation college student and a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Brazil.
2019-2020 CES Fellows
Minju’s dissertation, “One Rise, One Fall: Labor Organizing in New York’s Asian Communities since the 1970s,” investigates how Asian/Americans navigated the politics of work, racial difference, and the radical restructuring of the urban-based global economy. Through an ongoing oral history project that records and amplifies the voices of Asian/American labor organizers and rank-and-file activists, her research comes from listening to the experiences and concerns of many Asian/American New Yorkers. “One Rise, One Fall” travels through multiple industries. Opening with a study of Asian/American building tradesmen and their fight for community control and affirmative action on construction sites in the mid-1970s, her research examines organizing strategies in midst of Asian/American laborers’ varied circumstances of citizenship, race, class, and gender. She also travels to the Chinese restaurant industry where organizers attempted to unionize new immigrants in the service economy in the 1980s, as well as to the garment industry where garment workers’ demanded fair piece rates despite the logics of a global supply chain in the early 2000s. Her research reveals the capacities and tensions of labor activism in grassroots organizations and worker centers, as well as labor unions, since the 1970s. Her work has been supported by the Center for the United States and the Cold War, the Mellon Foundation, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Minju is also a Visiting Scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University.
Jasmine H. Benjamin
She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana and her dissertation interests were shaped watching media portrayals and delayed government response during Hurricane Katrina. Her dissertation uses Angela Onwuachi-Willig's (2016) theory of "trauma of the routine" to examine how events of police misconduct in Chicago impact Black political attitudes towards local government officials in Chicago.
She previously served as the Justice Fellow at the Field Foundation of Illinois where she assisted with the grant-making process, she evaluated grants, conducted site visits, and made recommendations for funding in the Justice portfolio. She was a UChicago Urban Doctoral Fellow and also part of the University of Pennsylvania Predissertation Fellowship for the Summer Institute on Inequality. Jasmine has worked to improve programming and resources available for graduate students of color at her university. For three years she served as a Higher Education Intern for Diversity and Inclusion at UChicagoGRAD and was part of the leadership of the Diversity Advisory Board at UChicagoGRAD. During her time as a higher education intern, she was one of the founders and lead organizers of the Transcending Boundaries Research Symposium held at the University of Chicago in 2016 and 2017. She was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and participated in the Leadership Alliance. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Politics and Justice Studies from Claflin University in 2013 and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2016.
Chryl N. E. Corbin
As an urban environmentalist and political ecologist, Corbin examines the relationships between society and nature within the built environment by investigating the concept of the green city within the context of the United States. Her dissertation focuses on how the relationships between race, class, and access to green space have changed from 1960—prior to the Civil Rights Acts—to 2019, after Oakland, California began establishing its sustainability agenda and during an intensifying gentrification process. Corbin questions how environmental policies and practices in green cities are impacting the lived experiences of low-income residents and communities of color and their access to public green spaces today and what that could mean for future populations living in green cities. As the chair of the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) Corbin serves her community through civic engagement by researching, reporting, and making recommendations to City Council on Park and Recreation policies and as the PRAC liaison to three Recreation Advisory Councils, the local community park stewards. Corbin is also an executive committee member of the California Outdoor Engagement Coalition focused on getting youth who reflect the overall demographics of California into the outdoors by providing transformational experiences.
Sonia Grant studies the relationship between oil and gas extraction and settler jurisdiction in northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Basin. In this region, a recent fracking boom has brought extraction deeper into the Greater Chaco landscape, held sacred by Diné (Navajo) communities living in the area and by Pueblo Nations throughout New Mexico. The legacies of the Allotment Era have produced a highly-fragmented pattern of jurisdiction over both surface land and subsurface minerals in this checkerboard landscape, where alternating tracts of land are complexly administered by federal, tribal, state, and private entities. Jurisdiction not only has profound implications for where, how, and if extraction takes place: it also affects who gets to have a say in the process. Drawing on two years of ethnographic and archival research in northwestern New Mexico and in Eastern Navajo Agency, Sonia’s research analyzes how different jurisdictions parse out components of the region’s ecology for management purposes. She attends to both the extra-local and large-scale cumulative effects of extraction that are not contained by the jurisdictions that exist to manage them. Sonia’s dissertation traces how relations of sovereignty, territory, and ordinary life are shaped in part through frictions engendered in contests to control energy extraction. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sonia earned a BA in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University and an MA in Geography from the University of Toronto. She came to her dissertation research through her involvement in the climate justice movement.
Joss studies state punishment of gender and sexual variance, with a focus on transgender experiences with the criminal justice system. His dissertation traces prison regulation of gender-nonconformity in California from 1941-2018, drawing on archival research, oral histories, and 13 months of ethnography in trans prisoner advocacy organizations. By situating contemporary struggles over transgender prison policy within this longer lineage of gendered penal control and prisoner resistance, Joss contextualizes our current moment and invites us to learn from successes, setbacks, and unintended consequences of the past.
In addition to his sociological training, Joss has developed his analysis of state violence against trans people based on his own experiences doing trans prisoner advocacy since 2013. He has been a regular volunteer with organizations in the Bay Area, including the Transgender Gender variant Intersex Justice Project, and most recently served as a core collective member with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. His relationships with organizers and currently incarcerated people motivate him to understand changes in carceral control and how people resist it.
Joss believes that engaged scholarship is a politically powerful tool. To this end, he supports organizations in designing and implementing their own research, leads community workshops based on his data, and has presented his findings to California government officials at the city, county, and state level. He is currently collaborating with a community organizer on the first national research looking at transgender women of color's experiences in the labor market.
Salvador Rangel came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant. After various years working in the construction and manufacturing sectors, he made his way into higher education, first obtaining a GED and then attending community college. He went on to obtain a BA from Eastern Kentucky University and an MA at the University of Kentucky. His previous hands-on experience animates and informs his current research. His dissertation, “La Jungla: Globalization, Transnational Migrant Labor, and the Meatpacking Industry,” combines ethnographic methodology with macro-level analysis of the changing conditions under global capitalism. His research interests include global political economy, globalization, race, immigration and citizenship. Salvador is a fellow of the American Sociological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. Outside the academy, Salvador strives to engage in public sociology by publishing analytical and opinion pieces in mass media outlets, such as Truthout and Counterpunch, that aim to make his research accessible to a broader public.
2019-2020 Honorable Mentions
To many, the initial unfolding of cannabis legalization in the United States appeared to be a typical case of relentless commodification privileging mostly-white elites. But then came California. Among other progressive cannabis-related policies, state regulations for the industry have enshrined stringent labor and environmental protections. Los Angeles, the U.S.’s largest cannabis market, is pioneering a social equity program guaranteeing cannabis licenses and jobs for those from neighborhoods hard-hit by the “war on drugs.”
These transformations raise critical questions that animate my dissertation: how do social movements shape the socio-spatial organization of markets? How are these processes entwined with socially-constructed, place-based relations of difference?
To answer to these questions and explore the progressive potentialities they can inform, I engaged in more than four years of participant observation with Angeleno labor and racial/economic justice groups in cannabis and conducted 75 semi-structured interviews with workers, owners, and organizers. Bridging feminist political-economic geography and economic sociology, my data suggests movements are more than external forces to markets. They operate within and affect daily practices in markets — remaking transactional forms, industrial knowledge and labor relations. Crucial to the influence of movements is the ways organizations confront power relations, anchored in place and constructions of difference (i.e. race, gender, sexuality), that underpin markets. As part of my commitments as a scholar from affected communities, I have published this data in reports and media/films with movement organizations and worked to help shape social equity policies in ways that foreground the experiences of low-income, communities of color at the front lines of cannabis-work - and a changing carceral landscape.
2018-2019 CES Fellows
Deisy Del Real
Deisy Del Real analyzes how the Latin American nations belonging to Mercosur—a regional trade agreement—developed policies to protect citizens who migrate from one Mercosur nation to another. She shows how these agreements provide greater protection to transnational migrants than the rules in place in the U.S. or the European Community.
Idit Fast studies three public elementary schools in New York City that are implementing a new ‘diversity initiative’ designed to reverse the pattern of continuing school segregation by race and class. Her focus is on what works to overcome the distrust that exists between parents of different races and different social classes.
Chris Herring is currently writing a study of the three key aspects of homelessness in the US metropolis: the streets, the shelter, and the policies pursued by city government. He analyzes the factors that determines who sleeps in the street or in shelters, and he provides a powerful critique of existing government policies.
Madeleine Pape analyzes how governing bodies reassert sex as binary and biological despite alternative notions becoming more credible as a result of transgender, intersex, queer, and feminist activism and scholarship. She focuses on how the governing organizations in track and field establish the criteria for deciding who is eligible to compete as a woman.
Nantina Vgontzas investigates the organization of work in the fulfillment warehouses of large online retail firms. By comparing both work organization and resistance in warehouses in the U.S. and Germany, she is illuminating how new technologies constrain workers. Yet she is also looking for strategies through which these employees could exert pressure for better compensation and working conditions.
2018-2019 Honorable Mentions
‘A Crusade Against the Despoiler of Virtue’: Black Women, Social Purity and the Gendered Politics of the Negro Problem, 1840-1920
My research explores how the sexual ethics of black women shaped women’s rights activism and Progressive moral reform in the United States. Covering the period between 1840 and 1920, it charts the rise of the Social Purity movement, from its grassroots origins to state power, and argues it was sustained by discursively naturalizing the sexual exploitability of black women.
The Social Purity movement – a euphemism for sexual purity – emerged during Reconstruction as white anxieties over a society facing moral decline intensified. Mobilized by middle-class white women, purists campaigned to ban prostitution, raise the age of sexual consent and eradicate the sexual double standard. Yet, despite their extreme vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse, black women were marginalized from the movement. Paradoxically, mainstream women’s rights rested on white women’s defenselessness as it was constructed upon racialized ideas of who qualifies for female political empowerment and sexual protection, and who does not.
My dissertation highlights this crucial tension point in US women’s history. Beginning in slavery it argues that black women fashioned a moral tradition and mode of gendered activism around chastity that achieved mainstream political urgency by the late nineteenth century. Unlike their white counterparts, enslaved and free black women applied ideals of chastity to their strategies of resistance and struggles for sexual self-sovereignty in a society that denied them sexual moral agency, the expectation of patriarchal protection, and access to ideals of womanhood.
My project thus highlights the racialized dichotomy upon which social purity rested. It recovers the role that black women’s struggles for sexual self-sovereignty played in this movement, and fundamentally reveals how disenfranchised female communities have deployed gendered conservative ideals for radical ends.
Regulating Poverty: Race, Business, and the Politics of Payday Lending, 1990-2015
Faced with welfare retrenchment, rising income volatility, and an exponential increase in housing costs, the U.S. working class relies on credit to make ends meet. For millions with no or low credit scores, this credit comes in the form of high-cost cash advances such as payday or auto-title loans. When these products are loosely regulated, borrowers—who are disproportionately poor and Black or Latina/o—experience extended periods of indebtedness that exacerbate existing racial wealth inequalities.
The regulation of markets that low-income households rely on to survive financially is an overlooked political arena with significant consequences for inequality. Policies such as payday lending regulation straddle two different domains—regulatory policy and welfare policy. In policy-making processes, borrowers’ preferences compete against concentrated business interests and racialized stigmas associated with debt and financial hardship.
My dissertation identifies the conditions under which state-level payday lending regulation changes in ways that reduce inequality. To analyze these dynamics, I construct an original dataset of payday lending regulation across all 50 states from 1990 through 2015. I also generate a novel measure of the financial risk faced by borrowers under different regulatory configurations. Using in-depth interviews, public hearing transcripts, roll call voting records, and demographic data, I examine the advocacy strategies, policy discourse, and patterns of political support in cases of attempted and successful policy change across place and time.
This project identifies the racial and social dynamics that shape the politics of payday lending regulation. More broadly, the project speaks to the challenges and possibilities of policy-making when target populations are affected by stigmatized experiences such as debt, addiction, or incarceration.
Vacant Geographies: (Dis)possession, Resistance, and Speculative Futures in Philadelphia’s Abandoned Properties
Abandoned lots and buildings are a ubiquitous feature of post-industrial U.S. cities, markers of the recent housing crisis, and perennial sources of concern for policymakers, researchers, and residents alike. In Philadelphia, where some neighborhoods are currently experiencing a development boom, properties deemed to be ‘vacant’ are increasingly contested as residents challenge prevailing understandings of ‘highest and best use.’
Using archival, legal, and participatory research, my research examines emerging conflicts over the use, value, and ownership of these spaces. In doing so, it puts forward a politically productive framework for considering geographies of vacancy, which recognizes that not only are vacant properties not empty or stable, but they do critical work.
These properties reflect the violent processes that produce them, but also reveal the limits to these processes – limits that offer analytical openings for destabilizing normative notions of law, private property, and urban commons.
Angela M. Simms
Power, Privilege, and Peril: The Politics of the Black Middle Class in a Majority-Black and Majority-Middle Class Suburban County
To understand how Blacks’ politics shape and are shaped by the contemporary political economy, I ask the questions: In a suburban county where Blacks are the population majority, and where they have significant legislative and executive authority, how is the political agenda developed? What are the policy priorities? Who benefits from these priorities? I focus on three domains: (1) budget development, (2) land use policy and economic development, and (3) public schools.
My data are ethnographic, including direct observation of policy and budget deliberation processes and interviews with people involved in Prince George’s County (PGC), Maryland, politics. I also interview non-politically-engaged residents.
PGC is a majority-Black and middle class suburban county of just under one million residents. It borders Washington, D.C., and has the largest concentration of middle-class Blacks in the United States.
2017-2018 CES Fellows
Michael D. Aguirre
Michael Aguirre explores the aftermath of the guest worker Bracero Program that brought Mexican farm workers to the U.S. between 1942 and 1964. Focusing on the Eastern California borderlands of Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, he shows how policymakers and business people on both sides of the border strategized to create new agricultural and industrial regimes that continued to disempower working people.
Brian Callaci uses a unique, original, hand-collected data set of five hundred and thirty franchise contracts in one state to understand the relationship between big restaurant chains and their franchisees. This is important since the big restaurant chains have insisted that the franchise owner is the employer for the purposes of labor law, forcing any potential union drive to organize one fast food outlet at a time.
Daanika Gordon analyzes policing in a large Midwestern city to show the relationship between residential segregation and policing practices. Through extensive fieldwork that included ride-alongs with police officers, she shows how police react to and help create segregated spaces, producing racialized outcomes even in the absence of racial intent.
Yasmeen Mekawy examines how emotion works to either mobilize people to participate in high-risk protest, or conversely, keep people in their homes. Through an in-depth examination of the use of social media in the 2011 uprising in Egypt, she shows how emotional responses to events can help explain why groups mobilize when they do or fail to mobilize at other times.
Adam Mertz’s research seeks to understand rural/urban political polarization by examining the rise of Wisconsin teacher unions during the 1970s. He argues that Wisconsin’s previous farmer-labor coalition was disrupted as rural voters felt that Democratic politicians were unresponsive to their concerns over taxation. By examining this history, Adam seeks to illuminate the possibilities for reconstituting a progressive farmer-labor alliance.
2017-2018 Honorable Mentions
As we contend with the dual threats of economic crisis and climate disruption, historians have begun to ask new questions of the past—in particular, how and why the United States became a high-energy society. By considering the related question—how is high-energy capitalism contested and renegotiated—this project offers a new perspective on the decline of working-class power and the transformation of the American energy regime in the mid-twentieth century. Miners suggested that an energy regime in crisis was in need of a stronger contract with the workers who produced the nation’s power. This contract, they believed, would not be forged in the voting booth or at the diplomatic table, but in the workplace.
This dissertation illuminates a new understanding of the energy crisis that so profoundly shaped miners’ workplace activism since the early 1960s, when the growing discrepancy between apparently peaking energy production and skyrocketing energy consumption became a central concern for both industry and government. By conceptualizing energy politics as extending beyond the realm of politics and into the sphere of work, this dissertation reframes both the problem of decline in the power of the American workers on the job, and the meaning of the energy crisis, which extended far beyond the problems of consumption, culture, and international politics. Indeed, the energy crisis cut to the heart of the American social contract. The crisis and transformation of the American energy regime is essential in explaining the emergence of a series of upheavals in mining workplaces across the Appalachian coalfields over health and safety, environmental degradation, and union democracy.
Energy regime transformation undermined traditional social relations between miners, operators, and the state, on which the UMW had built its power. Across the long 1970s, workers, the new energy companies, and the state renegotiated the bounds of workplace action, democratic politics, and environmental exploitation in the face of an uncertain energy future.
Katrina Quisumbing King
In 1901, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its colonies would be classified as “foreign in a domestic sense,” institutionalizing a legal ambiguity.
Contrary to prevailing work that locates state control in legitimacy, I analyze how ambiguity shaped U.S. relations with the Philippines between 1901 and 1947. I focus on three key moments: (1) the simultaneous classification of Filipinos as citizens, nationals, and aliens under U.S. law; (2) the revocation of military benefits from Filipinos who served on behalf of the U.S. in WWII; and (3) the almost immediate cession of Philippine sovereignty to the U.S. after formal independence. In each of these moments, because of the polysemy of U.S.’s relationship to the Philippines and Filipinos, U.S. elites were able to secure a neocolonial relationship that continued to exploit Filipino labor and resources whilst erasing colonization and responsibilities to colonial subjects from national memory. In each case, the United States made and then revoked promises of juridical citizenship, social welfare benefits and sovereignty.
My study reveals the political consequences of ambiguity, namely that it allows states to skirt political obligations and preserve global supremacy in ever-shifting political climates. By making promises of incorporation, the U.S. could control the terms of inclusion and ultimate exclusion. While the Philippine case is a critical part of U.S. political history, it also demonstrates the broader significance of studying ambiguity as a function of statecraft.
Mary Elizabeth Schmid
Over the last four decades, farming families throughout North America have suffered from volatile crop prices and increasing input costs. The number of family farms drastically decreased in the U.S. during this period. However, the number of latin@-owned farms in the U.S. significantly rose, in western and southern states.
This dissertation explores the context in which one Mexican-U.S. family group contributes to this unprecedented change. Members of this kin group contribute to multiple agri-food systems in North America as producers of basic grains in the Mexican Bajío and fresh-market produce in southern Appalachia. Through multi-sited ethnographic research, this dissertation brings together diverse voices and examples of strategic uses of time and collaborative agro-food enterprise practices used by structurally marginalized women and men in working families.
The findings lay at the intersections of political debates concerning im/migration, agri-food system policy, rural development, food security and perishable crop agriculture. The dissertation argues that with political economic support cooperative enterprises can strengthen rural economies and democratize globalized agro-food systems.
Our Inaugural CES Fellows (2016-2017)
George Aumoithe’s research shows how the AIDS epidemic should be understood in the context of 1970s austerity, which exacerbated inequality and undermined the nation’s disaster preparedness. His study analyzes public policy, health institutions, and grassroots advocacy to assess healthcare’s tenuous place within the nation’s quite limited welfare state.
Megan Brown’s study investigates the strategic and practical mechanisms through which labor unions, worker and community organizations, and policy makers advanced the $15/hour minimum wages across the U.S. She examines the locally-based strategies employed by labor organizations and the ways these strategies varied across locations so that we can understand how this significant change occurred.
Juyoung Lee contributes to research on environmental inequalities by examining large-scale determinants of local environmental outcomes. She uses sophisticated quantitative techniques to explore the consequences for local communities of decisions made at corporate headquarters.
Ayca Zayim focuses on the relationship between central banks in emerging economies and the financial community to reveal how financial power operates. Through a study of central banks in Turkey and South Africa, she illuminates both the degrees of maneuver and the constraints on economic policy in these emerging economies that contend with the danger of sudden outflows of capital.