Professor Shorette!

January 14, 2014

More good news:  Kristen Shorette will be joining SUNY Stony Brook next year as an assistant professor of sociology!

Kristen recently finished up her PhD here at UCI, having written a terrific dissertation on the global emergence of Fair Trade markets.  Stony Brook has had strength in global/transnational sociology for a long time.  Kristen, will find herself right at home there.

Kristen’s interview brought back some memories:  I actually had my very first job interview at Stony Brook, long ago.  I was very nervous, and didn’t get the job… but I nevertheless enjoyed the visit.  I got to meet people like Jackie Smith, Said Arjomand, Dianne Barthel, etc.  Since then, Stony Brook has continued to hire really smart global people like Tim Moran, Kiyo Tsutsui (now at Michigan), John Shandra, etc.  The Stony Brook department is a great fit for Kristen (and vice versa).

Congratulations Kristen!

Congratulations Shawn Wick

December 27, 2013

Belated congratulations to Shawn Wick, who successfully defended his dissertation earlier this fall!

The dissertation is titled “Missionaries of Modernization and Managers of Myth:  Organizational Legitimacy in the Field of International Development.”  The project takes the Peace Corp as a site to examine how development organizations describe themselves and craft narratives to maintain organizational legitimacy in the eyes of external constituencies as well as members of the organization.

The title gives hints at what drew Shawn to this project.  A Peace Corp volunteer prior to entering graduate school, Shawn was struck by the religious-like fervor common to many people and organizations in the development community.  This basic insight — that development is a culturally-infused domain — set the stage for his analysis of organizational narratives and the basis for the Peace Corp’s legitimacy.  Shawn finds that the original narrative developed at the Peace Corp’s inception has really stuck with the organization, and shaped how it has adapted to new political pressures in path dependent ways.

The dissertation is a great read.  Shawn is a terrific writer, and really conveys the feel of the milieu that the Peace Corp was operating in over the decades.

The Ron Aminzade and I were co-advisors, and Ann Hironaka and David Chapman were also on the committee.

I think all my University of Minnesota dissertation committees are wrapped up.  It has been great to see all the terrific students coming out of Minnesota… and to participate in some small way.  The grad program is really impressive (not to mention the faculty!).

Shawn is an assistant professor at Central College in Iowa… and now a PhD!  Congratulations, Shawn!

Mayumi Uno Defends!

August 24, 2013

We have another new PhD!  Mayumi Uno successfully defended her dissertation at the University of Minnesota.  The project is entitled:  “National Institutional Context and Educational Inequality: A Multilevel Analysis of Variation in Family SES Effects on Academic Achievement across OECD Countries.”

Mayumi pursues a question that is of great interest to me:  How does institutional context and the organization of national education systems affect schooling?  In particular, she focuses on educational inequality, operationalized as the slope linking family background (SES) and achievement — which captures the extent that schools reproduce existing inequality.  The dissertation examines a wide range of national-level institutional variables that might influence inequality, including differentiation, sources of funding, private tutoring, labor market incentives, and even welfare state variables.

The dissertation has a ton of interesting findings.  For one thing, strong state control over the educational system is associated with less SES-based inequality.  If the state controls all the funding and curriculum, and if there are more instructional hours in the school year, family effects are reduced.

That makes a lot of sense.  The simplest way to eliminate the influence of family SES would be to send all kids to state-run boarding schools year-round.  Obviously, no country does that…  but there are real differences in the length of the school year, centralized funding of education, etc, which appear to be very consequential for inequality.

The dissertation also has some surprising results.  For instance,  the prevalence of tutoring/shadow education in a country is associated with less SES-related inequality.  Mayumi expected the opposite, and so did I.  You’d think that family resources would translate into much better tutoring.  But, inequalities are greater in societies where there isn’t much tutoring.  Perhaps tutoring has the biggest payoff in societies where few people can afford it?  Like any good dissertation, the project raises new questions to be studied…

The study is a multilevel analysis of the PISA dataset, looking at math achievement among 15-year olds.  The quantitative analysis is superb.  Among other things, Mayumi carefully parses out the within-school vs. between school components of the SES effects… which yield a whole other set of interesting findings.  For instance, the prevalence of private schooling is associated with bigger school-level (contextual) SES effects but smaller within-school SES effects.  It makes sense one I started thinking about it… but I definitely didn’t know that before.  VERY interesting.

I co-chaired the dissertation with Teresa Swartz.  Jeylan Mortimer and Ann Hironaka were also on the committee.  Mayumi also worked with Karen Bradley at Western Washington, where she did her MA.

Congratulations, Mayumi!  You did a terrific job!

Kristen Shorette, PhD

August 21, 2013

Kristen Shorette finished up her dissertation, entitled:  “Institutional Foundations of Global Markets: The Emergence and Expansion of the Fair Trade Market across Nations and over Time”

The project looks at the emergence of “Fair Trade” in the international system.  Fair trade refers to goods (coffee, handicrafts) that are produced and traded in a environmentally and socially responsible manner.  Fair trade usually takes the form of a certification, done by an independent organization, that provides assurance that the goods are produced and traded in “fair” manner.

Fair Trade Coffee Image

The project is mostly quantitative, analyzing the proliferation of Fair Trade certification organizations and fair trade producers, globally.

The dissertation is at an the intersection of institutional theory, globalization, and economic sociology, where lots of people are doing interesting work (e.g., Tim Bartley, Alwyn Lim, Kiyo Tsutsui, Wes Longhofer).

The dissertation shows how much economic sociology has to say about the formation of new markets.  One simple hypothesis is that Fair Trade will simply grow up around existing market relations…  but that isn’t the case at all.

Rather, fair trade emerges from a global web of personal ties, including Peace Corp volunteers and missionaries who begin to import fair trade goods to the US and Europe.  Kristen actually went out and collected data on the destinations of Peace Corp volunteers, and finds that those connections predict the emergence of Fair Trade producers in later years.

After fair trade catches on, a more formal “fair trade regime” emerges — with large international organizations managing the certification process.   In later years, personalistic ties (e.g., Peace Corp volunteers) cease to be important.  Instead, conventional organizational ties (e.g., country-level INGO membership) are predictive of fair trade activity.

This just scratches the surface.  The dissertation is a big, rich project with lots of interesting findings.  But, it really shows how world society research can speak to economic sociology.

Nina Bandelj and I co-chaired the dissertation, and Ann Hironaka also served on the committee.

Congratulations Kristen!

Mike Landis defends!

August 14, 2013

Mike Landis wrapped up his PhD this Spring.  Congrats!!!

The dissertation is a quantitative, cross-national analysis of terrorism events over the last few decades.  One of the take-away points is that terrorism is frequently the spillover from an ongoing civil war.  That finding makes a ton of sense, and provides a better way of thinking about “typical” forms of terrorism, compared to popular accounts that focus on things like 9/11.  The dissertation does a nice job of developing and extending some of Ann Hironaka’s arguments in her book Neverending Wars (Harvard Press, 2005).  The dissertation committee was Ann, David Frank, Ed Amenta, Wayne Sandholtz, and myself.

The dissertation uses the Global Terrorism Database, which was put together by Gary LaFree  and colleagues at the U of Maryland.  The dataset looks pretty interesting.

Again, congratulations to Dr. Mike Landis!

I had to put blogging aside for a while to deal with a mix of work and personal stuff.  Among other things, I’d promised to copyedit Ann’s book, which took a long time.  She sent off the final manuscript to Cambridge right before ASA!  More on that later.  In the meantime, I can do some posting.

I really enjoyed the ASA meetings in Denver this year.

Lots of great conversations with both new friends and old. And, some very good panels (which can sometimes be hit-or-miss).

I was struck by the rapid growth and maturity of the Global & Transnational Sociology section. The organizers and leadership deserve a huge amount of credit, starting with John Boli (who really put it all together) and continuing through to this year’s Chair Sarah Babb… and everyone in between. They’ve built a broad tent, inclusive of scholars addressing a wide range of theoretical, substantive, and methodological issues. And, people are clearly putting effort into making the ASA less American-centric. Last, but not least, it is just a friendly bunch of people.

The growth of the section is creating community and lots of positive interactions… including the terrific pre-conference (organized by Peggy Levitt and Liz Boyle) and some excellent panels.

Also, the section literally helps constitute and institutionalize the global/transnational sub-field in sociology. This year I’m seeing what is surely a record number of jobs for scholars working in “global & transnational sociology”. This is totally new. In the past, one might see postings for scholars whose research is “international” or occasionally jobs for people studying “globalization” or “comparative sociology” or “global political economy”. Now that there is a formal section, we see standardization of job postings around the label. And, the existence of the section presumably makes it easier to list global/transnational as an area on a job ad. The section legitimates the enterprise… so probably more jobs overall.

Overall, this is a Very Good Thing.


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