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Syracuse Shines at American Sociological Association Meeting in Montreal

Faculty, students present cutting-edge research on social inclusion, Aug. 12-15

Aug 12, 2017 — Article by: Rob Enslin

Photo of Prema Kurien

Prema Kurien

More than two-dozen researchers from the Department of Sociology are on the world stage at the American Sociological Association (ASA)’s 112th Annual Meeting in Montreal.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “Culture, Inequalities and Social Inclusion Across the Globe.” Approximately 600 sessions convene from Aug. 12-15, providing participation venues and networking outlets for nearly 3,000 research papers and over 4,600 presenters.

The sociology department is located in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and offers graduate and undergraduate degree opportunities in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences.   

“We are honored to participate in this year’s Annual Meeting, which seeks to promote greater social inclusion and resilience, collective well-being and solidarity, both here and abroad,” says Prema Kurien, professor and chair of sociology. “Our faculty and student presenters are addressing the politics of social recognition and their interaction with and impact on the distribution of social and material resources.”

Photo of Madonna Harrington Meyer

Madonna Harrington Meyer

This year’s conference comes on the heels of Madonna Harrington Meyer’s conclusion as department chair. Winner of last year’s ASA Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award, she is speaking at the meeting’s Section on Aging and the Life Course. Her lecture draws on data from her previous and current projects to understand how disability shapes carework performed by working grandmothers.

“My talk focuses on care provided by grandmothers for their grandchildren, particularly when the grandmothers or grandchildren are disabled,” says Harrington Meyer, whose research involves old age policies, including the apparent “lack of much-needed” policies. “While disability rates are increasing in the United States, social programs to help families cope with disabilities are not. Thus, families often turn to grandparents—grandmothers, in particular—for help with childcare, transportation, homework, doctor visits, financial matters and much more.”

Harrington Meyer says such responsibility can be taxing, especially if the grandmother is working or disabled or if the grandchild for whom she is caring is disabled. “It can tax her social, emotional, physical and financial well-being,” she adds.

An award-winning author, Harrington Meyer is co-editor with Ph.D. student Ynesse Abdul-Malak of “Grandparenting in the United States” (Routledge, 2016) and with Ph.D. student Elizabeth Daniele of “Gerontology: Changes, Challenges and Solutions” (Praeger, 2016).

Other faculty participants are Edwin Ackerman, Jennifer Karas Montez, Scott Landes, Andrew London, Amy Lutz, Yingyi Ma, Shannon Monnat, Gretchen Purser, Merril Silverstein and Terrell Winder.

The following are some faculty snapshots:

Photo of Edwin Ackerman

Edwin Ackerman

Edwin Ackerman
Ackerman is addressing the meeting’s Section on Comparative-Historical Sociology. Inspired by a surge of sociological interest in the agency of parties, he is presenting a case study of post-revolutionary Bolivia titled “Two Primitive Accumulations Behind Political Articulation.” His lecture examines how “party articulation” forges alliances among disparate social sectors. 

“The concept of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ [i.e., the transfer of ownership over the means of production, away from direct producers] is crucial to understanding party formation,” says Ackerman, an assistant professor who studies political sociology, comparative-historical sociology and social theory. “It is in the context of dispossession that ‘articulatable’ interests and groups often emerge. Political parties, as entities sitting ambiguously between state and civil society, became privileged actors, in a sense.”

Ackerman is focusing on Bolivia’s National Revolution of 1952, in which workers and peasants overthrew an oligarchy of tin barons and landholders. He explains how the revolutionary party forged alliances with the peasantry in areas where dispossession had taken place.

“Despite the fact that peasants from different regions [of Bolivia] joined the insurrectionary phase of the revolution, only those in areas where dispossession had occurred were successfully incorporated into the ruling party,” Ackerman says. “The incursion of wage labor and a market economy created two basic pre-conditions for political articulation: individuals available for organization with a set of interests compatible with party organization, and an autonomous field of politics [i.e., a sphere of articulating professional representatives].”

Prema Kurien
Kurien is interested in the sociological study of immigration, religion and ethnicity. She travels to Montreal as a presenter, presider, session organizer and participant. In particular, Kurien is addressing Sikh and Hindu migration patterns along the North American West Coast at the meeting’s Section on Contexts and Trajectories of Incorporation.

“South Asian migration is influenced by various factors, including the economic and social profiles of the regions involved, U.S. and Canadian policies toward Asian immigrants and the easy movement [of immigrants] between both countries,” she says. “Over time, such patterns have led to a divergence in the self-perception and socio-political incorporation of Sikhs and Hindus in the United States and Canada.”

Founder of Syracuse’s Asian/Asian American Studies program, Kurien is chair-elect of the meeting’s Section on Asia and Asian America, and is involved with the sections on Political Sociology and International Migration.

Photo of Andrew London

Andrew London

Andrew London
London wears many hats at Syracuse: associate dean of the Maxwell School, professor of sociology, Maxwell Tenth Decade Faculty Scholar, faculty associate of the Aging Studies Institute and faculty affiliate of the Center for Policy Research. He also is a frequent ASA presenter.

London and Scott Landes, a newly appointed assistant professor of sociology, is presenting a paper that builds on their previous work on the consequences of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for adults. Using data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, they find that adults with ADHD have an increased likelihood of experiencing injuries in the prior three months, two or more physical health conditions, functional limitations, fair or poor self-reported health and distress in models that control for exogenous demographic characteristics, psychiatric comorbidities, health behaviors, access to health care and socioeconomic status. 

London says that, even when controlling for other factors associated with adult-health outcomes, ADHD exerts a “large, statistically significant influence” on adult health. Case in point: Adults with ADHD are 62 percent to 2.3 times more likely to experience health problems than adults who do not have ADHD.  

“Our results affirm the necessity of expanding ADHD health research beyond childhood and a solely biomedical model to include consideration of the social determinants of adult health and stigmatization across the life course,” says London, whose co-presenter is overseeing a paper session organized by the sections on Disability and Society and on Peace, War and Social Conflict.

London also is teaming up with graduate student Aaron Hoy for a presentation on same-sex sexuality and marital duration.  Theirs is the first to use high-quality, nationally representative data to examine this issue. London and Hoy theorize that same-sex sexuality could either increase or decrease the duration of first marriages, and they draw on data from the 2011-13 National Survey for Family Growth to see which is the case.

“We find that same-sex sexuality shortens different-sex marital duration, on average, by 27-30 months,” says London, adding that the associations persist in models that control for a range of demographic and background characteristics. “The associations between each aspect of same-sex sexuality—attraction, behavior and identity—and different-sex marital duration are primarily mediated by divorce. ... Same-sex sexuality is associated with a substantial reduction in marital duration, net of other variables, and should be considered in future research on marital processes and outcomes.”

London is a council member for the meeting’s Section on Aging and the Life Course, and serves on the section’s Mathilda White Riley Award selection committee. A member of the section’s Best Graduate Student Paper Award Committee, he is presenting said award in Montreal. London also chairs the nominations committee for the Section on Medical Sociology.
Photo of Amy Lutz and Yingyi Ma

Amy Lutz and Yingyi Ma

Amy Lutz
Lutz investigates multiple areas, including the children of immigrants, race, ethnicity and educational inequalities. Along with Rebecca Wang, a graduate student at Syracuse, and Pamela Bennett, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she is presenting at the meeting’s Section on Affirmative Action and Anti-Discrimination Policy. Lutz's presentation utilizes nationally representative longitudinal data to examine the link between SAT mismatch and academic performance at U.S. colleges and universities.  

“We find that SAT mismatch does not significantly affect graduation from a selective institution,” says Lutz, adding that blacks and Latinos traditionally have lower SAT scores than their Asian and white peers. “Mismatch is associated with significantly lower grades at selective institutions, but the effect does not vary by race.”

The associate professor is illustrating how high school GPA plays a larger role in college GPA than mismatch. “While critics argue that lower grade point averages harm minority students, proponents of affirmative action argue that graduation from a selective college is more important than grade point average," she says.

Yingyi Ma
Ma specializes in migration and education. In addition to being director of the Asian/Asian American Studies program, the associate professor is an O’Hanley Faculty Scholar and a senior research associate in the Center for Policy Research.

In Montreal, Ma is a discussant for the Section on Asia and Asian America. She also is presenting “The New Education Gospel in China” at the meeting’s Section on the Sociology of Education—drawing on her upcoming book from Columbia University Press about a new wave of Chinese students on U.S. campuses.

Despite the rising cost of American tuition, China sends more students to the United States than any other country. In 2016, approximately 1.2 million international students attended American colleges and universities—a 6.5 percent increase from the year before and the highest number ever.

“I examine why Chinese students choose to study in the United States, how they get here, and what their academic and social experiences are like,” she says. “I use mixed methods of survey analysis and in-depth longitudinal interviews to present systematic patterns and nuanced insights about this growing phenomenon.”
Photo of Gretchen Purser and Merril Silverstein

Gretchen Purser and Merril Silverstein

Gretchen Purser
Purser’s presentation pulls from an article that she and Brian Hennigan, a graduate student in geography in the Maxwell School, have published in Ethnography (SAGE Publishing, 2017). The article is the first in-depth ethnographic account of a faith-based job-readiness program, focusing on what they call “evangelizing employability.” 

“We show how such projects adorn work and workplace relations with spiritual meaning,” says Purser, an assistant professor who studies the sociology of work and labor, urban sociology and poverty, and inequality. “Students are urged to piously embrace low-wage, entry-level labor; to accept the will of the employer as the will of the Lord; and to recognize joblessness as a reflection of spiritual inadequacy.”

Purser says their findings not only shed light on religious neoliberalism, but also reveal the “extraordinary and ongoing utility” of faith-based discourses and ideologies for the enactment of neoliberal priorities and policies of work enforcement.

“There are contradictory logics that operate within evangelizing employability,” she adds. “Targeting joblessness, the program draws upon neoliberal ideology to urge entrepreneurial independence. Targeting Godlessness, the program draws upon evangelical discourse and teachings to urge righteous dependence on God. … We look at the practices and politics of faith-based organizations in context of the neo-liberalized landscape of social welfare provision.”

Merril Silverstein
The Marjorie Cantor Endowed Professor in Aging, Silverstein is dually appointed to the Maxwell School and Falk College, where he is a professor of sociology and of human development and family sciences, respectively. Silverstein and Anja Steinbach, a visiting researcher from Germany, are co-presenting a program on the influence of religion on intergenerational solidarity in Eastern and Western Germany. Their presentation is part of the meeting’s section on the Sociology of Religion.

“We look at the link between religiosity and intergenerational solidarity in Germany, focusing on the differences between the two regions, whose unique religious profiles predate unification,” says Silverstein, alluding to his and Steinbach's analysis of the relationships of more than 4,600 adult children with their parents. “Our findings support the idea of religion having a positive impact on the strength of intergenerational relations in Germany. This is not the case, however, in the highly secularized Eastern part of Germany, where the influence of religion on solidarity is not as strong as in the more religious Western part.”

Silverstein, who also is presiding over an invited session sponsored by the Section on Aging and the Life Course, says the findings account for social context and political history. “These areas are important when considering core institutions of religion and families,” he says.

Professor Karas Montez is overseeing the meeting’s section on Medical Sociology. Professor Emeritus Marjorie DeVault is organizing and presiding over a special session on institutional ethnographies of the “corporate university.”

The following graduate students are presenting in Montreal:    

• Michael Branch G’17 is discussing “Family, Education and Tolerance,” revealing that parents with lower levels of education are less likely to tolerate homosexuality than parents with more education.

• Jennifer Brooks G’17 is giving a talk titled “Just a Little Respect,” showing how workers with disabilities have lower odds of reporting job satisfaction than their counterparts without disabilities.

• Selene Cammer-Bechtold G’14 is presenting "The Soft Power of PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] on the Common Core Standards Reform Effort in the United States.” She looks at how PISA rankings function as a political tool of education reform.

• Jessica Hausauer G’10 is examining how social programs, such as Medicaid, the Housing Choice Voucher program (a.k.a. Section 8) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, help mitigate material hardship for sanctioned clients.

• Angie Mejia is discussing the challenges being a woman of color who does public sociology research, in a presentation titled “Beyond the Ivory Tower: Combining Social Theory with Politics and Service.” She considers the emotional health outcomes of presenting findings about issues of privilege, oppression and White fragility to a mostly white audience.

• Dalton Stevens G’17 takes on the “Accessibility Paradox,” in which people with disabilities are forced to make housing choices based on affordability instead of accessibility, relegating them to substandard living conditions.

• Tracy Vargas discusses how management’s “pathological” monitoring of low-wage service workers propagates an atmosphere of criminalization.

• Wencheng Zhang examines the link between people born during China’s famine (1959-62) and metabolic syndrome, schizophrenia and Type 2 diabetes, taking into account genetic and bio-cultural mechanisms.

The sociology department offers core training in sociological issues, theory and practice, with emphasis on structural and social inequalities. Specifically, the department provides graduate and undergraduate opportunities in globalization, immigration and transnational studies; health, aging and the life course; family, education and work; and power, capital and culture.
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Rob Enslin