Recently Funded FAD Projects: December 2014

Laura E. Enriquez, University of California, Irvine, Katharine Donato, Vanderbilt University; and Cheryl Llewellyn, State University of New York at Stony Brook, $7,000 for Gender and Migration: Building a Sociological Field though Interdisciplinary Conversation.

While participating in interdisciplinary working groups that have contributed to the growth of the field over the past decade, these three researchers observed that sociology has yet to fully incorporate gender within migration studies. One recent literature review indicates that most sociologists studying migration opt for a binary approach to gender and few use it as an explanatory variable. The  researchers will conduct an updated review of the sociology literature and convene a conference to address methodological and theoretical issues in the study of gender and migration. They will compile the products of these activities in a special journal issue that promises to benefit all sociologists working on migration.

Anne Esacove, Muhlenberg College, $7,000 for The Natural Death Movement: Re-Enchanting Death, Revitalizing Life, and Preserving the Planet.

Death is a highly ritualized social phenomenon characterized by multi-dimensional institutional structures, making it a rich subject for sociological inquiry. Yet, death in the contemporary United States remains understudied. Esacove’s research concerns the burgeoning natural death movement, which includes efforts to promote open conversations about death, facilitate family care for the dead, and offer options that do not impede natural decomposition. These practices contest the normative and commodified approaches to death care in the United States. They also disrupt the authority of science and medicine by challenging conventional wisdom that established mortuary practices—particularly embalming— protect the public health and support healthy grieving. Esacove’s project will help us answer the question of whether this movement represents a major shift in cultural practices and norms or a fringe phenomenon destined to remain on the margins.

Carla Goar, Kent State University, and Jenny Davis, James Madison University, $7,000 for Moral Stigma: Race, Disability, and Body Size.

This FAD project will add to the investigators’ ongoing research on the processes underlying stigma, with a focus on its moral aspect. Their project includes participant observation and in-depth interviews with parents at specialized camps for children with stigmatizing attributes: culture camps for adoptive parents with children of a different race, most often white parents with children of color; disability camps for families of children with disabilities; and weight-loss camps for children with high body mass index (BMI). Parents of children with visible physical disabilities and children of color experience morally neutral stigma, while parents of children with non-visible mental or emotional disabilities or high BMI—often attributed to personal failure—experience morally fraught stigma. The study will contribute both to scholarship on stigmatization and socialization, and provide practical insights on how to manage stigma successfully in an institutional setting.

Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, University of South Florida, $6,950 for Second-Class Daughters: Informal Adoption as Neo-Slavery in Brazil.

Brazil has the largest number of domestic workers in the world at more than 7 million, most of them Afro-Brazilian women. In 2013, the Brazilian Congress approved sweeping labor reforms which some call the country’s “second abolition of slavery.” However, many Afro-Brazilian women continue to suffer from labor exploitation in a form of neo-slavery that occurs in their “adoptive” families. This project is a sociological investigation into the structural and individual factors that contribute to the abuse and unpaid labor of Afro-Brazilian women in adoptive families in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Using a qualitative methodology, the project will juxtapose interviews and ethnographic observations with “adopted” women to the data collected from their adoptive families. It makes use of the theoretical framing of “affective capital” to clarify the critical role that emotional manipulation plays in this form of contemporary labor exploitation.

Janice M. Irvine, University of Massachusetts, $6,987 for Nuts, Sluts, and Perverts: Sociology’s Rocky Romance with Deviance.

This project will enrich the discipline by expanding our knowledge of its history. Irvine’s project is a history of the sociology of deviance from 1950–79. It situates the sociology of deviance in its Cold War historical moment, examining the field in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The study examines the connections between the production of knowledge about deviants, their emerging politicization, and new forms of cultural production—particularly television. In this time period, the emerging academic research, social movement mobilizations, and popular culture together brought new cultural visibility to particular deviant types, contributing in some cases to their normalization. Involving interviews with pioneering deviance scholars and scholar-activists, archival research, and content analysis of primary documents and literature, this study will explore the ways gender, race, sexuality, and class have shaped deviance research.

Eran Shor, McGill University, and Arnout van de Rijt, State University of New York-Stony Brook, $7,000 for The Determinants of Sex-Ratio Imbalance in Media Coverage.

To explain the persistent gap in media coverage of men and women, gender theorists often point to the male-dominated field of journalism and reporting focused on “men’s issues.” But how much of the persistent inequality in coverage can be attributed to the structure of media organizations? Do female names receive less coverage than male names, even when considering their lesser representation in political and economic positions? And, how do coverage patterns change when women fill key editorial positions? This project will assemble and analyze a database of more than 20 million articles appearing in U.S. and Canadian news outlets between 2003 and 2014, alongside data on news organizations (e.g., the gender composition of the workforce and editorial boards) and the environments in which they operate (e.g., female political representation by constituency). In addition to creating datasets of interest to other researchers, the project represents a new area of sociology with the potential to elaborate on a series of further questions.