Welcome to our (somewhat delayed) 2011 Sociology Department Newsletter. We have lots to share with everyone! We'll begin with some quick updates about our current faculty.
"Karla Erickson enjoyed her first year as an Associate Professor and as Chair of the Department, in 2010-2011. She is happy that, after a year of many searches, next year the department can look forward to the arrival of the Department's newest tenure track member, Michael Thompson. We'll also benefit from courses taught by CFD fellow Maxwell Leung, a gifted scholar and teacher who taught memorable courses at Grinnell in 2008-2009, and Mellon fellow Kaelyn Wiles, who, among other contributions, will teach a course on the Sociology of Religion. Karla continues to conduct research and MAPs connected to her primary research project entitled How We Die Now, which examines the social interactions at the end of life in institutionalized care settings. The project is under contract with Temple University Press and will be published in 2013. This year, seniors Ragnar Thorisson and Liting Cong conducted comparative aging research during the spring semester that has already informed the project. Erickson presented at the Future Directions in the Humanities Conference in Granada, Spain in June. In the coming months she will present her research at the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems in August, the American Studies Association in October, and the National Women's Studies Association in November.
Karla will be on sabbatical and research leaves during the 2011-2012 academic year to complete this project.
Karla's other research project is a collaboration with Professor of Law, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, from the University of Iowa. This research collects narratives from minority law faculty about how they survive the legal academy. The project is entitled Professional Forbearance, and uses Kesho Scott's notion of the "habits of surviving" to analyze patterns of discrimination and resilience among minority faculty who stay in one position for seven years or more. Taken together, these two projects allow Karla to pursue her interests in feminist ethnography, and inequality, justice, and power in the workplace."
Kesho Scott is chairing the department this year and has this to share:"Over the last year, I continued to work on my book on the Black Male gender experience at Grinnell College, 1950-2005. I was a guest lecturer at East China Normal University (ECNU), Shanghai Summer Institutes in 2010 and 2011, where I taught three sociology courses: Introduction to Sociology, Social Movements, and Study of American Society and Culture. I was able to expand my "Female Harrassment" research by completing a survey at ECNU that measures perceptions of harassment in Chinese universities and society. This way, I will be able to continue my cross-cultural analysis of the effectiveness of anti-harassment policies in Ethiopia, China and the US. I have finished three more stories in my serial autobiography, Lemongrass Stories, addressing the intersections of aging, heterosexism, gender race, and class. I was busy on and off campus giving talks in my role as a public intellectual: "Chronicles of Connection: Faculty at Work at the Intersection of Art and History," "China in the Media Forum," "25th Anniversary of Stonewall Resource Center Celebration," and "What's It Like To Be Me: Intentional Discussion on Diversity" (all at Grinnell College). I was a keynote speaker for three talks sponsored by the Maddox Foundation and University of the Southwest, in Hobbs, NM: "Unlearning Our Social Limitations," Black History Month Project, and "Post-Diversity Conversations."
Peter Hart-Brinson successfully completed the first of his two years as a visiting assistant professor and is convinced that he learned as much from Grinnell students as they did from him. During the past year, he published research on the free radio movement in the American Journal of Sociology, and he wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register on the future of same-sex marriage in Iowa. He is continuing his research on two projects: on generational change in attitudes about same-sex marriage and on the increasing use of fitness fundraisers by nonprofit organizations in the US. He is looking forward to his second year with his colleagues and students in the sociology department.
Max Leung is returning to Grinnell in a new role. He spent 2008-09 in a leave replacement position during Karla Erickson's Harris Leave. He's back for another year, this time as a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow. Max earned his BA and MA in Political Science at San Francisco State University, and his PhD in Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests are hate violence studies, critical race studies, law and society, post-structuralism, Asian American history, politics, and culture, and visual and popular culture. During his year at Grinnell, Max will be teaching a sociology course on contemporary Asian American issues and an introduction to American Studies, reprising very successful courses he taught in his first stay at Grinnell. And he'll resume taking wonderful photographs on campus (some of which grace our web site).
Kaelyn Wiles will be at Grinnell for two years, as a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow, teaching one course per semester and working on her research. Kaelyn was a biology major at Oberlin College before attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her PhD in sociology. Her dissertation research focuses on the rise of mindfulness meditation as a new medical intervention. Her research addresses the question: How did a meditation practice with Buddhist origins become widely accepted within conventional medicine? Her answer focuses on the specific strategies that meditation practitioners and advocates used as they carefully crossed the boundaries between science, politics, and religion.Kaelyn brings a strong global perspective to her work. As a biology major in college, she spent summers researching howler monkeys in Costa Rica, climate change in California, soil warming in Massachusetts, and observing the behavior of lemurs in Madagascar. She studied human and ecosystem interactions through a program called Global Ecology, spending two months in each of five countries: England, India, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Mexico. Kaelyn will bring her diverse interests in meditation and global issues to her course on the sociology of religion this year.
Kent McClelland is finding Senior Faculty Status rewarding:"The school year 2010-11 marked an important transition for me. I began a five-year term of partial retirement, called Senior Faculty Status, in which I work half time at the College and teach only one course a year. This arrangement gives me lots more time to concentrate on research and writing, and I have continued energetically with my research on perceptual control theory, which has been my main focus of research for the past two decades.
Last spring I taught a seminar in sociology called, "What is Social Structure?" I was happy to have an opportunity to share my interests in sociological theory, as well as my latest research, with students. Next spring, I will again teach "Freedom and Authority: Control of Reproduction," an interdisciplinary senior seminar that provides a capstone experience in the liberal arts. This is a course that I've enjoyed teaching in the past, and I'm looking forward this time to working with Elizabeth Queathem in Biology and Stephen Andrews in English, the other members of our interdisciplinary teaching team.
In November and December of 2011, I will be traveling to Manchester, England, to work as a Research Fellow with two professors in the Psychology Department at the University of Manchester, the largest university in the United Kingdom. I will be assisting them in the teaching of their undergraduate course on perceptual control theory.
It's been a pleasure to pull back some from the everyday work of the Sociology Department and to have more time for my family, including three grandchildren, two in Germany with my daughter Laura's family and one in Portland, Oregon, with my son David's family. My wife, Katherine, continues to work full time at the Math Lab, and she's also doing very well, although she's begun to think about retirement, too."
Michael Thompson has just begun at Grinnell, filling the tenure-track position opened up when Kent McClelland moved to Senior Faculty Status. Michael is broadly interested in political and economic sociology with a focus on stratification, socioeconomic mobility, workforce development, and social movements. His dissertation research focuses on how political institutions influence the enactment of state minimum wage legislation across the US and the impact of these laws on income inequality and employment. Michael is also trained in Latin American & Caribbean studies.Before coming to Grinnell, Michael gained considerable experience as a research analyst for the Indiana Business Research Center, collaborating on grant-funded projects for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Economic Development Administration and the Lumina Foundation. He will bring that expertise to teaching research methods, among other courses.
Though born in New York, Michael grew up in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago. He returned to the US for college at Yale and spent a few years doing social work in New York City and business research in Trinidad before joining the Sociology Department at Indiana University, Bloomington. In his spare time, Michael enjoys high school volunteering, Gumboot dancing, swimming, and listening to music from across the globe.
Susan Ferguson: "Greetings sociology alumni! I have had a great year focused more on my children and my book projects. Gillian turned 10 years old this summer and just started the 5th grade at the middle school here. Alana turned 8 years old and began 3rd grade. Both are voracious readers and love school. In the fall of last year, I taught my tutorial: "Frankenstein: Gender, Technology, and the Sociological Imagination," which I enjoyed immensely. This year, in addition to teaching the Sociology of Health and Illness, I am teaching a new seminar, Identities and Inequalities, which examines race, social class, gender, ability, and other categories of difference. I have been working on a book manuscript for two years on this topic, and my current seminar is reading the manuscript as part of the course content. I have been assisted on this challenging project by some great sociology major research assistants over the past couple of years, including Nichole Baker and Allison Brinkhorst. Allison and I did a Mentored Advanced Project together last spring that utilized the research and applied it to pedagogy.In addition to the new manuscript I have been working on this past year, I had a major victory in moving the Family Series I had begun with Pearson Publishing to Sage Publications. It was a long process getting Pearson to release most of the book contracts in the series, but Sage is a better fit. The first two volumes in the series, "Contemporary Family Perspectives," with Sage are Shirley Hill's Families: A Social Class Perspective and Nancy Riley's and Krista Van Vleet's Making Families Through Adoption. Other books are soon to follow on Global Families, Work and Families, Families and Caregiving, Family Policy, and Families and Consumption. I am proud of this collection of books.
My other major activity of the past year has been doing teaching workshops at regional and national meetings. At the Midwest Sociological Meetings in St. Louis, I co-led a workshop on teaching the Sociology of the Body. In Las Vegas at the American Sociological Meetings, I co-led a teaching workshop on teaching family diversity and another one on teaching Introduction to Sociology. All produced exciting discussion about teaching practices, and I learned a good deal from the participants.
Davíd Cook-Martín: "I thoroughly enjoyed a Harris Fellowship leave over the last year. Maybe it was the flip-flops-and-shorts informality that reminded me of graduate school or maybe the ability to disconnect from email and phones with few consequences. Mostly I enjoyed reconnecting with the kinds of questions that drew me to sociology in the first place, reflecting on the daily practice of scholarly discovery, and thinking about how each of these inform and are shaped by my teaching and mentoring. Since May 17, 2010 – the day I started writing - I have loved every minute of grappling with questions about the relationship between racial ideologies and the ways countries in the Americas have organized their polities. I wrote three book chapters in response to these questions as well as a couple of articles on related themes. I revised two chapters by my co-author that along with mine form part of a book on race, immigration, and citizenship policies in the Americas. I also wrote a book proposal that summarized the overall argument of this book. I was fascinated by what I learned about Chinese exclusions and how they spread in the immigration and nationality laws of the Americas. I was surprised to learn how influential eugenics had been among the scientific, professional, and policy elites who advocated biologically selective immigration laws. In a side project, I completed a book manuscript that is currently under review. It is about the development of citizenship and immigration laws in Italy, Spain and Argentina since the mid-19th Century, and especially their long-term consequences.The Harris leave also gave me an invaluable opportunity to reflect on the daily practice of my intellectual craft. I was struck more than ever by how thinking and writing – inseparable in my view – happen in discrete chunks on a daily basis rather than in long fits of uninterrupted inspiration. I also realized the importance of striving for balance between work, family, and play, and of recognizing that my mind inhabits a body that tires, needs rest, and wants exercise! My participation in writing and accountability groups led me to think in detail about my intellectual work-flows and processes. As I thought about teaching and mentoring, it struck me that nuts and bolts discussions of routine acts of thinking and writing are infrequent and undervalued. I hope to have more of those with students.
Finally, the Harris leave allowed me to take stock of the extent to which my teaching and scholarship have informed each other. My citizenship book is fundamentally different than it would have been without conversations with my students. I think my political sociology seminar this fall will draw on sharper insights and better case studies because of the work I have done in completing the book. My mentoring of students in MAPS, through the Mellon Mays program, or as research assistants has forced me to be more intentional and deliberate about routine practices of research. When I see the joy or shock of discovery on a student's face – as I did this summer when Kate Eno '11 helped me sift through the papers of a prominent eugenist – my own sense of curiosity and amazement grows and I'm inspired to repeat the experience with someone else. On balance, my experiences and reflections this year have been extremely positive and I hope they infect the years ahead."