Sociology/Anthropology Senior Projects
Senior Essay and Thesis Abstracts 2012-13
“An Examination of Discipline: Reflections of Vermont Teachers”
This research looked at seasoned rural Vermont teachers to better understand the ways in which teachers acquired, enforced, and reflected upon their classroom management and/or disciplinary styles. The first phase of this project studied the lack of consensus about discipline. The second phase investigated hypothetical situations in which discipline would be employed by teachers. The third piece identified the teachers, both theoretically as social actors, and personally through their narratives about themselves as disciplinarians. Ultimately, the teachers’ collective narratives about their disciplinary styles produced a new concept: flexibility. I used their narratives to work to better understand how they imagine flexibility working within their discipline styles. This analysis also led me to considering flexibility as a skill that requires incessant practice, failure, and self-reflection. I argue that flexibility is almost synonymous with expertise for these teachers, which highlights the way in which seasoned teachers have a valuable skill set all their own.
“Naymlap’s Immortality: Narrative Archaeology and the Short Story”
Archaeology is an excellent way to study and understand civilizations and people of the past. We can see how people from nearly all walks of life lived, how they went about their daily activities, and how they organized themselves socially, politically, and economically. Written records also provide a wealth of knowledge. We see what was important to write down, especially in cultures with sparse writing. This wealth of archaeological and historical information can be very interesting and potentially reach a wide audience. The information is easily applicable to many different fields and mediums, both academic and popular. This project aims to take the academic information gleaned from archaeology and the historical record and bring it to a wider audience through the medium of a short story about Peruvian pre-Incan mythology.
“Iron Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century Superhero Genre Film”
This essay traces the expression of hegemonic constructions of masculinity by analyzing four Marvel superhero genre films from 2008 – 2011. It identifies the importance of five themes of masculinity: incorporation of discipline and technology into the body, the display of the indestructible male body, the heterosexual attractiveness and performance of the superheroic body, manipulation of the world through destruction and selective creation, and defense of the national boundary against feminized villainy. Of these, nearly all are present in each film, but the first especially accounts for 10-20% of runtimes in the films in which it is present. Violence as masculine power, too, is central, with heroes accomplishing an average of 35 kills per film, excluding uncertain deaths. The paper shows that each of these films explores its own variation of hegemonic masculinity, but they all conform to its basic themes.
“Overcoming Overwork: An Exploration of Student Parking Practices and Laziness”
This paper demonstrates through ethnography how networks of generalized exchange between students are constructed and operate, and are applied to practices of car driving and parking in a specific area of contested space on the Middlebury campus. Through these networks, students achieve a degree of success in transforming and redefining certain parking situations on the periphery of administrative concern. Furthermore, this paper considers the idea of laziness as expressed by students in the context of a prevalent ethos of productivity and overwork. I contend that what students describe as “laziness” is actually the realization of energy spent on problem solving, an output not explicitly considered work by college students. Data for this paper was collected through direct observation and participant observation with informal interviews and focus groups. Through the examination of the politics of everyday life, this project explores the way cultural ideologies of labor affect the treatment and conception of the utility of space in a small, bounded context.
“Stand-up Comedy in Burlington: Bakhtinian Carnival or Bourgeois Spectacle? The Discursive Construction of Power at Levity Comedy Club”
Academic sources propose that the dialogic art form that is stand-up comedy provides a ‘counter-public discursive realm.’ Stand-up comedy rooms are described as chaotic, disordered, and transgressive – reminiscent of Bakhtin’s characterization of folk humor. I spent four months attending ‘open-mike’ nights and comedy showcases at Levity Comedy Club, a café-turned-comedy-club in Burlington, Vermont, that tapes all of its acts. During my time there, I observed the discrepancies between comics’ front-stage performances and their back-stage work. I analyzed 15 recordings of stand-up comics, categorizing the propulsion behind the humor as political, intellectual, bodily, or emotional. I then observed trends that characterized a comic’s embodied identity, and the types of humor they tended to engage in, succeed at, and fail through. I maintain that humor is a contextual, embodied phenomenon that is highly contingent on the embodiment of the individual performing the jokes and the audience that receives them. I unpack the manifestation and negotiation of power through the medium of stand-up comedy, concluding that stand-up comedy at Levity Comedy Club does not bear many similarities to Bakhtin’s folk humor and the carnival.
“Managing Maternal Health: Feminist Thought Toward an Intersectional Discourse in Midwifery”
This essay examines the formation of contemporary midwifery practices and how an intersectional discourse may be integrated into studies of midwifery and maternal health. Feminist scholarship on childbirth emerged with second-wave feminist thought in the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the feminist scholarship on childbirth explores women’s experiences without critically assessing how race, class, and ethnicity as well as gender may affect the experience of labor and delivery. Midwifery care differentiates itself from obstetric maternal care in its focus on holistic practices. Yet, midwives are almost entirely white women while the women they serve are largely women of color. I interviewed seven midwives working in racially and economically diverse settings to investigate how a critical feminist perspective on midwifery is incorporated or suppressed within the field. The goal of this research is to expose the lack of intersectional discourse currently available on childbirth and midwifery, spark a different framing of midwifery than has been done previously, and move toward a more critically reflexive approach.
“Modes of Ideological (Re-)production in Rural Kentucky: The Use of ‘Hillbilly Logic’ and ‘Mountain Mentality’ in Interpretations of Climate Change”
Since the industrialization of the Civil War Reconstruction era, rural Appalachia has been depicted through ‘local color’ literature as a passive population of backward hillbilly mountainfolk in the larger context of the United States economy, perpetually impoverished peripheral contributors to core economic national stability through its mining, processing and exporting of coal. In the face of global climate change and the federal government’s “War on Coal,” rural Appalachians continued to be illustrated as ignorant anti-environmentalist climate deniers. A content analysis of fifteen interviews with citizens of a coal-mining county in Eastern Kentucky on the topic of climate change reveals that the subculture’s re-appropriation of the mentalities associated with the terms “hillbilly” and “mountainfolk” serve as useful lenses for understanding the many ways in which Appalachians protect their ontological security through either separating or connecting coal-mining and climate change. Taking a compound materialist and idealist approach, this paper explores the ways in which etic infrastructural relationships and emic ideological commitments will continually provide a stumbling block for the future progress of attitudes toward climate change in rural Appalachia.
“Pre-service”: An Examination of College Seniors Becoming Teachers through a University-Based Licensure Program or Teach for America
Due to growing perceptions of teaching as a marginalized career among the student bodies of selective colleges and universities, this paper investigates the opinions and attitudes toward teaching of seven Middlebury College seniors planning to enter the field of education. Of the students interviewed, four had taken many courses in the college’s Education Studies program (ESTD), while three had not and are applying to Teach for America (TFA). The research focuses on four main areas: the basic demographic differences between the ESTD and TFA students (including ultimate career ambitions), the students’ motivations for pursuing teaching, views of effective teaching, and attitudes toward racial and class differences in educational outcomes. In analyzing the interview data, the project makes use of theories related to elite educational institutions (Bourdieu, Khan) and pre-professional socialization (Becker, McAlpine, Klossner, Chumbler). I conclude that students who have undergone the distinct socialization experience of the Education Studies program are more likely to identify with current teachers and to see effective teaching as connecting work in the classroom to the larger community. Students without the ESTD experience (the TFA cohort) show no particular identification with current teachers and see effective teaching as more situated in the individual teacher’s classroom. Considered through the lens of pre-professional socialization theories, ESTD students more thoroughly identify with their chosen career, while TFA students retain a level of distance from the profession of teaching.
“Of Meat and Men: Vegetarianism among Male Athletes and Perceptions of Masculinity”
This study addresses and challenges the widely established correlation between meat and masculinity. The data for this study emerged from interviews with male and female vegetarian athletes as well as non-vegetarian members of stereotypically masculine sports teams. Though meat-abstention is typically considered an emasculatory act, this study suggests male vegetarians do not necessarily forego masculinity. In fact, they often find other ways to express it, as through athletic pursuits. Ultimately, I conclude that masculinity is best conceived of as a form of capital that can be lost or earned in varied ways.
“Σink, Σank, Σunk, Δrink, Δrank, Δrunk: Pong and Other Social Capital Accumulation Strategies at Dartmouth College”
While the surrounding woods of Hanover, New Hampshire seem frozen in time, the area is not impervious to change. Within this town lies Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution founded as an all-male college in 1769. Two centuries later, Dartmouth opened its doors to females yet a dominant culture of masculinity remains dominant on campus to this day. Fraternities host and reinforce a game of social capital accumulation in which students accrue ‘frat capital’ through displays of masculinity, which I call ‘fratty’ performances. Females must ‘undo’ their gender, becoming masculine, to partake in the masculine game and male social world. However, females are really only gaining access to the resources that are used in the game of cultural capital accumulation at Dartmouth College. Students playing this game of capital accumulation are merely playing with culture, creating and legitimizing a form of capital that is only applicable to social life at Dartmouth College. This game of capital accumulation serves to continuously re-establish a social and cultural precedence of masculinity.
“Making Mama and Tayta Proud: The Story of Second-Generation Andean Immigrants Graduating”
As I look around, I am lonely. Almost none of my childhood friends can share in my excitement of graduating from college, particularly a four-year college. Why is this? This is a question I have asked myself repeatedly during my time at Middlebury College. I know it is not because I am a genius, so what could it be? My uncomfortable questions led me to this study. Therefore, in this paper I explore the question of what factors influence whether or not second-generation immigrants attend college. Due to the crucial impact my own family played in my college matriculation, I approach this question through the lens of family relations. I evaluate to what extent first generation migrants actively encourage their children to attend college, how much are their second-generation children aware of their parents’ efforts and attitudes toward education, and what steps families take to ensure the college matriculation of the second generation.
“The Game-Changer: Reflections on Brittney Griner and Subversion in Elite Women’s `
I examined various online social media platforms to document reactions to Brittney Griner, the ‘game changer’ of elite women’s basketball and leader of #1-ranked Baylor University. Her 6’8’’ frame and YouTube-chronicled dunking abilities have provoked a dramatic range of reactions. Focusing specifically on media representations of the WNBA alongside the emerging story of Brittney Griner, I interrogate her potential impact on the cultural discourse of gender and race in the future of elite women’s basketball. After examining the dominant narrative of gender and race in the historical and cultural contexts of elite American sports, I discuss how media representations of Griner reinforce or challenge dominant discourses of gender, sexuality, and race. I argue that while women’s basketball – and particularly the WNBA – is a visibly subversive and ‘queer’ site, critics and fans alike police the gendered and raced transgressions of its athletes. While the WNBA and its fans contest dominant cultural understandings of male superiority in sport and homophobic attitudes toward female athletes, narratives about the league simultaneously reproduce privileged hierarchies of an oppositional sex/gender model and a standard of whiteness to which all athletes are held. However, I also argue that Brittney Griner poses a new and important threat, an embodiment of subversion that, in the context of women’s sports, holds a serious possibility of challenging the limits to ideologies of gender, race and sexuality.
Charlotte M. Heilbronn
“Beauty & the “Big Five” Beast:
How the Content of Teen Magazines Affects the Way Teenagers Conceptualize Beauty”
This research uncovers the impact that teen magazines, specifically Seventeen and Teen Vogue, have on teenagers’ perceptions of beauty and physical appearance. Teen magazines are a form of socialization that advise teenage girls on the latest beauty tips, fashion trends, exercises, and makeovers. The first section of this study presents a content analysis of magazine cover headlines to reveal the underlying messages regarding beauty. These headlines focus on the physical female body. They boldly present the means for realizing a particular form of physical perfection in a manner that convinces girls to believe that they can and should achieve this entirely fabricated ideal. Discussion of perfectionist discourse and heteronormative behavior in these headlines unravels the social construction of beauty and the production of femininity. In addition, the homogenization of the content wholeheartedly affirms the universally accepted beauty ideal. The second part of this study focuses on the way in which teenagers respond to these same cover images. It becomes clear that teens are highly influenced by what is being delivered to them. The digital manipulation of these images presents a major problem for these teenagers because it propels many to both criticize and desire these manufactured bodies. Finally, the majority of the interviews addressed the concept of ‘perfection,’ underscoring the pressure these magazines place on beauty and flawlessness.
“Tags, Tweets, and Texts: How Facebook Affects Relationships on the Middlebury College Campus”
As technology quickly advances and permeates the lives of more human beings, it is both helpful and important to understand the manner in which it affects our lives outside of the cyber realm. We have become increasingly ‘plugged in’ and connected, but how does this constant connection affect our ability to actually connect on deeper emotional levels with other people? The increased prevalence of Facebook, a social networking site that now reports to have more than a billion active users, was the major focus of this study. Throughout this study interviews and focus groups were conducted, along with participant observation, in order to gain a greater understanding of the manner in which Facebook is used and has affected current face-to-face relationships. This study focused on college-age users of Facebook in the Middlebury College community. Students who use Facebook to find social information, stake claims to identity and status, and legitimize status. Through this study, and by delving into these three main themes, it became clear that users of Facebook were able to produce a Facebook image of themselves, although it might not actually fall in line with their real life persona.
“’Eat Right and Extratize’: A Critical Sociological Perspective on Language, Youth, and the Politics of Health in Southern Oregon
This sociocultural study explores how both white and Latino children and their families in Klamath Falls, Oregon depict, discuss, and interact with food. In addition, the study looks at how the groups incorporate ‘health food’ discourse in their everyday lives. In-depth ethnographic research at two local elementary schools revealed the social and cultural terms through which children construct and communicate the meanings of health and nutrition. The resulting analysis delves into the complexities of food discourse, including the various ways food is portrayed as ‘healthy’ or ‘junk’ by kids at school and at home. The research undertaken in Klamath Falls suggests that there are limitations to the structural critiques of obesity, observing that health consists of more than just socioeconomic surplus or deficiency. Although food is often defined strictly in health terms, it is highly cultural, linguistic, symbolic, and personal. Health and food discourses are deeply entwined, rendering health politics, wellness initiatives, personal interactions with food, and food meanings tricky to disentangle, negotiate, or alter. Wellness programs can do more than didactically instruct or alter kids’ visual or linguistic landscape: they have the capacity to start new conversations about what health means to students, how students interpret contradictory images and discourses, how they find meaning in meals, and how they connect food to health.
“Parental Discourse on Vaccines: Analyzing the Immunization Controversy”
The recent increase in the number of American parents who choose to not vaccinate their children reflects a growing fear of vaccines. My project synthesizes research on the history of vaccination, national-level vaccination trends, and qualitative interviews to examine parental opinions about vaccines. Although mainstream medical practice generally promotes vaccination as a key public health strategy for reducing morbidity and mortality and preventing the spread of disease, more people are questioning routine immunizations. The most common reasons people do not vaccinate their children are based on beliefs or fears that the vaccine schedule is too aggressive, the contents are poisonous, vaccines cause neurological disorders, they are not effective, and the vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they aim to prevent. The results of this investigation provide insight into how parents in a small town in Vermont feel about vaccines and contribute to the knowledge about parental fears towards the safety of vaccines. All of the subjects worry about what is in vaccines even though most believe the benefits outweigh the risks. The fear of autism and other neurological disorders is still present in the debate. The future of vaccine acceptance remains to be seen and is of public concern because if herd immunity – protection resulting from a critical mass of the population being immunized – significantly declines, vaccine-preventable diseases might return.
T. Sean Mann-O’Halloran
“Inmates Anonymous: 12-Step Programs of Abstinence, Total Institutions, and the Self”
Alcoholics Anonymous occupies a unique place in American history. Starting as one of the first self-help movements, it has helped millions of people to understand their drinking and themselves. The primary tenet of all 12-step programs of abstinence is that “admitting it is the first step.” This need for self-identification as an addict is the keystone to 12-step programs, yet it seems so self-evident that it need not merit consideration. This project examines how the programs apply the addict identity to willing and unwilling individuals, and what reactions individuals display after having adopted this identity. Field research consisted of observations at a seven-week outpatient drug rehabilitation facility as well as attendance at nearly 100 meetings. Ultimately, 12-step programs of abstinence act as ‘total institutions,’ as defined by Goffman, because they compel their members to conduct all of their actions under one authority, the 12 steps, in order to achieve the official goal of sobriety, with great emphasis placed on members spending time in the company of other members.
“Mops, Money and Merit: The Language of Privilege at Middlebury College”
Considered an elite educational institution, Middlebury College can be understood as an environment of privilege. This research explores how students understand and perpetuate that privilege through an examination of student attitudes toward dining hall and custodial staff. Drawing on interviews with six “MiddKids” (three each from two quite different social class backgrounds), I analyze student responses to questions regarding interactions with and perceptions of dining hall workers and custodial staff. I demonstrate that while the students’ social class has an effect on the manner in which they discuss staff in terms of directness and diplomacy, overall, students at Middlebury College all learn a ‘language of privilege’ characterized by three main elements: saying the unsayable, ownership of staff, and sincere fictions. These components are reflective of the cultural and social capital Middlebury teaches its students. I rely on theories of privilege, accounts, and merit to interpret these findings. In the conclusion I argue that the way MiddKids learn to interact with and regard staff allows them to define their identities as distinct from employees while sustaining comfort.
“Reliving the Storm: Mental Health of Displaced Survivors of Hurricane Katrina”
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana in August 2005 and created one of the worst disasters ever experienced in the United States. The hurricane revealed that the US government was largely unprepared to provide relief in the wake of such a large-scale disaster. Over 2.5 million people were displaced from New Orleans and the surrounding areas after the storm. This project examines the lived experiences of mental illness in this displaced population. While all social services were limited after Katrina, mental health services were particularly overlooked despite the profound impact Katrina had on survivors’ mental health. This paper combines a secondary analysis of testimony from Katrina survivors with various published studies on mental illness in post-disaster contexts. Recognizing that mental illness has profound effects on quality of life, I conclude that innovations are needed to increase access to mental healthcare after disasters, and recommend the promotion of a community-based approach to mental healthcare. Community-based treatment programs are ideal in a low-resource setting and also foster resilience and a sense of community in groups of displaced persons.
“Resolving Filipino Identity: Memory, Magical and Real”
This project examines the role of magical realism and memory in Filipino novels as a means for resolving post-colonial identities. The importance of the particular, through which a specific individual is pinned down to a specific place, only grows in importance in the face of rapid de-territorialization inherent in the Filipino diaspora. Stitching together identity becomes an exercise in reclaiming a particular place and history. The tension between elements of magical realism – the blending of Catholic mysticism with indigenous tradition contrasting with Spanish and American colonial influences – creates a transitional space where these identities can be resolved and reimagined. The magical and the real, bound up with our memories, become the conduits to ethnic metamorphosis.
“Rebuilding the Kingdom: Identity, Landscape, and Development in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom”
This paper examines the complex interconnectedness of economic inequality, rural landscape, and local identity in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. In particular, I look at how different groups in the region see themselves through the prism of the Kingdom Community Wind Project. Although this conflict ostensibly about political and environmental economy, I argue that it reveals local place-based identities and varying definitions of ‘quality of life.’ Furthermore, I explore the development of local outdoor recreation as an economic growth strategy that reconciles these otherwise conflicting paradigms. This research reveals how values of pride, hardship, and community are embedded in the local identities that define the unique quality of life and attachment to the Vermont landscape. I conclude by arguing for an ethnographically validated program of economic development based on the patterned relationship between residents and their landscape.
“Belonging in Country: Locating the Dingo in the Australian Imaginary of Native, Nature, and Nation”
How wildlife is defined, and who gets to define it, has broad implications for how cultures interact with the landscape and with each other. Few wildlife species are as ambiguous, or contested, as the Australian dingo. At any one moment, the dingo is dually constructed as both a pest and a protected species, classified as either feral or native, and described as either friendly or ferocious. While a handful of anthropologists have broached the contradictions inscribed in the enigmatic symbol, holes remain on how exactly these competing discourses speak to, and about, the relations between the social groups who espouse them. This research probes how ever-evolving heterogeneous discourses about the dingo relate to eco-social tensions among Australia’s Aborigines, settlers, settler-descendants, and new immigrants. As these groups construct identities based upon claims of ethnicity, nationalism, and indigeneity, they invoke multivocal significations of the dingo that, as key symbols, at times collapse meanings of being Australian and at times elaborate on the perpetual processes of becoming Australian. Dingoes act as mediators between eco-social relationships by speaking directly to themes of nation, native, and natural – a triangle of unmatched importance in the construction of Australian identity, and which can, when together, unequally serve the interests of certain social groups. I analyze how each of these discursive veins leads to a central organ, which I identify is the issue of belonging or more specifically, belonging in country. By unpacking how wildlife identities and their associated forms of ecological management are constructed, this work aids policy makers in designing more appropriate wildlife management practices.
Jay Saper & Melissa Mittelman
“The Analyst and the Activist: A Look into Student Discourse Surrounding Wall Street Recruitment and Resistance at Middlebury College”
This study explores the ways that Middlebury students conceptualize Wall Street through lenses of recruitment and resistance. We suggest that there are discursive rituals that legitimize student choices to become a Wall Street activist or analyst, producing specific and elite meanings of intelligence, access and relationships. In their accounts of both demographic characteristics and personal narratives, Middlebury students create identity boundaries of the Wall Street recruit or resister that not only validate themselves through opposition but also through the reclamation of the characteristics each supposedly lacks. An understanding of the Wall Street recruitment and resistance process helps expose the ways that Middlebury students conceptualize and manifest their liberal arts education.
“Narrating an Identity: How Swahili Women in Malindi, Kenya, and International Students at Middlebury College, Vermont, Construct Identity through Conversation”
This project uses a neo-structural approach to investigate how two different groups of speakers (50 Kenyan women and 24 Middlebury students) construct identity through conversation. The Swahili women self-identify through Islamic behaviors and beliefs, their use of the Swahili language, and their shared experiential space. The international students possess little shared experience, radically different religious beliefs and interests, and presumably value a liberal arts education. In part due to these differences, the participants groups resolve the fundamental dichotomies of ‘individual vs. collective’ and ‘us vs. other’ differently. The study examines how group identities emerge in contrast to a perceived ‘other,’ and demonstrates how international students unite around expectations of difference and change, while Swahili women unite around expectations of similarity and continuity. International students construct a permanent self-identity in the face of transient groups, while Swahili women define individuals in relation to a permanent group. Swahili women build solidarity in shared physical space; international students create hypothetical, future, and activity-bound spaces in lieu of shared material reality. These assumptions reinforce systematic power differentials according to age and gender in both groups. My meta-analysis of conversational narratives contributes to the cross-cultural study of small stories, or stories in context.
“Moving to a Better Life: Child Domestic Servants from the Andes Mountains”
Thousands of children from remote areas of the Andes Mountains migrate to cities to become domestic workers. Most of these children live with their employers, attend school part-time and earn money to spend or send back to their families in the countryside. These children, often younger than fourteen, are vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse and undergo major transformations to their indigenous identities. Some succeed and move on to become professionals, while others lose contact with their parents and can be forced into slave labor. Do children improve their lives by migrating to the cities to work as domestic workers? Based on research I conducted in Peru and Bolivia, I answer this question through comparing the perspectives of underage domestic workers, their parents, employers, teachers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I use the lenses of education, health and indigenous identity to describe the children’s realities in the countryside and their new lives working in the city. I argue that NGOs working on child labor issues in the Andes must better understand the needs and desires of the people they serve. They must understand what ‘work’ means to Andean people and that striving for the eradication of child labor under our North American definition may be a fruitless endeavor. I conclude that there must be more attention placed on underage domestic workers in the international arena and that the needs of this underage population are different from the needs of their adult counterparts.
“Blustery Landscapes: A Case Study of The Kingdom Community Wind Project in Lowell, Vermont”
This project analyzes the relationship between Vermonters’ perception of landscape and their responses to wind power development in the state. I review the distribution of wind power in Vermont as well as the major anxieties about wind power in Vermont, such as visual, auditory and ecological impacts. I describe the land-use and alternative energy policies that have stimulated investment in wind power. In order to better understand how local relationships to the landscape influence responses to wind power, I conducted on-site interviews with the residents of Lowell, the town proximate to the Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) Project, Vermont’s largest industrial-sized wind farm. Interviews with Lowell residents, energy utilities, state policy-makers, and NGO activists showed that three social processes shaped the course of the ‘not-in-my-backyard’ debate in Vermont. Place-based identities, claims to ecological entitlements, and strategies for converting social, cultural, and economic capital are the key issues that affect the discourse about property rights, environmentalism, and wind power in Vermont.
Howard Martin Sorett
“A Life History of a Former Boston Gang Leader: Risk Factor Analysis”
In 2010, there were 159 shooting victims in Boston under the age of 25. Increasing numbers of these homicides are gang-related, and the most gunshot and stabbing injuries in Boston are in the 15-19 age range. 81% of these incidents occur in the predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. My experiences with high-risk African American and Latino teenage males showed me a pattern of trauma: physical abuse by family members, the torment of witnessing other forms of domestic violence, threats to life out on the street, and abandonment by parents. This project applies stigma and shame theory to the life history of a former Boston gang leader in order to show how social conditions in Boston contribute to the stigmatization of its African-American and Latino youth populations. I discuss the primary risk factors that drive a small percentage of men in Boston’s most violent neighborhoods to engage in gang violence.
“Is Small Really Beautiful?: Exploring Institutional Value Systems through Vermont's Artisanal Food Economy”
This project explores the local artisanal food economy in Vermont in order to draw broader lessons about cultural responses to capitalism. Throughout the past decade, the local food system in the state has seen a rise in the number and diversity of small-batch, specialty food producers. The state has witnessed a clear transition in the type of agriculturally-minded individuals that migrate to Vermont. Unlike the hippies of the 1960s and 70s who moved to the state with the back-to-the-land movement to live a life of homesteading and self-sustenance, Vermont now serves as a landing pad for food producers with a new entrepreneurial spirit and an artisanal mindset. Through an ethnographic exploration of the personal narratives of artisanal food producers in Vermont, I analyze their motivations and entrepreneurial aspirations as both a rejection of the capitalist system and a bid to save it. Under the new wave of entrepreneurialism, these food producers’ motivations and production styles fall into a new category that I call ‘artisanal capitalism.’ I explore the ways that specialty food production becomes an avenue through which to foster a sense of community, a space for the producers to distinguish themselves, and how this distinction manifests into a marker of social status, elitism, and social boundary definition.
Jared Smith "Coming Out in Rio: Gay Identity Formation among Middle-class Brazilian Men"
Brazilian middle-class constructions of sexual identity and desire are the object of this interdisciplinary qualitative study. Using twelve extensive interviews of self-identified gay men between the ages of 18 and 30, I synthesize, narrate, and deconstruct the local process of sexual identity formation and negotiation. My analysis is motivated by theoretical paradigms of symbolic interactionism, queer theory, intersectionality and a hermeneutic approach to cultural studies. In addition, I elucidate the epistemological framework of sexuality in Brazil, where patriarchy and heterosexism are simultaneously reproduced and subverted by homosexual identities. Finally, I attempt to explain the ways in which my informants came to understand their gayness as a neutral or even positive element of their identity, in spite of adverse experiences in the coming-out process.
“Ethnogenesis and the Creation of Symbolic Cultural Borders: Maasai and Waarusha Identity in Tanzania”
This paper examines ethnogenesis and identity creation in the Maasai and Waarusha communities in Northern Tanzania. The Waarusha self-identified as Maasai pastoralists in the early 19th century, but had become farmers who still claimed and practiced Maasai culture by 1850. European colonization changed this identity, and today Waarusha are not recognized as Maasai. The shared ethno-history of the Maasai and the Waarusha provides an opportunity to analyze cultural continuity and social change within each group. Participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups conducted in the Maasai village of Engaruka and Waarusha village of Bangata were compared to the historical record of each group. This project focuses on why there are social, cultural, political, and economic differences and similarities between the two groups at present, and how those differences and similarities are reflected in each group’s identity.
“It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere: Drinking Bordeaux in 19th Century Britain and America”
This project examines the reputation of Bordeaux wine in British and American culture during the 19th century, focusing on the response of international consumers to the phylloxera outbreak in France during the 1870-1880s. Bordeaux fine wine during this period was a status symbol for the elite, but phylloxera caused French wine production to drop in the 1870s, and led to a dramatic increase in the presence of adulterated and falsified products in the export market. This paper uses Bourdieu’s approach to capital accumulation and conversion to analyze the ways that Bordeaux wine served as a medium in the British and American media for converting money into social and cultural capital. By studying the changing reputation of wine through consumer information and media output, this paper illustrates the relationship between foreign consumers and the domestic French industry in the 19th century, and traces the reasons for the protectionist policies that France enacted at the beginning of the 20th century.
“Reconfiguration of the Youth Drug and Alcohol Issue in Bhutan: A Guide to Reimagining the ‘Delinquent’ Youths and Identifying Structures of Hidden Power in a Developing Country”
Bhutan has often captured the imaginations of the West for its policies to enhance ‘national happiness.’ In Bhutanese society, groups of youths have been identified as obstacles for achieving happiness. These youths are blamed for increased crime rates and the rampant sales of prescription drugs on the streets. This project moves away from this discourse of individual failure to examine the bigger picture of the Bhutanese political economy, particularly the structures of power and influence. Power operates at both the local and the global levels. The displacement and alienation experienced by these youths relate to the government’s concerted efforts to develop Bhutan in the global arena. Using theories on ‘soft despotism’ and resistance, I delineate how we can look at the youth drug and alcohol culture in Bhutan in a more critical and deliberate way focusing on individuals responding to structural conditions.