Posts

Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh

Young people often want to change the world. But when facing a gamut of social problems and inequalities around them, it’s easy to wonder how any one person can make a difference and hard to know how to take the first steps. Undergraduate students at UCLA are attuned to the challenges around them, whether in their own school and city or across the world, but how can they help bring about positive change?

Students in UCLA Sociology Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh’s Winter 2019 Fiat Lux Seminar, “Do We Make a Difference? Social Change in Theory and Practice,” not only studied sociological approaches to achieving social change, but spent the quarter putting their knowledge into practice. Each student initiated a project of their choice designed to effect real change in the world around them even after the quarter concluded. Students addressed a variety of social issues, from the local to the global, motivated by insights gleaned from social theory and empirical research.

Noting that “we get caught in what we can’t do and not what we can do,” one student worked to design a course for the Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program using psychological principles to motivate students to engage in social activism directed towards the UCLA administration. Through this course, she hopes “to show students that they’re not alone in their problems if they just reach out and start talking until someone listens.” Another student collaborated with members of the Cambodian refugee community in an effort to empower them to connect their personal and community histories to social change. “At first, many were dismissive of their own perspectives,” she explained, “but after a few weeks they began to fully engage in our dialogue about social conditions and theory.”

Other student projects included a campaign to spread awareness of the negative effects of gentrification on the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles; initiatives to promote environmentally sustainable lifestyle changes through simple household and dietary interventions; and a positivity campaign to encourage students to show kindness to one another.

Students found that not only did their projects lead to positive change, their interactions as a class had a positive effect as well. “Listening to the presentations my classmates in this class [gave] greatly inspired me,” explained one student. Said another, “This class has allowed me to not only learn from other students in the class and participate in their social change projects… but continue to find meaningful ways in my everyday life to recognize the way my actions can impact and be valuable for those around me.”

The course will be offered again in Winter 2020, so look out for more Bruins in pursuit of a better future!

Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.

Courtesy: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post
President Barack Obama takes the stage, with daughters Sasha and Malia and wife Michelle at his side, at Grant Park in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008.

“Columbia has a rich oral history tradition and they’ve assembled an impressive group of scholars — I’m excited to start that work later this year.” -Dr. Karida Brown

These words come from our very own Dr. Karida Brown, Assistant professor in the Sociology and African American Studies departments here at UCLA. Dr. Brown earned her doctorate degree in Sociology from Brown University. Her research and teaching interests focus around historical sociology, oral history, race and ethnicity, social theory, migration, education, W.E.B. Du Bois, community archives and public arts. Because of Dr. Brown’s extensive background and expertise, we are honored to share that she has been appointed by the Obama Foundation and Columbia University to be on the Advisory Board to the official Obama Presidency Oral History Project.

This exciting news was made public on Thursday, May 16th, 2019. Columbia News officially stated, “Columbia University and the Obama Foundation are pleased to announce that the Columbia Center for Oral History Research has been selected to produce the official oral history of the presidency of Barack Obama (CC ’83). This project will provide a comprehensive, enduring record of the decisions, actions, and effects of his historic terms in office. The University of Hawaiʻi and the University of Chicago will partner with Columbia in this project. The University of Hawaiʻi will focus on President Obama’s early life, and the University of Chicago will concentrate on the Obamas’ lives in Chicago.” The plans to commence with this project will take place in July.

Certainly, the Obama Presidency Oral History Project will be a huge undertaking. Over the next five years, the team of appointed experts, including Dr. Brown, will help contribute to the compilation of President Barack Obama’s and Michelle Obama’s life history. They will be tasked with gathering over 400 interviews from a diverse group of individuals who will offer valuable insights and anecdotes of their personal accounts with the Obama family.

Kimberly Springer who is Columbia’s Oral History Archives’ Curator on the project offered words of wisdom about how history is “…preserving our past for use in the future…so that current and future generations of historians and citizens can learn lessons from our times.” Undoubtedly, the rich stories and details gathered from the Obamas and countless others, will leave a powerful impact. There is so much we can learn from, be inspired by, and appreciate from their lived experiences. Moreover, it will be a privilege to read about the nuances, challenges, and triumphs of the man who made history as the first African American President of the United States and his journey with his family while leading our nation.

Credit: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-respectfully-use-gender-neutral-pronouns-in-the-office

UCLA Professors Abigail C. Saguy and Juliet A. Williams from Sociology and Gender Studies, respectively, are co-authoring a book that focuses on the notion of gender neutrality specifically, its use in three areas: the law, news media, and political activism. They share some of their thoughts surrounding this topic for their book in an article they wrote for Scientific American. The article is titled, “Why We Should All Use They/Them Pronouns.” Drs. Saguy and Williams discuss the changes that are happening in degendering today. More and more individuals and companies are taking action to move away from binary gender categories. For example, United Airlines has made available the salutation Mx., an option on their drop-down menu for individuals who choose to be gender-neutral. In addition, it is more common to state one’s preferred pronouns in various public professional spaces as well as via email signature. Drs. Saguy and Williams further examine this current practice of announcing one’s preferred pronouns. Do gendered identifiers cause more bias and discrimination? Is it better for everyone to be gender neutral and use the pronouns they/them? To learn more about the conversation happening around these questions, check out the full article HERE.

UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences is full of amazing faculty, staff, and students who are contributing to academic scholarship in major ways. Dr. Marcus Hunter is certainly one of these people. Dr. Hunter is a dedicated professor of sociology, the chair of the African American studies department, and a respected author.

Most recently, Dr. Hunter was recognized by the UCLA Newsroom for his book he co-authored with Dr. Zandria F. Robinson titled, Chocolate Cities: The Black Map of American Life. This book is filled with the rich history of the Black American experience dating back to the 1900s and focuses on how Black Americans created their own “Chocolate Cities” where black culture is maintained, created, and defended. It touches on diverse topics including race, racism, place, space, knowledge, and liberation as well as the social, cultural, economic, and political influence. Looking through the eyes of Black Americans and highlighting the way they define their American story, it breaks down preconceived notions of American history told by white America.

To learn more, read the interview with Marcus Hunter about his renowned book HERE.

Chocolate Cities map

 

By Kristella Montiegel

PhD Student, Sociology, UCLA

It’s estimated that California educates 14,000 Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH) students annually. D/HH children have unique needs towards the successful development of communication abilities and social skills, and federal and state laws have established guidelines for assisting families and educators in successfully meeting these needs. One guideline is the requirement of a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), which involves a team of members assessing children’s communication needs and placing them in the least restrictive educational environment possible. Today, most states have laws mandating hearing screenings and services for newborns. California implemented these requirements in 2000, making all diagnosed children eligible for D/HH education programs.

While there are several options for young children who are deemed eligible for D/HH educational services, two options are considered the main approaches to education: the American Sign Language (ASL) option and the Auditory-Verbal option. However, these approaches have competing ideologies that are commonly at the center of debate about which is the better approach. The ASL approach, rooted in Deaf culture, champions signing as language equality and teaches it as the primary form of communication. Alternatively, the Auditory-Verbal approach does not teach ASL, and instead emphasizes the development of spoken language with the goal of transitioning children into mainstream society.

As a sociology student whose research interests lie primarily in the subfield of language and social interaction, I became interested in what the ASL/Auditory-Verbal approach looks like ‘on the ground,’ or, the ways in which these approaches are accomplished in the institutional setting of a D/HH preschool classroom. I was given the opportunity to pursue these interests in November of 2017, when I gained access as a volunteer and student observer in an Auditory-Verbal preschool classroom of an LA school district. I have been volunteering on a weekly basis, assisting in the daily routines and taking ethnographic notes on the learning activities and naturally occurring interactions between the students and classroom educators.

I quickly learned that a key component of the Auditory-Verbal approach is a hyper-emphasis on vocalization. Speech permeates all activities of the school day: free play, meals, and lessons. The educators encourage the students to “talk through” any activity in which they’re engaged, whether speech would be strictly necessary or not, including episodes of bad behavior. Vocalization is not only prioritized, it’s also managed with preferences, such as using complete sentences, avoiding baby-talk, and knowing the appropriate times to say certain things. Talk is the desired means for students to adequately participate and demonstrate their competence in lessons, even if their understanding of something is or could be made clear nonverbally. My curiosity grew: What does all of this vocalization in the D/HH preschool do for the children and their families?            

Students’ spoken language is monitored by the class educators and school specialists who gather assessments for periodic IEP reviews. Thus, the value of a student’s use of speech in the class transcends beyond the immediate context in that it’s consequential for their overall IEP progress. Upon graduation from preschool, parents and the IEP team must decide among options for kindergarten, which typically involves general education integration to various degrees. I began to wonder: If the Auditory-Verbal class is specialized for children who are eligible for D/HH services, yet conducts learning and literacy development according to social life in mainstream society, then how do the educators facilitate student participation in a way that is sensitive to the children’s needs while also preparing for mainstreaming?

I’m exploring these questions on talk in an Auditory-Verbal class as an ethnographic project for my Master’s thesis, keeping an emic (or participant) perspective toward the cultural context of the Auditory-Verbal classroom, so I try to always consider what things mean for the educators and children themselves. Importantly, in conducting this research, I by no means am claiming the Auditory-Verbal approach as somehow more advantageous than the ASL approach. Rather, for purposes of time, I’ve chosen not to make this a comparative research project, and am choosing to focus on the Auditory-Verbal approach since I’m already a volunteer. I’ll continue volunteering in the class for the 2018-2019 academic year, and will ideally extend the study into a larger project involving video-recorded classroom interactions, as well as video-recorded home visits to explore how and to what extent the children are participating in family interactions. I hope the impact of my research will address important factors that influence the language practices and social-skill development of D/HH children, in order to develop a communicative framework for educational support both in the classroom and in their homes.

Meeting the needs of D/HH children anywhere has its challenges. In LA, some of these challenges are exacerbated by the fact that the LA Unified School district is large, services providers are spread out across the district, and the cost of living is high. Parents are often working across town, and thus getting to all of the relevant appointments (including school IEPs) is challenging. Teachers face an extremely heterogeneous class with multiple language backgrounds, and different socioeconomic statuses and understandings of the situation. In my future work, I hope to explore how the unique LA context shapes the D/HH classroom.

 

Kristella Montiegel (BA Department of Communication, Media and Culture at Coastal Carolina University; MS, Department of Communication at Portland State University) is a PhD student in UCLA’s Department of Sociology, and the Coordinator for the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture (CLIC).

By Rahim Kurwa

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

“…They came in with shotguns. They came in in vests. They came in in riot gear, and they held guns on us like we were wanted criminals. They surrounded my house… And when I say they looked, they did a massive search on my house. They went in my drawers. They held guns on my kids. They went in my kitchen drawers. In my son’s drawer. They pulled out an I.D. and some money and said bam – threw it across the table at me and said hah, who is this? That’s what the officer said. Yeah. We got her. Who is this?”

Sandra is a black woman living in the Antelope Valley – Los Angeles County’s northernmost suburb. In this quote from my interview with her, Sandra, who uses the Section 8 voucher program to rent her home, describes the experience of a surprise housing inspection. In this case, inspectors thought they had caught her violating the program’s residency rules (which bar unauthorized tenants from living in the home), but she was able to prove that her son had been approved to live there. Had she not, the inspection might have led to her eviction. Stories about inspections like this are a common thread in the interviews I conducted with voucher renters in the Antelope Valley. But how and why did this encounter occur – in a historically white suburb with little history of low-income housing assistance?

The explanation in large part traces back to the Civil Rights Era and the ways that white hostility to black residents has changed over time. The year 1968 produced two major housing landmarks – the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and the publication of the Kerner Commission Report. The first barred discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. The second identified racial segregation as foundational to a broader system of racial inequality and urged integrationist housing policy in response.

In the 50 years since, programs like housing vouchers have come to dominate federal low-income housing assistance, on the premise that vouchers could help renters move out of poor and segregated neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, the program tends to generate movement either within South Los Angeles or to far-flung suburbs like the Antelope Valley. But like white residents around the country who generally prefer not to have black neighbors, many in the Antelope Valley have also resisted racial integration.

A map of L.A. County, the Antelope Valley shown in orange. Photo: laedc.org

When I talked to local residents who weren’t using vouchers, I found that two-thirds were opposed to the program, voicing stereotypes and misconceptions about it and its participants that echoed the ideas used to undermine other “social safety net” programs over the past several decades. Some local residents referenced the city’s nuisance code as a tool they could use to exert power over neighbors or get rid of them altogether. They knew, for example, that five calls made about a single rental property could penalize the property owner or landlord, pressuring them to evict the tenant. I think of these practices as a participatory form of policing, illustrating the ways that policing operates outside of the traditional institutions and actors we associate with the term.

Nuisance laws are notoriously vague and subjective. The version employed by the city of Lancaster (one of the Antelope Valley’s largest cities) considers a nuisance to be anything that is “indecent,” “offensive,” or otherwise interferes with “the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” It isn’t hard to see how these codes can be weaponized against people based on their race, class, or gender. In other cities their applications have had disastrous consequences for tenants. Here, local residents could simply observe unwanted neighbors and then report their perceived infractions to this hotline as a way to trigger fines, inspections, or even evictions. Some proudly admitted to doing so. And while many voucher renters I spoke to were determined to stay, they often knew others who had been evicted or simply decided that their neighborhoods were too hostile to remain in.

50 years after the landmark Fair Housing law that marked the legislative end of the Civil Rights Movement, we can now more clearly see how the attitudes of that time have persisted until today, and how their expression has adapted to changes in our country’s laws. To better combat racial segregation, we must see how policing contributes to it.

 

Rahim Kurwa recently completed his Ph.D. in Sociology at UCLA and will be an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall of 2018.

 

By Kayuet Liu

Associate Professor, UCLA Sociology

Affiliate, California Center for Population Research

Medical science presumes biological risks drive disease patterns, but they have a hard time explaining many epidemiological patterns. Social network processes may be the key.

For example: diagnoses of autism – which is supposedly the most genetically determined of all neuropsychiatric disorders – have increased rapidly in the past 3 decades. Yet it takes multiple generations for the human gene pool to demonstrate any fundamental changes. My collaborators and I have researched other factors that might be responsible for the increase, and found that living close to someone with autism increased the chance of an autism diagnosis. After ruling out explanations such as viral transmission and the sorting of similar people into neighborhoods[1], we think that parents learn about autism and diagnostic resources from their neighbors, which has led to an increase in diagnoses.

If the number of autism diagnoses (not the underlying condition) has increased because we learn about it from our neighbors, a proper model of the social processes should be able to predict when and where they will be diagnosed. This is a quintessential test of the potential spread of autism diagnosis through social networks. We built a “synthetic” population of all parents in California that resemble the real population and check if the chance for them to meet another parent with a child with autism matters[2]. Indeed, while a traditional approach would have put the main cluster of autism in San Francisco due to a high concentration of parents at risk (e.g., giving birth when they are older), our model including social interactions correctly put it in Los Angeles. So social, rather than biological, factors are responsible for the spatial patterns of autism.

An unintended consequence of the autism epidemic is the current wave of vaccine hesitancy. My former graduate student Ashley Gromis (now a post-doc at Princeton) and I are now using a large computational model to figure out how much more likely we are to see an outbreak of measles due to geographic pockets of vaccination exemptions. What we found is that effective vaccination rates in these pockets actually decrease by a few percentage points. A few percentage points may seem not much, but our results show that it is enough to put the whole community, including areas with high vaccination rates, at risk. Thus we need interventions not only to maintain vaccination levels, but also to make sure the exemptions do not concentrate in certain areas.

 

Dr. Ka-Yuet Liu conducts research on social networks and health, micro-macro links, and the diffusion of non-contagious conditions. Dr. Liu argues that networks are crucial to solving epidemiological puzzles.  Her research has appeared in American Journal of Sociology, Demography, Social Forces, International Journal of Epidemiology, and other journals. Dr. Liu teaches courses on quantitative research methods and network analysis. 

 

[1] Liu K, King M, & Bearman PS (2010) “Social Influence and the Autism Epidemic.” American Journal of Sociology 115(5):1387-1434.

[2] Liu K & Bearman PS (2015) “Focal Points, Endogenous Processes, and Exogenous Shocks in the Autism Epidemic.” Sociological Methods & Research 44(2):272-305.

UCLA

Dr. Luft co-authored a blog piece for The Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage.  This powerful piece discusses how dehumanizing discourse can prepare the way for violence over time.  The authors cite important social science research regarding the subject.  To read it, click HERE.

Aliza Luft is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA, and her research focuses on ethnic, racial, and religious boundary processes, gender, high-risk mobilization, and the causes and consequences of violence.

 

By Abigail C. Saguy

Professor of Sociology, UCLA

In late 2017, over 30 women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault or rape. Shortly after—following the lead of actress Alyssa Milano—millions of women began posting “#MeToo” on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and other social media platforms, effectively “coming out” as victims of sexual harassment, assault or rape. As Milano acknowledges, “Me Too” isn’t new: African American activist Tarana Burke first used “Me Too” in 2007 as part of an offline campaign to let sex abuse survivors–especially young women of color—know that they were not alone. Milano says she hopes the social media campaign will shift the focus from Weinstein to victims and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

The #MeToo movement underscores the power of collective mobilization. It also shows how suddenly the status quo can shift. Despite having studied sexual harassment in the United States and France for almost 30 years – and publishing a book and several articles on the topic[1] – even I did not see this coming.

Recently, I have been studying how people “come out” to resist stigma and mobilize for social change. As I show in a series of articles and a forthcoming book with Oxford University Press titled Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are: Identity Politics in the 21st Century, the concept of coming out—first developed by the gay rights movement in the 1970s—has expanded well beyond lesbians and gay men. The undocumented movement, fat rights movement, and Mormon fundamentalist polygamists—to name a few—all now use “coming out” politics to make real changes to laws, public opinion, interpersonal relationships and to claim their civil rights.

Notably, the #MeToo movement embraces not just the politics of “coming out” as a victim of sexual harassment or assault, but also the “outing” of harassers, assaulters and rapists. “Outing”—another term coined and developed by the gay rights movement in the 1980s and 1990s—originally referred to the act of disclosing a politician or celebrity’s homosexuality, typically because they publicly opposed gay rights or promoted heteronormativity (i.e. the idea that everyone is heterosexual) by “passing” as straight.

#MeToo has already led to significant change in the culture around sexual harassment and assault. Many of the men recently “outed” as sexual offenders have lost their jobs and, in some cases, faced criminal prosecution. Some have argued that employers and authors may now take women who claim to have been assaulted or harassed more seriously. The movement may bring real systemic changes to how employers and courts address sexual harassment.

Exactly what will come of the #MeToo movement remains to be seen, but this movement—and the others of which it is both a product and a part—are a reminder that the social life of humans is fluid and deserving of true inquiry by social scientists.

Abigail Saguy is a UCLA Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies and author of What is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (California, 2003), What’s Wrong with Fat (Oxford, 2013), Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are: Identity Politics in the 21st Century, over 30 scientific journal articles and several op-eds published in leading news outlets. You can see more of her work at www.abigailsaguy.com and https://soc.ucla.edu/faculty/abigail-saguy.

Footnotes

[1] Abigail C. Saguy, What Is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press., 2003); “Employment Discrimination or Sexual Violence?: Defining Sexual Harassment in American, and French Law,” Law & Society Review 34, no. 4 (2000); “Europeanization or National Specificity? Legal Approaches to Sexual Harassment in France, 2002-2012,” Law & Society Review 52, no. 1 (2018).