Jody Ahlm (ABD)

Dissertation Title:

"Mediated Sexualities and the “Dating Apocalypse”: Gender, Race and Sexual Identity on Hookup Apps"

Dissertation Description: 
My dissertation intervenes in academic and popular debates about the social changes brought about by new technologies. I use the case of smartphone dating applications, known colloquially as "hookup apps." Users of these apps now number in the tens of millions and have received increasing attention in public discourse. They represent a significant touchstone in the ongoing debate about the effects of communication technology on social intimacy. Contrary to much popular and academic discourse, I argue that the technology of these apps is not radically changing sexual practices or social norms. The relationship between technology and social life is dialectical and mediated by users, who often engage with technology in unexpected ways. My work fills a gap in technology studies by putting it in conversation with intersectional sexualities scholarship to show how technology is gendered and racialized. The multi-method qualitative study combines data from 41 interviews with app users of varied sexual, gender and racial identities who are 25 to 40 years old, over 1500 user-profile screenshots, mainstream media coverage, and popular cultural productions such as widely circulated YouTube videos. I compare the experiences and meaning making of users of two different apps: Grindr, for men seeking men, and Tinder. Tinder, originally touted as the “straight Grindr” is also popular with lesbian, bisexual and queer women.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Lorena Garcia

Areas of specialization: Sexualities; Science and Technology Studies (STS); LGBTQ studies; Race, Class, and Gender; Race and Ethnicity; Feminist and Queer Theory; Body and Embodiment; Media Studies

Emily Ruehs (ABD)

Dissertation Title:
Clandestine Youth: Unaccompanied Minors, Securitization and Humanitarianism in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Dissertation Description: My dissertation examines the recently publicized phenomenon of youth who immigrate by themselves to the United States. These so-called unaccompanied immigrant minors have been crossing the US-Mexico border for years, but the recent increase of migrant youth from Central America has brought their plight into the spotlight. The American public has reacted to this crisis with two seemingly distinct responses. On one hand, these youth are seen as thugs who threaten national security. On the other hand, they are viewed as vulnerable and traumatized children in need of international protection. These ideologies manifest in various ways throughout the borderlands, ultimately impacting youth as they attempt to establish lives that are precariously balanced on the edges of legal, educational and family systems. My research draws upon the dichotomous yet co-constituting ideas of securitization and humanitarianism as well as the dynamic process between youth agency and the structural realities of borderland life. Using interviews with youth and the professionals who work with them, along with a discourse analysis of the rhetoric surrounding this current event, I explore the ways in which youth navigate the security and humanitarian projects that exist in the borderlands.

Dissertation Chair: Lorena Garcia

Areas of Specializations: migration, childhood/youth, teaching sociology, human rights, gender

Paige L. Sweet (ABD)

Dissertation Title:
Trauma, Domestic Violence, and Hybrid Medicalization

Dissertation Description: Centered on the concept of trauma, this project examines how processes of medicalization affect domestic violence politics, service provision, and the ways in which women understand and tell stories about their abuse. Through the site of trauma, this project links macro-level political shifts in anti-violence feminism and medicine with micro-level transformations in women’s narratives of abuse and their interactions with service providers. Using in-depth interviews and archival research, this project tracks how feminist politics become articulated to biomedical knowledge through the concept of domestic violence trauma, how that concept is made into a reality via professional practices, and how women negotiate this new reality in their stories of survival and transformation.

Dissertation Chair: Claire L. Decoteau

Areas of specialization: Gender/Sexuality, Sociology of Health/Illness, Sociological Theory, Science Studies, Body/Embodiment, Domestic Violence

Ryan Alan Sporer (ABD)

Dissertation Title: 
The Politics of Circumvention: The Off-Grid Eco-Housing Movement of

Dissertation Description: My work lies at the intersection of ecological questions of human and nonhuman relationships and asymmetrical social relations. Through harnessing a transdisciplinary stance, I analyze three summers of ethnographic data gathered on builders, residents, and structures of the Off-Grid Movement. I argue that this movement (along with tiny houses, minimalism, and other alternative living arrangements) is a continuation of a long trend of human activity I term the Politics of Circumvention.Throughout history as humans found themselves becoming increasingly caged in from social and material assemblages (examples include horticulture, artificial irrigation, and the centralized electricity grid) they sought to extricate themselves by constructing (terraforming) alternative assemblages. I contextualize the Off-Grid Movement by exploring back-to-the-land movements in the US, communes of the 1960-70's, current eco-villages, the Amish, Maroon societies, and the Zapatista.
In regards to the current off-grid phenomenon, findings include: a
pervasive critique of contemporary society that weaves technical and
social concerns from consumer culture and market relations that
“infantilize” individuals to the inevitable despoliation of nature from
extractive-based operations; a form of political (dis)engagement I term
Off-Politics, whereby formal and informal state-based political forms are
rejected; political contestation is relocated at the level of material
throughput of the off-grid human/nonhuman systems (collection and reuse of
rainwater; onsite treatment of waste; photovoltaic electricity production,
storage, and distribution; passive solar and thermal heating and cooling;
reuse of garbage as building materials; and food production); the pleasure
of mobilizing nonhumans; overcoming the limitations of specialization by
practicing a Do-It-With rather than Do-It-Yourself, amounting to a sense
of self-empowerment; counterintuitively disconnection is accomplished
through connection to both people and nature; through voluntary simplicity
lifestyle individual autonomy is constructed; and lastly responsibility is
articulated for the self, but also for wider human and nonhuman populations. While completeness of “off-grid” is absent, it is never claimed as a goal. Instead of an autarchy a variegated and value-oriented dependence is sought.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. William T. Bielby

Areas of specialization: Social Movements and Political Sociology; Science, Technology and Society; and Environmental Sociology.