Fellowship and Info Session, October 18, 5:00!

Hi friends and students,

On Thursday, October 18, Ambassador James Gadsen, the Senior Counselor for International Affairs with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, will be visiting our campus and leading a discussion and info-session about the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. We think CSOC students would make great candidates for this fellowship, and we encourage you to attend and apply.

The fellowship is aimed at students who seek a career in foreign service, and it offers $40,000 toward the student’s senior year of undergraduate study, plus more toward graduate school! While it’s pitched toward students in a traditional international-relations-focused track, the CSOC faculty think we have lots of globally-minded students with an interest in grad school in the department.

Date: Thursday, October 18
Location: Wyatt 109
Time: 5:00 pm

Look for posters about the event around campus, and talk to the CSOC faculty if you’re interested in applying. You can learn more about the fellowship here. Also, if you are really interested, you might also want to touch base with the Fellowships Office about your intentions of applying.

Best wishes,



Skyscrapers and Shadows: Notes from the Opening

Hi all,

A migrant portrait from the exhibit Skyscrapers and Shadows. Photograph by Kristin Giordano, 2010.

On Wednesday, September 12, Kristin and I held the opening to our collaborative show called Skyscrapers and Shadows: Labor and Migration in Doha, Qatar. The opening was well attended, and we had a fantastic time talking and answering questions from students, colleagues, friends, and visitors. The show itself is going to be up for another two weeks in the University of Puget Sound’s Collins Library (in the main display area across from the circulation desk). Please check it out if you have the time and inclination!

Briefly, the show was a collaborative effort between me and Kristin. We worked together in Qatar between 2008 and 2010 on this material. In addition to Kristin’s captivating portraits of labor migrants in Qatar, we’ve included transcripts from interviews, synopses compiled from labor migrant experiences, miscellaneous ethnographic material, and labor migrant material culture (the stuff they keep, buy, or are issued during their stay in Qatar).

While Kristin gave a fascinating presentation about some of the photographic and artistic impulses behind this show, let me briefly tell you a little bit about the overarching mission of the exhibit.

First, while I’ve written quite a bit of scholarly and academic work about labor migrants, there’s no doubt about the limitations I face as an academic: the audience I write for is typically other scholars and academics, and it’s small. By channeling some of this work through an artistic vernacular, we saw the exhibit as an opportunity to reach a new and broader audience. And part of that process rests upon our reliance and focus on a visual medium.

Second, we wanted to allow viewers to see and access better information about the third largest transnational migration flow in the contemporary world, and to see both ends of that migration flow.

Third, we wanted to provide viewers with an unguided tour. We present all sorts of material, but consciously avoided tailoring these materials to any particular conclusion or idea. Instead, we wanted to replicate the ethnographic experience: we present information and objects and representations from this world, and you draw your own conclusions.

Fourth, we wanted to give viewers access to Doha’s backstage. Much of what’s presented to the world is Doha’s sparkling and astonishing urban and modern front stage. Our work, however, carried us (and viewers) to a very different Doha — the urban backstage where other sorts of lives are lived.

Finally, in Doha and throughout the Gulf, transnational migrant laborers are encountered en masse — in large workforces, uniformed and anonymous. Our goal with this exhibit was to provide encounters with these men as humans and individuals, with histories, experiences, stories, families, and more.

A shot from the opening itself, September 12, 2012.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the migrants who shared their lives with us and who allowed their photographs to be taken. We also want to thank the various funding agencies who paid for the research projects underlying this exhibit, as well as the University of Puget Sound, the Collins library, and particularly Jane Carlin and Jeanne Young for all their advice and assistance.

Anyway, the show will be up for another two weeks. Check it out if you’re interested.


Grad School Info Session TONIGHT!

You might be wondering what’s up with the CSOC club this year… well we’re having our first brief meeting this Thursday (tonight) at 6 pm! But the real reason you should show up, besides giving some input on possible CSOC events you’re interested in this year of course, is to hear some awesome CSOC professors talk about how to get into grad school!

At 6:15 pm in McIntyre 203 this Thursday, September 20th, there will be a discussion and panel with CSOC professors that will allow them to share about when to apply to grad school, how to pick the right program, and all sorts of other tips/suggestions.There will be plenty of time to ask them questions ranging from the specific to the totally broad, so please come take advantage of their advice!

-Katie Fahrbach, CSOC Student Club

Catching up with Professor Jennifer Utrata!

We asked Professor Jennifer Utrata to tell us a little bit about what she’s been up to this summer and beyond. Here’s her update!

Dr. Jennifer Utrata, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Puget Sound

I realize it’s already week 4, but I persist in thinking of September as late summer. After all, savoring dwindling sunny days seems only fair given the Pacific Northwest’s notorious “June gloom.” This summer I continued working on my book manuscript titled Women Without Men: Single Mothers and Gender Crisis in the New Russia. The book centers on Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life since the collapse of state socialism, and I analyze the fluidity of family and gender relations through examining growing single motherhood. Unlike in the West, single mothers are normalized in Russia, seen by most as a nearly inevitable by-product of two other intractable problems—a critical mass of weak men and a weak state. I plan to submit the complete manuscript for review by December.

Shortly before classes started I travelled to Denver, Colorado for the American Sociological Association’s annual conference. I enjoyed catching up with far-flung colleagues and friends, but was also honored (and genuinely surprised) to receive this year’s Distinguished Article Award from the ASA’s Sex and Gender section for a piece I published last year in Gender & Society (October 2011), titled Youth Privilege: Doing Age and Gender in Russia’s Single-Mother Families. Committee members said the article represents the best of recent gender scholarship, describing it as “sophisticated, theoretically and empirically rich, and an excellent example of intersectional analysis.” Sociologists tend to emphasize gender, race, class, and sexuality as major axes of inequality, but in the article I demonstrate that age, too, is an important power relation, wielded in tandem with gender. In Russia, labor and marriage markets put a higher premium on the relative youth of single mothers, and this “youth privilege” shapes negotiations for mutual support between single mothers and grandmothers as they “do gendered age.” Given state cutbacks and the new demands of a nascent market economy, many grandmothers are expected to serve as a “reserve army” of feminine self-sacrifice. It is the unpaid labor of grandmothers (incidentally, women often in their 40s and 50s) which enables adult daughters to try their chances at “making it” in neoliberal market capitalism.

A Russian single mother and factory worker in Kaluga, chatting with her mother at home.

I’m hoping the award will help to bring postsocialist Russia as a comparative case more fully in to broader theories of family and gender change. (To hear a podcast about the article, check out Gender & Society’s website). While at the conference, I also presented a paper on Russia’s normalized gender crisis at a panel on Constructions of Family and Kinship.

I also have a publication to announce. I’m the lead author on a chapter (with Jean M. Ispa and Simone Ispa-Landa) in a new book out this month called Fathers in Cultural Context(Routledge). The book puts research on fathering in a global and comparative perspective, with case stories and analyses of fathers from 14 different societies. My chapter, “Men on the Margins of Family Life: Fathers in Russia,” provides a comprehensive review of what we know about fathers in Russia. It argues that with so many men in crisis in Russia (e.g., men are drinking more than ever and dying much earlier than women), fatherhood, while in transition, remains on rather shaky ground. Since my overall focus in Russia has centered on women, while in the field I had some initial hesitation about broadening the scope to include fathers’ perspectives on family life, especially given issues of access and Russia’s history of prioritizing and politicizing motherhood.

A Russian man proposes the first of several toasts at a school reunion in Kaluga, northwest Russia.

Many fathers themselves (tellingly) asked me: “Why are you bothering to interview men? In Russia, mothers are everything.” Yet the perspectives of Russian fathers have been eye-opening, and I’m pleased to have my work included in this volume full of original research on fatherhood around the world.

Ruskin Bride adn Candlelight dahlias

Besides work, this summer I enjoyed spending some time near Lake Quinault in Olympic National Park. There my sons introduced me to the joys of hiking while slug and spit bug spotting (and counting!). I also overcame my fear of dirt and now really enjoy gardening. Besides several kinds of dahlias and zinnias, we started growing Swiss chard, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuces, and herbs of all kinds. I’m patiently waiting for four kinds of tomatoes to fully ripen before the first frost. In the meantime, I’m excited to be back in the full swing of the semester, where we’re having some super discussions so far in both social theory (CSOC 295) and family change (CSOC 202AB).

Reflections about Snake Lake, Hate, Poland – and Your Senior Thesis – by Margi Nowak


Just before leaving my house on a Saturday morning for the senior thesis retreat at the Tacoma Nature Center at Snake Lake on September 8, I briefly checked my Facebook news feed and came across this disturbing reproduction of a tweet that had been earlier posted to Twitter:

“Someone needs to assassinate Obama…like ASAP #DieYouPieceOfShit”

I barely had time to re-post the link and the quote with my own brief comment about the poster (“Right-wing hatred from a 16 year old girl”), before I had to leave for day’s event. But in the moments before the first CSoc faculty-led panel discussion started, looking out through the open half-wall of the upstairs meeting room where our retreat was being held, seeing the peace and greenery of the Snake Lake environs outside, and recalling so many nature-exploring trips to this place 20+ years ago with my then young sons, I was brought back in thought to the general theme of the book I will begin writing during my sabbatical this coming spring. The larger human issues I want to address in this book also concern hate, but certainly not just hate alone. Months ago I had typed three short bullet points into my Mac Notes program, trying to pin down for myself what my proposed book project was really about, deliberately avoiding all academic language and references. I will copy and paste those points below, revealing in this way the messy, repetitive, perhaps even contradictory and logic-challenging way that my mind begins a major writing project.

  • This book will be about embracing, with love and enthusiasm, one’s personal ethnic heritage, even though such a heritage also demands a confrontation with ugliness and horror and raises questions about collective identity if not collective guilt. My awareness of these contradictory impulses came upon me slowly, over the course of more than a decade, as a result of my three trips to Poland (the last two with each of my sons, one at a time), including my very deliberate decision to go with them and show them the death camps at Auschwitz as well as much more pride-affirming Polish historical sites.

The infamous gate at Auschwitz

  • This book was inspired by my contradictory responses – shame/horror as well as love/pride – that were set off when I happened to watch a particular YouTube video just after returning from a family heritage trip to Poland the summer before last. 
  • This book will grapple with the contradictory impulses faced by people whose “own people” (family, ancestors, ethnic group, or other significant community to which they feel a sense of belonging) includes both perpetrators of evil as well as bringers of hope. For me personally, the

    Kraków: statue of one of the Jagiellonian University’s most famous graduates – Mikołai Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus); Bronisław Malinowski also got his first PhD here

    moment that triggered my sharp awareness of this duality of heritage crystalized after two online viewing experiences that occurred shortly after I returned home from a trip to Poland in August 2011. First, I saw a picture and read an online account from an English-language Polish news source documenting the spray-painting of a swastika on a memorial put up to commemorate a massacre of Jewish townspeople by their Polish neighbors in 1941 – an event which figures prominently in the class I teach on genocide. My immediate emotional response? No, not again…. Then, shortly afterwards, I happened to find and watch a YouTube video of the Polish folk group, Trebunie-Tutki, performing and playfully interacting with the Jamaican reggae group Twinkle Brothers, all filmed in the gorgeous Tatra mountain resort town of Zakopane. My emotional response this time? A strong, heartfelt, grateful Yes!

Hard to follow, isn’t it? What do these three bullet points have to do with the tweet I cited above about someone wanting Obama assassinated? And how does any of this relate to the senior thesis retreat?

Let me tell you a little more about all of these blurry-edged intersections of emotion and stimuli, facts, and interpretations, hoping in this way to continue what I believe we started to do together at Snake Lake: demystifying the process of identifying and developing a research topic, turning that into a research question, and proceeding to write about one’s findings in a way that resonates with a particular discipline – in this case, anthropology or sociology.

My upcoming sabbatical will be devoted to preparatory research for a book I have set out to begin writing which I have tentatively titled Symphony of Sorrowful/Joyful Songs: Facing, Loving, and Teaching Poland. The phrase “symphony of sorrowful songs” is actually borrowed from the title of a deeply moving piece of modern classical music composed by Henryk Górecki – his Third Symphony, in which each of the three symphonic movements incorporates a soprano singing anguished words about a mother’s loss of her son because of war or death, and a daughter’s separation from her mother because of her political imprisonment and impending execution by the Gestapo – themes that are all too well understood by Polish people.

Music is a huge part of who I am, both as an individual and as a member of my particular family, so it is no surprise that I want to write about it here, but there is so much more I want to incorporate in this project as well. In addition to the Górecki symphony (parts of which have been performed at the execution wall at Auschwitz) I am also interested in other twenty-first century Polish music as it connects with those murky themes I began trying to articulate above.  Rootz music – a fusion of Polish folk music, music of the Balkans, world beat, techno, dub, klezmer and other eclectic musical genres and influences – most definitely will find its way into my investigations too.

Perhaps even more than the music itself, I am interested in the young Polish musicians who are creating, experimenting with and performing this music.  For reasons directly related to the Holocaust and the subsequent anti-Jewish social climate that occurred in Poland even after World War II, most of these musicians are not Jewish or “ethnic folk” themselves.

And yet these young people are insistently rediscovering and reinterpreting earlier Polish and Jewish musical traditions – klezmer and Polish highlands folk music in particular – in ways that are startlingly new and creative.

Furthermore, all this is taking place in a larger social setting that is marked not only by pro-capitalist, pro-consumerist fervor, but also, in select circles, a genuinely critical attitude toward the present adulation, in some quarters of Polish society, of EU market and high-end consumer priorities and desires, coupled with a deep interest in historically long-term and surprisingly complex Polish attitudes toward ethnic minorities. And this history sadly also includes the specter that is always threatening to rear its ugly head again: right-wing, nationalist “ethnic purity” movements.

Graffito on a wall in Kaziemierz (former centuries-old Jewish neighborhood of Kraków, now becoming gentrified for tourists seeking a “Jewish” atmosphere), summer 2011

Perhaps this messy concatenation of themes – the worst human manifestations of evil juxtaposed against some of the most vibrant affirmations of the human spirit through music – explains why all these ideas came together for me in such a personally meaningful way when I saw the hate-tweet just minutes before setting off for the senior thesis retreat.

The relationship between hatred/fear and the desire to annihilate “the other” who inspires this hatred can, I believe, be understood in Durkheimian terms as not only fear of the outsider, but at an even deeper level, as fear of contamination. The dark-skinned man with the Moslem first and middle names, the supposed Kenyan rather than American birth, the sinister Marxist plotting oppressive domination – these are actually comparatively mild images of “otherness” compared to the much more diabolical images of Obama that appear on the hate websites currently monitored by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Similarly, in my class on genocide I must every year explain to students that yes, people in twentieth-century Europe really did believe that Jews kidnap Christian children to drain their blood to use in making matzo for secret Passover ceremonies. How terrifying such images must be to xenophobic fundamentalists who fear, at the deepest level of their being, being swallowed up or fatally polluted by what they regard as such demonic otherness!

I cannot possibly expect to fully answer the Why and How questions about this kind of hatred – or about creative attempts by artists to transcend it – in one book or even a lifetime of writings. But it is so important for me – first of all as a mother of now-grown sons, and certainly as a teacher of thousands of students over the course of my career – to try to do my part handing down to the young generation some tools to unmask the ignorance that can incubate such poison.

Snake Lake was a perfect place for me to weave together my personal biography and my professional training and interests in connection with a research and writing project of my own. I heard my CSoc colleagues talk and I got very excited thinking about all the different ways that such a project  (my own!) can be approached and articulated.  I looked out the half-open wall overlooking all that greenery and I got very nostalgic about all the evening walks I once took there with my then-little boys, showing them where the giant anthill was, but cautioning them solemnly “not to tell anyone” because “mean people might kick it down”. Even at that early age, I guess, parents need to prepare their children for the existence of evil in this world.

And for you “older” students of mine – no longer just my own once young children running through Snake Lake to find the “secret” anthill and pledging to keep it safe – my efforts to prepare you to identify, understand analytically, and deal in critical ways with hatred and ignorance, while framed with more sophisticated disciplinary language, concepts, and expertise than my words to my sons years ago, are no less heartfelt. Now go out and write the best damn thesis your passionate concerns inspire!

MacKenzie Fuentes at the Democratic National Convention

Recent CSOC graduate (’11) MacKenzie Fuentes send us a note from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to let us know how she wound up there.

“I worked for the Washington State Democratic Central Committee in the spring. I was the state convention coordinator. At the end of my contract, my supervisor asked if I wanted to go to the DNC, and I said ‘%#@* yeah!’ or something like that. The Committee sponsored me, and now I’m here as a page!”

“Basically I help staff with the credentialing process, events, babysitting the delegates, etc. The best part is, I get a ‘floor credential,’ so I can go down on the convention floor.”

MacKenzie has just started a two year public policy advocacy fellowship with WashPIRG, but she says she’d love to work with the Democratic Party again in the future. While at the DNC she’s run into numerous policy makers as well as celebrities from Jeff Bridges to Kal Penn to the Daily Show’s John Oliver. She claims it’s a great opportunity, but that it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep.

Have a great time at the convention, MacKenzie, we’re proud of you!