Women without Men: New Book by Jennifer Utrata

Hi all,

Utrata CoverAs families change rapidly throughout the industrialized world, more women are finding themselves raising children on their own, as single mothers (most single-parent households are single-mother households). Yet what it means to be a single mother varies widely. In the United States, single mothers are often stigmatized, with politicians and pundits blaming poverty, crime, “family breakdown,” and even gun violence on single mothers. In Russia, however, even though two-parent families are preferred, single motherhood is normalized.

A new book by Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia (Cornell University Press), uses original fieldwork data and intensive interviews to explain why single motherhood has become taken for granted in Russia. Telling stories of hardships and triumphs through the eyes of single mothers, married mothers, grandmothers, and nonresident fathers, the book offers an in-depth portrait of family life and draws comparisons with parallel experiences in the United States.

Here’s a synopsis of the book from Cornell University Press:

Women without Men illuminates Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life through the lens of single motherhood. Drawing on extensive ethnographic and interview data, Jennifer Utrata focuses on the puzzle of how single motherhood—frequently seen as a social problem in other contexts—became taken for granted in the New Russia. While most Russians, including single mothers, believe that two-parent families are preferable, many also contend that single motherhood is an inevitable by-product of two intractable problems: “weak men” (reflected, they argue, in the country’s widespread, chronic male alcoholism) and a “weak state” (considered so because of Russia’s unequal economy and poor social services). Among the daily struggles to get by and get ahead, single motherhood, Utrata finds, is seldom considered a tragedy.

Utrata begins by tracing the history of the cultural category of “single mother,” from the state policies that created this category after World War II, through the demographic trends that contributed to rising rates of single motherhood, to the contemporary tension between the cultural ideal of the two-parent family and the de facto predominance of the matrifocal family. Providing a vivid narrative of the experiences not only of single mothers themselves but also of the grandmothers, other family members, and nonresident fathers who play roles in their lives, Women without Men maps the Russian family against the country’s profound postwar social disruptions and dislocations.

Congratulations, Jennifer!


The 2015 Senior Thesis Poster Session

IMG_5991Hi all,

On Friday, ten SOAN seniors presented their work at the annual Senior Thesis Poster Session. The event was very well attended, and included two of our alumni from years past — Aliyah Simcoff and Sarah Plummer. The students’ theses are currently under final revision. Here’s a list of the ten seniors who pursued the optional thesis in our reconfigured curriculum:

  • Mason Constantino Empowerment Through Care: An Ethnographic Examination of a Youth Gardening and Experiential Learning Program in Tacoma, WA
  • Logan explaining his project

    Logan explaining his project

    Logan Day Complicating Common Misperceptions of Muslims: An Ethnographic Exploration of the Media-driven Public Perception of Muslims and Arabs 

  • Kara Flynn Public History, Archives, and the Role of the Institution: The Salmon Beach Community
  • Chelsea Harris “A church on every corner, a coffee shop on every corner”: A Study of Two Evangelical Christian Organizations Within the Tacoma Faith Market
  • Chelsea describing her project

    Chelsea describing her project

    Kasey Janousek The Fashionista’s Dilemma: Personal Identity vs. Conformity Through the Vehicle of Fashion Trends

  • Edward Jones Transformational Festivals as Intentional Communities: Redefining Festivals Through the Experiences of Volunteers
  • Reilly Rosbotham Imagining the Wild: Changing Definitions of Wilderness and their Impact on the Designation and Management of Wild Sky
  • Ali Smith Anti-Trafficking Organizations: A Washington State Perspective
  • Elise Zeidman Narco-Violence, Migration, Detention, and Asylum: An Ethnographic Exploration of Mexican Migrant Pathways
Students and faculty concluded the day with a social at E9

Students and faculty concluded the day with a social at E9

Later that evening, students and faculty retired to E9 for our traditional end-of-the-semester SOAN social.




Help Grassroots Efforts in Nepal!

Hi all,

As many of you know, I have quite a few friends in Nepal as a result of my research on transnational migration to Qatar and the other Gulf States. Some of my friends there have organized a small NGO that is providing help and assistance to the many, many in need. Your donations we welcome, and instead of those donations going to purchase Toyota Landcruisers for western-based experts to assess the situation on the ground in Nepal, your donations will go straight to a small group of Nepalis who are dedicated to assisting the many, many households impacted by this natural disaster.

Read more and, if possible, donate here! Be sure to look at the photos and updates about their activity.

safey first