SOAN Students and Faculty Win Major Research Awards at PSA’s 2017 Conference

SOAN students and faculty have for many years presented their research at the Pacific Sociological Association’s (PSA) Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting, held in Portland, April 6-9, 2017, was no exception. Besides four SOAN faculty participating in the conference, five SOAN students presented their original senior thesis research, including Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Leonard Henderson, and Allison Nasson, with each receiving in-depth feedback from faculty discussants and participants at their roundtables. We are proud of each of our SOAN students, who presented fascinating research on topics as diverse as “farmwives” and changing gender identities in rural communities, parental control over school lunches, hip-hop in global and local settings, and more.

This year we are also pleased to share the exciting news that SOAN major Allison Nasson and SOAN Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Utrata won two major research awards announced at PSA. These awards are significant given that the PSA, the oldest of sociology’s regional associations, includes sociology departments from the entire Pacific region of North America, including California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, and more, with only one recipient in each award category.

At the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony on Friday evening, Allison Nasson, a senior SOAN student, won the 2017 Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper Award for her paper entitled “Donor-Friendly Victimhood: Narrative Construction as a Fundraising Strategy.” The paper, lauded for its high professional quality, and building on her summer research award work, examines how personal narratives have become a key fundraising tool for nonprofits as they compete for attention and funding. It argues that studying the selection, manipulation, and circulation of these stories provides insight into which identities are being privileged, whose stories are going untold, and the potential ramifications of these trends.


SOAN senior Allison Nasson receiving the 2017 PSA Undergraduate Student Paper Award from Dr. Kposowa, Awards Committee Chair and Professor of Sociology, UC-Riverside.

We are impressed by Allison’s achievement, and cannot help but feel some SOAN pride more generally given that this is the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the past decade that a Puget Sound SOAN student has won one of these highly competitive undergraduate student paper awards.

At the same awards ceremony, Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology in the SOAN Department, was awarded the 2017 PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award for her book, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia (Cornell, 2015). The award recognizes major intellectual contributions embodied in a recently published book or a series of at least three articles on a common theme.


Prof. Jennifer Utrata receiving the PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award from Dr. Judith Hennessy, Central Washington University.

Utrata’s book illuminates Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life through examining the puzzle of how single motherhood, frequently seen as a social problem in other contexts, became taken for granted in Russia. The ambitious book uses the Russian case of growing single motherhood during the transition to capitalism to think theoretically and critically about assumptions in U.S.-focused scholarship on family change, poverty, and gender relations. Last year her book won the other coast’s major award, the Eastern Sociological Society’s Mirra Komarovsky Book Award.

Traditionally SOAN faculty presenting research, organizing sessions, or serving as discussants on panels gather together with student presenters over dinner. This year we had plenty of celebratory toasts and discussions, and we look forward to gathering together in future years with students presenting their original research.


SOAN Sociology Professors and students gathered for dinner at PSA: Jason Struna (and adorable son!), Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Jennifer Utrata, Ben Lewin, John Parker (Arizona State), and Leonard Henderson.

Would you like to join us at next year’s PSA? Are you interested in learning more about the SOAN major and its opportunities for conducting, and presenting, independent research? Then be sure to drop by the SOAN Research Symposium, to be held this Friday, April 21st from 3:30-5:30 in the Tahoma Room…all are welcome, refreshments provided.

Congratulations to Allison Nasson, Prof. Utrata, and all of the students and faculty who participated in this year’s PSA!


Puget Sound SOAN Students at the Society for Applied Anthropology meeting in Santa Fe

Hi all,

Over the past decade, SOAN students have been a regular feature at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA). The SfAA uniquely convenes academic anthropologists with a constellation of ‘practitioners’ — anthropologists who use their degree(s) to work in international development, public health, international development, the non-profit sector, and a variety of other areas. This year, the annual meeting was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Seven students participated in the poster session, which provided them the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from numerous conference attendees. And as usual, our students’ research widely impressed the anthropologists at the conference. Here’s a quick list of the Puget Sound students’ poster titles.

Elena Augustine’s project, Pro-Life Direct Activists’ Affect on Planned Parenthood Patients and Employees, explored how pro-life activism shapes clinic dynamics and defense tactics in the greater Tacoma area.

Elena Becker’s project, Impacts of Development Discourse on Appropriate Technology “Solutions,” distilled her fieldwork in Madagascar and her subsequent senior thesis work into a critique of the contemporary development paradigm.

Maria Birrell presented her senior thesis project, entitled Applying Feminist Theory to Indigenous Archaeology, which explores how feminist archaeological theory has reshaped the practice of archaeological fieldwork in the Pacific Northwest.

Sam Carp’s summer research exploring agricultural practices in Ghana, further extrapolated for his senior thesis, was distilled in his project poster, entitled, Understanding the Role of Subsistence Farming in a Developing Nation. In that project, Sam emphasizes the food security role of local markets and subsistence farming.

Emma Erler’s project, A Forged Dichotomy between Biomedicine and Traditional Healing Practices: An Ethnographic Study of Sikkim Dichotomy, builds on her ethnographic research during her semester abroad in India, exploring the dialectic between the biomedical paradigm and traditional, historic healing practices in India.

Kathryn Stutz’s project, Transnational Museum Networks Passing Through Qatar: The Balance of Communication, Curation, and Culture, distilled her AHSS summer research project in Qatar amidst the astonishing bloom of new museums there. This project examines some o the complex processes and relations discernible in the the process of establishing these museums, their exhibit, and their content.

Ariel Ziegler’s senior project, entitled National Parks for All?: Exploration of African American Accessibility of US National Parks, uses an ethnographic methodology to explore differential access to America’s archipelago of national parks.

As noted, Puget Sound has established a perennial footprint at the Society for Applied Anthropology, and these students’ work set the pace for the annual poster session. Congrats to all involved for another successful conference.


Danya Axelrad-Hausman Wins Major Award


Danya receiving the Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper award at the Pacific Sociological Association annual conference in Oakland, California.

Senior Danya Axelrad-Hausman has won the 2016 Pacific Sociological Association’s Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper for her senior thesis essay titled “Responses to Environmentalism and Environmental Policy as Mechanisms of Exclusion.” The PSA represents the entire U.S. West Coast and this award is given to only one student per year, so it represents a significant honor. Danya told us that she is very honored to have received the award, and had a great experience presenting her research at the PSA meetings.

Danya’s research focuses on how racial identity, gender, and other sociocultural factors influence environmental activism, and unpacks racialized constructs surrounding environmental purity. Danya shared her paper’s abstract with us:

Taking into account the unique sociocultural and sociopolitical climate that shapes the contemporary environmental justice discourse, this paper provides an account of the processes of identity formation that individuals and communities undergo when participating in environmental justice movements. Specifically, this research examines how socioeconomic status, race and gender influence participation in environmental justice advocacy. Through this approach I address the following questions: How are individuals and groups harnessing social and cultural factors, such as gender, socioeconomic status and racial identity, to drive activism? How does identity shape environmental activism and social movements, and how is environmental activism ultimately shaped by identity? Finally, I examine the policies and discourses that are shaped by racialized notions of environmental purity and ultimately reinforce systems of exclusion and marginalization. Through the examination of these driving questions I find that individual identity influences conceptions of the environment, environmentalism and structures of power. The construction of collective identity by environmental justice organization and activists connects the physical and social realities of environmental injustice. Finally, a perceived disconnect between the environmental movement and the environmental justice movement perpetuates a tangible disconnect and barrier to the environmental justice movement meeting its goals on an institutional level.

Elena Becker wins the SfAA Peter New Prize

Hi all,


Elena receiving her award at the Vancouver meeting, 2016.

I’m extremely proud to announce that Elena Becker was recently awarded the second place prize in the Society for Applied Anthropology‘s annual Peter K. New Award. The research/paper competition is named after applied anthropologist Peter Kong-ming New, formerly the president of the Society for Applied Anthropology, as well as chairman of the Medical Sociology section of the American Sociological Association. Elena’s prize includes a $1500 stipend and an invitation to submit her paper to the society’s flagship journal, Human Organization. In competition with numerous graduate students with dissertation-focused social scientists, it’s particularly noteworthy that an undergraduate received this award. She joins a list of previous winners that includes anthropologists and sociologists now on faculty at Harvard, CUNY, UMass, and many other excellent universities. That list of winners also includes anthropologist Brian Burke, who recently visited Puget Sound for a research talk with students.

Elena’s winning paper, Malagasy Cookstove Use and the Potential for Alternative Models: A Case Study in Madagascar’s Vakinankaratra Region, exemplified applied anthropology. Using an ethnographic methodology honed in coursework at Puget Sound, Elena deployed those skills to explore how the adoption of new cooking technology might fit with the cultural and practical norms of rural Madagascar. Notably, research for this project was conducted as part of her semester abroad with the School of International Training.

We’re very proud of you, Elena!




Elena Becker, presentation and award!

Junior Elena Becker will be deliver a afternoon lecture about her research in Borneo. The project, entitled Cultural Authenticity and the Impacts of Cultural Tourism in Malaysian Borneo, was the result of an AHSS summer research grant from the University of Puget Sound. Come check it out!

What: Elena Becker’s Summer Research Presentation
When: Wednesday, February 17, 4:00 – 5:00 PM
Where: MC309

And there’s more! Elena recently received IMG_6174confirmation that her paper had been awarded second place in the Society for Applied Anthropology’s Peter K. New Award. Research for her paper, entitled Malagasy Cookstove Use and the Potential for Alternative Models: A Case Study in Madagascar’s Vakinankaratra Region, was conducted during her semester abroad with the School of International Training (SIT), and built on the ethnographic fieldwork skills she developed in the department. The competition pitted her paper against a slew of excellent, PhD-level submissions, which marks her award as particularly impressive.

The award honors the late Peter Kong-ming New, a distinguished medical sociologist-anthropologist and former president of the SfAA. The prize is awarded to papers which exemplify applied research in the social/behavioral sciences. Second place in the SfAA’s competition comes with a substantial, $1500 stipend, travel monies to help facilitate attendance the conference in Vancouver this March, and an invitation to submit the paper to the society’s flagship journal, Human Organization, for potential publication.

Congratulations, Elena. We’re so proud of you!








Student Presentations at Reed College

Hi all,

Carolynn Hammen (Puget Sound, SOAN) describing aspects of her fieldwork experience in Cairo

Carolynn Hammen (Puget Sound, SOAN) describing aspects of her fieldwork experience in Cairo

Four Puget Sound students, including two SOAN majors, just returned from participation and presentations at a mini-conference concerning research in and about the Middle East. The mini-conference itself was entitled Integrating Middle East and Arabic Studies Across the NW5C. This group of faculty, whose collaborative efforts have been supported by the Northwest five college consortium (including Puget Sound, Reed, Lewis and Clark, Whitman, and Willamette), are seeking to collectively reinforce our universities’ capacities to foster students’ interest and experience with the study of Middle Eastern societies, cultures, and histories.

In addition to attending two lectures (including Tarik Elseewi’s “New Media, New Subjectivities in the Arab World,” and Sohail Hash’s “Islam, Constitutionalism, and the Challenge of Democracy”), Puget Sound students participated in two student-focused roundtable sessions with faculty and students from the other Northwest Five colleges. Those sessions included On the Ground: Research Experiences in and about the Middle East, and Next Projects: Workshop on Ongoing Projects in or about the Middle East. The four Puget Sound students (Carolynn Hammen, David Balgley, Kathryn Stutz, and Peter Atwill) were active contributors and participants in both of these conversations.


Andrew at the University of Cologne

IMG_6298Hi all,

So I just returned from an academic trip to Cologne, Germany, and I thought I’d describe a bit of what I was up to over there.

So late last year I was contacted by a group of scholars associated with the Global South Studies Center at the University of Cologne. This group of scholars is concerned with both the history and current manifestations of coerced, bonded, indentured, and forced labor in our world. They asked me to join them at a small conference at the University of Cologne last week. As part of the conference Transformations in the Global South, I contributed to a panel called Bonds and Contracts. That panel, chaired by Ulrike Lindner, included the following papers:

This was truly a fantastic panel of scholars, researchers, and presenters. Although mine was the only paper that dealt with peoples and migrations in the contemporary world, the parallels between the Gulf migrants’ experiences I track and the historical labor relations described in the other

Andrew Newman (Wayne State), Innocent Mwaka, and me at the farewell dinner. Innocent, a graduate student at the GSSC, hopes to be Uganda's first anthropologist in Ugandan academia!

Andrew Newman (Wayne State), Innocent Mwaka (Cologne), and me at the farewell dinner. Innocent, a graduate student at the GSSC, hopes to be the first anthropologist in Ugandan academia. He has my vote. Do I get a vote?

papers was extraordinary. Indeed, I emerged from this panel less secure than ever about the purportedly unique characteristics of the modern labor migrants I study.

The conference as a whole included six other excellent panels. A portion of the conversation at the conference concerned how applicable and appropriate the concept of a “global south” remains. The fact that the conference included numerous scholars who count themselves of the “global south” only enhanced the conversation.