Dissertation: Contention & Construction in the Movement for a New Economy: Case Studies of Economic Democracy and Climate Justice
My mixed-methods dissertation examines the relationship between repertoires of contention and construction in social movements. I study two empirical cases of activism that bridges civic and economic spheres. I analyze how the interplay of resistance and building unfolds in the context of individual biographies, organizations, and movement trajectories.
Spillover, Selection, or Civic Enrichment? Workplace and Civic Participation in Democratic Firms
In collaboration with Kristinn Már (UW-Madison), my first study revisits the “civic spillover” hypothesis that workers in firms organized in more participatory ways exhibit higher levels of civic engagement. It uses a mixed-methods research design to analyze original survey and interview data I collected in 2016-17 on the civic engagement and work histories of cooperative employee and worker-owners across the United States in partnership with an Oakland-based nonprofit called the Democracy at Work Institute and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy with guidance from the University of Wisconsin Survey Center.
Our goal is to address outstanding questions about the relationship between workplace organization and civic engagement over the life course. It has been generously supported by a National Service and Civic Engagement Grant Competition Award funded by the Office of Research and Evaluation at AmeriCorps.
Constructive Dimensions of Social Movements
The second study asks how a solutions agenda fits into the pursuit of collective goals. It takes Charles Tilly’s idea of “repertoires of contention” as a point of departure to ask why social movement organizations pair repertoires of contention with what I call “repertoires of construction.” I examine constructive repertoires in the context of the climate justice movement through case studies of campaigns for a just transition in Eastern Kentucky and to reinvest financial assets divested from the fossil fuel industry.
The project conceptualizes constructive dimensions of social movements – in particular the creation of alternative economic institutions – as essential to collective political struggle. Data collection also includes an action research component through a partnership with a New York City-based nonprofit called The Working World. It has been generously supported by a Sociology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award from the National Science Foundation.
Along with Michael Bell, Loka Ashwood, and Isaac Leslie, I co-authored the 6th edition of An Invitation to Environmental Sociology (2021), one of the most widely used environmental sociology textbooks for undergraduates in the United States.
Movements and Markets in the Rust Belt
Thanks to funding from a Beyster Graduate Fellowship from the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, my 2017 paper published in Labor Studies Journal examined the role of the labor movement in supporting the emergence of market alternatives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Policy & Public Sociology
As a Research Analyst at AmeriCorps, I am currently analyzing data from the 2019 Current Population Survey Civic Engagement and Volunteering Supplement and summarizing key findings in a report for academics, policymakers, and practitioners.
In 2021, I am launching two new studies as a Researcher at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. The Cooperative Governance Research Initiative is the first national, cross-sector, longitudinal study about cooperative governance made possible with generous support from CoBank and a 4W Innovation Grant. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Trends in the Cooperative Community is a national, cross-sector study about diversity, equity, and inclusion in cooperatives conducted in partnership with the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Development Foundation with generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
As a Research Assistant for Designing Health Promoting Environments, a Univercity Year project with Professor Kristín Thorleifsdóttir (UW-Madison Department of Planning & Landscape Architecture and School of Human Ecology), I assisted with the design and implementation of a community-based survey about the relationship between walkability and experiences of the environment in three small Wisconsin villages. One of our paper about active living in rural areas is under review and we are currently preparing a manuscript analyzing survey results.
In 2016-17, I directed the first national survey of cooperative employees and worker-owners in the United States in partnership with the Democracy at Work Institute and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy with invaluable guidance from the University of Wisconsin Survey Center. I recently coauthored a report based on tis data titled “How Economic Democracy Impacts Workers, Firms, and Communities” and I am collaborating with Sarah Reibstein (Princeton University) to inequality within and between these democratic worker-owned firms by gender, race, and immigration status.
In 2015-17, I also served as “documentarian” for the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition and conducted community-based research on this innovative economic municipal development initiative in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives.