Broadly speaking, my research interests lie in the sociological study of: Identity, Migration, Gender, Race and Ethnicity, Symbolic Boundaries, Stratification, Sociology of Culture, Ethnic Conflict, and International Studies
More specifically I am compelled by questions related to what makes social actors act during times of social change and upheaval and how to perceive these actions. I am interested in how social positions, constraints, values and beliefs, context-specific mores, and recent experiences alter and shift the daily experiences and perceptions of social actors and social groups.
I recently completed my dissertation fieldwork in Nepal on a Fulbright US Student grant to examine how ideas of gender and household arrangements shift during periods of male migration. You can read more about that experience here. I'm currently writing my dissertation with plans to defend in June 2018.
My dissertation focuses on the domestic social effects of transnational migration and the strategies that families use throughout the migration periods. Labor migration is characterized by episodic periods of absence and return (temporary or permanent) and presents the opportunity to compare households at various periods of migration to understand the changes to home life and women's experience and to discern mechanisms of change. I situate my findings within Nepal's cultural and economic systems to understand why some men and households seek migration as an economic strategy, how women's economic and household labor allow for men's absence, and what impact this has on the way households experience migration before, during, and after the absence of a male household member. Male absence increases women’s cultural and social capital while also adding to the burden of labor for them. These changes figure into a shift in household gender dynamics that is complicated by the presence of in-laws (a common household arrangement), the ease of regular communication with migrants via mobile phones, and the lack of mobility for women in the formal labor market. I connect macro-level cultural and economic trends with micro-level experiences and perceptions. The changes that occur between these two levels of analysis help illustrate how the changes of Nepal’s massive out-migration today will unfold over a generation or more.
In college, as a Peace and Conflict Studies major with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization, I wanted to understand why people divide into social groups and explore what this means for group behaviors, specifically conflict and cooperation. When I graduated I still had questions about social organization and a strong desire to begin finding answers to them for myself, which led me to graduate programs in sociology. Sociology exposed me to the extent of social inequalities, near and afar, that I had missed while focusing on extreme cases of war. I thought that war epitomized inequality, without realizing how pervasive inequality is or how subtle and everyday it can be. Inequality is often perpetuated through daily interactions, which are shaped and exacerbated by the macro-level context. My interests began to shift from how strangers treated each other in conflict to how families experience change across generation, carrying major events like conflict into new generations and even physical locations.
For my Masters’ thesis I researched refugees in the U.S. to understand lasting effects of conflict on everyday practices across generation. Refugees are survivors of conflict, but they are also migrants and my research exposed me to literature on migration. I view migration as a macro-level context change that is more pervasive than war and stirs up social life in a way that lasts across generations in a different way. This orientation toward migration and my view that inequality is interactional shifted my focus toward family-centered attitudes and practices during social change, and how attitudes and beliefs carry into next generations. This project was originally focusing on inter-generational transmission of trauma and memories as tools of identity-making, the more interesting and lesser-told story that came through my fieldwork was the way gender functioned as a bridge to maintain identities and group-ties across generations that had vastly differently experiences and perceptions of social belonging. The invisible and gendered identity work that women performed was at the expense of their own cultural integration and social mobility. This finding helped set up my interest in gender, migration, and unseen forms of gendered household labor that women perform.