Current Research and Presentations by Sociology Faculty, Staff, and Students
Dr. James Beggan is working on several projects -- and welcomes both undergraduate and graduates to contact him if they are interested in working on any of these projects with him:
- Identity, Motherhood, and Fitness: According to most accounts, the USA is experiencing an epidemic called obesity. Most heath professionals therefore argue that it is important to get America exercising. UofL, for example, has instituted a fitness/heath program called "Get Healthy Now" aimed at encouraging employees to exercise on a regular basis. Although it seems hard to argue against such an effort at the same time it is important to recognize that such a worldview implicitly advocates for a kind of body that can be considered the "slim ideal:" muscular, slim, youthful. Frankly, this type of body may be difficult if not impossible for many people to achieve. The pressures to achieve this type of body is especially great among women. The purpose of this line of research is to examine the tension that exists between one elment of society telling us to get healthy (which is often translated into "get thin") and another element that would discourage us from attempting to promote an unrealistic slim ideal.
- On Being Better Than Others: One of the most reliable findings in social psychology is called a "self-enhancement bias." That is, people tend to overestimate their abiliites and positive attributes relative to what objective information may tell us. In recent work, I have tried to apply this self-enhancement bias to several domains. One is out belief that we are better than others at resisting temptation. A second is our belief that we are better than others at detecting deception on social networking sites such as myspace and facebook. A third is that we overestimate our sexual self-efficacy, i.e., we see ourselves as better sexual partners than others.
- Take the Lead: Partner dancing has grown in popularity in recent years, due to such TV shows at "Dancing with the Stars." The purpose of this line of research is to explore the concept of partner dancing using sociological concepts, specifically ideas about gender and gender stereotyping. The saying goes, 'the man leads, the woman follows." I seek to explore what appears to be a sexist orientation toward dancing from the point of view of women and men who dance. How do they reconcile this seeming old-fashioned attitude with their interest in dancing. On a related note, I am also interested in the interpersonal processes involved in learning to dance, attending dances, and socializing as a function of dancing.
Dr. Karen Christopher is currently working on two research projects:
- She is in the final stages of a research project on welfare recipients attending higher education.
- Her other project is a cross-national comparison of U.S. and Canadian mothers with young children. This project extends the "choice-centered" literature on mothers' employment and caregiving decisions by exploring the contexts of mothers' decision-making: how employers, government policies, partners, and other social networks affect mothers' decisions. This project also contributes a diverse sample of mothers with varied racial/ethnic, social class, and immigrant background
Dr. Patricia Gagne's is working on the following projects:
- She has a paper co-authored with Dr. Mark Austin on the commodification of the biker image and is currently completing a manuscript with Dr. Austin on the personal and social benefits women derive from touring motorcycling
- She is working on a co-authored paper with former graduate student Kathryn Martin on the discursive presentation of the transformative effects of elective cosmetic surgery as portrayed on a reality makeover television program.
Dr. Gul Marshall's main line of research focuses on the dynamics of the relationship between feminist grass-roots activism, the state, and supranational entities. It highlights the significance of transnational feminist activism in influencing gender policies both at national and supranational levels. The triangle of the Turkish feminist movement, the Turkish state, and the European Union provides an excellent case for study. She has forthcoming and published articles in this line of research. Dr. Marshall is also interested in the issue of domestic violence. She has a forthcoming article co-authored with Dr. Allen Furr.
Dr. Melanie Gast is the Co-PI for a new qualitative project (with a CEHD faculty member) examining the role of a peer mentoring program in supporting ESL and immigrant students in a JCPS high school. They will be continuing their data collection in Spring 2020, when they will be observing peer academic mentoring sessions and interviewing bilingual peer mentors (in addition to teachers and ESL students), and they will have need for transcription and possible data analysis work. Any undergraduate interested in working on this project should contact Dr. Gast.