Graduate Students

Neil Gong, UCLA, Sociology | "Empowerment, Responsibility and Authority in LA's Public Mental Health System"

My research investigates the institutional matrix of responsibility and authority in American community mental health care by examining how psychiatric patients, family members, and mental health workers negotiate treatment decisions and expectations of daily living in downtown Los Angeles. In particular, I am interested in how discourses of psychiatric patient "empowerment" and "recovery" are enacted when workers and family members believe such patient/client/consumers to be ill-equipped to make rational decisions. In the specific context of contested urban space, I also consider the way political pressures to manage visible madness enable and constrain novel collaborations between law enforcement, mental health workers, kin networks, and the patients/clients/consumers they aim to "partner" with.

Molly Hales, UC Berkeley-UCSF, Medical Anthropology 

My research explores contemporary American mourning practices, with a focus on relations between the living and the dead made possible by new technologies of virtual persistence such as Facebook pages, memorialization websites, and digital archives of the dead. 

Christopher Herring, UC Berkeley, Sociology | "Managing Marginality: Homeless Regulation and Survival in San Francisco"

This dissertation examines the restructuring of homeless policy under the federally mandated “10-year plans to end homelessness” in San Francisco through a double-edged ethnography: drawing from one year of fieldwork living on the streets and SRO's alongside those experiencing homelessness and one year working alongside social workers, clinicians, volunteers, police officers, and community organizers attempting to assist homeless people

Ina Kelleher, UC Berkeley, African American Studies | "Weeping Mothers, Fallen Sons": The Politics of Mourning Urban Violence

This project analyses how grief and mourning are experienced and performed, both publically and privately, by mothers who lose their children to urban violence. The purpose of this research study is to understand how mothers who lose their children to urban violence negotiate their roles as public figures. What are the challenges that accompany mourning a private loss publically? To what extent are mothers able to use this platform to their advantage politically, economically, and personally? And finally, what kinds of emotional labor accompany this experience? 

Joshua Neff, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program | "Structurally Competent: Integrating Social Medicine into Clinical Training"

My research explores how to promote healthcare providers’ “structural competency”—their awareness of the social, political, and economic influences on the health of patients and the clinical encounter, as well as their knowledge of possible ways to respond to these influences. For my dissertation I am working with the Critical Social Medicine Working Group to design, implement, and evaluate pilot structural competency workshops at the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program and UCSF's HEAL Initiative global health fellowship.

Melanie Plasencia, UC Berkeley, Ethnic Studies 

My research incorporates popular debates on aging, race and inequality, across the human sciences, in order to explore the experiences of the elderly who cohabitate or take on primary caretaking responsibilities of their grandchildren as a result of social dislocations within concentrated poverty neighborhoods.

Jocyl Sacramento, UC Berkeley, Education | "Let's Talk About Race: Developing Teaching and Student Racial Literacy through Comparative Ethnic Studies Curricula"

My research examines various pathways for transformative education. For my dissertation, I conducted a four-year, multi-sited ethnography to understand the practices and strategies teachers adopted when implementing new policies to develop comparative ethnic studies curricula in San Francisco Bay Area high schools.

Josh SeimUC Berkeley, Sociology | “The Ambulance: Paramedicine as Poverty Governance" 

My dissertation reimagines the 911 ambulance as an institution of urban poverty governance. I draw on three interlocking data sources to decode the functions of privatized paramedicine in a dense and polarized California county: 1) 12 months of participant observation as I shadowed ambulance crews and their supervisors; 2) three months of emergency medical technician (EMT) training followed by an additional nine months of fieldwork as I worked as a novice EMT; and 3) nearly 100,000 ambulance medical records. A slice of this research appears in American Sociological Review (June 2017).

Christyna Serrano, UC Berkeley, Education | "The Cultural Political Economy of School Lunch and the Welfare State:  A Case Study of Education Policy Implementation."

My dissertation research is a qualitative case study of the implementation of a Federal policy -- the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act -- at the local level -- the Oakland Unified School District. I situate this work within the overlapping realms of schooling, education policy, and the welfare state, and draw on food systems and contemporary education policy implementation literature. I use Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a theoretical and analytic framework to explore the dialectic between structure and agency and the negotiation of power as local actors use education policy and schools to pursue social justice agendas.

Benjamin Shestakofsky, UC Berkeley, Sociology 

My research bridges scholarship in the sociology of work and economic sociology, examining how a broker firm mobilizes a global labor force to accomplish the invention, reproduction, and transformation of an online marketplace. 

Alisa Szatrowski, UC Berkeley, Sociology | "School Success: A Comparative Ethnography of High Schools Serving Low-Income Students."

This dissertation identifies practices that are most effective with low-income students through a comparative ethnography of a high achieving and average high school matched on size, low-income population and demographics. Conducted over two years, observations include classroom visits, informal school time, teacher collaboration, department meetings and leadership team meetings. Findings highlight the organizational features that facilitate success in schools in terms of high graduation and college attendance rates for a substantial population of low-income students.

Michael Singh, UC Berkeley, Education  

My future dissertation research will examines the ways national discourses of Latino masculinity and education influence educational projects implemented by individual school districts. My hope is to conduct a study of a school district in the San Francisco Bay Area, looking closely at the ways dominant discourses of Latino masculinity are converted into district projects and programs. Within this research project, I shall conduct an ethnographic case study of one classroom/after-school program/school initiative, paying close attention to the ways in which dominant discourses of Latino masculinity are reproduce or resisted by Latino male educators.  

David C. Turner III, UC Berkeley, Education 

I am interested in youth activism and civic engagement. More specifically, I am interested in how youth of color materialize social change. Through activist ethnography as an mode of inquiry and a political project, I would like to challenge conventional notions of "empowerment" and investigate what youth do to produce real differences (such as community gardens, local policies, etc.) in their communities.

Anthony WrightUC Berkeley-UCSF, Medical Anthropology 

I am interested in the political, economic, and affective dynamics of pediatric cancer diagnosis and treatment in Michoacán, México. Pediatric cancer is an increasingly curable condition, but the unequal distribution of biomedical knowledge and resources along lines of race, class, and nationality ensures that some children are more likely to have successful treatment outcomes than others. In Michoacán, there are few pediatric oncologists or oncological facilities, meaning that many children and their families must travel long distances in order to receive care. Furthermore, since Mexican national health coverage is tied to a formal position of employment, many families lack insurance to cover the costs of treatment, and so they must put forth a great deal of effort securing various forms of support. Through long-term ethnographic fieldwork I will explore how children and their loved ones confront these realities, particularly in the midst of the violence and instability of contemporary Mexico. I am also interested in how cancer diagnosis and treatment reshapes families: How does the reality of cancer affect familial attachments, expectations, and obligations?