Congrats to the 2021 ASA Sociology of Development Award Winners!

Congratulations to all of our 2021 section award winners and thank you to all who served on the committees!

ASA Sociology of Development Section Book Award

Committee: Firuzeh Shokooh Valle (Co-Chair), Joseph Harris (Co-Chair), Andy Chang, Sefika Kumral, Yao Li

Duquette-Rury, Laura. 2019.  Exit and Voice: The Paradox of Cross-Border Politics in Mexico. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

“Exit and Voice: The Paradox of Cross-Border Politics in Mexico” is a nuanced study of migrant hometown associations on local governance and development in Mexico. In drawing attention to the transnational work of HTAs, the book complicates our existing understanding of the state-social contract, reinterpreting classical theory on migration and development in bold new ways. It is a sophisticated mixed methods study that maximally demonstrates how the qualitative and quantitative can complement one another, and provides fascinating on-the-ground observations of the processes leading to emigrants’ reinvestment in hometown development.

Honorable Mention

Chuang, Julia. 2020. Beneath the China Boom: Labor, Citizenship, and the Making of a Rural Land Market. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

“Beneath the China Boom: Labor, Citizenship, and the Making of a Rural Land Market” is an extraordinary analysis of the hidden urban-rural and state-local policies and circuits of labor underlying China’s economic development. Through a rich ethnography, the book demonstrates  how rural villagers’ lives and livelihoods were deeply impacted by violent evictions, circular migration, and officialdom’s political machinations. The book points to important paradoxes in the Chinese case that upend commonly held assumptions in the literature. “Beneath the China Boom” has broad implications for scholars of migration, work, development, gender, and rural sociology.

ASA Sociology of Development Section Faculty Article Award

Committee: Victoria Reyes (Chair), Amanda Cheong, Jennifer Givens, Anne Mook, Marina Zaloznaya

Doering, Laura and Kristen McNeill. 2020. “Elaborating on the Abstract: Group Meaning-Making in a Colombian Microsavings Program.” American Sociological Review 85(3):417-450.

This article focuses on a government-sponsored microsavings program in Colombia. Drawing on a national survey that pinpointed a puzzle – the trend that despite increased financial inclusion, participants tended to lose interest in formal products throughout their participation in the program. To further understand this puzzle, the authors conducted 105 interviews and two years of observations from 28 savings group meetings across three cities. The authors solve this puzzle of why inclusion in the program resulted in losing interest through the organizational mechanisms. For the organization to dissemination program information across different groups of people, they had to abstract the information so it is consistent, and that the information was “timeless, placeless, and without context.” But because this information is so abstract, people then engaged in what the authors call “elaborating on the abstract,” whereby people shared personal (often negative) experiences, second-hand stories and information, and “coloring in neutral facts with negative emotional and moral values.” Thus, the very process that the organization engaged in, in order to reach so many people – providing information that can be used across settings – ends up being detrimental in practice as the information is divorced from on-the-ground practice. We found this article to be rich in both theory and empirics, shifting our understanding of microsavings programs at multiple levels of analysis. It is sure to be read, cited, and influence development policy and research for years to come.

Garrido, Marco. 2020. “Democracy as Disorder: Institutionalized Sources of  Democratic Ambivalence among the Upper and Middle Class in Manila.” Social Forces 99(3):1036–1059.

Why are democracies “backsliding” and their practices under attack? Drawing on 81 interviews, months of fieldwork in middle-class houses and civic associations, several years of ethnographic research in Metro Manila, the author posits a novel argument. Rather than democracy eroding because of weak political institutions and bad governance, the author pinpoints institutional contradictions as the key to understanding this problem. Participants saw democracy as amplifying disorder due to corruption, rule-bending, clientelism and informal settlements. The turn to “discipline” and “disciplining” democracy in order to address disorder better helps us see democratic backsliding as the result of institutional contradictions as moral dilemmas. We found this article to be rich in both theory and empirics, presenting a novel argument about how and why democratic backsliding occurs. Why are democracies “backsliding” and their practices under attack? Drawing on 81 interviews, months of fieldwork in middle-class houses and civic associations, several years of ethnographic research in Metro Manila, the author posits a novel argument. Rather than democracy eroding because of weak political institutions and bad governance, the author pinpoints institutional contradictions as the key to understanding this problem. Participants saw democracy as amplifying disorder due to corruption, rule-bending, clientelism and informal settlements. The turn to “discipline” and “disciplining” democracy in order to address disorder better helps us see democratic backsliding as the result of institutional contradictions as moral dilemmas. We found this article to be rich in both theory and empirics, presenting a novel argument about how and why democratic backsliding occurs.

Honorable Mention

Levenson, Zachary. 2019. “‘Such elements do not belong in an ordered society’: Managing rural–urban resettlement in democratic South Africa.” Journal of Agrarian Change 19(3):427-446.

What are the factors that drive dispossession, and the rationales that are mobilized to explain it? The author draws on 17 total months of fieldwork and interviews with housing officials, non-governmental officials, activists and lawyers to understand this question in the context of the “impossible situation” that has arisen in postapartheid South Africa: the end of racialized restrictions on migration, the ensuing shortage in formal housing in urban areas, and the government’s constitutional obligation to guarantee citizens’ right to adequate housing. The author argues that pointing to neoliberal logics is insufficient for understanding why the government chooses to evict land occupiers. Rather, governmental rationales for pursuing evictions in post-apartheid South Africa must be understood with regard to “the contingencies of democratic politics.” Government officials discursively create moralizing distinctions between patient, deserving citizens who are on a wait list for housing and those “unruly queue jumpers” who threaten democracy. Housing officials focus on those “queue jumpers” as a cause of the housing crisis and policing of land occupations, rather than a consequence of institutionalized inequities. We found this article to be richly engaging in its ethnographic insight as well as its theorizing, helping us to better understand how dynamics of neoliberalism and democratization affect the allocation of rights, such as housing, among citizens.

2021 ASA Sociology of Development Section Graduate Student Paper Award

Committee: Shiri Noy (Chair), Jason Mueller, Emily Springer, Jeffrey Swindle

It was my pleasure to chair the committee for the graduate student paper award this year and I want to acknowledge the careful and dedicated work of committee members Jason Mueller (UC Irvine), Emily Springer (Arizona State University), and Jeffrey Swindle (University of Texas) on selecting the recipients of this award. We received many excellent and well-written manuscripts and our decision was a difficult one. In particular, we were impressed and excited by the wide-ranging and thoughtful work that graduate student development sociologists are doing: indeed, our section’s future is in good hands! We selected a winner and an honorable mention.

Urbina, Daniela R. “Mass Education and Women’s Autonomy: Evidence from Latin America.”

In this sophisticated paper Daniela leverages the differential timing of compulsory school reforms in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru in an instrumental variable design to investigate the effect of mass schooling reforms in women’s autonomy in families. She finds that while women’s education is associated with greater autonomy, as education systems expand, these returns are increasingly diminished. She proposes that these results are partly explained by changes in the selection into schooling and the effects of women’s education on their marriage patterns. Therefore, for vulnerable groups complying with compulsory reforms, further schooling did not fulfill the promise of empowerment. Together, these results highlight the importance of examining the differential returns to mass schooling and the threatening meaning of women’s education in high gender inequality contexts.

Honorable Mention

Falzon, Danielle. “The Ideal Delegation: How Institutional Privilege Silences ‘Developing’ Nations in the UN Climate Negotiations.”

In this important article, forthcoming in Social Problems, Danielle makes an important contribution to our understanding of how development ideals shape global governance on urgent issues such as climate change. She utilizes an institutional lens to argue that idealized national delegations to the UN climate negotiations are from large, English-speaking countries that leverage Western scientific and legal expertise and that have the financial resources to send the same negotiators year after year. In this way, countries that more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are most discounted in negotiations to decide how the world should address climate change. The paper makes a clear and strong connection between macro-level theoretical questions of global power asymmetries, meso-level insights on institutional practices, and micro-sociological insights on how the “lived experiences” of UN delegates reflect and refract (pre)existing world scale social relations.

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