2016 Book Award
Swider, Sarah. 2015. Building China: Informal Work and the New Precariat. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
The award committee considers Building China to be a groundbreaking study on a population that is often invisible in scholarly and policy work on development—i.e. informal, migrant construction workers. Although the construction industry has been widely acknowledged as instrumental in China’s recent economic boom, we know oddly little about the lives and livelihoods of construction workers. Drawing from a deep and extensive ethnography where the author lived and worked in several construction sites across China, as well as 83 interviews with migrants, managers, and labor contractors, Swider sheds light on the structures, processes, and various actors building modern-day China. Swider illustrates how the Chinese state brokers migrant labor to build China’s shiny new cities, as well as how contemporary workers are redefining and reshaping labor movements to resist their exclusion from the very cities they built. Perhaps most noteworthy is the new theoretical framework this book offers. Rather than (re)exposing what has now become a common point (i.e. that formal work is declining and informal or precarious work is increasing), Swider deepens our conceptualization of informal or precarious work through her original and useful concept of the “employment configuration”. The concept of employment configurations differentiates types of informal work based on (1) pathways into employment and (2) mechanisms regulating the employment relationship. It rejects the idea that informal work is “unregulated” and categorizes work based on non-state mechanisms of regulation. In doing so, it pushes us past increasingly outdated and dichotomous frameworks (i.e. formal vs. informal work) to include the wide range of diverse employment relationships that characterize the world’s economies today. For development scholars of China and beyond, this book is a must read.
Almeida, Paul. 2014. Mobilizing Democracy: Globalization and Citizen Protest. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
The award committee enthusiastically endorses Mobilizing Democracy for its methodological sophistication and for its contributions to the intersection of social mobilization and national development. The book examines six countries in Central America to explain why communities respond differently to the effects of globalization and neo-liberal capitalist liberalization policies. Drawing from the extensive comparative case studies and multiple field interviews, the author develops an analytical framework consisting of how democratic transitions, perceptions of economic risks, and state-society linkages in each nation influence the social composition and strategies of oppositional coalitions. Rich in empirical data and a strong conceptual framework, the book sheds new light on the nature of agency in development processes and makes a significant contribution to how communities respond to global forces.
2016 Faculty Article Award
Singh, Prerna. 2015. “Subnationalism and Social Development: A Comparative Analysis of Indian States.” World Politics 67(3)/July: 506-562.
Using statistical analyses and historical case comparisons, this article identifies solidarity that emerges from a shared collective identity, or subnationalism, as an important contributor to social policy and welfare outcomes in various states in India. Singh argues that an overarching subnational identity facilitates a sense of shared interests and mutual commitments among individuals from divergent subgroups as it did in the state of Kerala. These individuals, therefore, are more likely to support policies that enhance collective welfare. By contrast, in states where there is a lack of an overarching subnational identity, such as in Uttar Pradesh, the sense of mutual commitment is limited to coethnics, and not to all members of the subnational community. In such states, the political elite are more likely to introduce policies that target their particular ethnic group and not everyone in the state.
Singh’s argument moves away from the dominant view in welfare scholarship of the negative impact of collective identity. By highlighting how class mobilization succeeds when embedded in subnationalism, as it did in Kerala, and fails when there is no overarching subnationalism as in Uttar Pradesh, Singh also provides nuance to the argument on class mobilization and collective welfare. Singh’s argument has important policy implications as she demonstrates how engaging subnational collective identities – through a state language, celebration of festivals and state heroes – can bring development policy in conversation with a larger arts and cultural context and can further social policy and development. Well written with empirical, conceptual, and theoretical contributions, it was an unanimous first choice of all members of the committee.
2016 Graduate Student Paper Award
Roshan Kumar Pandian for his paper “Does Manufacturing Matter for Economic Growth in the Era of Globalization?”
Pandian’s paper adjudicates between two competing perspectives concerning the importance of manufacturing employment for economic growth in the last two decades. Some scholars have argued that global restructuring and the new “international division of labor” presents novel opportunities for economic growth in the Global South, while others have argued that the importance of economic growth for developing countries has declined during this period as competitive pressures increase and barriers decline, motivating a “race to the bottom.” But previous research has not looked at the importance of manufacturing over time, nor has it compared developed and developing countries in the same analysis. In so doing, Pandian finds that manufacturing exerts a strong, positive effect on growth in all countries, but how this effect plays out over time is variable. In developed countries, the effects of manufacturing on economic growth are consistently strong, but in developing countries, the importance of manufacturing does indeed decline after 1990. In this way, Pandian carefully and intelligently mediates between two long-competing hypotheses in Economic Development, and finds that the answer actually is more complicated than what either side had actually postulated. This beautifully written and thoughtfully analyzed paper is expected to be a central read for all economic development scholars in the future.
Mohammad Ali Kadivar for his paper “Mass Mobilization and the Durability of New Democracies.”
In his paper, Kadivar empirically examines 112 new democracies over the past half-century and finds that, contrary to Huntington’s long-standing claims, new democracies that grow out of mass mobilizations are MORE LIKELY to survive than new democracies that did not. Of these mass mobilizations, UNARMED uprisings are more likely to endure than any other kind of democratic transition. He then deepens his empirical analysis with five case studies that investigate the mechanisms accounting for this relationship, and he concludes that mass mobilizations lead to stable new democracies because they require the emerging opposition to create organizational structures for leadership that translate easily into formal politics, and they forge links between this transitioning leadership and civil society, thus providing checks on the power of the post-transition government. Beautifully written, elegantly analyzed, and with transformative findings, this paper will certainly be published in a top peer review article in the very near future.
2015 Book Award
Sanyal, Paromita. 2014. Credit to Capabilities: A Sociological Study of Microcredit Groups in India. New York: Cambridge University Press.
The award committee considers Credit to Capabilities to be a groundbreaking study of a much-discussed but under-researched topic. The book provides a systematic examination of the relationship between microcredit groups and women’s agency through a detailed analysis of over two microcredit programs in India. The author draws on over 400 interviews to open the ‘black box’ of the assumed relationships between microcredit and women’s agency. Sanyal explores two mechanisms in particular, the financial and associational aspects of microcredit programs and argues that the latter is what provides positive returns for women’s positions in society. The book is richly detailed and beautifully written, delivering a grounded view of the social situation in which women live as well as the impacts of microcredit and the total experience of the women in these groups. Credit to Capabilities offers a theory of agency that underscores the ways in which women carve out autonomous spaces in the context of gender and social exploitation and material deprivation. Linking the analysis to the scholarly debates on gender inequalities, Amartya Sen’s theory of capabilities, and economic sociology, the book speaks to audiences both in and outside of development sociology including scholars interested in microcredit, gender, institutions, and livelihoods. The policy applications for practitioners are also clear: it is important to strengthen the means of enhancing the associational mechanisms of microcredit groups. For audiences from the local to the national level as well as to practitioners working in developmental agencies, local microcredit groups, and even banks that underwrite microcredit programs, Credit to Capabilities provides insights on decision-making processes, the broader social and economic contexts in which these decisions are situated, and the consequences on people’s lives.
Krause, Monika Sabine. 2014. The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief and the Fragmentation of Reason. Illinois: Chicago University Press.
The award committee enthusiastically endorses The Good Project, a book that focuses on humanitarian work conducted by International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Krause investigates the logic and practices of humanitarian NGOs through interviews with 50 managers at 16 of the largest NGOs; she argues that humanitarian work should be understood as a form of production and that aid agencies operate in a quasi-market where they are “selling” their projects to donors and the general public. The resulting search for “the good project” highlights the constructed nature of the relationship between production, consumption and crisis. Krause presents the perspective of workers in the humanitarian field with real insight, sympathy and rigor. The book also discusses the under-appreciated distinction between NGOs that work in “development” and NGOs that work in humanitarian or relief work. Rich in detailed theory and empirics, the book makes an important and fascinating intervention into the literature on aid, revealing the logic of humanitarian relief and the structural conditions necessary for this logic to exist, arguing for new politics of organizational practice.
2015 Faculty Article Award
Hetland, Gabriel. 2014. “The Crooked Line: From Populist Mobilization to Participatory Democracy in Chavez-Era Venezuela,” in Qualitative Sociology 37(4): 373-401.
This article examines how participatory democracy works in two Venezuelan municipalities. It shows that participatory governance can be successful in cities governed by Left and Right parties and in contexts where civic associations lack full autonomy from the state and ruling party. It explains these unexpected findings as indirect consequences of populist mobilization. Specifically, Hetland argues that a populist regime might instigate a grassroots backlash in which a post-populist regime takes on board the unfulfilled expectations generated by its populist predecessor. In so doing, it challenges the “incompatibility” thesis of populism and democracy and revisits some of the central claims in the participatory democracy literature, that successful participatory democracy requires a Left party. Methodologically, the case selection is persuasive, the analysis pays close attention to temporal sequences and events and makes good use of ethnographic methods such as interviews and participant observation.
Hsu, Becky. 2014. “Alleviating Poverty or Reinforcing Inequality: Interpreting Microfinance in practice, with illustrations from China,” in The British Journal of Sociology 65(2): 245-265.
2015 Student Paper Award
This year the ASA Section on Development Sociology acknowledged excellence in graduate student research to three young scholars: Julia Behrman and Abigail Weitzman (both of NYU), and Gowri Vijaykumar (University of California- Berkeley).
Behrman and Weitzman’s paper, “The Effects of Severe Natural Disaster on Fertility: Evidence from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake” used a carefully designed methodological approach to examine this important issue. Their main finding, that contraceptive access is significantly impeded during post-natural disaster periods, makes a strong contribution to the emerging field of population, development and environment. This paper was presented at the 2015 meeting of the Population Association of America.
Vijaykumar’s paper, “‘I’ll Be Like Water: Gender, Class, and Flexible Aspirations at the Edge of India’s Knowledge Economy” is a masterful analysis that examines the ways in which ideologies of aspiration, inclusion, and women’s empowerment associated with India’s globalizing knowledge economy are re-framed by young women workers in a small-town business-process outsourcing (BPO) center two hours outside of Bangalore. This paper was published in December 2013 in Gender and Society 27(6): 777-798.