Month: July 2021

Greetings from the Department Head

Manisha Desai

As yet another unprecedented academic year comes to an end, over fourteen months into a global pandemic, our world continues to be in flux. The pandemic itself continues shape shifting and as sociologists we know only too well how privilege and precarity shape our experience of it. Here in the U.S., we see light and hope for many as more and more people get vaccinated and more and more activities resume in person. Elsewhere in the world, Argentina, Colombia, and Mongolia being the current countries experiencing a surge, vaccination and wellbeing lag reflecting our neoliberal, undemocratic and unjust global order. Yet, workers, farmers, students, migrants, and many others galvanized by the large-scale anti-racism protests of last summer continue to work tirelessly for justice and social transformation.  I am in awe of the creativity and compassion of people around the world as they rallied to support each other even as many states failed to do so.
In the department, everyone rose to the challenge of teaching, learning, researching, and working virtually. Colleagues with online teaching experience held workshops to get the rest of us up to speed. We held virtual workshops, colloquia, office hours, and award ceremonies, including yet another virtual commencement for our majors and minors.  Through this difficult year, our ever-helpful staff, Kathy Covey, Mary Malley, and Katie Upson, aided by our work study students, continued to support us even as they learned how to do their work virtually. As evident throughout this newsletter, faculty and students alike continued to conduct research and publish, give presentations to academic and non-academic audiences, win awards, and mentor, not to mention many who took on supervising their children’s home schooling. Here again, gender disparities were evident at work and at home.
Even amidst these trying times, colleagues achieved milestones. Dr. Christin Munsch was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure and Dr. Laura Bunyan was promoted to Associate Professor in Residence. We will also be welcoming a new, albeit small, cohort of graduate students and Dr. Carla Dhillon and Dr. Bhoomi Thakore as new colleagues in the Fall and Spring respectively.
Finally, it is with deep gratitude that we bid a fond farewell to Professors Marysol Ascencio, Davita Glasberg, and David Weakliem as each contemplates their future journeys away from UConn but always of UConn. It has been a true honor and joy to work with each of you. Marysol, you were with us even before you were a member of the department. Tirelessly mentoring students and serving the department, El Instituto, and UConn. Davita, you’ve worn so many hats from Department Head to Associate Dean to Interim Dean and in your last act you even agreed to serve as DGS. David, when you agreed to serve as Associate Head, I’m sure you had no idea of the unending nature of all those pesky scheduling details. Without your patience, memory, and wry sense of humor my job would have been that much harder. We cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done for the department and the university. We hope that you will stay in touch and come visit, once that becomes possible.
As we look ahead to the next year, not knowing what is in store as we resume in person teaching and working, I know that we are in good hands with Professor Bandana Purkayastha serving as Acting Head while I am away on sabbatical in the Fall and Professor Andrew Deener as the incoming Director of Graduate Studies. We have all learned much patience and resilience over the past year that will enable us to continue not only our academic work but also our commitment to social justice and anti-racism work within and outside the department to ensure a place where we can all flourish. I wish you all a summer of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation after a challenging year.

Mary Bernstein: Southern Queeries Podcast

Check out Professor Mary Bernstein's recent appearance on the Southern Queeries podcast, which provides a look at what is going on in the world of gay marriage or LGBTQ weddings, with a southern twist. Why did the queer community push so hard for marriage in the first place, were there other fights we should have been focusing on, and should LGBTQ people participate in such a cis/straight institution in the first place?  

Phoebe Godfrey: Publication of Two New Books

Check out Associate Professor in Residence Phoebe Godfrey's two new books!

Cover of "Understanding Just Sustainabilities from Within" by Phoebe Godfrey.

Written by the co-founder and former board president of a non-profit shared-use commercial kitchen, Understanding Just Sustainabilities from Within presents an intersectional analysis of CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen), in order to explore what just sustainabilities can look and feel like from within and without.

Through a unique combination of autoethnography, participant observation, surveys, and secondary research, this book offers insights into CLiCK’s micro and macro successes, failures, and unknowns in relation to its attempt to put the concept of just sustainabilities into daily practice, and praxis. Developing its practical analyses from a theoretical basis, this book does not focus on definitive answers, recognizing instead that the closest we can get to understanding just sustainabilities in praxis is through long-term collective struggle and ultimately love.

Researchers and educators who are interested in linking theory with practice, especially in relation to just sustainabilities and intersectionality, will appreciate the theoretical grounding, making it desirable for multiple social science classes. Additionally, those involved with the social justice, food justice, and just sustainabilities movements will benefit from the book’s insights into best practices to address issues of social inequalities on the micro level, while also offering the benefits of a macro intersectional analysis.

At a time when environmental and social stakes are at their highest – with rising crises and contradictions at the nexus of a building sense of environmental and social collapse – there are no easy solutions. Global Im-Possibilities explores just what can be done around the world to ameliorate this dynamic.

Using a range of essays and a multitude of case studies, this book explores what new lessons can be learned from examining the challenges and impediments to achieving just sustainabilities on the levels of policy, planning, and practice, and considers how these challenges and impediments can be addressed by individuals and/or governments.

Taking a nuanced approach to provide an intersectional analysis of a particular issue relating to the ideals for achieving sustainability, this book asserts that that it is only in recognizing such complexity that we can hope to achieve just sustainabilities.

Cover of "Global Im-Possibilities" by Phoebe Godfrey.