Research

Research interests: The change-making world of cultural politics, specifically with practical implications for changing symbolic politics, addressing structural power, and realizing social justice; applied and public sociology; structural inequality and social policy; civic studies and community engagement; class, race, gender, and intersectionality; education; community engagement.

Past work:

  • Missing Structure: A Critical Content Analysis of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (2018)
    School bullying is dominantly understood as an individualistic phenomenon, overlooking the sociostructural environment that creates and maintains it. A critical content analysis reveals that the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is similarly lacking. The programme labels students as bullies and victims, ascribes these groups’ particular character traits, sidelines issues of bias and at times reproduces norms that foster bullying. The programme hyperfocuses on real‐time manifestations of bullying incidents, attempting to end bullying through universal monitoring of students and student compliance with anti‐bullying rules. It is argued that efforts to reduce school bullying should address both its individualistic and structural determinants.
  • Democratic governance and civic health in Newark, Delaware: A case study (2010)
    Local governments should use democratic governance to enhance a community’s problem-solving capacity and civic health. Strategically using democratic governance tools and a systematic shift toward a democratic framework of governance would enhance any community’s ability to accomplish its goals. This article offers a case study of Newark, Delaware. Newark’s civic health is evaluated through a survey administered to a cross section of stakeholders in the community. Democratic governance techniques that could help Newark capitalize on its strengths and address its growing edges are discussed.
  • Democratic Institutions Create Civic Health: How local jurisdictions can enhance their problem-solving capacities through inclusive governance, including a case study of Newark, Delaware (2009, MPA analytical paper)
    Download here: Temko.DemocraticGovernanceCivicHealth.2009
    Here’s a newspaper article about my study: Robin Brown’s News Journal article

Research in progress:

  • Communities transitioning from gender-specific to gender-inclusive events
    As U.S. society undergoes cultural shifts regarding its perceptions and evaluations of gender identity, gender expression, and family diversity, many local communities (city governments, school districts, PTAs, etc.) have begun to rebrand and remake gendered events into more inclusive ones (e.g. a Father-Daughter Dance becoming a Family Dance). This research project explores this issue. What are the problems with gender-specific community events that communities that have considered or made these changes are trying to address? What motivated these communities to make these changes? What was the conversation like around making these changes, both before the change and after its implementation? What was the result of these changes? In what ways did they change the events or community? What information, best practices, or other lessons learned from communities that have gone through these changes should communities that still sponsor gender-specific events be aware of?

Writing in progress:

  • The Path to Presence: How Gender Balanced Boards and Commissions Became Law in Iowa (Sociology dissertation)
    Women’s rights advocates in Iowa initially sought to address women’s underrepresentation in policymaking capacities through direct advocacy for increased appointments. This was institutionalized in 1970 through the re-establishment of the Iowa Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women and their subsequent establishment of an appointments project, complementing advocacy for increased appointments with a database of qualified women who were potential appointees. As the women’s rights movement ascended, and women’s representation increased but remained substantially disproportionate to women’s population distribution, gender balance emerged as a basic feminist goal. In 1986, Iowa became the first state to adopt a gender balance law requiring gender balance on state boards and commissions. The law was strengthened in 1987 and 1988, such that Iowa is the only U.S. state to have an outright requirement for gender balance on boards and commissions. In 2009, at a time when, around the country, affirmative action policies and programs were encountering increased opposition and in many cases being dismantled, Iowa expanded its gender balance law, extending the requirement from state boards and commissions to also include political subdivisions.
    Using historical analysis, including archival research and interviews, my research investigates this case study, exploring how gender balance became law in Iowa. In doing so, I record part of Iowan political and gender history and contribute instructive insights into how advocates won political change and successfully navigated symbolic contests and social problem constructions. Culturally shared belief systems that recognize and repudiate structural inequality can translate into cultural demands and in turn social progress, including social policies that reflect our government acting as a benevolent, power-balancing force in our society.
    These affirmative action measures succeeded primarily due to persistent and strategic leadership and action by a small group of women advocates. In the years these laws passed, these women advocates were situated in (relative) positions of power. Affirmative action programs and policies often face intense ideological opposition, rooted in dominant conceptions of individualism, meritocracy, and gender and race roles. However, during Iowa’s successful legislative gender balance campaigns, ideologies were (relatively) infrequently structurally determined dominant norms that individuals had internalized. Instead, advocates were often able to negotiate how ideologies were prioritized and how they were interpreted and applied to the issue at hand. Disembedding gender segregation, normatizing and institutionalizing gendered representation practices, and prioritizing an ideology of good governance deradicalized an otherwise intensely contentious issue and contributed to enabling its passage. Implementation of these gender balance laws has continued to stimulate these three processes, further shifting engaged Iowans’ perceptions of gender, governance, and affirmative action.
  • School inclusion and the interplay of structure and agency
    Within sociological theories of power, the most recent iteration of the structure-agency debate can be found in Clarissa Hayward and Steven Lukes’ critiques of the others’ theory on power. The two theorists engage in direct dialogue, with Hayward critiquing Lukes’ “three-dimensional power” for being focused on agents, and thus failing to the institutional boundaries that constrain even ‘powerful’ agents, and Lukes critiquing Hayward’s “de-faced power” for succumbing to a structural determinism that abdicates powerful agents from responsibility for their actions. While Lukes and Hayward set up their theoretical vantage points as in competition, empirical reality can be better understood when power is analyzed from a both/and approach, considering both structural and agential power, as well as their particular roles and interplay as they manifest in a particular situation. I am currently writing this paper. The paper presents qualitative field data from participant-observation I conducted in an elementary school in Spring 2016. It demonstrates the necessity of integrating Lukes and Hayward’s theoretical approaches for explaining how power operates to impact inclusion and equity for students. Educators and students at the school were structurally constrained and enabled, but they also exercised agency in how they navigated these institutional boundaries.
  • Utilizing Stakeholders in Policy Development and Administration: Utility, Power, Legitimacy
    Public policy are laws and programs instituted to benefit society. Those affected by specific policies are said to have a stake in the policy and are therefore called stakeholders. (Stakeholder actually comes from business literature and is presented in contrast to stockholders). As policymakers develop and implement policies, they sometimes engage stakeholders in the policy making process.  There are different techniques for stakeholder management, some of which include determining which stakeholders are “legitimate” stakeholders as well as their level of “power.”Knowing the extent to which stakeholder techniques are used in public policy is important to understanding how policies and regulations are created.  The extent to which and method within which notions of legitimacy and power are incorporated into a stakeholder analysis can also have important implications for policy outcomes. The purpose of this study is to roughly ascertain the extent to which state policy makers and deliberative democracy policy practitioners are using stakeholder techniques, as well as to get a general picture of how they are using these techniques. The study is also intended to identify thoughtful practices regarding how to address stakeholders with high levels of legitimacy but low levels of power and stakeholders with low levels of legitimacy but high levels of power. I am currently collecting survey responses from policy staff from all 50 states and major municipalities across the United States, in the areas of: gubernatorial/mayoral offices, environmental departments, transportation departments, health departments, education departments, and land use departments.
  • Who cares about public investment in childcare?
    For the majority of U.S.-American children five and under, all available parents are employed, yet childcare is often lacking in quality, affordability, and accessibility, particularly for disadvantaged parents. Who supports public investment in childcare will impact its political success. This paper uses General Social Survey data to explore demographic variation in support for increased public investment in childcare, and whether this variation is attributable to ideological and/or positional determinants. Childcare is often thought of as a women’s issue. Women are more likely than men to favor increased childcare assistance spending, though they are not more likely to support childcare being funded primarily by the government/public funds or employers. Through multivariate logistic regression analysis, I demonstrate that variation based on gender, as well as parent status, are explained by age, family income, and race in a reduced positional model, as well as ideology in the full model. Childcare support variation is positional, primarily due to class. Women and single parents’ increased support for childcare investment is fully explained by their comparative disadvantage. Liberals and black respondents, regardless of class, are more likely to support public investment. This lends support to ideological determinism, though both demographic groups still primarily support family being the main source of childcare funding. Structural disadvantage entails experiences that can challenge dominant ideologies; support for public investment in childcare comes most from those who need childcare assistance. These individuals have the least resources, including political capital; this in turn privileges the status quo and reproduces structural inequality.

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