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Faculty Research by Interest Areas

Our mission is the creation of a learning environment that emphasizes the theme of Social Justice. Through coursework and research in the interest areas of criminal justice, environmental issues, political economy, and globalization, students develop an understanding of everyday social behavior as well as the structural factors that contribute to social injustice. From the classroom and the field, students acquire the intellectual tools to critically analyze social phenomena and trends, along with the methodological tools to conduct research and to evaluate social policy.

Hoan Bui Within the interest area of crime and criminal justice Dr. Bui focuses on the effects of gender, race/ethnicity, and immigration on crime, victimization, and criminal justice. Her research on domestic violence explores the relationship between gender structure (male dominance and the social construction of masculinity), race/ethnicity, culture, and women's experiences of intimate-partner violence and criminal justice interventions. Her research on delinquency and crime investigates the effects of economic opportunities, neighborhood contexts (levels of concentrated disadvantage/affluence), racial/ethnic segregations as well as immigration and resettlement experiences on crime offending and victimization.

Michelle Brown

Robert Durán

Lois Presser's research interests include critical issues in criminological theory; the theory and practice of restorative justice; and qualitative methodology. She studies how offenders talk about their lives, their crimes and their experiences of justice. Currently, Dr. Presser is writing a book on the life stories of violent men and is collaborating with students on projects concerning power and efforts to achieve justice.

Sherry Cable's research interests are in environmental sociology with particular emphasis on environmental conflicts and environmental movements. Recent publications include: an article with Tom Shriver (PhD UT) and Amy Chasteen (MA UT) on women's participation in the Gulf War Illness movement in The Sociological Quarterly; an article with Tammy Mix (PhD UT) on the American apartheid system in Journal of Black Studies; and an article with Mix and UT colleague Chip Hastings on the roles of activists, researchers, and lawyers in the Environmental Justice movement in Human Ecology Review. Cable's book, Environmental Problems/Grassroots Solutions (1995, St. Martin's Press) is currently being revised for a second edition. She is currently working on two other books: Democracy, Institutional Failure, and Globalization: A Sociological Analysis of Environmental Policy, and Dissent and Social Control Networks in Democratizing Nations: The Suppression of Environmental Protest in the Czech Republic with Shriver.

R. Scott Frey's substantive research interests are best described as falling under the interrelated areas of public policy, environment, and social change and development. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including the American Journal of Sociology and the American Sociological Review. His recent work centers on risk and globalization issues, including the documentation of the export of core-based hazardous industries, products, and wastes to the less developed countries by transnational corporations. This work has appeared in various outlets, including Third World Quarterly, the Journal of World-Systems Research, the Journal of Developing Societies, and several edited volumes such as the Handbook of Environmental Sociology (edited by Dunlap and Michelson) and Space and Transport in the World-System (edited by Ciccantell and Bunker). He also examines the determinants of alternative forms of development from an empirical, cross-national perspective (recent papers have centered on democracy and human well-being, environmental sustainability, human rights provision, and infant mortality, appearing in journals such as the Sociological Spectrum, Human Ecology Review, Social Indicators Research). His recent book, The Environment and Society Reader (published by Allyn and Bacon), brings these interrelated interests together in a work on the human dimensions of environmental problems. He is currently working on a book examining how and why hazardous products, production processes, and wastes are exported to less developed countries. Frey has conducted research supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ford Foundation. This latter research has centered on environmental and public policy issues, including health and safety risks associated with agricultural production, natural resource depletion issues surrounding irrigation, and community development efforts in rural areas of the High Plains region of the United States.

Paul K. Gellert's areas of interest include the political economy of natural resource commodities; conceptual and methodological issues surrounding the so-called "nature-society" divide; and epistemological and theoretical debates in development theory.  I arrived at UT in Fall 2005, after spending a research year in Indonesia and Japan examining the changing domestic and international politics of Asian timber markets in a period of post-authoritarian decentralization and neo-liberalism.  From the focus on timber, secondly, I have become fascinated with how sociologists might analyze "socionature" and transformations of landscapes by megaprojects from urban infrastructure to conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.  Finally, I am interested in development theory and epistemology, including the suggestive, non-universalist possibilities in Amartya Sen's notion of capability and its achievement through democratic deliberation.

Robert E. Jones has an interdisciplinary education in the social and natural sciences, and his work examines the human dimensions of environmental change and ecosystem management. He is a Research Associate with Energy, Environment, and Resources Center and the Southeast Water Policy Initiative. He also has worked on funded projects related to the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, salmon restoration in the Pacific Northwest, water recreation in the Columbia River Basin, hazardous waste management in the State of Washington, amenity-migration in Southern Appalachia, public support for the environment in the United States and Southern Appalachia, and research related to environmental justice and race. These projects have generated a number of theses and dissertations as well as collaborative efforts with graduate students in paper presentations and published articles.

Harry F. Dahms' works in the areas of theory, economic sociology, political economy, and comparative sociology. While his substantive interests relate to globalization, the role of economic organizations, and cross-national variations of business-labor-government interrelations, he is especially concerned with how classical, contemporary and critical (neo-Marxist, postmodernist, feminist) theorists prepared the analysis of modern societies, for both social order and social process. Framing globalization as the culmination of contradictory trends that have been shaping modern societies, his current work concentrates on opportunities to make explicit how in sociology, and social research more generally, a shift in orientation is necessary from efforts to arrive at "correct answers" to given questions (as formulated during the twentieth century) to an emphasis on "question" to determining the most central concerns of sociology in the 21st century. To do so, he regards as the defining challenge of our age, the need to envision how all contributions to the theory of modern society provide fragments of a narrative that has never been told--and that the time has come to put the pieces together, and to tell the story. Recent and forthcoming publications include "Globalization as Hyper-Alienation: Critiques of Traditional Marxism as Arguments for Basic Income," Current Perspectives in Social Theory 23 2004; "Does Alienation Have a Future? Recapturing the Core of Critical Theory," in Trauma, Promise, and the Millennium: The Evolution of Alienation, ed. L. Langman and D. K.. Fishman (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004); "Sociology in the Age of Globalization: Toward a Dynamic Sociological Theory, Current Perspectives in Social Theory,21, 2001; Transformations of Capitalism: Economy, Society, and the State in Modern Times (editor), (New York: NYU Press; London: Macmillan, 2000); A Dynamic Theory of Modern Capitalism: Schumpeter's Economic Sociology of Entrepreneurship, Series: "Contradictions of Modernity," University of Minnesota Press (forthcoming). Among the projects in preparation is a sociological theory textbook, using THE MATRIX movies as the foil for introducing students to classical, contemporary, and critical theories, starting out from the proposition that to fully appreciate the message underlying the movies, they must be related to the immediate present--and to the contradictions of modernity. Thus, the movies appear as an attempt to convey to audiences how the current state of race relations continues to be to most visible manifestation of alienation, and how efforts to overcome alienation, by implementing public policies directed toward that goal, with fail as long as they neglect to tackle, pro-actively, the state of alienating race relations, in addition to gender and class.

Asafa Jalata's research agenda is focused on investigating and understanding the dynamic interplay between the racialized/ethnicized and exploitative global and regional economic structures and the human agency of the colonized/ indigenous peoples.  He has been identifying and explaining the chains of historical and political economic forces shaping racial/ ethnonational inequality, development and underdevelopment, and national and social movements on global, regional, and local levels.  Specifically, for the last twenty years, he has been researching and exploring the relationship between the colonization and incorporation of Oromia, the Oromo country, into the Ethiopian Empire and the global capitalist system and the development of the Oromo national movement.

To link his regional research activities with his larger research agenda, he has located the Oromo question in the global context.  His book, Oromia & Ethiopia: State Formation and Ethnonational Conflict, 1868-1992 (1993), his edited book, Oromo nationalism and the Ethiopian Democracy: The Search of Freedom and Democracy  (1998), and other publications demonstrate the relationship among local, regional, and global issues.  He has extended the scope of his research to include the Horn of Africa and North America.  His new book, Fighting against the Injustice of the State and Globalization: Comparing the African American and Oromo Movements (2001), and his articles, "Ethnonationalism and the Global 'Modernizing' Project" (2001),  "Two Liberation Movements Compared: Oromia & Souther Sudan," (2000),  "Revisiting the Black Struggle: Lessons for the twenty-first Century," and "Comparing the African American and the Oromo Movements in the global Context," Vol. 30, No. 1, 2003: 67-111, demonstrate this geographical breadth.

Further, in his new edited book, State Crises, Globalisation, and National Movements in North-East of Africa, (2004), he extends his scholarship and expertise beyond Oromia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Black America to the broader geopolitical region and sociocultural area of North-East Africa.  He is currently engaged in research to write a book entitled, Faces of Terrorism in the Age of Globalization: From Christopher Columbus to Osma bin Laden.

His research pays close attention to the roles of the indigenous peoples in the racialized global capitalist system, and how the agencies of these peoples are affecting the structures and the dynamics of the system.  The uniqueness and strength of his contributions are that he seriously engages scholars and politicians of various theoretical orientations to understand the main reasons why subjugated peoples are involved in cultural and political struggles. He has already consolidated his scholarly stature among national and international scholars as a leading sociologist/social scientist in the fields of Oromo and Africana studies. In recognition of his contribution to Oromo scholarship, he received the Oromo Studies Association Award in 2002.

Jon Shefner's research is centered on the political economy of development, a sub-field that focuses on explaining different developmental trajectories and global stratification. His work is multidisciplinary, drawing from anthropology, economics, and political science, as well as sociology. He has conducted extensive qualitative research in Guadalajara and Jalisco, Mexico, and New Orleans, LA. He is interested in detailing how poor people push for political change, and the limitations they are subjected to in their efforts toward greater self-determination. He is particularly interested in the links poor people hold – either forged by themselves, or imposed on them – with other social groups. The interaction of organized poor people's movements with groups representing interests of the state, elites, or middle classes, have important implications for how far poor people's political efforts are able to proceed.

NOTE: Each faculty member covers several research and teaching areas, in sociology and/or criminology as well as adjacent disciplines. This page provides information emphasizing the department's three major areas of concentration. For more information on faculty research interests and teaching responsibilities, consult the individual faculty members' departmental web-pages (which also provide links to the personal pages of the faculty), as well the Social Justice page.

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