Research Roundup: Winter/Spring 2022 Issue

June 30, 2022

Research Roundup highlights the work of faculty in the Division of Social Sciences. For ongoing coverage of UCSC research, please visit the UCSC Newscenter and Social Sciences News.

Community Studies

Professor Julie Guthman published In the name of protein in the journal Nature FoodIn this paper, the authors argue that a set of highly powerful actors has reframed public concern about conventional livestock production as a crisis of protein, leading to a rush of private investment, speculative finance, innovation and product development in so-called alternative proteins — all promising to avert a future catastrophe. While it is certainly possible that some of the options being developed will have lower environmental impacts than conventional livestock production, these developments obfuscate the fact that many of these companies continue to be heavily vested in conventional livestock production. Even the high-velocity growth of many alternative protein startups — those that often explicitly aim to disrupt meat production — does not necessarily challenge the conventional meat industry, as some of these companies are also aligning with those who remain entrenched in conventional livestock production. Indeed, the effective mainstreaming of the emergent alternative protein sector bears remarkable parallels to the trajectories of the organic food market.

Professor Guthman also published The CAFO in the Bioreactor: Reflections on Efficiency Logics in Bio-industrialization Present and Future in Environmental Humanities. A 2020 report published by the think tank RethinkX predicts the collapse of industrial livestock farming by 2035 to be replaced by protein engineered at a molecular level and fermented in bioreactors. Animated by this report and its emphasis on efficiency, this article examines to what extent these new ways of producing protein will depart from the radical transformations of animal biologies and living conditions to which it responds. It specifically considers how past efforts to accelerate productivity, standardize animal life and infrastructures, and reduce risk, with special attention to salmon aquaculture and pork production, have been the source of vulnerability in such production systems rather than their strength. 

Along with lead author Madeleine Fairbairn, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor Guthman published Pitching agri-food tech: performativity and non-disruptive disruption in Silicon Valley in the Journal of Cultural Economy. This paper interrogates the frictions attending Silicon Valley’s foray into food and agriculture through the a close examination of public pitches used to attract venture capital financing. The authors show how carefully curated framings of agri-food problems and solutions routinely articulated in pitches work to reconcile the world-changing ambition and profit-making potential demanded by Silicon Valley investors with the deeply entrenched political economic realities of food and agriculture. Their analysis also suggests that despite nods to disrupting the established industry, the tech sector primarily offers incremental improvements on existing technologies, often developed or marketed in partnership with industry incumbents, thereby belying the systemic transformation often promised. 

Finally, Professor Guthman published Conscious, Complacent, Fearful: Agri-Food Tech’s Market-Making Public Imaginaries, in the journal Science as Culture. Innovators within the agri-food tech domain are dogged by concerns about public acceptance of technologies that may be controversial or simply not of interest, but rather than engage with the public in any meaningful ways, they instead project imaginaries of the public that will assuage investor concerns about markets for these technologies. Drawing on many interviews and events the authors show how entrepreneurs assume that consumers are conscious, complacent, or fearful, and use various strategies to address these projections.


Professor Rob Fairlie published Black and White: Access to Capital among Minority-Owned Startups, with Alicia Robb and David Robinson in the journal Management Science. In this working paper the authors explore racial disparities in access to capital for new business ventures and find that black-owned startups start smaller and stay smaller over the entire first eight years of their existence. Black startups face more difficulty in raising external capital, especially external debt. They find that disparities in credit-worthiness constrain black entrepreneurs, but perceptions of treatment by banks also hold them back. Black entrepreneurs apply for loans less often than white entrepreneurs largely because they expect to be denied credit, even when they have a good credit history and in settings where strong local banks favor new business development.

Professor Fairlie also published The 2021 Paycheck Protection Program Reboot: Loan Disbursement to Employer and Nonemployer Businesses in Minority Communities in American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings. This paper provides the first analysis of how PPP funds were disbursed to minority communities in the third and final round of the program in 2021, which was specifically targeted to underserved and disadvantaged communities. The authors find a strong positive relationship between PPP flows, as measured by the number of loans per employer business or loan amounts per employee, and the minority share of the population or businesses in the third round. In contrast, the relationship was negative in the first round of 2020 and less positive in the second round of 2020. The rebooted PPP that ran from January to May 2021 appears to have been disbursed to minority communities as intended. The paper has been cited in White House reports and was originally requested by U.S. Senate. 

In addition, Professor Fairlie published The Evolving Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Gender Inequality in the U.S. Labor Market: the COVID Motherhood Penalty in Economic Inquiry. The paper explores whether COVID-19 disproportionately affected women in the labor market through the end of 2020, with the authors finding that male-female gaps in the employment-to-population ratio and hours worked for women with school-age children have widened, but the gap has not widened for those with younger children.

Professor Galina Hale published Currency-Induced External Balance Sheet Effects at the Onset of the COVID-19 Crisis in the Journal of Banking and Finance. The sudden onset of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020 sent a tidal wave across global financial markets in the first quarter of 2020, leading to rapid changes in asset prices, including currency values, and inducing investors to move towards safe assets. When U.S. dollar appreciated rapidly in the first quarter of 2020, many expected negative effects of this development on the external balance sheet of emerging economies. In this paper, the authors show that, in fact, emerging economies experienced valuation gains because of their substantial external equity positions. In addition to providing an analysis of the most recent episode of a widespread movement in exchange rates, the paper extends the scope of the literature that analyzes the impact of valuation effects on the external balance sheets while providing a comprehensive analysis of overall external positions with details by asset class.

Professor Hale also published Economy of Francesco: From Initiative to Action in Rivista Internazionale di scenze sociali, a short commentary article on the Economy of Francesco initiative that aims at developing practical ideas to align global economy with sustainable development goals, Laudato Si, and catholic social teaching .

Professor Nirvikar Singh and economics doctoral student Weicheng Lyu published Embedded autonomy, political institutions, and access orders in Economics & Politics. This research constructs a model of “embedded autonomy,” the idea that the closeness of bureaucrats and business people may lead to growth-promoting policies by the government, though at the risk of leading to crony capitalism. It analyzes how the level of monitoring to control corruption and the weight given to the future affect the nature of the possible outcomes. It explores possible tradeoffs between growth and inclusiveness and discusses how our model relates to more general concepts of inclusiveness of institutions, as framed by Acemoglu and Robinson, or the nature of “access orders,” as introduced by North, Wallis, and Weingast.

Assistant Professor Dong Wei published Optimal attention management: A tractable framework in Games and Economic Behavior. This paper analyzes optimal information disclosure that best assists the decision-making of an agent who finds it costly to process information. A well-intentioned principal provides information to a rationally inattentive agent without internalizing the agent's cost of attention. Whatever information the principal makes available, the agent may choose to ignore some. Through the study of optimal information provision in a tractable model with quadratic payoffs, the authors characterize incentive-compatible information policies, that is, those to which the agent willingly pays full attention. In a leading example with three states, optimal disclosure involves information distortion at intermediate costs of attention. As the cost increases, optimal information changes from downplaying the state to exaggerating the state.


Associate Professor Lora Bartlett published Specifying Hybrid Models of Teachers’ Work During COVID-19 in Educational Researcher. The paper defines and details three variations of hybrid models of teachers' work that were prevalent during the pandemic, and makes evident the need to go beyond merely describing schooling as hybrid, as the model variations are significant and have implications for teacher capacity to meet students' learning needs. The paper was reviewed in the Hechinger Report and by the Fordham Institute. It was also cited in expert testimony by the Executive Director of the Connecticut Education Association before the State Education Committee in calling for Senate Bill Amendments to end “Divided or Dual Teaching.” More information on the Suddenly Distant Research Project reports and publications can be found here.

Professor and Chair Cynthia Lewis published the chapter Heteroglossia, Emotion, and the Transformation of Signs in Ideas That Changed Literacy Practices: First Person Accounts from Leading Voices. This volume draws on accounts of literacy scholars charged with reading themselves through the lens of an idea key to their thinking. In her chapter, Professor Lewis discusses Mikhail Bakhtin’s philosophy of language and how it has influenced her thinking over time, especially the idea that language and other signs are sites of struggle. She draws on her previous research to illustrate that this idea should be central to the way educators understand literacy learning and teaching in school.

Assistant Professor Josephine Pham recently published three papers. The first, Racial micropolitical literacy: Examining the sociopolitical realities of teachers of color co-constructing student transformational resistance, published in Curriculum & Inquiry, considers the complex political terrain through which teachers of Color cultivate students’ agency for social change within the narrow confines of schooling institutions. The paper conceptualizes racial micropolitical literacy to analyze how teachers identify context-specific reproductions of whiteness and interlocking systems of oppression while learning to politically confront, navigate, and transform race and power through daily, embodied, and interactional practices. Through video recordings, ethnographic field notes, and interview data, I apply this framework to document the day-to-day practices of an Asian American teacher co-constructing student transformational resistance within a southeast Los Angeles, California public middle school. My analysis reveals that the teacher: (1) used critical artifacts to reconstruct carceral conditions of schooling into communal learning spaces of solidarity and activism, (2) engaged students in everyday dialogue about racism, power, and just possibilities, and (3) subverted scripted curricula by drawing on students and his own counternarratives as resources for sociopolitical learning.

Assistant Professor Pham co-authored Intentionally addressing nested systems of power in schooling through teacher solidarity co-design in the journal Cognition & Instruction. Teacher solidarity co-design is a special case of participatory design research that emphasizes the unique power dynamics of partnering with teachers who are multiply positioned in schooling, educational policy and research, and society. Through contrastive case analysis of four instrumental cases, five principles that characterize teacher solidarity co-design emerged. Collectively, the cases traverse the professional life-course of teachers in a variety of contexts but foreground co-learning and relationality between teachers and researchers in their efforts to create transformational change in schools. Additionally, the analysis of the cases centers our own experiences and insights as former teachers who are currently educational researchers. The principles account for the complex and nested systems of power that teachers occupy within efforts that seek to transform schools into more equitable and just spaces.

Finally, Assistant Professor Pham published Orchestrating critical race talk towards institutional change in the Journal of Language, Identity, & Education. While educational leaders are increasingly more concerned about racial inequities, they may not know how to talk about these issues in ways that productively impact change in classrooms and schools. Previous research has shown that people of color who have deep understandings of systemic racism (i.e. how institutional policies and practices create and maintain racial disparities) are more likely to have the knowledge and resources for identifying, addressing, and alleviating educational injustices. In this study, three teachers of color with a strong commitment to justice discussed issues of race and racism to promote transformational change at their school sites, discourses that she refers to as “critical race talk.” Teachers of color continuously adapted their language to accommodate a wide-range of audiences with diverse views on race, benefiting the learning of an expansive group of students, teachers, community members, and administrators. Due to institutional pressures to attend to the emotions and concerns of people who view critical race discourse as “divisive” and who deny or minimize the realities of racism, teachers of color in this study were not consistently supported with actions that prioritized the educational and humane needs of students of color and other marginalized groups.

Environmental Studies

Associate Professor Madeleine Fairbairn published What owns the land: The corporate organization of farmland investment in The Journal of Peasant Studies. This article is part of Associate Professor Fairbairn’s broader research focus on the "financialization" of food and agriculture; in particular, her research into the financial sector's growing interest in buying farmland and the implications of this trend. In this article, the authors seek to understand the complex corporate ownership structures underpinning investor land acquisitions. Through a detailed analysis of public records data, they examine the chains of corporate ownership and financing that lie hidden behind the official ownership details listed in the property parcel data. Their analysis reveals that to fully understand financial investment in farmland, one must delve below the surface of official proprietors to uncover complex relationships of debt, subsidiaries, and liability.

In addition, Associate Professor Fairbairn published In vino veritas, in aqua lucrum: Farmland investment, environmental uncertainty, and groundwater access in California’s Cuyama Valley in the journal Agriculture and Human Values. This study seeks to understand how farmland investors cope with the challenges of groundwater access in an increasingly dry California through an in-depth case study of a major farmland acquisition in California's Cuyama Valley, an agricultural valley which is entirely dependent on groundwater and sits atop one of the most critically over-drafted water basins in the state of California. The authors find that the investors were able to lock in future water access through active intervention in the groundwater rule-making process associated with the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

karen-holl-fig1-envs.jpgProfessor Karen Holl published Which of the plethora of tree-growing projects to support? in the journal One Earth. The vast sums of money being spent on planting trees have the potential to transform landscapes and slow global warming but will accomplish little if trees do not survive and grow. In this paper the authors discuss ten key questions to help funders decide which of the numerous tree-growing projects to support.

Associate Professor Sikina Jinnah published A preliminary framework for understanding the governance of novel environmental technologies: Ambiguity, indeterminateness and drift in the journal Earth System Governance. In this paper the authors propose a conceptual framework to explain why some technologies are more difficult to govern than others in global environmental governance. They start from the observation that some technologies pose transboundary environmental risks, some provide capacities for managing such risks, and some do both. For “ambiguous” technologies, potential risks and risk management capacities are uncertain, unknown or even unknowable. Governance systems are indeterminate towards ambiguous technologies, as existing norms, rules, scripts and routines do not imply default solutions under institutional focal points. Indeterminateness can lead to institutional drift, with risks accordingly remaining unmitigated and risk management capacities remaining unexploited. We use the cases of solar geoengineering, gene drive systems and bioinformatics for illustrating this framework. As technological ambiguity may often be irresolvable, we conclude that it might force us to confront the limits to anticipatory global decision-making on matters of long-term environmental sustainability. 

Associate Professor Jinnah co-authored Faculty diversity in California environmental studies Departments: Implications for student learning, published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. Faculty diversity is an important driver of student success, especially for students of color. Yet, faculty diversity has not kept pace with the increase in student diversity within US 4-year postsecondary institutions. While students of color make up 42.5% of this population, faculty of color only constitute 24.4%. This study empirically examines these trends in environmental studies departments in California. Using survey data collected from faculty within 22 such departments in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems, this study explores the demographic characteristics of faculty in these departments, how these demographics are related to tenure status, and the implications of these results for student success. Importantly, the authors show that despite students of color constituting 58.2% (UC) and 52.4% (CSU) of the student population within environmental studies departments, faculty of color only represent 22.5% (UC) and 17.7% (CSU) within these departments. These disparities are even more pronounced for Black/African American, Latinx, and Native American populations, which is particularly problematic since many of these schools are Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The authors conclude that UC and CSU environmental studies departments must take seriously the task of diversifying their faculty and argue that anti-racist training for hiring committees, differentiated support for faculty of color, and creating an inclusive campus climate are key factors for the recruitment and retention of faculty of color. 

Associate Professor Jinnah also published Institutional interplay in global environmental governance: lessons learned and future research in International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. This article synthesizes primary contributions made in research on institutional interplay over the past twenty years, with particular focus on publications with International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. Broadening their understanding about the different types, dimensions, pathways, and effects of institutional interplay, scholars have produced key insights into the ways and means by which international institutions cooperate, manage discord, engage in problem solving, and capture synergies across levels and scales. As global environmental governance has become increasingly fragmented and complex, recent studies have highlighted the growing interactions between transnationally operating institutions in the wake of polycentric governance and hybrid institutional complexes. However, the authors’ findings reveal that there is insufficient empirical and conceptual research to fully understand the relationship, causes, and consequences of interplay between intergovernmental and transnational institutions. Reflecting on the challenges of addressing regulatory gaps and mitigating the crisis of multilateralism, they expound the present research frontier for further advancing research on institutional interplay and provide recommendations to support policy-making.

sikina-jinnah_book-envs.jpgAssociate Professor Jinnah was a co-editor of Trajectories in Environmental Politics, published by Routledge. This book explores the dominant framings and paradigms of environmental politics, the relationship between academic analysis and environmental politics, and reflects on the first thirty years of the journal, Environmental Politics. This volume identifies and discusses the key themes that have driven scholarship in the field of environmental politics over the last three decades and highlights how this has led to oversights and silences, and the marginalization of important forms of analysis and thought. The book focuses foremost on questions of justice, materiality, and power. Discussing state violence, multispecies justice, epistemic injustice, the circular economy, NGOs, parties, green transition, and urban climate governance, it calls for greater attention to intersectionality and interdisciplinarity, and for centering key insights about power relations and socio-economic inequalities into increasingly widespread, yet also often depoliticized, topics in the study of environmental politics.

Assistant Professor Jinnah co-authored the chapter Pandemics and Environmental Crises: Similar Problems; Different Governance Systems, in A Multidisciplinary Approach to Pandemics (Oxford University Press). The political science literature often assumes that policymakers rationally design governance systems according to the underlying problem structures they aim to address. This chapter argues that the problem structures of pandemics and environmental crises are similar on several accounts. Yet, their governance systems differ in significant ways. The authors explain this incongruity by pointing to systemic perceptions biases and structural power differentials. Addressing these biases and establishing new linkages could improve the global governance of both issue areas.

Finally, Assistant Professor Jinnah co-authored the chapter NAFTA and the Environment: Decades of Measured Progress, published in NAFTA 2.0 (Palgrave McMillan). The renegotiation of what US President Trump called “the worst trade deal ever” has resulted in the most detailed environmental chapter in any trade agreement in history. The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) reaffirms the approach to environmental protection under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but also mentions dozens of environmental issues that its predecessor overlooked. Moreover, in line with contemporary US practice, the USMCA brings the vast majority of environmental provisions into the core of the agreement, and subjects these provisions to a sanction-based dispute settlement mechanism. It also jettisons two controversial NAFTA measures potentially harmful to the environment: the investor–state dispute settlement mechanism and the energy proportionality rule. The contribution of the USMCA to environmental governance remains limited, however. The agreement primarily replicates most of the environmental provisions included in recent trade agreements, in particular the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership, and avoids important issues such as climate change.

Professor and Provost Flora Lu published a paper, Beyond Inclusion: Cultivating a Critical Sense of Belonging through Community Engagement, in Social Sciences. A broad body of literature outlines the interventions to support underrepresented and minoritized students’ inclusion and sense of belonging into university contexts. In this paper, the authors explore how two first-generation students of color articulate a critical sense of belonging through their reflections as student researchers in the Apprenticeship in Community-Engaged Research or (H)ACER program at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). (H)ACER integrates community engagement, ethnographic sensibilities, critical race and decolonial theory, as well as women of color feminisms into a curriculum designed to train critical scholar-researchers. Through themes of feeling isolated on campus and returning ‘home’ in the garden, building comfort with academic theory, and navigating insider/outsider identities in campus/community contexts, the authors trace how the students developed an awareness of their positionality and made sense of their experiences of ‘belonging’, both within the campus and community contexts. Their narratives spark a deeper exploration into how critical approaches to community engaged research may offer a pedagogy for supporting student sense of belonging that extends beyond inclusion, a promising vein of further research. This article, part of a special issue entitled New Trends in Community-Engaged Research: Co-producing Knowledge for Justice (Steve McKay and Claudia Lopez, editors), emphasizes the innovations in terms of pedagogy and programing supporting student success happening at College Nine and John R. Lewis College. It was featured on the website of the Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and the Suder Foundation.

Assistant Professor Maywa Montenegro de Wit published the paper Funding CRISPR: Understanding the role of government and philanthropic institutions in supporting academic research within the CRISPR innovation system in Quantitative Science Studies. CRISPR/Cas has the potential to revolutionize medicine, agriculture, and biology. Understanding the trajectory of CRISPR research, how it is influenced, and who pays for it is an essential research policy question. The authors use a combination of methods to map, via quantitative content analysis of CRISPR papers, the research funding profile of major government agencies and philanthropic organizations and the networks involved in supporting key stages of high-influence research, namely, basic biological research and technological development. The results of the content analysis show how the research supported by the main U.S. government agencies focuses both on the study of CRISPR as a biological phenomenon and on its technological development and use as a biomedical research tool. U.S. philanthropic organizations, with the exception of HHMI, tend, by contrast, to specialize in funding CRISPR as a genome editing technology. Their research looks at a model of co-funding networks at the two most prominent institutions for CRISPR/Cas research (the University of California system and the Broad/Harvard/MIT system) to illuminate how philanthropic organizations have articulated with government agencies to co-finance the discovery and development of CRISPR/Cas. Their results raise fundamental questions about the role of the state and the influence of philanthropy over the trajectory of transformative technologies. 

Dr. Montenegro will expand her studies of CRISPR with support from a new Hellman Grant, awarded for her project: "Can CRISPR Bring Diversity Back Into Food?.” She will also be working with colleagues internationally to elaborate on theories and practices of technology sovereignty, supported by a Seed Grant from the Institute for Social Transformation. 

maywa-montenegro-envs.jpgAssistant Professor Montenegro de Wit also contributed to a new multimedia project and report by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, “The Politics of Knowledge: Understanding the Evidence for Agroecology, Regenerative Approaches, and Indigenous Foodways

Assistant Adjunct Professor Joji Muramoto, with Damian Parr, Jan Perez, and Darryl Wong (Center for Agroecology) published Integrated Soil Health Management for Plant Health and One Health: Lessons From Histories of Soil-borne Disease Management in California Strawberries and Arthropod Pest Management in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. Many soil health assessment methods are being developed. However, they often lack assessment of soil-borne diseases. To better address management strategies for soil-borne disease and overall soil and plant health, the concept of Integrated Soil Health Management (ISHM) is explored. Applying the concept of Integrated Pest Management and an agroecological transdisciplinary approach, ISHM offers a framework under which a structure for developing and implementing biointensive soil health management strategies for a particular agroecosystem is defined. As a case study, a history of soil-borne disease management in California strawberries is reviewed and contrasted with a history of arthropod pest management to illustrate challenges associated with soil-borne disease management and the future directions of soil health research and soil-borne disease management. ISHM system consists of comprehensive soil health diagnostics, farmers' location-specific knowledge and adaptability, a suite of soil health management practices, and decision support tools. As plant-soil-microorganism interactions, including the mechanisms of soil suppressiveness, become better understood, a range of diagnostic methodologies and indicators and their action thresholds may be developed. These knowledge-intensive and location-specific management systems require transdisciplinary approaches and social learning to be co-developed with stakeholders. The ISHM framework supports research into the broader implications of soil health such as the “One health” concept, which connects soil health to the health of plants, animals, humans, and ecosystems and research on microbiome and nutrient cycling that may better explain these interdependencies.

ocampo-penuela-envs.jpgProfessor of Computer Science and Engineering Luca de Alfaro and Assistant Professor Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela are recipients of a Google Research Scholar award to re-imagine habitat connectivity modeling for bird conservation using tools from machine learning and artificial intelligence. By harnessing the power of these tools, the researchers are able to map habitat connectivity (essentially how much landscape allows for bird movement) for several hundred species simultaneously. This new method provides insight into selecting areas for restoration that yield the highest benefit for habitat connectivity, which has the potential of aiding in conservation and restoration efforts globally and revolutionizing the scale of habitat connectivity mapping. For conservation to succeed in preventing extinctions, areas must be conserved that enhance habitat connectivity for a large suite of species, optimizing conservation dollars. This project will be a collaboration between faculty and students from the Environmental Studies and Computer Science departments. Their research is highlighted in UCSC News.

Assistant Professor Ocampo-Peñuela is also featured in the book Animal Allies by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan as one of 15 amazing women in wildlife research. The book is aimed at girls and young women who seek role models in their pursuit of wildlife research and serves as an inspiration for younger generations by providing a model of broader impacts researchers can have on society.

Latin American & Latino Studies

Associate Professor Jeffrey Erbig published Entre caciques y cartógrafos: La construcción de un límite interimperial en la Sudamérica del siglo XVIII (Prometeo Libros). This book examines the history of the longest border in the Americas - a 10,000-mile long division between Brazil and Spanish South America drawn in the 1700s - to demonstrate the centrality of Indigenous peoples in its formation and subversion. Pulling together manuscripts from twenty-seven archives in seven countries, and using geographic information systems (GIS) to map the reported locations of Indigenous Charrúas and Minuanos over time, it shows how they shaped where the border was drawn and how some of them appropriated it for their own purposes thereafter. It also demonstrates how memory of this border has been central to struggles for Indigenous recognition and land rights in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. This book was originally published in English in 2020 with the title Where Caciques and Mapmakers Met (UNC Press).

Assistant Professor Justin Perez published Peche problems: Transactional sex, moral imaginaries, and the 'End of AIDS' in postconflict Peru in American Ethnologist. As declarations of a possible “end of AIDS” emerged during the epidemic's fourth decade, some HIV-prevention efforts shifted to address social conditions and individual dispositions among the populations most affected. In Peru, where HIV was concentrated among transgender women and gay men, health science positioned transactional sex as one site of intervention. Gay and transgender communities themselves circulated stories that dramatized transactional sex. Set against the backdrop of Peru's armed conflict (1980–2000), these stories pivoted on peches—the small gifts given to incentivize sexual and romantic relationships—and reflected a shared moral imaginary linked to the context of post-conflict society. Interpreting transactional sex like a peche illuminates the moral dimensions of the category and suggests that the technical project of achieving an “end of AIDS” future is also imaginative and moralizing. Peches thus offer an interpretive approach to the persistent tensions between local and globalized categories, in relation to both HIV/AIDS and more broadly to other contexts.

Professor Catherine Ramírez is one of two UC Santa Cruz faculty recently awarded $310,000 grants to lead research working groups through the Crossing Latinidades project, a nationwide consortium of R1 designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Ten working groups in total were funded, for two years each, among the consortium’s 16 member institutions. Professor Ramírez will lead one of the groups, which will include two other senior scholars and several graduate student fellows from Crossing Latinidades partner universities. Her research team will explore the theme of “bioprecarity,” or the physical experiences of vulnerability and risk among Latinx immigrants in the United States. This initiative is featured in UCSC News

Professor Jessica Taft contributed a book chapter, Intergenerational Activism as an Alternative to Child Saving: The Example of the Peruvian Movement of Working Children, to International Child Protection: Towards Politics and Participation (Palgrave MacMillan). Based on ethnographic research with the Peruvian movement of working children, the chapter outlines how intergenerational activism can effectively support and enhance children's rights and well-being. It offers a critique of the depoliticized approach of child protection found in much of the international aid sector and argues that child-centered intergenerational social movements can improve children's lives by working for change at the micro, meso and macro levels. 

Politics and Legal Studies

Professor Mark Massoud recently delivered the Cecil and Ida Green Lecture, God's Law, at the University of British Columbia. He also gave a series of four Evans-Pritchard Lectures at All Souls College, University of Oxford. The first lecture, A Legal Politics of Religion, is available online here. The lectures explain the connections between law, politics, and theology during colonial rule and present times.

UCSC News also featured honors that Professor Massoud received for his book, Shari'a, Inshallah

sparke-levy-poli.jpgProfessor Matt Sparke co-authored a paper, Competing responses to global inequalities in access to COVID vaccines: Vaccine Diplomacy and Vaccine Charity Versus Vaccine Liberty, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. There have been at least three significant alternatives to the unequal global access to COVID vaccines: ‘vaccine diplomacy’, ‘vaccine charity’, and ‘vaccine liberty’. Vaccine diplomacy includes the diverse bilateral deliveries of vaccines organized by the geopolitical considerations of countries strategically seeking various kinds of global and regional advantages in international relations. Vaccine charity centrally involves the humanitarian work of the global health agencies and donor governments that have organized the COVAX program as an antidote to unequal access. Both vaccine diplomacy and vaccine charity have failed to deliver the doses needed to overcome the global vaccination gap and instead have unfortunately served to immunize the global vaccine supply system from more radical demands for a ‘People’s Vaccine’, technological transfer and compulsory licensing of vaccine intellectual property (IP). These more radical demands represent the third alternative to vaccine access inequalities. As a mix of NGO-led and politician-led social justice demands, they are diverse and multifaceted, but together they have been articulated as calls for vaccine liberty. This article provides a critical bioethical framework for reflecting on how the alternatives have come to compete with one another in the context of the vaccine property norms and market structures entrenched in global IP law. The uneven and limited successes of vaccine diplomacy and vaccine charity in delivering vaccines in underserved countries can be re-considered in this way as compromised successes that not only compete with one another, but which have also worked together to undermine the promise of universal access through vaccine liberty.

Professor Sparke and Ph.D student Lucia Vitale published an article, COVID's Co-Pathogenesis in Syndemic Magazine. By paying close attention to all the social pathologies and inequalities that have coincided and interacted with Covid-19 to make it so harmful, the authors offer a syndemic account of the pandemic’s co-pathogenesis that acknowledges both the situated nature of disease vulnerability and the capitalist connections between outbreak hotspots and unequal outcomes. These connections are consequential, but the contexts of co-pathogenesis matter too. From the environmental upheavals and the viral breeding grounds of food chains supplying Chinese mega-cities (and thus global supply chains), to the suffering experienced in the death pits of the corporate ‘care-home’ industry across the western world, to the vaccine apartheid and new viral variants made possible by the successful market failure of patent rights on vaccines, Covid has exploited and exposed vulnerabilities created by capitalism. It has done so in ways that are also co-determined by many other social determinants of disease, including racism, xenophobia, and patriarchy, as well as other diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and diabetes that have themselves been deeply shaped by capitalist inequalities and the historical legacies of empire.

Professor Sparke also authored Reactionary Anti-Globalism: The crisis of Globalisation, published in the Routledge Handbook of Social Change (Routledge). Amidst the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in 2020–21, reactionary anti-globalism has led to the repeated depiction of the disease as a foreign threat, prompting more ultra-nationalism, including so-called vaccine nationalism, as a dominant global response while simultaneously undermining efforts at more cooperative global health coordination. This chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Social Change seeks to examine these reactionary developments as symptoms of global social changes – morbid symptoms in Antonio Gramsci’s all too telling terms – that together have led to a crisis of Globalisation.

Assistant Professor Anjuli Verma co-athored Beyond the Penal Code: The Legal Capacity of Monetary Sanctions in the Corpus of California Law, published in The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. This article examines how the architecture of law, built in part by the distribution of monetary sanctions within and across legislative codes, matters for thinking about the imposition of legal financial obligations (LFOs) and the theoretical and empirical social inequality made possible. Based on findings from a legal census of the entire California legislative code, the authors argue that the racial disparities observed within the state’s criminal legal system have their antecedents in legal capacity—the prevalence and unequal distribution of monetary sanctioning statutes throughout legislative code sections that confer the power to impose civil, criminal, or some hybrid of civil-criminal financial penalties for offenses when state power is exercised, and exercised selectively, by specific agencies tasked with regulating populations and enforcing laws. Overall, one in twenty-three statutes within the California legislative code include rules about monetary sanctions, and these statutes are dispersed across every section of the legislative code. Findings speak to the importance of moving beyond civil-criminal binaries in research and policy interventions to reveal statutory inequalities that inscribe and structure observed social, economic, and racial inequalities in monetary sanctions.

Professor Daniel Wirls published The Distortions and Realities of the Senate’s Constitutional Purpose: Setting the Record Straight on “Senate Exceptionalism” in The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics. Drawing on part of the argument from his recent book, The Senate: From White Supremacy to Government Gridlock (University of Virginia Press), he critiques “Senate exceptionalism:” the notion that the Senate is the framers’ particularly special or remarkable creation. This critique is done by contrasting the historical and constitutional distortions that support this institutional conceit with the realities of the founding and American political development.


Professor Nameera Akhtar co-authored Still infantilizing autism? An update and extension of Stevenson et al. (2011), published in Autism in Adulthood. In this paper, the authors note that a prior study showed that most representations of autistic people in the U.S. portray children. It is important that the public not perceive autism as a disability that only affects children. If autistic adults are not adequately represented, they and their needs become invisible. The authors wanted to see if representations of autistic adults in the U.S. have increased in the decade since the original study was published. They counted the numbers of representations of autistic adults and autistic children on the chapter websites of the Autism Society of America, autism charity websites, in fictional books, movies, and television shows with autistic characters, and in U.S. news stories that mentioned autistic people and compared these numbers to the numbers from the original study. On the chapter websites of the Autism Society of America and in fictional books, there were more representations of adults than in the original study, but there were still far more representations of children than of adults. In movies and television shows, as well as U.S. news stories, the number of representations of autistic adults was equal to those of children. These findings show there has been some progress in increased representations of autistic adults in the U.S. This study cannot explain what has contributed to this change, but the authors speculate that the rise of autistic self-advocacy is the most likely candidate, as it has trickle-down effects such as hiring of autism consultants for movies and TV shows and journalists’ increased use of autistic self-advocates as sources. Professor Akhtar’s research is also featured in UCSC News.

Professor Margarita Azmitia has a paper in press, Self-Determined Solitude Buffers the Association between Negative Solitude and Well Being, in The International Journal of Aging and Human Development. Contrary to loneliness and isolation, alone time that is chosen and intrinsically motivated has been correlated with well-being. This study investigated whether self-determined (i.e., chosen) solitude was a useful predictor of well-being in older adults. 689 older adults (average age = 77.64) completed a survey that assessed self-determined and not self-determined (imposed, not chosen) motivations for solitude (SDS and NSDS) and four outcomes: life satisfaction, loneliness, psychological distress, and psychological well-being. We found that SDS was positively related to life satisfaction and psychological well-being and showed no relationship with loneliness or distress. In contrast, greater NSDS scores were positively associated with psychological maladjustment and negatively related with well-being indicators. The relationships between NSDS and maladjustment were attenuated by higher levels of SDS. These findings suggest that the ability to spend time alone in enjoyable and meaningful ways buffers some detrimental effects of negative solitude.

Professor Azmitia also has a paper in press, Mexican-heritage Ethnic Identity: How Coco Serves as a Context for Ethnic Socialization, in Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. This study investigated the role of media as a context for ethnic socialization in Mexican-heritage families. The authors studied whether and how parents used the Disney film Coco as a springboard to talk with their children about important cultural traditions, values, and practices. 23 parent-child dyads with elementary school-aged children were interviewed separately about their ethnic socialization, viewed the movie together, and were re-interviewed about their conversations about the film and their ethnic socialization. They found that ethnic identity, ethnic socialization, and orientation towards Mexican or American Media were associated with parent-child conversations and experiences with Coco and how parents talked to their children about their lived experiences regarding immigration, ethno-racial discrimination, and cultural values and traditions.

Assistant Professor Saskias Casanova co-authored the chapter Fostering the Resilience and Cultural Wealth of Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education in English and students with limited or interrupted formal education: Global perspectives on teacher preparation and classroom practices (Springer). In the chapter, the authors examine how educators can take a strengths-based approach to integrate the cultural knowledge, assets, and skills students with limited or interrupted formal education bring into the classroom. The authors make recommendations for creating inclusive learning environments that will support these students academically, emotionally, and culturally.

Associate Professor Nicolas Davidenko published Subjective control of polystable illusory apparent motion: Is control possible when the stimulus affords countless motion possibilities? in the Journal of Vision. In two behavioral and eye-tracking studies, the authors show that observers are able to mentally control how they perceive an ambiguous stimulus consisting of randomly changing pixel arrays. Naive observers are able to perceive vertical and horizontal rebounding motion when instructed to do so, even though the stimulus is highly complex and affords countless interpretations. Eye tracking data shows that this "mental control" does not depend on eye movements.

Professor Jean Fox Tree published Look, Dude: How hyperpartisan and non-hyperpartisan speech differ in online commentary in the journal Discourse & Society. Online echo chambers are virtual spaces that gather like-minded individuals. Professor Fox Tree and researchers at UC Santa Cruz have identified specific elements of tone and style in online speech that are linked to hyperpartisan echo chambers. Prior research has shown that people are more likely to believe and share information they encounter in these spaces, because it confirms their existing beliefs. Echo chambers are also an ideal venue for hyperpartisanship, or rigid political ideology that shows a strong bias toward one perspective, while attacking another. This research is featured in UCSC News.

Professor Shelly Grabe published Feminist Approaches to Gender Equity in Perú: The Roles of Conflict, Militancy, and Pluralism in Feminist Activism in Frontiers in Psychology. For the past several decades, coordinated efforts from within the women's social movement in Perú have led to groundbreaking legislation surrounding gender equity - for example, the National Gender Equality Policy of 2019 and the Gender Parity Law of 2020. These institutionalized policy changes mark milestones on the path to gender equity, certainly in Perú, but activist efforts that targeted these outcomes can inform women globally. The current study investigated key components of feminist activism by social movement actors themselves through the use of testimonio with nine key leaders in the movement. Using a liberation psychology approach and thematic narrative analysis, the findings suggested three key components of feminist activism: conflict, militant identity, and pluralism that were critical in processes of change. Centering majority world women's voices contributes to the production of knowledge regarding approaches to gender equity, in particular because much that has been written about feminist action in psychology has been produced among samples of white women in the United States. Implications for understanding how the findings have the potential for global change are discussed.

psyc-cam-leaper-book.jpgDistinguished Professor Campbell Leaper and psychology doctoral student Tess Shirefley recently published a research article, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Science-Related Talk with Daughters and Sons While Reading Life and Physical Science Book, in Frontiers in Psychology. In their study, Shirefley and Leaper investigated possible ways that parents might encourage science learning in daughters and sons between 4 and 6 years of age. Each parent was observed on separate visits while reading books on life science and physical science. In later years, gender gaps favoring males over females are greater in physical than life sciences. However, in this sample of college-educated parents, higher average rates of science-related talk–such as science explanations and science-related personal connections–occurred among parents with daughters than sons. Also, these average differences tended to occur while reading the physical science book. Shirefley and Leaper suggest that book reading may be a potential context for mitigating socialization experiences that traditionally favor boys over girls in physical science. 

Associate Professor Adriana Manago co-authored Narratives of the Self in Polymedia Contexts: Authenticity and Branding in Generation Z in Qualitative Psychology. In this paper, the authors  analyzed the structure and content of undergraduate college students’ storytelling as they guided researchers on a tour of their three most frequently used social media platforms. Whole-person narrative analysis of audiovisual recordings of the social media tours revealed a variety of ways that young people construct themselves as real and recognizable in the context of master narratives surrounding authenticity and branding on social media.

barbara-rogoff-psyc.jpgUCSC Foundation Distinguished Professor Barbara Rogoff published Collaboration at a microscale: Cultural differences in family interactions in British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Collaboration with fluid synchrony is especially common among Mayan mother-child triads exploring novel objects together. This mutuality is rare among their European American middle-class counterparts, who usually leave one person out of the interaction, or none of the 3 people interact together, or they resist each other. These cultural differences are clear at a scale of fractions of seconds. In this featured article the authors argue that these cultural differences at a microscale echo cultural practices and values at scales of years and even centuries.

In addition, Professor Rogoff recently received the prestigious Award for Distinguished Contributions to Developmental Science, from the Jean Piaget Society.


socy-hawthorne-book.jpgAssistant Professor Camilla Hawthorne published the book Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean (Cornell University Press), an original study of Black politics and varieties of political mobilization in Italy. Although there is extensive research on first-generation immigrants and refugees who traveled from Africa to Italy, there is little scholarship about the experiences of Black people who were born and raised in Italy. In this book, Assistant Professor Hawthorne focuses on the ways Italians of African descent have become entangled with processes of redefining the legal, racial, cultural, and economic boundaries of Italy and by extension, of Europe itself. Contesting Race and Citizenship opens discussions of the so-called migrant "crisis" by focusing on a generation of Black people who, although born or raised in Italy, have been thrust into the same racist, xenophobic political climate as the immigrants and refugees who are arriving in Europe from the African continent. This study traces not only mobilizations for national citizenship but also the more capacious, transnational Black diasporic possibilities that emerge when activists confront the ethical and political limits of citizenship as a means for securing meaningful, lasting racial justice—possibilities that are based on shared critiques of the racial state and shared histories of racial capitalism and colonialism.

Professor Rebecca London and Professor Ron Glass (Education) published We Are About Life-Changing Research: Community Partner Perspectives on Community-Engaged Research Collaborations in the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement. This study examines the ethics and politics of knowledge across 15 distinctive community-engaged research projects. The authors focus their analysis on interviews with community partners and consider their perceptions of research, academic research partners, motivations for partnering, and the benefits and challenges of community-engaged research. Their findings highlight concerns at various ethical, political, and epistemic intersections and connect to the possibilities and limits of equity-oriented collaborative research methodologies for redressing epistemic and social injustices. They suggest that these challenges need systematized attention if the field of community-engaged research is to achieve the epistemological and social justice missions that are often articulated among the aspirations of such partnerships. Their study is also highlighted in UCSC News.

Assistant Professor Juan Manuel Pedroza published the article Housing Instability in an Era of Mass Deportations in Population Research and Policy Review. The current era of mass deportation has disrupted a record number of families and households in immigrant communities. In most cases, when a parent is deported, the rest of the family stays in the United States. Among those who remain in the US, deportations can have broad ramifications for housing stability. In this article, Assistant Professor Pedroza uses linear regression models with metro area and year-fixed effects to examine metro residents responding to the Current Population Survey (2013–2016) and merges these observations with contextual, administrative data from the implementation of a national immigration enforcement program (Secure Communities). He finds metro residents in shared households (i.e., households with multiple families) are more likely to experience housing instability in high deportation areas. The positive association between instability and deportations holds only among residents in Hispanic households where noncitizens are present. By contrast, other residents—including those living with non-Hispanic noncitizens, Hispanic U.S. citizens, or non-Hispanic U.S. citizens—are not more likely to report instability in high deportation metros. The article discusses possible explanations for these findings and the implications of this study for housing inequality.  

Assistant Professor Pedroza also published Making noncitizens' rights real: Evidence from immigration scam complaints in Law and Policy. Immigration scams exploit noncitizens’ precarious legal status. This paper is the first national study of scams targeting noncitizens seeking immigration legal services. By constructing a county-year database (N = 3135 over a four-year time period, 2011–2014) across secondary data sources to analyze the correlates of immigration scam complaints submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Assistant Professor Pedroza finds that welcoming counties have more immigration scam complaints, while counties with exclusionary contexts tend to have fewer complaints. The results do not suggest that scams are more prevalent in welcoming contexts, because the actual number of scams is unknown. Instead, he concludes that noncitizens tend to come forward to report immigration scams in welcoming contexts of reception, even after accounting for exclusionary policies. A robust safety net proved the most reliable predictor of immigration scams reported to the FTC. The concentration of immigration attorneys, legal aid services, and language access was also positively associated with the number of FTC scam reports. Taken together, these results suggest that immigrant-serving capacity and access to key services support noncitizens who report immigration scams, while hostility toward immigrants may deter them from exercising those same rights.

Assistant Professor Alicia Riley published Contesting Narratives of Inevitability: Heterogeneity in Latino–White Inequities in COVID-19 in the American Journal of Public Health. In this editorial, she highlights the significance of new research findings on heterogeneity in Latino-white disparities in COVID-19 across cities and over time and discusses contextual and policy factors that drive spatial and temporal variation in Latino–white social inequity and the larger social context that served as a stage for COVID-19 inequities.

alicia-riley-socy.jpgAssistant Professor Riley co-authored Recent Shifts in Racial/Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Mortality in the Vaccination Period in California, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. In this paper, the authors evaluated how racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 mortality and proportionate mortality evolved with availability of the vaccine in California and whether these changes differed by age group. Their findings underscore that mortality disparities in COVID-19 are not inevitable. Racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19 mortality can transform quickly with changes in structural factors, policy, behaviors, and patterns in exposure.

Assistant Professor Riley also co-authored Do Social Determinants of Health Explain Racial/Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Infection? published in Social Science & Medicine. Racial/ethnic minorities have experienced higher COVID-19 infection rates than whites, but it is unclear how individual-level housing, occupational, behavioral, and socioeconomic conditions contribute to these disparities in a nationally representative sample. In this new study the authors examine five racialized social determinants of health as contributors to racial/ethnic inequities in COVID-19 infection using national survey data. The authors considered educational attainment, economic resources, work arrangements, household size, and social distancing as key social factors that may be structured by racism. Cox hazard models indicate that Hispanic people have 48% higher risk of experiencing a COVID-19 infection than whites after adjustment for age, sex, local infection rate, and comorbidities, but the research does not show a higher risk of COVID-19 among Black respondents. Controlling for engagement in any large or small social gathering increases the hazard ratio for Hispanics by 9%, suggesting that had Hispanics had the same social engagement patterns as whites, they may have had even higher risk of COVID-19. Other social determinants—lower educational attainment, working away from home, and number of coresidents—all independently predict higher risk of COVID-19, but do not explain why Hispanic Americans have higher COVID-19 infection risk than whites.