Professors Making Progress on Research Projects

Women, their past and their future are the subjects of research projects by two College of Liberal Arts professors this year.

Political Science professor Dr. Susan Hekman is researching the history and evolution of feminist theory. Dr. Heather Jacobson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, is examining the issue of surrogacy in the United States.

Hekman has spent the better part of the fall doing research and writing a chapter on Simone de Beauvoir, widely considered to be the “mother” of feminism. Hekman was awarded a research fellowship and has been at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, for the past several months. She plans to return in January and will continue work on her book, researching and writing about other historic figures in the feminist movement.

“Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ was the first extended examination of the role of women in society and analysis of the origins of their inferiority,” said Hekman. “There had been discussions before her, but none was comprehensive. She was the first to locate the inferiority of women as a central aspect of Western thought and society.”

Hekman said her current research project will review the major schools of feminism that have emerged since Beauvoir: the French Feminists, psychoanalytic feminism, feminist standpoint theory, difference feminism, postmodern feminism, and material feminism, among others. Hekman said the book, tentatively titled, “Subject Matters: The Evolution of the Subject in Feminist Theory,” will be one of only a few to focuses exclusively on the subject and is aimed at fellow scholars in the field and their classes.

“I am hoping that this book will be used in college and university classes on women’s studies, gender studies, and feminist theory,” she said. “Because it is so comprehensive in scope, it would be appropriate for these classes. … I am writing for graduate and undergraduate students as well.”

Closer to home, Jacobson recently finished data collection for her study, which includes in-depth interviews and non-participant observation within surrogacy agencies in Texas and California – two of the most surrogacy-friendly states in the nation. One of the goals of her project is to understand how those hired to be surrogates make sense of their work and how it impacts their own families.

“My study has both a theoretical focus, in terms of exploring how we conceptualize ‘reproductive work,’ and an empirical focus, in that it studies, ethnographically, this relatively new commercialized form of feminized labor,” she said.

Jacobson said she’s also curious as to how surrogates navigate between “work” and “family” within the assisted reproduction marketplace. She is currently doing analysis on her data and will be writing on the project soon.

Adoption issues are also at the forefront of Jacobson’s research. She published a book, “Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference,” in 2008. And last month at the American Studies Association’s annual meeting, she presented a paper examining media depictions of international adoptions and the way those reports shape future parents.

Both professors said they hope to have their books finished in the next 12-18 months.

Other research activity around the College of Liberal Arts includes:

  • Anthropology adjunct faculty member Julie Adkins published “Not By Faith Alone: Social Services, Social Justice, and Faith-Based Organizations in the United States” with two colleagues. The book examines the intersection between religion and national development.
  • Dr. Naomi Cleghorn (Anthropology) spent part of her summer in St. Petersburg, Russia, analyzing bone artifacts taken from a site in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia. Cleghorn is working on a project examining the behavior of Upper Paleolithic hominins, or some of the earliest modern humans in the region.
  • Dr. Luis Lopez-Preciado (Communication) recently finished the data collection portion of this project examining account planning in the advertising industry in Spain. Lopez-Preciado is researching the way three of the world’s largest Spanish-speaking countries (Mexico, Spain and Argentina) practice account planning and how that impacts industries overall.
  • Criminology and Criminal Justice professors Dr. Alex del Carmen and Dr. John Rodriguez, with Dr. Raymond Eve (Sociology), are looking at “transnationalism” and U.S. law enforcement’s perception of gang activity on the Texas-Mexico border. Rodriguez said they are currently in the data collection stage.
  • Dr. Stacy Alaimo (English) recently published a book, “Bodily Natures: Science, Environment and the Material Self,” which examines material forces and their increasingly harmful effects on the human body. Drawing on feminist theory, environmental studies and science, Alaimo’s text focuses on trans-corporeality, or movement across bodies and nature, and uses creative and philosophical writings to illustrate her points.
  • Dr. Marvin Dulaney (History) examined race relations in North Texas with his new book “A History of African Americans in Dallas.” The work will be published by Texas A&M University Press.
  • Dr. Chris Morris (History) has finished one of the most comprehensive looks at the Mississippi Valley with “The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its People from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina.” The book will be published by Oxford University Press in 2011.
  • Dr. David Narrett (History) has completed work on the history of the U.S. Southeast. His book, “Adventurism, Intrigue and Empire: The Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1763-1800,” is expected to be published next year.
  • Dr. Charles Chiasson (Philosophy) is currently researching the ancient historian Herodotus and his relationship to the Greek poetic tradition. For his book, Chiasson will focus on how Herodotus, the so-called “father of history,” utilized poetry to support and challenge his own work and reveal the complicated nature of historical “truth.”
  • Dr. Tom Marshall (Political Science) is working on a project that examines developing public opinion on key health care issues – particularly how Americans come to recognize their own health care risks.
  • Political Science assistant professor Dr. Brent Sasley is wrapping up his faculty leave and finishing fieldwork for his project. Sasley intends to write a book on the connections between ethnic communities, national identity, and foreign policy.
  • Dr. Dana Dunn (Sociology) and Dr. Victoria Farrar-Myers (Political Science) are conducting survey research on generational differences in women’s participation in an Arlington, Texas, area voluntary association.

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