Previous Grants Awarded


Graduate Student Reading Group — ‘Feminist Modernities: Multiple Genealogies of Feminist Thought’

This graduate student reading group will trace the emergence and dispersion of various waves and forms of feminisms across the world, and explore future directions for critical gender analysis and praxis. Our primary focus will be on feminist epistemologies and how diverse approaches to knowledge and positionality have contributed to and been developed through global women’s struggles. In doing so, the group will explore what constitutes feminist research and feminist consciousness, and what it means to produce feminist knowledge about the world. The group hopes to explore the following questions: What unites women’s movements in the so-called Global North and South, and what tensions and debates remain salient? How might classic texts in the history of modern feminism be reread in view of the critiques and challenges lodged by feminists of color in the US and third world feminists? Similarly, moving away from the dominance of academic texts in feminist thought, what role does technology, art, activism, multi-sensory, and other forms of alternative epistemologies play in production and dispersion of feminist knowledge, and how can we engage with them? Our readings and discussions will be interdisciplinary, bridging the expansive range of geographical interests represented by the group members: Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico), North America (U.S., Canada), Asia (Burma, China, Thailand), East Africa (Tanzania), the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt, Iran, Palestine). New members welcome.


Transitioning to Sustainability:  Theoretical and Practical Learning from the Multi-Level  Perspective

In  the 21st Century the Academy, not to mention society at large, is faced with the increasingly compelling issue of how to conceptualize, understand,  and intervene in the dynamics of large scale socio-technical change in complex integrated systems operating at multiple scales.    Globalization, financialization, climate change, polarization, dromological compression of time and information, distributional inequities of power and wealth and more cast this issue in an increasingly crisis driven light.  These trends intensify both the challenges and openings to normative agendas of sustainability.  Too often, even when sustainability goals are systematically researched and prioritized,   social science knowledge about the promise and pitfalls of possible transition trajectories remains absent, implicit, or brought to practice in an ad hoc manner.  

In direct response,  the “multi-level perspective” (MLP) on managing transitions to sustainability has emerged, grounded in particular in the pragmatics of the Dutch government’s efforts to transform its systems of energy supply and consumption.  The work of Rotman  and others advances the fundamental concepts of MLP, with its categorically distinct but interacting realms of Landscape  (macro), Regime (meso) and Niche (micro  –  conceptualized as sites for socio-technical  innovation).  Geels in particular also summarizes and contextualizes MLP’s  limitations in relation to competing theoretical and ontological frameworks as highlighted by its most prominent critics.  These frameworks include rational choice, evolution theory, structuralism, interpretivism, functionalism, conflict and power struggle, and relationism.  Geels advocates for MLP as a “middle range theory that makes crossovers to some ontologies and not to others.”

We propose an introductory interrogation of the strengths and weaknesses of the MLP as a framework for sustainability transition management.  MLP and competing theoretical frameworks will be introduced, discussed and debated in two events.  The first will be a standard, open lecture with question and answer period on the MLP and its applications (approximately 2 hours).  Second, a small discussion group and seminar will go into the issues and selected related readings in greater detail (2-3 hours).   Key discussion group participants will be recruited/selected ahead of time.

Robby Boyer, Assistant Professor of Geography & Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte, will serve as lead presenter and co-facilitator for these events.  Boyer’s research explores questions such as:  How and why do local actors adopt plans for climate mitigation?   At what scales and through which theoretical frames should dilemmas of global sustainability be engaged?  Why are some grassroots environmental projects broadly  influential  while others are not?  Boyer will draw on recent work in which he applied MLP theory to a number of “niche” innovations in sustainability, more specifically several ecovillages (including Ecovillage at Ithaca) representing a spectrum of degrees of engagement with Regime and Landscape institutions.

CALS New York State Internship Program

As it is in rural communities across the country, “brain drain” is a concern in Upstate NY.  However, research has clearly established that Upstate NY does not experience higher rates of out-migration of young, educated people than do other places around the country.   Rather, Upstate NY experiences lower rates of in-migration of this population, resulting in a net loss of young, educated professionals.  The problem is more of an attraction and retention issue (“brain gain”) for the Upstate region. Over time, this net loss of young professionals has led to significant social and economic decline.

While we know youth retention and attraction is a concern, we know less about how it is being addressed by Upstate employers and communities.  To better understand this issue, we will be looking at how employers and communities are approaching youth retention and attraction.  Specifically, we want to know:  what, if anything, is being done to encourage young professionals to work and live locally; which approaches are and are not successful; and what challenges and opportunities are presented by these approaches.  Of particular interest is whether or not there is any relationship between youth retention and attraction, place, and community engagement.  Our findings will be discussed in a Fall 2014 publication and research roundtable.