Sociology to hold colloquium series

Published March 28, 2013

Grace Kao, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak on the social exclusion of Asian-American male youth during the first of three lectures in the Department of Sociology’s colloquium series being held during the month of April.

Kao will speak at 1 p.m. April 1 in 474 Park Hall, North Campus.

Quantitative social scientists often evaluate the assimilation of ethnic and immigrant groups by measuring their socioeconomic attainment. By this metric, Asian-American men are doing well in terms of their educational and occupational outcomes. However, Asian-American media observers and scholars long have lamented the portrayal of Asian-American men as nerdy and undesirable romantic partners.

Using analyses of nationally representative data sets, Kao will examine the sources and the extent to which Asian-American male youth and young adults are excluded from friendship, dating and marriage compared to their non-Asian male and Asian-American female counterparts.

The second speaker in the series, Jennifer Jihye Chun, associate professor of sociology at University of Toronto, will lecture on Asian immigrant women workers and the micro-politics of social movement practice at 1 p.m. April 8 in 474 Park.

Long before many labor unions began organizing immigrants, community organizations such as Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) in the San Francisco Bay Area were established to improve the working and living conditions of immigrant women workers employed in low-paid, precarious and socially devalued jobs.

Drawing upon AIWA’s three-decade-long history, Chun will explore the process and impact of cultivating grassroots leadership and expertise among Chinese and Korean immigrant women workers, the majority of whom work as seamstresses, electronics assemblers, hotel cleaners, cafeteria and restaurant workers and homecare workers.

The final speaker in the series will be Erin Hatton, UB assistant professor of sociology. Her lecture at 4 p.m. April 19 in Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, also is part of the Humanities Institute’s Scholars @ Hallwalls series. It is co-sponsored by the Civic Engagement and Public Policy Initiative.

Hatton will discuss her recent book project, “Nannies, Welfare Recipients and Prisoners: The Struggle for Worker Rights.” In the book, Hatton examines three categories of workers in New York State who are not considered "employees" by laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and are, therefore, not covered by these workplace protections. Through in-depth interviews with the "non-employed" workers each of these groups—domestic workers (nannies, housecleaners and caretakers for the elderly), workfare workers (welfare recipients required to work in return for welfare benefits) and prisoners who work in publicly or privately run factories while incarcerated—Hatton explores the nature of work and the struggle for worker rights beyond the boundaries of the law.