Dissertation thoughts

Today was the day that I faced the demon known as comps. That’s comprehensive exams, for those who may be wondering. To be entirely honest, they were not as brutal as I thought they may be. I don’t think my committee members took it easy on me (I did write almost 4,500 words today), so maybe I was just well prepared. For that I have to thank my advisor Micheline van Riemsdijk for doing her job of, well, giving me good, sound advice.

So what do I want to do with the rest of my Friday? Well keep writing of course! I did tease everyone a week or two ago that I would divulge some details about my potential dissertation topic, so I was thinking of writing about that. Then I started thinking that academia is rather hyper-competitive these days, so I decided not to share. But then I figured that happiness lies in the middle, so I’ll divulge a little but not enough details that in the event that someone other than my closest friends and family actually reads this, and that individual happens to need a dissertation topic, and furthermore that individuals happens to be a geographer… Well, then they won’t be able to replicate my ideas and take all the academic glory (is there such a thing?) for themselves. In the interests of time, I will copy/paste some sections from what I’m currently working for class papers and Ph.D. applications for your perusal. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below.

For my dissertation, I plan to study the effects of neoliberal economic restructuring on Latino migrants in the rural Southeastern United States. My dissertation research is guided by the following question: “How does neoliberal economic restructuring affect Latino migrants in the rural Southeastern US?” In order to answer this question, I plan to use qualitative methods to investigate how the lives of Latinos are affected by neoliberalism and how these restructuring processes shape the rural South.

The idea for this project emerges from a “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity” graduate seminar in which we discussed Latino migration and the effects of neoliberalism across the United States This idea also has strong ties to class discussions of race and ethnicity in a graduate seminar on Geography of the South. Since 9/11, a major theme of U.S. political (conservative) dialog has been to vilify Latino immigration, under the rhetoric of “Mexicans taking away good jobs from Americans” or “Hispanics are taking our land” (see Winders 2007, Cordero-Guzmán et al. 2008, Smith and Winders 2008). Furthering this political dialog, and the point at which I became interested in studying Latino migration in the South, has been the most recent economic recession in the US. One effect of the recession was the passing of more stringent immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia. These legislative acts have already had numerous effects on the life chances of Latinos in rural communities, which now face labor shortages because Latinos have fled out of fear (Robertson 2011).

Following Popke’s (2011: 252) call for further geographical research on migration to “[rethink] the rural South,” my dissertation research will be an attempt to “draw attention to the region’s sometimes hidden transnationalism” to show how the rural South is intimately connected to and affected by the current neoliberal system of globalization. Drawing upon the literature on migration, I have found that much research focuses on the effects of neoliberal economic restructuring in urban areas over the last two decades (e.g. McDaniel and Drever 2009, Martin 2010), while rural areas of the U.S. have only recently begun to be researched (Schultz 2008, Popke 2011). Additionally, there is a wealth of available literature on Latino migration to the US south (Winders 2005, Bohon et al. 2008, Chaney 2010, Conley and Bohon 2010, Cravey and Valdivia 2011, Winders 2011), but again, rural areas have only begun to be studied over the last few years.

Latino worker
This guy is not a Latino migrant... but he is a Latino worker! He just happens to be in Costa Rica.

I’d post my full bibliography, but I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t that interested. If you are, leave an email address or other contact info so I can get in touch with you.

One thought on “Dissertation thoughts”

  1. Hey! Another picture from your honeymoon!

    That topic sounds [1] very relevant to today’s politics and urban socioeconomicgeographic issues and [2] slightly confusing to me as to neoliberalism and what that really means. Deep subject…I think you will do very well with it. Thanks for sharing with us.

    And one of today’s headlines from msnbc.com on my Google Reader was dirty jobs that Americans WILL NOT DO…but the Mexicans are in hiding in Alabama, so who is going to do them?


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