Faculty News

Professor Guidroz Quoted in Washington Post 

May 13, 2018— Proffesor Guidroz was recently quoted in an article in the Washington Post reporting on the emerging popularirty of gender reveal parties. Guidroz cautions against it's growth in popularity, remarking,

"There are increasing numbers of people who are not identifying as a gender or identifying with both genders. We have to wonder, ‘Why have [gender-reveal parties] became more popular in the past decade when so many people are not ascribing to the gender binary?’ Sociologists talk about gender socialization starting the moment the child is born, but this phenomenon actually starts the socialization before that."

Read the full article here.

Professor McDonald Publishes New Book

May 2, 2018—In The Criminal Victimization of Immigrants, Professor McDonald tells the other side of the story about immigrants and crime. Immigrants are victims of crime more often than natives. They are usually victimized by other immigrants of the same ethnicity. They are victimized by their-own kind because they live in the same neighborhoods and live the same lifestyles as other immigrants.

When immigrants are victimized by natives, it usually involves hate crime. In its hate crime statistics report, the FB.I does not single out crimes against immigrants. For that infonnation one has to rely upon anecdotal infonnation in the media.

In the United States hate incidents against immigrants can be easily found in the press. In the 1980s Mexicans began arriving in Turner, Maine, a small rural township. Roadside lobster stands began serving salsa and chilies. In 1995, two white men shouted "Go back to Mexico!" at a group of Latino poultry workers. They then pursued the fleeing Latinos at high-speed, firing shots at their vehicle, injuring one of them.

In the early 1980s, newspapers reported that Ku Klux Klan members in San Diego, CA were boasting of"beheading and burying undocumented aliens." In early 1998 in Texas during the execution of Karla Faye Tucker a mob quickly turned against a group of anti-death penalty, Hispanic protestors. They yelled slogans such as "Go Back to Where You Came From/' Mexicans just come in to trash our country." "They should all be killed." 

The United Kingdom also does not publish hate crime statistics regarding immigrant victims. But, the UK-has an organization (the Institute of Race Relations) that compiles chronologically what appear to be anti-immigrant attacks reported in the press. 

Violence against intimate partners' is a universal phenomenon. It reflects patriarchal social orders that exist everywhere but are stronger in developing countries. Anti-woman cultural practices flourish in many countries. Women from those countries are especially vulnerable. Even immigration law puts them at a disadvantage. It makes them dependent upon their spouse's wishes. Mail order brides, especially in this age of the internet, are at high risk of violence and death.

Human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, is a global practice which has been campaigned against since that indefatigable feminist, Josephine Butler, who initiated the international effort  against "white slavery'' -distinct from her father's efforts that helped end "black slavery." Both male and female victims are caught in the grind of human trafficking. Females are well the majority and most of them are involved in prostitution. Modem slavery is more difficult to abolish than traditional, chattel slavery which was protected by the state. Since the 1990s the United Nations and the United States have made major efforts to suppress human trafficking. They have created a global prohibition regime that prosecutes traffickers and protects victims.

Many nations are cooperating. But the number of successful prosecutions pales against the size of the problem. Prostitution is legal in many countries -including the United States. It provides a legal market for sex slaves and thereby undercuts the campaign against trafficking.

Sociology Faculty Celebrate Professor Hall's 50 years of service

May 2, 2018— After decades teaching in the Department of Sociology, Professor Hall retired this Spring. Family, Friends, and Faculty celebrated her many achievements within the department.

Additionally, Professor Hall was presented with the C. Margaret Hall Senior Thesis Award, which has been dedicated in her name. 

Professor Hall beautifully concluded the celebration saying, "It's been a wonderful life and it wouldn't have been so without Sociology."


Professor Hall Interviewed on 50 years at Georgetown

April 11, 2018— Professor Margaret Hall was recently interviewed on teaching at Georgetown for 50 years. Professor Hall retired this year.

Few people in history can claim to know Georgetown as well as Professor Margaret Hall.

Prof. Hall retired from teaching this spring after spending more than 50 years on the Hilltop, including 47 as a full-time professor in the Department of Sociology. One of the first women to be granted tenure at Georgetown, she served as department chair on two separate occasions and also directed the women’s studies program. Her research focused on social intelligence and the social construction of identity and behavior.

We caught up with Prof. Hall to talk about her impressive career at Georgetown, the evolution of her discipline, and her advice for today’s students.


My mother tells me I played teacher with my dolls, so I think it was a long, deep-seated quest on my part to do something with people who could learn from me.

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I married an American in London and followed his career for most of my career. It was really the learning process that interested me, and as a social scientist, I wanted to change something in the world. It seemed very productive for what I had in mind, trying to do something about social intelligence.


I bumped into almost inexplicable examples of pain. I was a privileged young kid, an only child who saw a lot of poverty in my town, Manchester, a city of the industrial revolution. It was a poor, working-class area, but I wasn’t in the poor part. The gap in resources grabbed me.

To what extent can one change what is given at the turning points in life? What drew me in was how I had a greater sense of control over my life, and I wanted to pass that on. I couldn’t perform miracles, but I could change lives in ways that mattered.


There’s certainly more multidisciplinary work in research areas — you can’t get away with only being a member of a minor or less-resourced discipline. You need to cross boundaries and integrate research if you want to do something substantial.

There was no sociology department at all when we first came here, so we had our parallel development as a department. We tried to find meaningful curricula — we always tried to do something new, something traditional, something individual and something as a group. It’s been a great challenge.

I think my own research specialty in social intelligence is just an example of new ways to approach studying and problem solving. The discipline of sociology at Georgetown is the place where we do this kind of new thinking.


The increase in residential accommodation available is important — I think students are more able to do evening activities and projects than they were before. Beautiful buildings.

But there’s a kind of “inside change” in how the students think, not just the “outside change” of things like new buildings. We have to see the link here to science — not just science that we learn in the classroom, but science in society. We were in a search for description, and now it’s a search for explanation.


Georgetown has a presence. It’s a very reassuring presence, and it’s good to be able to get together with others in ways that would make major differences. I never thought that parts of society in people’s lifetimes would be subject to these pressures.


It isn’t a single memory, but it’s the process of becoming more American. I was born in Manchester and came over in ’63, having married an American sweetheart. It helped make me more American to come to Georgetown, go through ceremonies like graduation, and really feel part of the country. That happened through the business of Georgetown.


One of my hardest problems with students is the attitude of ‘What can you do? You can’t do anything.’ Well you’ve got to do something. We’ve got to assume this responsibility ourselves.

You just need to start the first few steps of the journey toward your interests or ambitions. You can’t leave all your other responsibilities alone, but you can start by taking charge of a small part of a project, then a deeper part of a project. I always tried to get students interested in the human responsibility for changing the world.

Once at a College Executive Council meeting, we were doing a rewrite of the Georgetown mission statement. We had a discussion on the role of change and participation, and I said it can’t just say “participation,” it has to focus on an “active participation.” And that phrase is still there today.

Read the original article here.

Professor Kato participates in new Georgetown podcast

February 14, 2018— Professor Yuki Kato recently participated in the new Georgetown podcast, Three Professors Walk Into a Bar. This new series is a podcast series intended to facilitate meaningful conversation around complex global issues. Each week, professors will explore different topics, challenges, and consequences of the global issue and attempt to grapple with some of the challenges and consequences it presents. Professor Kato was joined by Professors Mark Giordano and Randall Amster in the first episode of the series, "Food, Food Sustainability, and Climate Change." In this episode, they discussed food security on two levels. First, how nation-states in the Middle East or India are responding to decreasing water supplies, arable land, and rising temperatures. Second, how modern cities can help respond to climate change with proactive programming, especially in areas frequently impacted by natural disasters.

Click here to listen to the episode and learn more about Three Professors Walk Into a Bar.

Professor Hsu's New Book makes it on the LSE Review of Books

January 17, 2018- In Borrowing Together: Microfinance and Cultivating Social Ties, Becky Yang Hsu draws upon two microfinance projects in rural China in order to explore the social relations and cultural dimensions underpinning microfinance schemes. Drawing upon an innovative methodological approach, this book offers valuable challenge to the individualism often placed at the heart of microfinance models with implications for practical policy, writes Kinnari Bhatt.

Microfinance had been held up for decades as a ‘silver bullet’ against global poverty, becoming one of the world’s most high-profile and generously funded development interventions and earning its founder, Muhammed Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for the most visible microfinance organisation in the world, the Grameen Bank. Even the TV series The Simpsons told a story of microfinance, with Lisa Simpson lending 50 dollars to the school bully through the fictional ‘Metamorphosis Microfinance’. She watches as his small business blooms, but his budding enterprise soon collapses. Lisa is confused, saying: ‘It didn’t go the way I expected.’ Fiction aside, these ‘tales of the unexpected’ have led to horrific suicide epidemics with small loans turning into big curses for poor, overindebted people. However, microfinance is back on the road to redemption, making Becky Yang Hsu’s book Borrowing Together: Microfinance and Cultivating Social Ties timely.

In the microfinance model, borrowers form groups and then repay together in a joint-liability structure in which members are responsible for one another’s loans in some form or another. Borrowing Together shines light on a surprisingly underexplored aspect of group lending microfinance: its social and cultural dimensions. Considering how the defining characteristic of the microfinance model is this use of ‘free’ social collateral, the existing lack of sociological research on this element is perplexing. By turning the centre of analysis away from ‘money’ as the primary asset for poverty alleviation to the social and cultural relations that underpin two microfinance projects in rural China, Hsu presents rich practical and theoretical insights into what people did with microfinance and why its success has been so patchy.

Click here to read more

Hsu’s methodology is exciting. The descriptions of her ‘go-alongs’ where she gathered data over three years of fieldwork are told in a personal and highly readable way that compromises nothing on academic rigour. Her chapter titles – ‘Credit and Favour’, ‘Repaying a Friend’ and the ‘Social Cost of Sanctions’ – eloquently contrast and connect the ‘arm’s length’ nature of global finance with the social network surrounding a microloan. By the end of the book, Hsu persuasively demonstrates that the real ‘assets’ driving repayment and default are informal social ties, questions of morality and methods of survival already functioning in rural China, rather than contractual loan terms and formal peer social collateral sanctioning.

Hsu leads us to this understanding by explaining how prevailing microfinance models hinge upon a typology of personhood driven on assumptions of separateness and permanence. The key theme running through this typology is individualism. This assumes that a borrower internally weighs the costs and benefits of repayment and sanction for herself and is not assumed to make decisions in consideration with others. Permanence continues the individualistic theme by presuming a borrower’s fixed repayment motivation as forever tied to financial interest rather than a changing one that might consider non-pecuniary interests like an opportunity to maintain social networks, goodness and identity. This holistic understanding of personhood (‘Guanxi’ in Mandarin Chinese) is connected to material and emotional components and personal relations.

Hsu demonstrates how the Guanxi she observes conflicts with the individualistic typology of personhood used to model microfinance repayment behaviour. Referring to Joseph Stiglitz’s much-cited article on peer monitoring in microcredit programmes, Hsu shows how an individualistic typology feeds into the dominant ‘Grameen’ model for group lending microfinance through an assumption that the site of action is only ever the mind of the individual and that individuals make calculations based entirely on financial considerations. It does not matter to whom the money is owed (for Stiglitz, the ‘faceless’ bank is interchangeable with a ‘faceless’ government), and borrowers are assumed to not repay and therefore need to be induced to do so through the yoking together of similarly ‘faceless’ individualised borrowers who are also assumed to share no pre-existing obligation or connection.

Through two comparative field studies, Hsu critiques Stiglitz’s individualised and context-free view of repayment. The major difference between the two microfinance studies she observes lies in the method through which the social collateral mechanism is administered. One involves a guarantor programme devised by local NGO, ‘Global Hope’, and administered, along with the government, through the village committee. The programme hinges on personal ties as one elected villager personally guarantees the loan, making repayment akin to ‘repaying a friend’. The other ‘Grameen’ model involves no such personal connection and is entrenched in a top-down initiative led by the government and a pool of influential villagers. Here, repayment by ordinary villagers is strongly incentivised as these are government loans. Ordinary villagers lack power and agency against the influential villagers that also assist in loan administration. In the ‘Global Hope’ model, these structures did not exist and a borrower’s repayment obligation was assigned to a specific guarantor. In the social context of the village, repayment and sanction decisions became a personal tie between borrower and lender, forming a small part of the village’s living social network and one mechanism through which one’s Guanxi can be formed and displayed on the village stage.

Whilst repayment occurred in both models, solely examining repayment schedules would not tell the full story of the conditions for repayment, or exactly what and whom are driving it in each scenario: a position that stands in tension with Stiglitz’s context-free individualistic site of action. A look at repayment records would not show that the ways in which people cultivate their relationships make all the difference as to who borrows and who repays. It would not show how the intervention of the guarantor mechanism had two transformative impacts that confound microfinance models based on a borrower’s individualistic calculations and a social collateral model secured through overt peer pressure.

First, it transformed lack of repayment into an ‘impossible debt’: a personal debt obligation among villagers who saw borrowing amongst them as being about relationships, survival and the creation of Guanxi or self. Second, the guarantor model demonstrates how sanctioning default can be unappealing for the sanctioner. Considering that a moral wrong can decrease someone’s Guanxi within the village and lead to a string of retaliatory actions amongst inhabitants, sanctions can be unappetising. Since microfinance models depend on the shaming of the defaulter, the success of the Grameen model is entirely dependent on something happening that everyone is trying to avoid!

I strongly recommend Borrowing Together for anyone who would like to explore more deeply current development theory and practice and how a ‘turn’ to social ties might impact development outcomes. Becky reminds us of ‘the difference ethnography can make’ to policy applications. On this repayment data itself would tell us little about the actual interactions between villagers and the internal networks that incentivise repayment and, in some cases, even de-incentivise peer sanctioning: results that run contrary to the Grameen model of individualism.

As a project finance lawyer interested in the challenges posed by the complexities of the global economy and its implications for human rights and well-being, my only critique is that an opportunity might have been missed to apply the rich fieldwork more widely to quality interdisciplinary scholarship that identifies and addresses gaps in policy and practice around human well-being and fairness under today’s conditions of economic globalisation. Studies like Hsu’s are so relevant to this important global research field and contribute immensely by providing a robust empirical basis for questioning dominant assumptions on what creates a ‘good life’. Hsu reminds us that entrepreneurship and private property are not magic bullets for development, and that being an honourable and good person can be of greater importance for repayment and default profiles: a finding that can add value to practical policy implementation. These incentives knock microfinance lending assumptions off their ‘modelled’ path and might begin to explain Lisa Simpson’s confusion with microfinance not going as she expected.

Read the original article on the LSE Review of Books page


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