Faculty Research

Professor Jennifer Bickham Mendez

In Fall 2013 Associate Professor Jennifer Bickham Mendez completed a residency at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. In this lecture, sponsored by VFH and the City of Charlottesville, she shares some results from her ten-year, ethnographic study of Mexican and Central American immigration to Williamsburg, Virginia.


Professor Caroline Hanley

Professor Hanley is currently working on a mixed-methods case study of employment and earnings restructuring at the General Electric Company. The study is designed to elaborate and adjudicate the mechanisms of rising earnings inequality in the United States starting in the 1970s. The project draws on rich archival data including internal memos, reports and correspondence among GE executives, managers and workers. Two Sociology majors have worked on the project. Kat Milberger '12 worked with Professor Hanley to organize and code the documents. Tera Morris '12 worked with Professor Hanley to generate an original quantitative data set describing GE's changing spatial division of labor from the 1940s to the present.

Professor Brent Kaup

Market Justice explores the challenges for the new global left as it seeks to construct alternative means of societal organization. Focusing on Bolivia, Brent Z. Kaup examines a testing ground of neoliberal and counter-neoliberal policies and an exemplar of bottom-up globalization. Kaup argues that radical shifts towards and away from free market economic trajectories are not merely shaped by battles between transnational actors and local populations, but also by conflicts between competing domestic elites and the ability of the oppressed to overcome traditional class divides. Further, he asserts that struggles against free markets are not evidence of opposition to globalization or transnational corporations. They should instead be understood as struggles over the forms of global integration and who benefits from them. 

Professor Amy Quark

Global Rivalries: Standards Wars and the Transnational Cotton Trade explores rule-making in an era of increasing geopolitical uncertainty. Western firms and states have long dictated the formal terms of trade in the global economy. But with a shift to an Asia-centered economy, how do powerful Western actors construct governance institutions that are enforceable?  Under what conditions are the emerging non-Western corporate elite and their state allies, as well as more marginalized firms and states, able to recast the rules to better serve their interests? Quark addresses these questions through a study of negotiations over key institutions that undergird the global cotton trade. With its accession to the World Trade Organization and the liberalization of the apparel and textile trade, China burst onto the stage as a powerful actor challenging the dominance of the U.S. state and transnational cotton merchants. This research traces the ascendance of China and the efforts of the Chinese state to recast the institutions governing the cotton trade to work in its interests.

In the book, Quark offers a new understanding of governance in the global economy by constructing a theory of institutional change within the global capitalist system—an approach that embeds the insights of institutionalist scholarship within an analysis of historically and spatially specific power relations. She argues that hegemonic rivalries shape strategies to change institutions. In the cotton trade, actors’ positions within broader conflicts over the organization of the global capitalist system—and particularly rivalries between the U.S. state and the Chinese state—shaped preferences, bargaining power, and thus strategies in institutional struggles. This conflict-driven process created institutional change that was incremental as the context-specific path dependencies of existing rules posed significant obstacles to the Chinese state’s bid for institutional power. Nonetheless, the resulting institutions were hybrid in nature as the perceived threat of Chinese power compelled dominant Western actors to retool governance institutions, trading a degree of control for transparency.