Three Mac sociology seniors win top prizes for their academic papers. 

Today’s go-go dancers may seem far removed from lace-makers of the Middle Ages, but the two professions are actually organized in similar ways, found Jenny Grinblo ’11 (Akko, Israel). Grinblo, a sociology major, recently won a top prize for her paper comparing the occupation of go-go dancing to craft labor guilds of the past.  

She was one of three Mac seniors to win top spots in the 48th Annual Midwest Sociological Society Student Paper Competition. She shared first place with Evelyn Daugherty ’11 (Ann Arbor,  Mich.); third prize was won by Morgen Chang ’11 (Honolulu).  

The winners were chosen in a blind review process, says sociology professor and advisor Erik Larson. “I think the judges were surprised that all three top winners came from Mac.” 

Why all Mac students? “Good research is driven by curiosity and a desire to solve a puzzle,” he says. Those factors were certainly in play for Grinblo, who became interested in her topic because of a go-go dancer friend. That friend spoke to Grinblo’s first sociology class, “Sociology of Sexuality” with Professor Deborah Smith.  

Ultimately the Grinblo and Smith collaboration led to the publication of three separate papers.

Smith encouraged Grinblo to continue researching the topic and they eventually applied for a research grant together. Grinblo analyzed how women working in nightclubs as go-go dancers organized their work in ways similar to the older craft-labor model typical of guilds. However, the go-go dancers’ organization differed from traditional craft labor by creating and enforcing an identity of go-go dancing as distinct from sex work. 

Ultimately the Grinblo and Smith collaboration led to the publication of three separate papers. The experience has been transformational for Grinblo, who is now considering a career as an academic. “The opportunity to do research with a professor, take on real responsibilities, and incorporate my ideas in our process gave me the confidence that I could succeed at this professionally,” says Grinblo. “It’s a wonderful feeling to believe in my abilities to this extent.” 

Sharing top prize with Grinblo was Evelyn Daugherty, who examined how the U.S. government’s interest in Arabic as a “strategic language for national security” has affected Arabic language instruction at U.S. colleges. She found that government interest in Arabic has spurred a shift from learning classical Arabic for academic purposes to learning modern Arabic for professional purposes.

Chang’s paper addressed the question of how people use Internet technology in social interaction. She found that technical skill and level of offline interpersonal interactions influence how the Internet changes or expands users’ social networks. Users more socially connected in the offline world tend to use YouTube within existing social relationships, whereas those with fewer real-world social connections are more likely to have contact with strangers and feel agency about creating positive interactions online. 

Grinblo, Daughtery, and Chang—along with six other Macalester seniors—will present their papers at the annual meeting of the Midwest Sociological Society in St. Louis in March.

February 28 2011

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