Thursday Morning Breakouts and Experiential Sessions - Social Sciences

Breakout sessions in the Social Sciences
10:45 – 11:45 am

When you register for the Assembly, please indicate which one of the following sessions you are likely to attend.


Researching Informal Economies and Political Uncertainty in West Africa
Susanna Fioratta, PhD '12

Room 105, Anthropology Department, 10 Sachem Street (across from Peabody Museum)
Bus leaves at 10:35 a.m. from High Street next to Old Campus (near Harkness Tower)

What happens when migrant remittances that provide people with economic security also become a source of social insecurity? Despite national poverty and the constant possibility of political crisis, many people in the Republic of Guinea have managed to do fairly well for themselves with the help of remittance money sent from relatives all over the world. However, disputes between Guineans at home and abroad over diverging understandings of Islam have sometimes transformed the remittance safety net into a source of social conflict.

This session will present one Yale doctoral candidate’s dissertation material that explores these issues, based on 18 months of field work in West Africa, which she will share through a slide presentation focusing on daily life in Guinea and Senegal. We will discuss the question of how small-scale, qualitative ethnographic research can offer a unique perspective on large, traditionally quantitative topics like remittances. Finally, we will touch on the complexities of conducting anthropological research in uncertain and potentially unstable situations.


Diagnosing Deviance through Social Withdrawal in Japan
Ellen Rubinstein, PhD '12

Room 102, Rosenkranz Hall, 115 Prospect Street
Bus leaves at 10:35 a.m. from High Street next to Old Campus (near Harkness Tower)

In the last two decades Japan has endured serious socioeconomic crises that have provoked much public anxiety over the nation’s future. These crises followed a long period of economic prosperity, during which the white-collar salaryman came to symbolize a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, widely achievable through hard work and perseverance. After the economic bubble burst in 1989, this lifestyle lost both its attainability and its allure, and the media was quick to label the “social problem” of young Japanese who could not or would not follow in their parents’ footsteps. The hikikomori (social withdrawal) phenomenon erupted in the early 2000s, causing mass panic over reports of hundreds of thousands of young hikikomori men who locked themselves in their rooms instead of joining society as responsible adults.

In this session, a Yale doctorate candidate talks about the 14 months of ethnographic field work she conducted in Japan on this subject. With the aid of slides from her time in the field, along with subtitled video clips from Japanese media sources, she will help us discuss how diagnostic labels influence the everyday lives of the people affected by them.


From Theory to the Village
Melanie Morten, PhD '12

Room 202, Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Avenue
Bus leaves at 10:35 a.m. from High Street next to Old Campus (near Harkness Tower)

Development economics asks the question: how can living standards for the world’s poor be improved? Increasingly, academic research is moving from theory into the field, with researchers actively involved in designing experiments and surveys to test specific theories and hypotheses. 

In this session, one Yale doctoral candidate will talk about two research projects she has been working on that involve field work: text-message reminders for microfinance borrowers in the Philippines, and a project looking at rural-urban migration in Indian villages. Using these two projects as examples, we will discuss the process of moving economic theories from testable hypotheses to practical applications. Along the way we will see photos taken in the field, and play an interactive economic game that will help us identify with farmers who have no access to the banking system.


A Behavioral Finance Perspective on the 2007-2008 Subprime Crisis
Oliver Bunn, PhD '13

Lecture Hall, Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High Street

This session will investigate some of the causes and the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which started as a failure of the securitization market for subprime mortgages and developed into a severe crisis for the entire global economy. Our investigation will take the perspective of Behavioral Finance, which extends the notion of rational decision-makers operating in efficient markets along the lines of other social sciences, particularly Psychology and Sociology.

We will participate in a live experiment replicating classic psychological studies, then seeing how the results were relevant to the 2007-2008 crisis. We will explore the psychological forces at the core of these studies and outline the degree to which they provide a coherent explanation not only for the events prior to the failure of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, but also for the economic circumstances that prevail until today.


Political Science & Economics:
Tricks of the Trade in International Politics
Allison Sovey, PhD '13

Lecture Hall, Golden Center (St. Thomas More), 268 Park Street

Cooperation between nations is seldom easy to achieve, and international institutions that can facilitate such cooperation are being criticized today from many quarters. Yet closer study shows that international institutions really can alleviate the impediments to nations cooperating in areas where both can benefit.

This presentation will focus on one student’s recent research into the World Trade Organization (WTO), which she argues can be effective in depoliticizing trade between countries. With the help of video clips of news reports covering trade controversies, she will discuss the challenges that the WTO has had to overcome since its founding in 1995, and explain how it has been able to allow countries to commit not to use tariffs as a political weapon, thereby increasing trade and keeping trade policy separate from foreign policy.


Political Science:
Why Do Subnational Authoritarians Find Support in Democratic Countries?
Juan Rebolledo, PhD '12

Room B-09, Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York Street

In this interactive session we will examine the puzzle of the persistence, within democratic countries, of subnational regions with authoritarian characteristics. In countries as diverse as India, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico and Argentina — and even the United States during the Jim Crow era - regimes with authoritarian characteristics successfully maintain control over subnational units despite national democratization. Often these low-democracy regions in which authoritarian practices remain are governed by a different political faction from that of the democratic polity’s national government.

The very existence of subnational authoritarian regions is surprising. It is even more surprising that a national democratic government seems to be perpetuating this status quo of subnational authoritarianism. In young democracies, why does the democratic national government, which once fought authoritarian abuse, seem to be unwilling or unable to act against these regional autocrats?


Fighting Obesity through Public Policy
Christina Roberto, PhD '12

Room 38/39, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 121 Wall Street

Obesity and poor diet are worldwide public health concerns. Nutrient-poor and calorie-dense foods are not only widely available; they are typically less expensive, extensively marketed, and served in large portions. Making matters worse, they are seldom labeled with clear, easy-to-understand nutrition information.

How can the scientific community help policy-makers understand the challenges they face in persuading people to make healthier choices when they eat? This presentation will discuss the environmental contributors to obesity and the latest research informing the current debate over food policy in the United States and other countries. Video clips will illustrate the way food is marketed today, and interactive quizzes will challenge us to find out how much we really know about the food we eat.


Developing a Sense of Fairness in Children

Alex Shaw, PhD '13

Room 211, Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York Street

The fact that more and more citizens have begun to occupy the streets of major cities underscores an important reality: fairness is important to human beings. Where do these intuitions about fairness come from? In this session we will join a Yale doctoral candidate who has been researching this question. After surveying prior work done by evolutionary biologists, behavioral economists, and developmental psychologists, we will review some of his experiments that have investigated children’s early conceptions of fairness — supplemented by TV clips showing children in action — and you will be challenged to decide how you yourself would respond if placed in these economic experiments.

His Yale research suggests that children willingly discard a resource that could go to others or themselves in order to avoid creating unfairness — but also implies that these seemingly fair behaviors may be driven by a desire to appear fair rather than be fair to others.


Making Sense of the Crisis in American Journalism

Elizabeth Butler Breese, PhD '13

Room 208, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street
Bus leaves at 10:35 a.m. from High Street next to Old Campus (near Harkness Tower).
We regret that the venue for this session does not offer handicapped access.

The news is in crisis. In the era of 24-hour and Internet news, the economic model of the daily newspaper has collapsed. At the same time, sensation, scandal, and celebrity-driven news seem to have taken over for informative news and serious public debate. Many commentators long for a day when the guiding ideal of American journalism was objectivity.

In this session, a Yale graduate researcher will discuss her study of journalistic discourses in the 20th century, and help us examine two recent news “revolutions”: the cable revolution around 1980, and the current digital or information revolution. As we review slides showing news articles from Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the New York Times, we will ask: What does it mean to call a period a “revolution” in the news? How do commentators, scholars, and journalists describe, interpret, and judge the news as good or bad, improving or deteriorating? What does it really mean, after all, to say that the news is in crisis?