Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) established The Cheryl Allyn Miller Award for graduate students and recent PhDs working in the area of women and paid work: employment and self-employment, informal market work, illegal work. The award honors the late Cheryl Allyn Miller, a sociologist and feminist who studied women and paid work. The Subcommittee this year included Laura Bunyan (Chair), Suki Ziao, Rianka Roy, Sarah A. Robert, Lisa Dilks, and Maria Cecilia Hwang. A special thanks to the Subcommittee for its work. The Subcommittee selected Sekani Robinson to be the 2022 Cheryl Allyn Miller Award Winner.
Sekani Robinson is a PhD candidate in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She completed her Master of Arts degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Bachelor of Arts degree at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her research is centrally concerned with intersections between the racial, gendered, and cultural foundations and inequalities structuring creative spaces, work and occupations, aesthetic and emotional labor, and elites. Her dissertation, “Controlling the Image of the Black Swan: Race, Gender, Culture and the Discourse around Black women’s’ Bodies in Ballet” examines how ballet’s strict elite and “traditional” regimes foster discrimination and marginalization for Black women and Black men in ballet. Drawing on interviews and surveys with Black women and Black men dancing at the upper echelons of professional ballet in the U.S., this work investigates the gendered and racialized forms of emotional and aesthetic labor that Black dancers endure. While the study includes both Black men and women professional ballet dancers, the focus of the project is on Black women’s experiences of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination with this elite creative industry and occupation.
Throughout her time in graduate school at UCSB, Sekani also works for the non-profit organization, Brown Girls Do Ballet and regularly teaches race and ballet history for American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive program.
Sekani’s article “Black Ballerinas: The Management of Emotional and Aesthetic Labor” (Sociological Forum) focuses on the ways that Black dancers negotiate two forms of labor that have typically been theorized separately: emotional and aesthetic labor. Theoretically, her findings build on and challenge conceptualizations of emotional and aesthetic labor as analytically discrete and separable social processes. In this article, Sekani demonstrates how the relationships between emotional and aesthetic labor are on dramatic display through Black ballet dancers’ workplace experiences.
Evelyn Pruneda is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research and teaching interests include critical race and gender studies, social inequality, Latinx sociology, labor, environmental sociology, and global climate change. Her dissertation, “Navigating Multidimensional Borderlands: How Spatial Politics and Inequalities Shape the Working Conditions and Lived Experiences of Women Farmworkers in Rural California” examines how gender, race, class, and citizenship status interact with national and municipal level boundary-making to shape with working and living conditions of women in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She uses feminist qualitative research methods, including in-depth interviews to focus on three key domains of women farmworker’s lives, including paid labor conditions, unpaid reproductive labor in their homes, and community conditions, specifically looking at how municipal boundary-making impacts residents of low-income unincorporated communities who lack access to basic city services and political representation.
Evelyn’s article, “Mujeres Trabajadoras: California Women Farmworkers Navigating Multidimensional Borders and the Climate Crisis” is based on an analysis of 30 in-depth interviews with women farmworkers to examine how social and political borders impact Mexican and Mexican-American women farmworkers’ paid labor experiences in California’s San Joaquín Valley. Her research finds that women farmworkers experience increased labor precarity and challenges in their unpaid family work due to intersecting discrimination based on citizenship status, gender, and municipal boundary-making. Furthermore, women farmworkers face extreme vulnerability to the effects of the climate crisis in exacerbating paid labor challenges due to extreme droughts limiting the number of jobs, creating more competitive or hostile working conditions, and limiting access to clean air and water.
Evelyn is a 2021-22 American Sociological Association Minority Fellow and SWS honored Evelyn this past summer 2021 as the SWS-sponsored ASA Minority Fellow. Her research has been funded by the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, the University of California, and the Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies Program. She has a Master’s in Public Administration degree from California State University, Fresno, and a B.A. in Politics from Occidental College.
We hope you will join us in congratulating Sekani and Evelyn and that you will make plans to join us for the 2022 Winter SWS Awards Reception on April 1, 2022 in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.