New Feminist Intersections Episode: Gina Longo: Citizenship, Family, Gender, and Digital Spaces!

Feminist Intersections: A podcast created by Sociologists for Women in Society to highlight the work of feminist scholars and activists.

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From Gina: I am very pleased to announce two pieces just published for your reading pleasure.  The first is “The Internet as a Social Institution: Rethinking Concepts for Family Scholarship,” in Family Relations’ SPECIAL ISSUE: Doing Family Online. You can find the article online first (currently as open access) HERE.

The second piece was written for the London School of Economics’ US Phelan Centre is called “Immigrant spouses who want to come to the US are forced to learn to play along with the state’s idealized version of the American family” and provides an overview about the systemic inequalities embedded in the U.S. spousal reunification process. 


Dr. Gina Marie Longo is a feminist scholar of Digital Sociology and family reunification and is an assistant professor in the Sociology department at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research agenda contributes to knowledge about digital spaces, intersectional identities, citizenship, nationalism, and inequality with implications for the sociologies of migration, gender, race, and politics. She completed her post-doctoral research position on the Access to Justice Project at the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Law School, which explores the challenges to self-representation that low-income, non-custodial parents experience throughout child support court. Her current project employs mixed methods to investigate how U.S. citizens negotiate immigration officials’ demands that they prove their marriages are authentic. Recently, she received an in-residence fellowship to the University of Amsterdam from the journal, Migration Politics to finish her forthcoming article, “Moral Lines of Credit: Forging Race Projects, Citizenship, and Nation on Online U.S. Spousal Reunification Forums.”S Her Gender & Society article, “Keeping it in the Family: How Gender Norms Shape U.S. Marriage Migration Politics,” has received awards for outstanding scholarship from ASA’s International Migration Section, the Eastern Sociological Association, and the University of Wisconsin’s interdisciplinary Research Center on Gender and Women and has been featured in Sage Publication’s Gender & Society Podcast, Mel Magazine, ABCNews Online, and the London School of Economics’ US Centre blog.


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Feminist Intersections Post Interview Blog Q&A

1. Tell us a little about you! Let us know about your pronouns, title and school, areas of interest, and anything else that defines you as a sociologist.

My name is Gina Marie Longo (she/her/hers). I am an assistant professor in the Sociology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, which is in the heart of Richmond, VA. I am a digital sociologist who investigates how digital spaces shape gender, family, and policy with particular attention to the (re)production of power inequalities in both the virtual and physical world. I am also a proud co-founder of the Digital Sociology Lab ( Being a first gen woman with learning disabilities, my goal is to smooth the road for students and communities who have been on the margins using a social change trifecta: service, applied research for addressing social inequality, and thought-provoking dialogue through instruction. I strive to continually produce work and participate in activities that challenge and resist oppression on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, neuro-diversity, physical composition, and sexual orientation.

2. Define, in brief, your research (this is for the benefit of those who may not have listened to the podcast so that they have context for the following questions – this answer could bring them to listen to the podcast or to search for your work).

My current work investigates how U.S. citizens interpret U.S. immigration marriage fraud policies and negotiate officials’ demands for proof of “authentic” marriages to obtain their foreign spouses’ green cards. The research focuses on one of the largest English language U.S. immigration self-help forums on the Internet, consisting of over 100,000 members who have posted more than 2.2 million conversation threads. Specifically I ask how petitioners discursively define marriage fraud to make claims of relationship genuineness using gendered, racialized, and classed standards of legitimacy applied to family and sexuality. I find that as citizens try to conform to these normative expectations of ‘family,’ they engage in nation- and state-building, create subjectivities of who is a ‘real’ citizen, and participate in doing the state’s dirty work of race- and gender- policing. I argue the digital spaces serve as ethno-sexual frontiers where citizens engage in borderwork and that the Internet needs to conceptualized as a social institution to better understand its implications on family, immigration, and nation.

3. What methodology and/or methods did you use and why? What excites you about this method?

I am a qualitative scholar who uses digital research methods. I learned Python programming language for web scraping and to conduct content analysis. I use digital ethnographic observation. More recently, I have been learning sentiment and hashtag analysis. I find digital methods to be an exciting adventure. Each time I encounter a new project that requires new digital skills, I can learn just what I need to conduct it. This allows me to slowly build my programming skills and challenge myself. It is highly rewarding, and anyone can learn it!

4. What was the hardest part of conducting this research? What were your biggest obstacles?

I would say that the biggest challenge to conducting my research has been the structural inequalities that face caregivers, especially womxn caregivers, during the time of COVID. Universities have been offering extensions on the tenure-track, but it does not adequately address the severe stress and burden of trying to balance a robust career and managing a household and young children during lockdown and post-lockdown. I am very grateful for a wonderful partner who helped, but it did not mitigate the challenges completely. Of course, I recognize that I occupy a position of privilege, and that many did not have help, resources, employment, or the option to stay at home. When I think about the spectrum of hardships that we continue to face, I am more committed than ever to service work that addresses issues around childcare, elder care, housing and food insecurity, unemployment/underemployment, and reproductive justice.

5. What is the most common misperception you hear regarding your work (either your research, the field of sociology, your methods, etc.)?

  • “How do you know what happens on the Internet directly impacts ‘real life’?”
  • “You need a representative sample, which you cannot get using digital data.”
  • “Qualitative methods do not seem appropriate for such large amounts of digital data.”

As anyone on the forefront of new avenues of research, it is up to the trailblazers to justify the importance of their work and their sub-disciplinary existence, and this is a serious challenge for digital sociologists, myself included. Social science has come to digital scholarship as a serious pursuit later than other disciplinary traditions such as the Humanities, business, marketing, and journalism. However, within the last twenty years, a new generation of up-and-coming social science scholars has been pursuing their research agenda using digital spaces and data to investigate our social world. Like other previously burgeoning sub-disciplines within social sciences, digital research is still subject to more mainstream disciplinary criticism, especially

when it comes to publishing and disseminating peer-reviewed work. While the quotes above are actual reviews I have received about my own work, conversations with other digital social science scholars reveal that such commentary is hardly unique. While there is institutional support in interdisciplinary fields and in some of the subspecialties of sociology, it seems harder to break into the mainstream publication circuit as a qualitative digital scholar.

6. Research is never an individual enterprise. Who are the people you most want to thank (committee members, family, friends, colleagues, community members/organizations, etc.) who were your greatest supporters as you worked on this project?

Like raising a child, a research agenda takes a village. I could not do it without the support and (often) invisible labor of many many people. My husband, Faisal, is a wonderful love and support for me, and my beautiful children, Evanora and Ameer, keep me laughing. My mother who has recently moved in with us has been like a miracle as she cooks, cleans, and helps with childcare. My best friend in the world, Carrie Hough, keeps me sane and is not afraid to check me when necessary. My dearest writing community, the Feminist Pentagon, who include Drs. Katie Zaman, Maria Azocar, Di Wang, and Madi Pape have been my greatest source of feminist inspiration. My old grad school crew, Jason Turowetz, Rahul Mahajan, and David Schelley have been a source of laughter and consistency for years. Also, I have had the honor of working with amazing mentors who have become friends over time like Mehmet Gurses, Saskia Bonjour, Christiane Froehlich, Anne-Marie D’Aoust, Jessie Daniels, Tressie McMilliam Cottom, and the late Mark Frezzo to name a few.

Here in Richmond, I have built a new community of colleagues and friends who inspire and encourage me, including Tara Stamm, Gaby Leon-Perez, Ying Chao Kao, Josh Smith, Frankie Mastrangelo, Volkan Aytar, Jesse Goldstein, Sarasusan Corso, and Susan Bodnar-Deren, and of course all of my people at the Digital Sociology Lab.

Last, but not least, I have so much organization support out there. Sociologists for Women in Society, the National Women’s Studies Association, the ASA Gender Section, and the ASA International Migration Section have propped me up from my earliest days of graduate school.

I am grateful to each and every one of them.

7. Do you have any pets, plants, places, or hobbies that also sustained you while you completed this work? Feel free to share a photo as well!

My beautiful kitties, Buster, Sassy, and Mrs Norris have been sure to lay on my computer and papers when they thought I was at it for too long. My favorite hobbies include reading and traveling (when traveling was a thing–but I think it is making a comeback as Covid becomes endemic) and my functional fitness H.I.I.T. classes

sustain me. Increasingly I have become interested more in my spirituality and have been exploring that in my recovery community. I also have a fine array of silk plants that are sure to survive me, as I am a horrible gardner. When I am looking for some binge watching, I can’t stop watching Killing Eve, the Spanish Princess, and the Handmaid’s Tale.

8. What does it meant to be a “feminist sociologist” to you?

Being a feminist sociologist is speaking truth to power even when it is uncomfortable or frightening and it is providing a leg up to others so they can stand beside me. Being a feminist sociologist is about staying in my lane and taking a seat when it is necessary. It also means listening, especially when I make a mistake, then working to address my blindspots. It sometimes means being the single voice of dissent or assent and being a role model or support system to those who need it most. Most importantly, being a feminist sociologist is about fighting against intersectional inequalities in my personal and professional life.

9. Do you have any advice for young feminist sociologists looking to start their careers in sociology in general or in your sub-field more specifically?

Get involved in supportive organizations early and find a variety of mentors to make up your community. Do not listen to the naysayers. Grad school is often about perseverance just as much as it is learning the tools of the trade. Lastly, if you see your research interests changing, go with it. Do not hold onto an interest that no longer excites you. Move forward and grow with it.

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