My research involves three critical areas of sociology: development and social change, international migration, and gender and work. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how individuals and communities respond to a changing global economy. Though my geographic focus has varied, my research questions are always the same. How do individuals adapt to major shifts in the economy? How do these adaptations reconfigure relationships in the family and community? And what do these processes suggest about the nature of economic change? Methodologically, I have used a variety of research methods. But my passion is qualitative methods and ethnographic research in particular.
My master's thesis looked at small farmers in Kenya and Costa Rica who were attempting to grow food for the international market. My research demonstrated that small farmers were under-equipped financially, technologically, and socially to compete in the international market and were experiencing land loss and downward mobility as a result. Because land loss and rural-to-urban migration were associated with economic development in the cases that I examined, I turned my attention to workers in urban communities for my dissertation. Between 2001 and 2002, I collected work and migration histories of urban residents in Costa Rica, charting the ways that their livelihoods and lifeways changed with evolving economic circumstances.
Since my dissertation, I have pursued a number of projects that revolve around my over-arching research questions. These projects include studies of rural tourism in Iowa and Costa Rica, Latino immigrants in northern Utah, and work-family conflict in Utah. My most recent research looks at a new guest worker migration program in southern Spain that recruits Moroccan mothers to work in seasonal agriculture. Along with two colleagues from Utah State University, I am investigating how ideas of motherhood figure into new forms of labor recruitment and control in the global economy.