Research

I have long been fascinated by meaning-making and the informal workings of labor, gender, and the institutions that give these phenomena salience. From my first research experiences regarding immigrant workers’ family lives to studying women in STEM to my current research on tourism service work in a precarious ecosystem, this fascination has given me opportunities to explore a variety of social worlds.  I continue this theme in two ongoing projects:

In my dissertation, I investigate the relationship between men’s work and the shifting organizational environment in a coastal community.  Within the sociology of work, I combine two important debates—(a) emotional labor’s intersections with gender, race, and class in service work contexts, and (b) economic restructuring toward non-standard labor relations (e.g. The New Economy, “gig economy”).  I draw on fieldwork and over 70 interviews with workers in the Florida Keys’ fishing tourism economy to contribute to these scholarly discussions.  Fishing guides–the largely self-employed, licensed captains who take tourists fishing for a few hours or a few days at a time–face the service work imperative of generating a positive experience for their customers, but are also able to rely on the masculinization of fishing and maritime work–as well as their position as independent, short-term contractors–to resist some of the negative aspects of emotional labor that we associate with interactive service work.

Beyond the worker-client interactions where these men perform a distinct and durable emotional labor, I articulate how both micro- and macro-level phenomena affect the operation and distribution of power between guides,  clients, and their competitors. To contextualize these tourism workers’ labor, I describe the ways in which the Florida Keys region has been undergoing tourism gentrification processes for decades—what I call ‘resortification.’ This ongoing restructuring of the organizational terrain brings with it changes to housing costs, job opportunities, financial outcomes, business models, booking and advertisement, the marine ecosystem, and the meaning of being a Florida Keys fishing guide.

This research is increasingly relevant as employment continues to transform toward short-term ‘gigs,” tourism grows to be one of the largest global employers, and climate change or other ecological crises wring uncertainty into many work communities. This project was awarded a Rue Bucher Memorial Award in Qualitative Research from UIC.

 

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In addition to my own research on fishing guides, I am currently collaborating with Dr. Paul-Brian McInerney on an NSF-funded exploration of craft brewers’ organizational dynamics across several U.S. markets. We use a mix of quantitative/network, and qualitative methods to understand how craft brewers interact with competitors, including engaging in an array of non-competitive, collaborative activities such as equipment sharing, apprenticeship, and bringing co-branded products to market. Such phenomena defy basic economic theories of how organizations in high density should behave and help explain how this industry dubbed “recession-proof” has proliferated in the past decade. This research fits within my broad interest in gendered labor and masculinized fields characterized by informal regulation and an emphasis on authenticity. It also helps me strengthen my methodological versatility, which I utilize in both my research and teaching.

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Publications:

Adkins, Timothy, Paula England, Barbara J. Risman and Jessie Ford. 2015. “Student Bodies: Does the Sex Ratio Matter for Hooking Up and Having Sex at College?” Social Currents 2(2).

Risman, Barbara J. and Timothy Adkins. 2014. “The Goal of Gender Transformation in American Universities: Toward Social Justice for Women in the Academy,” in Jon Shefner, Harry F. Dahms, Robert Emmet Jones, and Asafa Jalata (Eds.), Social Justice and the University: Globalization, Human Rights, and the Future of Democracy. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Dreby, Joanna, and Timothy Adkins. 2012. “The Strength of Family Ties: How U.S. Migration Shapes Children’s Ideas of Family.”  Childhood 19(2): 169–187

Dreby, Joanna, and Timothy Adkins. 2010. “Inequality in Transnational Families.” Sociology Compass 4(8): 673-689.