Research Interests

Sexualities, Gender, Culture, Family, Urban Sociology, Social Psychology, Ethnography, Qualitative Methods

Research

Before coming to UBC, I received my B.A. (magna cum laude) in Psychology from Colgate University, M.A. in Clinical Counseling Psychology from Adler University, and M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago. In my M.A. thesis at the University of Chicago, I conducted a comparative study of the identity management strategies of LGBTQ people and first-generation college students. I approached the question of how individuals who carry an identity that is socially marked but physically unmarked in an elite university setting manage their identities. LGBTQ individuals experience being sexual minorities in a predominantly heterosexual university population, while first-generation college students experience being socio-economic minorities in a setting where many students and faculty have college educated parents. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interview data, my findings show similarities and differences between these groups. One of my key findings pertains to the role that identity-based communities can play in mitigating or exacerbating individual anxieties related to being a cultural minority. More specifically, I found that while LGBTQ students often felt an affiliation with on- and off-campus LGBTQ communities, the typical first-generation college student lacked such a real or imagined community to alleviate the sense of isolation they experience in the university.

My current research focuses on how legal changes affect family forms. While substantial research has been done on the effects of same-sex marriage on the LGBT movement and political activism and on personal experiences of same-sex marriage for LGBT couples, much less has been done exploring the effects of legal change on family forms and non-normative practices among LGBTQ- and straight-identified individuals. Proponents and queer opponents of same-sex marriage have consistently argued that marriage has the potential to normalize same-sex couples that choose to marry and normalize queer practices, thereby reaffirming heteronormativity. These arguments have remained heavily theoretical. Conventionally, scholars hold that queerness is held and innovative family forms and kinship models are created by LGBTQ identified individuals. But, people are embedded in social networks and change happens in and through these networks. I aim to explore how legal recognition and the changing social landscape may also have the potential to affect the mainstream, such that events like same-sex marriage legalization might not solely signal the assimilation of LGBTQ people but also the queering of mainstream culture.

My work contributes to sociological theory in several ways. First, through analysis of media discourses, I trace how legal changes affect public discourse concerning family forms—sanctioning some forms while devaluing, erasing, or vilifying others. This enriches our understanding of how laws affect public discourse, especially concerning issues of minority rights. Second, my research advances theory concerning the sociology of change. By interviewing both minority group (LGBT) and majority group (straight) families, I examine processes of change within networks. I am particularly interested in how legal changes affect family forms and practices within the groups they target (LGBT individuals) as well as those the law does not directly address (straight individuals). How does queerness affect mainstream norms and values and how do non-normative practices move through a social network? Lastly, my work tackles the question of who can hold and enact queerness, and by extension, who can effect social change.

Arguing that marriage is normative, queer activists frame LGBT people as those who challenge dominant norms, resist rigid categories of sex and sexual orientation, deconstruct gender, and creatively model new forms of family and envision new practices. My work seeks to expand queerness based in queer identity to queerness based in form, practice, and networks. Currently, we are witnessing the redefinition and expansion of an institution—marriage. Through its redefinition and the expansion of rights, new lives become possible for the population as a whole. New possibilities become livable in a way they were not before and this can expand beyond the boundaries of LGBT identity.

Supervisor: Amin Ghaziani

Publications

Brodyn, A. & Ghaziani, A. (Forthcoming). Performative Progressiveness: Accounting for New Forms of Inequality in the Gayborhood. Manuscript accepted to City & Community.

Abstract

Attitudes toward homosexuality have liberalized dramatically, yet these positive public opinions contradict the persistence of prejudice at an interpersonal level. We use interviews with heterosexual residents of Chicago gayborhoods—urban districts that offer opportunities for sustained intergroup contact and thus precisely the setting in which we would least expect bias to appear—to analyze this new form of inequality. Our results show four strategies that liberal-minded straights use to manage the dilemmas they experience when they encounter gay and lesbian neighbors: spatial entitlements, rhetorical moves, political absolution, and affect. Each expression documents the empirical variability of performative progressiveness, a concept which describes the co-occurrence of progressive attitudes alongside homonegative actions. These findings have implications for how conflicting visions of diversity affect the production of place, especially how residents with power and privilege redefine cultural enclaves in the city. They also reveal the mechanisms that account for how strides toward equality are derailed in a climate of societal acceptance.

 

Brodyn, A. (Under Review). Family Feuds: How Legal Changes Affect Media Discourses Concerning the Family.

Abstract

How do legal changes affect discourses concerning family forms? The concept of the family is conventionally assumed to be stable and unchanging; yet, the idea of family is continuously defined and redefined by the law. I analyze the nature of public debates before and after federal legislative changes, specifically the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) and Windsor v. United States (2013). I investigate 156 articles about same-sex marriage legislation published in The New York Times. Results show that legislative events and court decisions influence the framing of family and family forms. Legal changes affect family composition, the role of children, and morality. DOMA uniquely influenced the discourse surrounding family composition by strictly defining the family unit, centering it on a heteronormative framework of one man and one woman. Windsor uniquely affected the discourse concerning the role of children by shifting the focus away from LGBT parents as unfit or dangerous to children and toward a structural and societal assessment of discrimination. Both DOMA and Windsor affected public discourse about morality. These findings support the idea that legal changes affect conceptions of the family and reveal how these conceptions can change in the broader public imagination.

 

Brodyn, A. (2015). In Briefs: Orange is Mostly the Same Gender. Contexts, 14(1).

Reprinted in Gender, Sexuality, and Intimacy: A Contexts Reader (January 2017). Sage Publications.

Abstract

Orange is the New Black brought welcome representation to the struggle over trans rights with the inclusion of the character, Sophia. But does the character reinforce or challenge binary notions of gender? In this piece, I apply sociological research that explores how contexts influence the criteria used to determine gender to question whether Sophia’s portrayal challenges the prevailing sex/gender/sexuality system. I conclude that while there is an opportunity for the category of ‘woman’ to be expanded by trans representation, Sophia is quickly reabsorbed into an unquestioned gender binary.

 

Todman, L. C., Brodyn, A., Berger, J., Willard, S., & Taylor, S. (2013). Evaluation of the Social Exclusion Simulation: A Training Tool for Professional Psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 44(5), 324-330.

Abstract

Over the last 5 years, the Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE) at the Adler School of Professional Psychology has developed and implemented an experiential, role-play exercise to illustrate the concept and ramifications of social exclusion. Using formerly incarcerated women as the exemplar population, this Social Exclusion Simulation (SES) shows how certain people may be denied access to the rights, resources, and opportunities required for social integration. This article evaluates the SES as a training tool for graduate students in professional psychology. Following a within-subjects repeated measures design, this study assessed participants’ understanding of social exclusion using pre- and post-SES self-report measures. It evaluated 6 questions measuring meaningfulness of material presented, clarity of presentation, growth in social issues conceptualization, production of new insights, ability to maintain participants’ interest levels, and the overall effectiveness of the simulation. Results indicated that the SES is an effective training tool for graduate students in professional psychology, facilitating the acquisition of knowledge about social exclusion (p < .001). Additionally, the SES appeared to promote affective learning, empathy for others, and the under-standing of complex marginalizing processes. The importance of using simulations in professional training for graduate students and practitioners alike to convey mechanisms and nuanced under-standings about social exclusion is discussed.

 

Brodyn, A. (2013). Selections from “a block of wood that used to be, a strong tall family tree.” you are here: The Journal of Creative Geography, 16, 23.

 

Brodyn, A. (2012). Hypermasculinity, Aggression and Violence within the American Correctional System. Praxis, 2(1), 5 – 33.

Conference Presentations

2017: American Sociological Association, Montreal, QC (August 2017)

Invited Thematic Session: LGBTQ Culture, Inequalities, and Social Inclusion Progressiveness in Gay Neighbourhoods – with Amin Ghaziani

 

2017: American Sociological Association, Montreal, QC (August 2017)

Section on the Sociology of the Family

Family Feuds: How Legal Changes Affect Media Discourses Concerning the Family

 

2017: Canadian Sociological Association, Toronto, ON (May 2017)

Section on Culture and Inequality

Family Feuds: How Legal Changes Affect Media Discourses Concerning the Family

 

2015: American Sociological Association, Chicago, IL (August 2015)

Panel Presider. Section on Sociology of Sexualities Invited Session: Methodological Innovations and Critiques in the Sociology of Sexualities.

 

2014: Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Research Careers Conference, Baltimore, MD (May 2014)

Dreams of Balance: Graduate Student Perceptions of Work-Life Balance and Academic Career Trajectories.

 

2014: Popular Culture & American Culture Association Conference, Chicago, IL (April 2014)

Public Privates: Space, Place-Making and Subject Formation at the 35th Annual International Mr. Leather Competition

 

2013: Engendering Change Conference, Chicago, IL (May 2013)

Tribes of Masculinity: A Thematic Analysis of Traditional and Alternative Masculinities

 

2013: Chicago Ethnography Conference, Chicago, IL (March 2013)

Section on Methods and Doing Ethnography: Meet the Bully Bloggers: Queer Methods and (Academic) Blogging as Participatory Media

 

 

Teaching Assistantships

Undergraduate Courses:

SOCI 217 – Research Methods

SOCI 240 – Introduction to Social Interaction

SOCI 369 – Sociology of Sexualities

FMST 314 – Relationship Development

Graduate Courses:

PSY 641 – Social Psychology and Individual Diversity

Education

2013    M.A., Social Science, University of Chicago – Advisor: Kristen Schilt

2012    M.A., Clinical Counseling Psychology, Adler University – Advisor: David Castro-Blanco

2008    B.A., Psychology, magna cum laude, Colgate University – Advisor: Rebecca Shiner

Fellowships and Awards

Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (2014-2018), University of British Columbia

International Tuition Award (2014-2017), University of British Columbia

Sociology Graduate Scholarship (2016), University of British Columbia

Faculty of Arts Graduate Award (2014), University of British Columbia

Full-Tuition Scholarship to the MAPSS Program (2012-2013), University of Chicago

Leadership

2014 – Present: Founder and Coordinator of the Sociology Working Group.

The SWG provides a forum for graduate students and faculty scholars to workshop and discuss unpublished work. Additionally, the SWG aims to build and sustain a lively intellectual environment among graduate students in the department.

Groups: