Academic Positions

  • Present 2012

    Graduate Fellow

    University of Texas at Austin
    Urban Ethnography Lab

  • Present 2010

    Doctoral Student

    University of Texas at Austin
    Department of Sociology

  • 2016

    Assistant Instructor

    University of Texas at Austin
    Department of Sociology

  • 2014 2010

    Teaching Assistant

    University of Texas at Austin
    Department of Sociology

Education & Training

  • Ph.D. Expected

    Sociology

    University of Texas at Austin

  • M.A.2012

    Sociology

    University of Texas at Austin

  • B.A.2009

    Plan II Honors

    University of Texas at Austin

  • B.B.A.2009

    International Business

    University of Texas at Austin

Honors and Awards

  • 2016-2017
    UT Continuing Fellowship
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    Received a competitive fellowship for advanced doctoral students in the College of Liberal Arts at UT-Austin.
  • 2015
    National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
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    Received a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation's program in sociology to support 10 months of research in Argentina. The National Science Foundation is a U.S. government agency that supports critical research in the social sciences and other fields.
  • 2014-2015
    Fulbright Student Award
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    Received one of seven awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct 9 months of research in Argentina. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
  • 2015
    Excellence Award, UT Department of Sociology
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    Nominated by faculty members as a student who demonstrated a high level of achievement and excellent progress toward the completion of their doctoral studies.
  • 2013
    Research Grant, Argentine Studies Program
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    Research grant awarded to support fieldwork in Argentina funded by UT's Lozano Long Institute in Latin American Studies
  • 2012
    Tinker Research Grant, UT Lozano Long Institute in Latin American Studies
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    Summer travel grant awarded to support pre-dissertation fieldwork in Argentina with the goal of acquiring comprehensive language skills and cultural familiarity in preparation for future investigations.
  • 2009
    Plan II Model Thesis Award
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    My capstone thesis for the Plan II Honors Program, entitled "Networks of Innovation: Hotel B.A.U.E.N. and the Development of the Solidarity Economy in Argentina," was selected as one of five exemplary theses the year it was written.

Current and Past Projects

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    Worker-Recuperated Businesses in Argentina

    My doctoral dissertation examines in/equality in worker-recuperated businesses in Argentina, considering how service work is reorganized under the alternative logics of worker ownership and self-management.

    This project examines how alternative organizations construct and maintain equality in the workplace. It focuses on the case of worker-recuperated businesses in Argentina, which are companies that have been converted from privately-owned enterprises into worker-controlled cooperatives.

    Existing research suggests that these alternative organizations innovate in order to survive in a capitalist market. Yet the outcomes of such workplace innovations have not been connected to the production or reduction of inequality. This dissertation builds on research on organizations and inequality to examine how worker-recuperated businesses create more equal workplaces and when and why they are successful in doing so.

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    Collusion, Poverty, and the State

    A collaborative project with Javier Auyero examining police-criminal collusion in Argentina.

    With Javier Auyero, we are examining relationships of collusion between the state and drug gangs in Argentina. We are currently analyzing over 1000 pages of court cases and, in particular, wiretapped phone conversations to unpack the content of this collusion. We are especially interested in how these relationships of collusion impacts the behavior of dealers, cops, and the residents caught in the crosshairs.

    The first article from this project was published in a special issue in Sociological Forum entitled “Whose Lives Matter?” We have a series of articles in progress and are also co-writing a book manuscript.

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    Political Culture and Social Change in Texas

    A collaborative, multi-sited study of how Texans think and feel about politics.

    This project—the second collaborative initiative of the Urban Ethnography Lab—examines how are politics produced and contested in communities experiencing social change in Texas.

    I am currently conducting fieldwork on union participation in the Texas Panhandle.

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    Gender and Worker-Ownership

    Considers how different forms of worker-owned businesses are able to affect gender inequality in the workplace.

    Gender scholars have developed a significant body of scholarship on the reproduction of gender inequality in work organizations. However, the vast majority of that research has been conducted in non-profit organizations or in employer-owned businesses.

    In collaboration with Dr. Christine Williams and Jessica Thomas at The University of Texas at Austin, we examined how gender inequality is reproduced or reconfigured in worker-owned businesses.

    An article reviewing the existing literature on gender in worker-owned businesses was published, Sociology Compass and I wrote a teaching and learning guide to accompany it.

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    Invisible in Austin

    A collaborative examination of the lived experiences of social suffering in Austin, Texas – a thriving, rapidly-growing, highly unequal, and segregated technopolis.

    The inaugural project of UT's Urban Ethnography Lab, this project began as the "Other Side of Austin," a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort to examine the lived experiences of social suffering in a rapidly changing urban center. Drawing on ethnographic participant observation and life history interviews over time, I was integral to developing and executing this research on labor market transformations and the growth of the "creative class" in Austin, Texas.

    After many years of reading, writing, revising, our book was published by UT Press in 2015. My chapter, "Ethan: A Product of the Service Industry," received high praise, and a selection was reprinted in magazine, The Texas Observer.

    For more information about the makings of this book, see the article published in Qualitative Sociology.

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Violence, the State, and the Poor: A View from the South

Javier Auyero and Katherine Sobering
Journal ArticleSociological Forum, 2017

Abstract

What are the basic contours of a political sociology of violence at the urban margins? Drawing upon past and current ethnographic research in a poor area of Buenos Aires, this article calls for systematic research of the points of contact (overt and covert) between agents of the state and the poor. We argue that as part and parcel of the illicit drug trade, clandestine interventions of the state intensify interpersonal violence.

Producing and Reducing Gender Inequality in a Worker-Recovered Cooperative

Katherine Sobering
Journal ArticleThe Sociological Quarterly, Issue 51, Volume 15 (2016)

Abstract

Decades of feminist scholarship documents the persistence of gender inequality in work organizations. Yet few studies explicitly examine gender inequality in collectivist organizations like worker cooperatives. This article draws on the “theory of gendered organizations” to consider how gender operates in a worker-recovered cooperative in contemporary Argentina. Based on ethnographic and archival research in Hotel B.A.U.E.N., this article finds that although gender remains a salient feature of the workplace, the cooperative has also adopted policies that take steps toward addressing gender inequality. It concludes by offering an updated theoretical framework for the future study of “gendered organizations.”

Challenging Austin Exceptionalism

Katherine Sobering
Magazine ArticleThe Texas Observer (2015)

Abstract

An excerpt from my chapter on the life and labor of Ethan, published in Inivisble in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City.

Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City

Katherine Sobering
Book Chapter University of Texas Press (2015)
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Ethan: A Product of the Service Industry

As part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary project on labor market transformation in Austin, Texas, I conducted ethnographic participant observation and life history interviews with Ethan, a former employee at the trendy W Hotel.

My chapter, "Ethan: A Product of the Service Industry," was published in Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City. The book has received high praise, and a selection of my chapter was reprinted in magazine, The Texas Observer.

For more information about the makings of this book, see the article published in Qualitative Sociology. You can find more information about the book itself here.

Teaching and Learning Guide for Gender In/Equality in Worker-Owned Businesses

Katherine Sobering
Journal ArticleSociology Compass, Volume 9, Issue 5, Pages 412-421 (2015)

Abstract

This teaching and learning guide accompanies the article, “Gender In/equality in Worker-owned Businesses,” which reviews existing literature on gender in businesses with employee stock ownership plans, worker cooperatives, and communes. Worker ownership has attracted renewed interest as a possible solution to the social and economic problems confronting our society. In worker-owned businesses, workers have greater control over what they produce, how they produce it, and how they are compensated. If workers ran things themselves, so the story goes, jobs would be better and workplaces would be more equal. What do we actually know about work in alternative organizations? Do women fare better? Can they offer alternatives or solutions to the gender inequality that permeates working life? This teaching and learning guide provides supplemental information to facilitate the use of this article in the classroom. This includes a list of recommended readings, online resources, a sample syllabus, focus questions, and project suggestions.

Gender In/Equality in Worker-Owned Businesses

Katherine Sobering, Jessica Thomas, Christine Williams
Journal ArticleSociology Compass, Volume 8, Issue 11, Pages 1242–1255 (2014)

Abstract

Gender scholars have developed a significant body of scholarship on the reproduction of gender inequality in work organizations. However, the vast majority of that research has been conducted in non-profit organizations or in employer-owned businesses. In this article, we review the existing literature on gender in worker-owned businesses. We begin by defining three distinctly different types of worker-owned businesses: companies with employee stock ownership plans, worker cooperatives, and communes. Next we review the limited research on gender inequality in each of these organizational forms. The current literature finds that women benefit from working in these alternative organizations, but gender disparities nevertheless persist due to occupational segregation and the devaluation of domestic work. Exceptions are those organizations with strong ties to feminism, and those with formal power-sharing policies. Granted the scarcity of research on this topic, however, these conclusions are tentative. We conclude with a discussion of areas for further research.

Longitudinal Ethnography and the Changing Face of Ethnographic Research

Katherine Sobering
Blog PostUT Graduate Sociology Blog (2014)

Abstract

At a well-attended talk sponsored by the Urban Ethnography Lab, Dennis Rodgers, a professor of Urban Social and Political Research at the University of Glasgow discussed his paper, “From ‘broder’ to ‘don’: Methodological reflections on longitudinal gang research in Nicaragua, 1996-2014.”

Survival Finance and the Politics of Equal Pay in a Worker-Recuperated Business

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2017 Taller UNSAM-UT: Argentina en Perspectiva Sociológica, Austin, TX

Abstract

Wage gaps constitute a major component of inequality at work. While scholars explore the causes and consequences of differences in pay, very few question the basic presumption that workers are paid differently in the first place. Drawing on an organizational ethnography of Hotel Bauen, a worker-recuperated business operating in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this chapter analyzes how workers adopt and negotiate a policy of pay equity among members.

“Rumores de pasillo": Democratizing Information in a Transparent Organization

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2017 SASE Mini-Conference: Seeking a More Just and Egalitarian Economy. Lyon, France

Abstract

This article examines how rumors impact democracy and transparency in a cooperative workplace. Whereas literature on rumors generally analyzes them as negative and even destructive to workplace culture, in this article, I argue that rumors also constitute a critical aspect of democratic participation.

Also presented at the 2017 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Montreál.

Workplace Recuperation and Organizational Survival: A Comparison of Two Worker-Recuperated Businesses

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2017 Latin American Studies Association. Lima, Peru

Abstract

This paper draws on qualitative and historical research on two worker-recuperated businesses located in greater Buenos Aires: Hotel Bauen and Forja San Martin. The first case--the Hotel Bauen--was recuperated by its workers in 2003, and continues to operate under worker control, whereas the other--Forja San Martin--is no longer a worker cooperative. We examine these two organizational trajectories by placing their particular experience in context, exploring how labor process, political opportunity, and geography intersect with disposition of workers and their organizational activism.

Constructing Organizational Equality in a Worker-Recovered Cooperative

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2016 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Seattle, WA

Abstract

This article examines how one work organization constructs and maintains equality in the workplace. The workplace is well understood as a site where social inequalities are produced and reproduced, yet we know much less about efforts to resist such forces. This article builds on a relational model of inequality to analyze how in/equality operates in an alternative work organization.

From the Threat of Eviction to the Promise of Expropriation: State Practices in a Recuperated Hotel

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2016 ILASSA Graduate Student Conference. Austin, TX

Abstract

Drawing on a long-term ethnographic study of worker-recuperated businesses in Argentina, this article traces the complex and often contradictory relationship between the state and these businesses by analyzing how the threats of eviction have transformed into promises of recognition. Considering the role of multiple state actors at both the local and national level, this article highlights the ways that formal and informal state practices constrain efforts to address workplace inequality, resist economic exclusion, and ultimately practice economic alternatives.

Are Worker-Owned Cooperatives ‘Gendered Organizations’? The Case of Hotel BAUEN in Argentina

Katherine Sobering, Christine Williams, Jessica Thomas
Conference Paper2014 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA

Abstract

The theory of gendered organizations was developed to explain how and why gender inequality is reproduced in the workplace. This influential theory was based on the study of capitalist for-profit and non-profit work organizations. In this article, we apply the theory to understand the gender dynamics in a worker-owned cooperative in Argentina. Hotel BAUEN was occupied and recovered by workers facing the threat of job loss due to an impending bankruptcy. Drawing on ethnographic research, we find that the workers organized themselves on the basis of gender but did not place different value on men’s and women’s labor. In this case, gender differences produced by occupational segregation and informal interactions apparently do not translate into gender inequality of wages or power. Hotel BAUEN is a gendered organization, but because it is based in an alternative logic, women are paid the same as men, and have equal access to power and authority. We discuss the implications of this finding for the theory of gendered organizations.

"With dignity we will fight!" Worker Self-managed Hotel BAUEN Once Again Under Threat

Katherine Sobering
Blog PostGrassroots Economic Organizing

Abstract

Located in downtown Buenos Aires, self-managed workers in Hotel BAUEN are appealing for international support as they confront the threat of eviction. Hotel BAUEN is one of over 200 worker-recuperated enterprises (empresa recuperada por sus trabajadores) operating under worker control.

Following the 11th anniversary of worker recuperation this year, an Argentine bankruptcy court renewed an eviction order against the cooperative operating Hotel BAUEN. While workers have confronted eviction orders in the past, this order marks the most serious threat to the cooperative to date.

Review of Securing the City: Neoliberalism, Space and Insecurity in Postwar Guatemala

Katherine Sobering
Journal ArticleInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 38, Issue 4, July 2014, Pages 1547-1548

Abstract

Book Review of Review of Securing the City: Neoliberalism, Space and Insecurity in Postwar Guatemala, edited by Kevin Lewis O'Neill and Kendron Thomas.

From Worker to Worker-Owner: A New Theater of Service Work

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2012 ISA Forum on Social Justice and Democratization, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Abstract

How does workplace structure shape workers’ experience of their service labor? Literature on service work is often located in a homogenous capitalist workplace where bureaucracy, division of labor and organizing principles are described but not taken as a potential factor of variation. Drawing on the case of one worker-recovered, cooperative business in Argentina, I argue that the structure of the workplace empirically changes the experience of service work.

Also presented at the 2012 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.

From Worker to Worker-Owner: Service Work as a Site of Social Change

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2012 ILASSA Graduate Student Conference, Austin, TX

Abstract

How does workplace structure shape workers’ experience of their service labor? Literature on service work is often located in a homogenous capitalist workplace where bureaucracy, division of labor and organizing principles are described but not taken as a potential factor of variation. Drawing on the case of one worker-recovered, cooperative business in Argentina, I argue that the structure of the workplace empirically changes the experience of service work.

Also presented at Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies Graduate Student Conference on January 19, 2012.

Networks of Innovation: Hotel B.A.U.E.N. and the Development of the Solidarity Economy in Argentina

Katherine Sobering
Conference Paper2011 SIT Human Development Conference, Notre Dame, IN

Abstract

Since Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001, worker-recovered businesses have gained strength and coordination through the creation of networks. Originally incited by necessity, worker-recovered businesses are practicing an alternative business model and developing innovative tools to operate within the capitalist economy. One of these innovations is network building, a tool that is bringing worker-recovered businesses out of isolation and allowing them to organize as actors in an alternative economy.

To study this phenomenon, I focus on the case of Hotel BAUEN, a center of activity for social movements and a leader in efforts to network worker-recovered businesses across South America. Through this case, I address the following questions: how do workers create and utilize solidarity networks? Can networks reposition a worker-recovered business more competitively in the capitalist market? And if so, can these networks contribute to the creation of an alternative economic system?

Currrent Teaching

  • 2017

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall 2017: Readings in Ethnography (graduate course)

Teaching History

  • 2016

    Assistant Instructor, University of Texas at Austin

    Spring 2015: Social Change and the Future

  • 2014

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall: Social Research Methods

  • 2014 2013

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall: Social Movements

    Spring: Social Research Methods

  • 2013 2012

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall: Introduction to the Study of Society

    Spring: Social Research Methods

    Summer: Social Statistics

  • 2012 2011

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall: Politics and Society in Latin America

    Spring: Introduction to the Study of Society

    Summer: Criminal Justice

  • 2011 2010

    Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

    Fall: Introduction to the Study of Society

    Spring: Introduction to the Study of Society

At My Office

My office is located in the Urban Ethnography Lab, on the 3rd floor of the College of Liberal Arts building at the University of Texas-Austin.

I am available on weekdays by appointment.