As a sociology major, Becky Conrey '05 (Burnt Hills, NY) knows what it is like to study human behavior and social norms. However, even after her extensive coursework in the field, Conrey still had some lingering questions about social norms, deviant behavior, and its effect on identity construction. In order to answer these questions, Conrey will collaborate with Hamilton College Professor Jenny Irons on an Emerson Summer Research Project titled "Identity Construction within Relationships Socially Marked as Deviant."
As an Emerson scholar, Conrey will be working with Professor Irons on a project that will study same-sex couples and interracial couples and discover how self-identity and social identity are constructed. Both same-sex couples and interracial couples, according to Conrey, face negative consequences by society for either moving outside of the normal bounds (as seen with race in interracial relationships) or by failing to move out of social boundaries (when looking at sex and same-sex couples). By looking at what is "normal" and "acceptable," Conrey will examine how people in relationships defined as socially deviant construct their identity compared to people who are in sociallly accepted relationships.
Conrey and Irons will first examine the legal legitimacy of couples from 1950-2000, citing major court rulings either empowering or disempowering same-sex or interracial couples. Then, they will look at ideological shifts in American culture; finally, Conrey will study the media attention and coverage of such issues over time. Conrey also plans to do extensive interviews with same-sex, interracial, hetrosexual, and same-race couples throughout the course of her reasearch; Conrey and Irons also plan to present their work at a national conference in 2005.
Created in 1997, the Emerson Foundation Grant program was designed to provide students with significant opportunities to work collaboratively with faculty members, researching an area of interest. The recipients, covering a range of topics, will explore fieldwork, laboratory and library research, and the development of teaching materials. The projects will be initiated this summer, and the students will make public presentations of their research throughout the 2004-2005 academic year.