Deborah Little (1987)

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

I entered Berkeley in 1987 as a legal services attorney who had hoped to make the world fairer for poor women. After 5 years of practice I was cynical about the prospects for changing anything, much less the lives of my clients. I chose Berkeley because I was a pragmatic progressive feminist in search of explanations for inequality and injustice.

Once there, I traveled the intellectual terrains of welfare state theory, Marxism, feminism, race theory, and post-modernism with Burawoy, Hochschild, Luker, Blauner, and others. A fantastic group of women graduate students with whom I read in gender, race, and theory challenged me even more than the faculty! In 1991, I moved to New York, got married, had 2 children, practiced disability law to pay the bills, and did ethnographic research on welfare reform. My dissertation examined welfare state reconstruction in the U.S. as the state stopped supporting mothers' care work and began demanding wage work. I remain interested in the ways oppressed groups forge alternative visions of work, independence, and entitlement in the face of a contracting welfare state, and thanks to a post-doc fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, am currently doing ethnographic research on independence and inclusion for people with disabilities. I anticipate a career of teaching, research, and social justice work, and while I don't yet know how my sociology will shape the world, I do know that Berkeley training demands a sociology that is local and global, critical and political, engaged and meaningful.

Dissertation Title: 
Denying Motherwork: Welfare-reliant Women and Welfare State Reconstruction
Dissertation Book Title: 
No