UCSC researchers win big at American Sociological Association annual meeting

Portrait of Craig Reinarman
Professor Emeritus Craig Reinarman
Portrait of Michelle Gomez Parra
Doctoral student Michelle Gomez Parra
A banner showing book covers of ASA award winners
Two Politics Department faculty members were celebrated for their books, Shari‘a, Inshallah and Resisting Redevelopment. Photo: Cambridge University Press.

University of California, Santa Cruz continues to innovate across intellectual boundaries—this time in the field of sociology. 

During the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in August, Craig Reinarman, professor emeritus of sociology, was honored with the 2022 Senior Scholar Award by the ASA’s Drugs and Society Section.

Reinarman, who spent 27 years at UC Santa Cruz before retiring in 2016, is known for his research challenging U.S. drug policies, drug and alcohol use, and the relationship between addiction and incarceration rates. 

Over the course of his career, Reinarman conducted extensive research and advocated for the decriminalization of cannabis, which is now legal in 37 states for medical use and 19 states for recreational use. His research found that cannabis was usually not a gateway to “harder” drugs, crime, and drug dependency.

“We wanted to shift the discourse from criminal law to public health as a more effective way to handle drug abuse,” Reinarman said. “The United States was slower than most in embracing this change, but they are coming around.”

Reinarman also co-authored a book on crack cocaine and public policy, was co-editor of a book, Expanding Addiction–Critical Essays, has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, and has written opinion pieces for newspapers such as The Washington Post.

Michelle Gomez Parra, a Ph.D. student in sociology, received the Sociology of Sexualities' Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Fellowship at the ASA meeting. Parra’s dissertation incorporates her lived experience as a college-going Latina daughter of a single Latina immigrant mother and how that has influenced her views of gender and sexuality. 

“My research examines how two mobility paths, higher education and migration, shape Latinas’ own gender and sexual identity and generational negotiations of these social forces among migrant mothers and their daughters,” Parra said. “For example, immigrant women often grow up with a negative view of sex due to their experiences of sexual or domestic violence and a lack of sexual health resources. 

“On the other hand, their college-going daughters learn sex positivity while in college, which facilitates their exploration of sexual identities. This new information often leads the daughters to begin advocating more for their mothers and their sexual health.”

The fellowship, named after sociologist and educator Martin Levine, who specialized in research on homosexuality and AIDS, provides $3,000 to a graduate student in the final stages of their dissertation research and writing. Parra plans to use the funding to interview mothers and daughters in Los Angeles, where she grew up. 

Parra is also a recent recipient of the UC President’s Pre-Professoriate Fellowship and the UC HSI DDi Pre-Professoriate Fellowship. She hopes to one day become a professor at a public institution for first-generation girls of color and work with a community-based organization that provides access to sexual education resources for the immigrant community.

Two Politics Department faculty members were also recognized at the ASA annual meeting. Professor Mark Massoud's book, Shari‘a, Inshallah: Finding God in Somali Legal Politics, received the 2022 Distinguished Book Award from the ASA Sociology of Religion Section. And Professor Eleonora Pasotti's book, Resisting Redevelopment: Protest in Aspiring Global Cities, received the Charles Tilly Book Award from the ASA Comparative and Historical Sociology Section in 2021, but the award was celebrated this year due to prior pandemic disruptions.