April 28, 2015

Doctoral student earns invitation to conference

by Andrea Hahn

Amanda BudayCARBONDALE, Ill. – The Young Scholars in Social Movements Conference is more than just a conference. It’s a “Who’s Who” of the men and women who will be analyzing the forces behind social change in the near future. 

Southern Illinois University Carbondale doctoral student Amanda Buday, from Elkhart, Ind., is one of 16 advanced graduate students and junior faculty members invited to the conference, held at Notre Dame University’s Center for the Study of Social Movements on May 1. Buday joins emerging scholars from highly-ranked universities across the country to present her research to her contemporaries and also to well-established and peer-acclaimed senior scholars in the social movement field. 

Darren Sherkat, professor of sociology at SIU and chair of Buday’s dissertation committee, said the Notre Dame Center for the Study of Social Movements is “the premier center for the study of contentious politics” and that participation in the conference is an honor and accomplishment. 

“I cannot overstate how important this conference is or how proud I am that Buday was selected,” he said. “The conference will be an important springboard for Buday’s research, and she will meet and come to know some of the most important people in the field. Her inclusion in this elite field signals that Buday is likely to land a tenure-tracked job at a research-oriented university.” 

Buday will present research entitled, “Beating Back the Frack Attack: Cooperation and Conflict in Opposition to Shale Development.” She became interested in what she describes as the “emerging power struggle” in Southern Illinois as oil and gas companies expressed interest in accessing shale oil reserves in the area by means of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology, commonly known as “fracking.” 

“Residents of Southern Illinois received the news that increased mineral leasing activity and exploratory drilling were occurring with a variety of responses ranging from enthusiastic support to threats of armed resistance,” she said. “While objective assessments of the potential economic benefits or environmental and public health risks associated with high-volume drilling technologies have been hotly debated by scientists, politicians, industry representatives and groups of concerned citizens for at least the past five years, my interest lies with the subjective assessments of Illinois residents, whose perceptions of unconventional shale development as a grave threat to their well-being have been great enough to motivate them to undertake an exhaustingly uphill fight against the powerful oil and gas lobby in Illinois.” 

Buday is interested in the challenges facing activists in Southern Illinois. Her goal, she said, is to continue to study “the activities of grassroots activists as they struggle to organize a rurally dispersed population, develop networking relationships with more powerful and resource-rich state-level political players, dispute tactical choices and leadership decisions, and resolve sometimes bitter interpersonal conflicts.” This fits into her greater goal of better understanding social movements overall by this close-up look at the fields of action in which social movement actors operate. 

Buday’s interest in social movements grew from her study, as an undergraduate at Indiana University, of sociology and women’s studies, and her growing interest in social justice and social power. 

“I began to see social movements as a vehicle for social change, which I found an exciting and hopeful perspective from which to investigate social power,” she said, adding that studying how social conflict spurs social change will help fulfill her first objective upon entering graduate school at SIU – “to participate in the restitution of social injustices through producing new knowledge about struggles over power.” 

She looks forward to receiving feedback about her research at the Young Scholars conference, and to meeting others who are emerging leaders in the field. She’ll be among the tops in her field, which she said is an honor and a phenomenal opportunity. She’s particularly looking forward to meeting a scholar focused on fracking opposition in New York, hoping to compare notes and possibly collaborate on future projects. 

Others in attendance at the conference come from all over the country and beyond, with young scholars from Cornell University, Oxford University, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin and others. The 16 participants will also attend the McCarthy Award lecture by Sid Tarrow, recipient of this year’s John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements. 

While this conference is, by its exclusive nature, an important achievement all on its own, conferences generally benefit students and professional academics, Buday said. She noted that building a scholarly network of one’s own, with others in the same field with similar interests, helps provide important feedback and opportunities for intellectual growth as well as helping promising scholars advance within and enhance the field. 

She chose SIU partly because the rural area suits her needs for her other passion – three-day eventing horse shows – but also because she met recruiters from SIU at the American Sociological Association Honors Program annual meeting in 2009. A campus visit sealed the deal. 

“When I came for a campus visit, the administrative assistant at the time even had a list of horse boarding facilities in the area for me to check out while I was visiting,” Buday said. “Southern Illinois is a breathtakingly beautiful area, and I was hooked!”