Social Stratification & Material Inequality

My research is focused on the relationship between material inequality and the cultural production of social stratification. This work is oriented around three key social issues: homelessness and poverty, immigration, and human trafficking.

Homelessness and poverty: The gap between the rich and the poor has steadily grown at the national and international level. Nationally, the increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans between 2003 and 2005 (Massey, 2008). Globally, the richest 2 per cent of the world’s adults owned more than half of global household wealth in 2006, while the bottom half owned barely 1 per cent. The economics of survival have never been more extreme than they are today.

Examples of Research

Toft, A. “linguistic affordances of campaign context: Using discourse analysis, corpus linguistics and network analysis to measure narrative cohesion and issue preference.” Paper presented at the SUNBELT conference for the International Network for Social Network Analysis, Saint Petersberg FL, February 18-22, 2014.

Toft, A. “Multilevel analysis of computer mediated communication networks: Organizations, discourses, and network centralization in three issue campaigns.” Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference, Seattle, WA, September 11-13, 2011.

Toft, A. (2011). Contextualizing technology use: Communication practices in a local homeless movement. Information, Communication & Society, 14(5), 704-725. (personal copy)

Toft, A. “Homelessness as deviant subjectivity: Discursive resources in the dehumanization of homeless persons in the public sphere.” Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics annual conference, Chicago, IL, March 26-29, 2011.

Toft, A. “Homeless social movement communication: How movement participants use communication technologies to produce resistance.” Paper presented at the National Communication Association annual conference, San Francisco, California, November 14-17, 2010.

Toft, A. (2010). Social movement communication: Language, technology, and social organization in an urban homeless movement. Dissertation, Department of Communication, University of Washington.

Bawarshi, A., Dillon, G., Kelly, M., Rai, C., Silberstein, S., Stygall, G., Toft, A., English, T., Thomas, B. (2008). “Media analysis of homeless encampment ‘sweeps.’” Seattle, Washington, University of Washington. https://faculty.washington.edu/stygall/homelessmediacoveragegroup/

Immigration and the immigration reform movement: Immigration and immigrants are a politically and socially volatile phenomenon. As a socially constructed category, immigrants have become defined as a deviant, dangerous, and illegal population, and immigration policy has criminalized survival activities. I have worked with an interdisciplinary research group from woman’s studies, social work, and communication to analyze media representations of the immigration reform movement.

Examples of Research

Edgerly, L., Toft, A., & Veden, M. L. (2011). Social movements, political goals, and the May 1 marches: Communicating protest in polysemic media environments. International Journal of Press/Politics, 16(3), 314-334. (personal copy)

Edgerly, L., Toft, A. & Veden, ML. “Social movements, political goals and the May 1st marches: Communicating protest in polysemic media environments.” Paper presented at the International Communication Association annual conference, Chicago, Illinois, May 21-25, 2009.

Toft, A. “Immigration discourse: Mainstream journalistic construction of the 2006 ‘Day Without Immigrants.’” Paper presented at the National Communication Association annual conference, San Diego, California, Nov 21-24, 2008.

Human trafficking and anti-human trafficking networks: Global stratification and the criminalization of migration has driven the growth of human trafficking within and across borders. With more people currently in a form of modern slavery than were enslaved during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a global movement to end human trafficking has emerged over the last few years. I have been collaborating with Dr. Kirsten Foot on an ongoing project that analyzes collaboration dynamics within transnational movement networks of anti-human trafficking actors.

Examples of Research

Foot, K. & Toft, A. “Leveraging computational social science by combining hyperlink and textual analyses: The case of online anti-human trafficking networks.” Poster presented at the Journal of Information, Technology and Politics conference “The future of computational social science,” Seattle Washington, May 16-17, 2011. *Recipient of best poster award.

Foot, K., & Toft, A. “Collaborating against human trafficking.” Paper presented at the Second Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking, Lincoln, Nebraska, September 30 – October 2, 2010.

Foot, K., & Toft, A. “Hyperlink issue brokerage in anti-human trafficking networks.” Paper presented at the Information School Research Fair, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, December, 2009.

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