2011 Rural Sociology Best Paper Award Winner

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The Rural Sociological Society is pleased to award the Rural Sociology Best Paper Award to…

Leah Schmalzbauer

Professor Leah Schmalzbauer is the recipient of the Rural Sociology best paper award for 2011 (Volume 76) for her article “‘Doing Gender’: Ensuring Survival: Mexican Migration and Economic Crisis in the Rural Mountain West” (Rural Sociology 76(4), 2011, pp 439-440).  Wiley-Blackwell, Rural Sociology’s publisher funds this award.


Leah Schmalzbauer (PhD Boston College 2004) is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Montana State University.  Leah is an ethnographer whose current research focuses on gender, family and Mexican migration in the rural Mountain West. She will spend the 2012-2013 Academic Year as a visiting scholar at the Center for Social Anthropological Research (CIESAS) in Oaxaca, Mexico.  There she will complete her book, The Last Best Place?:  Gender, Family and Migration in the New West. In addition to appearing in Rural Sociology, Leah’s research has appeared in several academic journals, most notably the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Gender and Society, Global Networks and the Journal of Marriage and Family. Leah’s first book, Striving and Surviving: A Daily Life Analysis of Honduran Transnational Families was published by Routledge Press in 2005.

Article Abstract:

This article draws on ethnographic research to explore the impacts of economic crisis on Mexican migrant families in rural Montana. It looks specifically at the ways rural families negotiate gender roles and expectations as they devise strategies in response to major economic shifts.  Findings suggest that traditional gender roles are transgressed, as migrant women enter wage labor, often for the first time.  Simultaneously, gender ideologies are reinforced, as migrant women struggle to protect men’s sense of masculinity by continuing to perform a culturally prescribed gender script.  Whereas the paradoxical combination of gender transgression and tradition has been noted within urban migrant families, its dynamics are different in rural contexts.  While urban migrants tend to look outward to social networks for support, rural migrants turn inward to their immediate families, strengthening solidarities in the context of gender inequality.