[ b a c k g r o u n d ]


I've been a graduate student in the Sociology Department at the University of Arizona since 2000 and now, after 34 years of near-continuous school enrollment, I am graduating. See my ongoing trail of papers here. My C.V. is here.


My main interest is to knock the rich and powerful from their leather-lined perches and give the historically exploited and degraded a seat at the sustainably harvested, round table of autonomy, personal expression, and self-governance. Everything else is secondary.

My secondary interests include studying social movements, organizations, and social networks with an eye toward achieving my main interest. How do institutions change and what is the role of popular movements in changing them? Sociologists have surprisingly little to say about this question. I take that back - we will say a great deal when pressed (opinionated buggers that we are), but our theories are more inclined to explain why institutions don't change.

At Arizona I have worked most closely with Joe Galaskiewicz, Sarah Soule (now at Stanford), and Ron Breiger. Theoretically, I stand on the shoulders of department alumnus Lis Clemens, Cornell superstar Sid Tarrow, Columbia wunderkind Charles Tilly, and Neoinstitutional darling Paul DiMaggio. I have other, non-academic interests - music, politics, hiking, and food - all of which deserve more space here but require too much computer time. In the interest of brevity, my life in a page will have to do.


My mom's grandparents were European-born (Prussia/Poland/Romania somewhere) Jewish immigrants to the U.S. sometime around 1900. Settling in Michigan, they took advantage of the American dream by opening a small shoe store. Their children - the Bermans as I know them - were raised in an apartment upstairs from the store and attended Hebrew school. Grandad didn't much like the school and by the time he got a college degree (mechanical engineering) and landed a job in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he'd given up his religious practice. My grandma was much more interested in maintaining her Jewish heritage, but that apparently didn't fly with Grandad, so she too stopped practicing. During the Second World War, my mother was one of two children from these God-forsaken Pittsburghers, and made her way from the smokey hills of Steel Town to the bucolic green of Ithaca, New York and Cornell University. Taking up a booming field for women at the time (1959), home economics, she was destined for success. She moved back to Pittsburgh where she met Dad Larson.

The Larsons hail from Sweden. My great-grandfather found Illinois to his liking and was swept into that state's economic powerhouse, the railroad. His son followed in his shoes, working his way up to a mid-level manager position while raising a two-child family of his own. Great-grandma and Grandma Larson figure less prominantly in this family's oral history, but were undoubtedly hard at work raising children and tending their homes. I do know that my grandmother was raised Catholic, but never practiced later in life. As the Great Depression gripped the country, Grandad's railroad job held firm and along came two kids. My dad was in college at nearby Bradley University studying mechanical engineering as the U.S. began to take an interest in Korean politics. He entered the Air Force as a low-ranking officer and spent the war years doing experiments in a windtunnel in the Midwest. Dad took a job with a company developing nuclear energy technology that took him hither and yon, including New York and eventually Pittsburgh, but not before the Sixties brought him his first marriage, child, divorce, and a master's degree in nuclear engineering.

As war raged in Vietnam and protests enraged at home, my parents were skiing in Lake Placid, NY where they met - god bless 'em. Within two years, the deal was sealed and along I came; my sister followed close behind; Mom stayed home. The world of nuclear energy took my family to, of all places, Ogden, Utah. So, my formative years were here, in the land of Osmonds, Mormons, and the "greatest snow on Earth." Being an "outsider" in a state that is 85% Mormon isn't so bad if you're a white, educated, clean-cut suburbanite, as I was. Most of my friends, teachers, scout leaders, and fellow swim team members were Mormon, and they accepted me as a regular ol' kid on the block. My parents went their seperate ways when I was about eight and my sister and I stayed with Ma. A frequently contentious home sustained me through the years as I watched my sister rebel with drugs and alcohol and my father move back to Pittsburgh. For my part, I graduated and left home for the big city, Salt Lake City.

In Salt Lake, I began two years at the University of Utah majoring in nothing, but interested in illustration and graphic design. In 1993, I moved to an even bigger city, Seattle, WA, and was admitted to North Seattle Community College where I completed an Associate's degree, fell in love for the first time, and left my design ambitions by the wayside for environmental studies. I completed my undergraduate work after four years in beautiful Bellingham at Western Washington University, double-majoring in Environmental Policy & Planning and Sociology (a nod to my mentor there, John Richardson, an organizational and educational sociologist). In 1999, I stowed my rain gear and headed for the desert, Tucson, where I live today.

RACE: white
GENDER: male
AGE: 36
YRS. OF EDUC.: 18+
OCCUP.: student/teacher
FATHER'S OCCUP.: nuclear engineer (retired)
MOTHER'S OCCUP: i.r.s. claims specialist (retired)