Women's Studies Research Center

Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience & Resistance

Video of Dr. Karen V. Hansen and Dr. Nazli Kibria introducing their project "Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience & Resistance"

As one of the 28 grantees from the Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge Grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation, Dr. Karen V. Hansen and r co-investigator Dr. Nazli Kibria of Boston University introduce their research project: "Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience, & Resistance."

"Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience & Resistance" focuses on gathering and disseminating the life histories of people who have suffered economic decline. 

Created by Drs. Karen V. Hansen and Nazil Kibriahas, the funded project has its origins in the Cascading Research Group, which has been working and meeting at Brandeis as part of the Women's Studies Research Center since 2018. The Cascading Research Group explores the process of falling from a particular status in ways that trigger additional declines.

Building on the success of our interdisciplinary Cascading workshop last year, the Cascading Research Group takes an intersectional lens to map the contours, causes, consequences and meanings of downward mobilities in the United States, India and other countries. The group reviews the gendered and racialized processes that affect women and men in this era of growing inequality, reinforced glass ceilings, diminished public safety net, enduring prejudice and blocked opportunity.

"Cascading Lives: Stories of Loss, Resilience & Resistance" includes a workshop for high school and college students to will learn core techniques (interviewing skills, data analysis, sound editing, podcast production) to gather histories in their communities for publication via podcast and social media with the target audience of high school teachers, legislators and policymakers.

The term “Cascading” describes the process of falling from a particular social location in ways that precipitate additional declines — social, interpersonal and aspirational, as well as financial (Hansen, Strand, and Leonard 2019). Given the complexity in these times of increasing precarity, we urgently need to understand the structural, intersectional and interpersonal processes that can turn a shock into a cascade and what serves as a source of resilience.

Research Group Participants

  • Christine Bishop, Atran Professor of Labor Economics, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Bernadette Brooten, Myra and Robert Kraft and Jacob Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies; Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Karen V. Hansen, Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Director of Brandeis WSRC
  • Nazli Kibria, Professor of Sociology, Boston University
  • Maria Madison, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Tatjana Meschede, Senior Scientist and Senior Lecturer, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Visiting Associate Professor UMass Boston; Visiting Scholar, Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  • Debi Osnowitz, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Clark University
  • Smriti Rao, Associate Professor of Economics and Global Studies, Assumption College; WSRC Scholar
  • Sam Leonard, PhD, Graduate Student, Department of Sociology

Past Public Lectures

  • Arlie Hochschild, Professor Emerita, University of California at Berkeley, “The Coders of Kentucky,” April 4, 2019
  • Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, Harvard University, “A Long Road: The Quest for Career and Family,” Sept. 27, 2018