Joseph Wallerstein won an award for his paper, "Streets of Pity: Urban Panhandling and the Valorization of Misfortune." Wallerstein, a Harvard Sociology doctoral student, received the Social Problems Theory Division's Student Paper Competition award from The Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) at the 68th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, August 10-12, 2018.
Wallerstein uses ethnographic fieldwork to depict how panhandlers employ interactional routines to fit societal expectations of a worthy panhandler with a morally redeemable identity in order to collect money. In particular, he argues that panhandlers try to elicit pity and donations by repurposing the symbolic chasms that already exist between them and others, in the process merchandising their own pain, suffering, and misfortune. This research has implications for how we understand the complex dynamics of social problems.
Research worthy of this honor must "make an original and innovative contribution to the theoretical understanding of social problems." The theme of this year's SSSP meeting is "Abolitionist Approaches to Social Problems."