December 6, 2019 - Caroline

RPP #9: End of Term Mentor Meeting

I met with Dr. Conca on Wednesday, December 4th, for 30 minutes to wrap up what we have been discussing throughout the semester.

The first half of the meeting was spent talking about how I could incorporate the background research I have done on parts of the “banned” pesticide/”regulating complexity” puzzle (based on the paths my project could take mentioned in RPP #2) into my current research question, specifically on the political economy of pesticide use and activist strategy. A lot of my research this semester has focused on supply chain management, but my last two design sketches have included more information on public activism against pesticides. For this reason, my research question has changed where I am now proposing to study to what extent factors like corporate discursive power, public awareness, or uncertainty in science explain differences in the outcome of American social movements against synthetic pesticides like DDT in the 1970s and glyphosate in the 2010s to better understand the normalization of pesticide use and its implications.

While I am still researching agribusiness and regulation obstacles, I am placing more focus on the dual framing and what Karl Polanyi describes as “double movements” within the puzzle of “banning pesticides.” [1] Dr. Conca mentioned two important factors in galvanizing the American public on an issue—bodily harm and inequity—that are key aspects to consider when I conduct a more in-depth analysis of the aforementioned movements.

The second half of the meeting was spent talking about methodology. I am considering a small-n comparative study with a focus on process-tracing narratives within these movements. We talked about what process-tracing would look like if I were to focus on dual framing and public narratives that influenced the success of one ban and failure to widely enact another. We ran through what a hypothetical small-n research project would look like with the dependent variable being the outcome of the movement (and what could be categorized as a success, failure, or even “unwinnable”) and independent variables like certainty/uncertainty of science. Dr. Conca recommended reading articles by a former student who conducted a similar study on narratives in the pro/anti-GMO movement, along with contacting her later in the research process for more insight.

As for the next steps for continuing research into SISU-306, I don’t think I will need IRB approval, but I might if I decide to interview activists or representatives from either side. I have found useful databases on the Monsanto Papers and pesticide marketing, but I am also interested in archival research.[2] I plan on reading works from activists in these movements like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring over the break to stay engaged with the research and gain more knowledge on the public opinion on pesticides at the time. My main concern was being “locked-in” for my research question but that has been addressed in class, but another that I have is how large do you think changes (if any) should be once 306 is underway? For example, if I become interested in following the same methodology but with a different country serving as a single case–would that be advised against?





[1] Christopher M. Bacon, “Who Decides What Is Fair in Fair Trade? The Agri-Environmental Governance of Standards, Access, and Price,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 37, no. 1 (January 2010): 113–115, accessed September 22, 2019,

[2] “Phil Allegretti Pesticide Collection.” Science History Institute. Accessed November 19, 2019,; “The Monsanto Papers-Master Chart,” Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman PC, Accessed October 26, 2019,




mentor / Mentorship / SISOlson / SISOlson19


  • Caroline — it sounds like you had a very productive meeting with Dr. Conca to round out the fall semester. To address your questions, you still do have some time and flexibility in terms of making methodological decisions (including case selection) as you enter SISU-306. Obviously, that window will start to close fairly quickly after the first few weeks of the spring term. So while you are not locked into any particular choice just yet, I would continue to think about those choices so that you can revisit this and any other questions you have about the precise direction of the research earlier rather than later in SISU-306.

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