PhD Graduate Salina Abji on Anti-Border Movements and Gender Based Violence

Salina AbjiPhD Graduate Salina Abji has recently published an article in the international Feminist Journal of Politics. The article investigates postnational-feminist approaches to gender-based violence in the contemporary immigration context. The article examines how for some advocates, a postnational politics deeply informed their criticisms of state borders and restrictive immigration controls as fundamental sources of gendered and racialized violence.

Salina Abji obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2016. She is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University. Her research interests include social activism and the politics of race, gender and immigration status. She considers herself to be a critical sociologist and educator. She engages in feminist intersectional and community-based approaches to research and pedagogy.

We have published a link to the article here. The abstract can be viewed below.

Salina Abji (2018) Postnational acts of citizenship: how an anti-border politics is shaping feminist spaces of service provision in Toronto, Canada, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 20:4, 501-523.

Postnationalism has seen a modest resurgence in recent years as both a theory of citizenship and as a set of claims frequently articulated by anti-border movements. Yet the implications of postnationalism for feminist politics remain relatively under-theorized. Using interviews with feminist advocates in Toronto, Canada, this research examines how postnational challenges to state power are being mobilized in spaces of service provision addressing gender-based violence. I show how, for some advocates, a postnational politics deeply informed their critiques of state borders and restrictive immigration controls as fundamental sources of gendered and racialized violence. However, postnational approaches were also limited in offering few concrete alternatives to state protection from domestic or interpersonal violence, particularly for women with precarious immigration status. Significantly, it was through advocates’ everyday practices of service provision that they blueprinted an alternative feminist ethics of solidarity. I argue that these practices constitute postnational acts of citizenship, in so far as they attempt – albeit imperfectly – to de-border institutional spaces from within.

“Caring Across Borders: The Transformation of Care and Care Work” Professor Jennifer Jihye Chun for Global Dialogue

Jennifer ChunProfessor Jennifer Jihye Chun has recently co-written an article that has been featured in Global Dialogue, the digital magazine of the International Sociological Association. The article discusses how market interventions and transnational circuits of care work have altered social relations and modes of belonging, from the moment of conception to end-of-life experiences.

Professor Jennifer Jihye Chun is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus. Her research interests are broadly animated by questions about the dynamics of power, inequality and social change under global capitalism. In particular, she explores how people experience and make sense of the social, economic and political transformations associated with employment precarity and the intensification of new and existing social inequalities along gender, race, class and migration status. Professor Chun is also a member of the team heading by Professor Ito Peng that has been studying gender, migration and the work of care with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The full article can be found here. We have posted an excerpt below.

The study of care is at the center of contemporary debates about the stakes of social, political, and economic transformations taking place in the world today. An unprecedented number of women swept up in the human flow of crossing borders in search of work reproduces new and existing patterns of inequality along class, gender, racial, and national lines. The “crisis of care” raises concerns about the costs and consequences of a profoundly uneven and unjust neoliberal economy, especially for the predominantly poor, migrant, and racialized women who shoulder the disproportionate responsibility of caring for others. It also points to the preponderance of low-paid, informal jobs to take care of children, the elderly, and private households as well as ideologies of care that mask and often devalue the labor involved in activities ranging from cooking and cleaning to sex, intimacy, and biological reproduction. Our analytic lens, which takes intersectional feminist analysis and the global political economy as crucial starting points, magnifies the often-invisible labor of care and its significance in sustaining everyday life.

Market interventions and transnational circuits of care work have altered social relations and modes of belonging, from the moment of conception to end-of-life experiences. The labor of love confounds how we think about care and conceptualize care as work. Commonsense understandings expect care to be given freely, a labor of love, rewarded in terms of its intrinsic use value rather than compensated either in the “profane” medium of money or in relation to an abstract right of citizenship. While all forms of care and intimate labor have been devalued, one burgeoning area of inquiry is the study of surrogate mothers who have not been accorded social, political, and legal recognition for their labor. Surrogate mothers’ labor is less legible due to the blurring of lines between commodity and gift exchanges. Intended parents can take refuge in the altruistic sentiments of the gift relationship rather than see themselves bound up in impersonal exploitative social relations and the increased commodification of intimacy and reproductive labor.

Read the full article.

Professor Jooyoung Lee interviewed on The Social, “Does Canada need better gun control?”

PJooyoung Leerofessor Jooyoung Lee has recently been featured on a segment for The Social talking about the long-term health care needs of gunshot victims in the US and Canada; and the efficacy of common sense gun laws. The Social is a television program produced by Bell Media Studios that describes itself as bringing “a fresh, daily perspective on up-to-the-minute news, pop culture, and lifestyle topics that matter most.” Professor Lee’s research is broadly interested in how gun violence transforms the social worlds of families and communities. According to Lee, the rates of violence in Canada are lower than the U.S., but they could be better.  In terms of victimization, racialized young men are the most likely to become victims in both the U.S. and Canada.

Jooyoung Lee is an Associate Professor of Sociology and faculty member in the Centre for the Study of the United States, which is housed within the Munk School of Global Affairs. He is also a Senior Fellow in the Yale University Urban Ethnography Project and was formerly a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

The full segment can be viewed here.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah “Canada Should Legalize All Recreational Drugs?”

Akwasi Owusu-BempahThe University of Toronto Magazine recently published a debate in its Opinion pages regarding the merits of legalizing all drugs in Canada. Sociology Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah presented the case in favour of legalization. He wrote in opposition to Professor Robert Mann, of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who argued that the potential harm to individuals is too great. Professor Owusu-Bempah, on the other hand, argued that the social costs of criminalizing drug use are a greater harm to society and that a public health approach to drug use would be more beneficial than a criminal one. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, with teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His work focuses on the intersections of race, crime and criminal justice, with a particular interest in the area of policing.

The full article can be viewed here.  We have posted an excerpt below.

Why are most recreational drugs illegal? If the rationale for the war on drugs is to decrease drug use, it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t stopped the production or importation of drugs. Quite the opposite: there are billions of dollars to be made from the illegal drug trade. This often comes with serious violence – sometimes in Canada, but more often in Mexico 1 and other source countries in South America and Central America.

The United States, in particular, has been waging a war on drugs for several decades, 2 and it’s still one of the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. 3 This should tell us that we’re not going to reduce drug use through the enforcement of laws.

Some people use drugs because they enjoy doing so. Many Canadians already consume a number of drugs each week: alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are the most common. People also use harder drugs recreationally, and of course, some of these people develop substance use and abuse problems. But arresting and incarcerating them is not going to help them deal with the issues that are leading them to use or abuse harder drugs in the first place. This is why a public health approach to all drugs, where we’re striving for harm reduction rather than elimination of use, makes the most sense.

For most of human history, drugs haven’t been illegal. It’s only in the last 110 years that we’ve had drug prohibition in Canada. Even so, my neighbours in downtown Toronto often express surprise that cannabis was legalized just recently. Many think it’s been legal, or at least decriminalized, for some time. They think this because of what they look like and where they live: they don’t have to worry about being arrested.

As a criminologist, I’m particularly interested in how Black males perceive and experience the police. And you can’t do research around race and policing without focusing on drugs. The war on drugs drives many of the inequalities we see in our justice system.

We know that Canadians use drugs at similar rates across racial groups. 4 But in practice, drug laws are used to intrude into the lives of certain segments of the population. In Toronto and in many other cities, the unequal enforcement of drug laws 5 has profoundly harmed the individuals that are targeted, their families and their communities. A higher proportion of members of these communities have criminal records for drug possession that impede their ability to finish their education, to gain meaningful employment, to find housing and to travel.

Read the full article.


New UTM Sociology Professor Susila Gurusami profiled on UTM VP Research page

The UTM Office of the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean has recently profiled Professor Susila Gurusami  as part of their #MeetTheNewProfs series. Professor Gurusami joined the department this fall after completing her doctorate at UCLA and a Chanceller’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Riverside. Professor Gurusami conducts research that focuses on gender, race, punishment and state governance. She is currently in the process of writing a book that examines the lives of previously incarcerated Black women at a transitional home in Los Angeles.

The full news story can be viewed on UTM’s sociology page here.

We have posted an excerpt below.

Susila Gurusami is delighted to be kicking off her academic career at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

“I am just so taken with the University of Toronto,” she says. “The sociology department here is one of the largest in the world in terms of breadth of scholarship. A lot of scholars I’ve engaged with in the work I’m doing are based here.

“There is an openness to what sociology is and what rigorous scholarship looks like, which is lovely. UTM really seemed, in so many ways, what I had dreamed academic life could be. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down.”

Gurusami, who grew up and earned her degrees in the United States, conducts research that focuses on gender, race, punishment and state governance. “The racial context in Canada has expanded my sensibilities about what race, control and sovereignty look like,” she says.

She is in the midst of writing a book that examines the lives of previously incarcerated Black women at a transitional home in Los Angeles. “I am trying to amplify voices that are not well represented. Their experiences, given their race and gender, tell us a lot about how the state governs, and reflect problems we all should notice.”

Continue reading.


UTM News Professor Kristin Plys interviewed by UTM News regarding her India Coffee House research

Plys, KristinCongratulations to Professor Kristin Plys who recently received the  Connaught Funding to study coffee houses as a site of anti-authoritarian protest in India and Pakistan in the early and mid 20th century. Professor Plys is an associate professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities  at UTM. Her research sits at the intersection of political economy, postcolonial theory, sociology of development, labor and labor movements, historical sociology, and global area studies.  The full article is available on the UTM news site, we have posted an excerpt below.

Wake up and smell the resistance

The differences between anti-authoritarian movements in the 1970s in India and Pakistan, and the role of specific coffee houses in each country in igniting pro-democracy activism, is the focus of a new study by University of Toronto Mississauga assistant professor of sociology Kristin Plys. The winner of a 2018 Connaught Fund New Researcher Award worth $35,000, Plys’ study is called “Brewing Resistance: Coffee House as a site of social protest against post-colonial authoritarianism in India and Pakistan”.

…Since 2012, Plys has been studying political deliberation and cultural expression in the Indian Coffee House in Delhi, which in the early and mid-twentieth century was a prominent meeting place for left-leaning academics, writers and artists. The site was part of a chain of coffee houses established in the 1930s by the then-ruling British Empire. In the 1950s, when India’s independence movement took root, these shops were appropriated by their workers and become employee-run cooperatives; today, there are about 400 across India.

The full article can be found here

“Feminism gone bad? Women’s organisations and the hard right in Germany” writes Professor Anna Korteweg for Open Democracy

Professor Anna Korteweg has co-written a blog article for  about the unintended alliance of some anti-Muslim German feminists with far-right actors as both make issue of the “Islamization of Germany.” OpenDemocracy describes itself as a news media platform that uses “human rights as (their) central guiding focus, and open-mindedness as (their) method.”

In the post, Korteweg and her co-authors discuss three strategies through which there is significant overlap between radical right-wing parties and groups of anti-Muslim German feminists: public defamation, the rhetoric of saving Muslim women from Muslim men, and the evocation of German Nationalism through moral panic.  This article grows out of Professor Korteweg’s research interests in political debates regarding the integration of Muslim immigrants in Western Europe and Canada as well as the intersections of gender, religion, ethnicity and national origin as they play out in immigrant integration.

Professor Korteweg is professor and chair of the Sociology department at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus.

An excerpt of the article is posted below.

The populist radical right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been working to get to the top of the party polls since its foundation in 2013. Currently, it is the second strongest party in Germany, with polls which estimate that if elections were held today, the AfD would receive 18 % of the vote (ARD, 21 September 2018). In its climb in the popularity stakes, AfD is forming a curious range alliances with political leaders. In the traditional political spectrum, feminists are often placed at the left end of the continuum. However, contradicting this, feminists and women’s organizations in Germany have of late been entering into implicit or unintended alliances with the AfD as they make common cause against the so-called “Islamization of Germany”. We have identified three strategies of feminist and far-right political actors that result in the articulation of overlapping goals.

The colonial gaze

Women’s embodiment continues to be hotly contested in these struggles over feminism, liberation, and who get to stand for being German. Long-standing colonial tropes of unveiling women as liberation are clearly powerful in German debates. Many have argued that the nudity of colonialized women served as a spectacle for the European public during the colonial era; currently, in the German media, uncovering women is celebrated as a sign of Muslim women’s integration into a gender-equal European society.

Breaking down the cooptation – Inclusion and #No Excuses

The perverse alliance of feminism and the far right clearly fails to address major ongoing relevant issues: 1) the historical colonial and exploitative relations between the global North and the global South – the destruction, appropriation in colonial and neocolonial contexts, the political support by the global north of corrupt political regimes in the global south, as well as the export of weapons that sustain highly destructive, never-ending wars; and 2) the ongoing, unaddressed, racialized sexism and sexual violence perpetrated by immigrant and nonimmigrant alike across European societies – violence against women, children, members of LGBTQI communities, heteronormativity, sexism, and gender inequalities.

The full article can be found here