Professor Sida Liu on Robert Schellenberg’s death sentence

Professor Sida Liu co-published an op ed in The Globe and Mail regarding the Chinese court sentencing of Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian, to death for drug trafficking. The article discusses the operation of law in the Chinese context. It comments on both the foreign political motivations regarding the Schellenberg sentence and the political meanings of the sentence for a domestic audience in China.

Professor Liu is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Toronto and a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. He joined the University of Toronto faculty in 2016, after teaching sociology and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include the sociology of law, organizations and professions, globalization, and social theory. He has conducted multiple empirical projects on these topics, including empirical research on China’s legal reform and legal profession, and published on socio-legal theory and general social theory. His new project will build on his extensive research experience in China on the topic of globalization and the legal profession.

Professor Liu is the author of three books in Chinese and English, most recently, Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work. He has also published many articles in leading law and social science journals, such as the American Journal of Sociology.

Read the full article here. We have included an excerpt below.

When a Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death on drug trafficking charges last week, the Canadian public was indignant. Here again was proof of China’s blatant disregard for human rights and due process. But China dismissed these foreign criticisms on legal grounds: When Justin Trudeau expressed concern about China’s “arbitrary” ruling, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson rebuked him for not respecting Chinese law.

Mr. Schellenberg’s death sentence was likely politically motivated and strategically timed: China understands the power of hostage diplomacy and is using it to pressure Canada into releasing Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested at the request of the United States regarding suspected violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The Schellenberg sentence should be condemned on procedural and human-rights grounds. But does this mean China is ruled by pure despotic power, unrestrained by law? Not exactly.

Professor Jooyoung Lee on developing ethnographies of gun violence

Professor Jooyoung Lee recently published an article on Items, where he discusses the concept of “social loss” and taking an ethnographic approach to studies of gun violence. Professor Lee discusses how victim-centered research has helped him understand the social losses felt by victims, their families, and entire communities after a shooting. Through this approach, and personal encounters with victims themselves, he gained insight into the “invisible scars” that victims carry long after they have been released from clinical care, which includes aspects of fear, anxiety, and addiction to various painkillers.  Items is a digital forum associated with the Social Sciences Research Council (US) that seeks to highlight the impact of social science research and “shape current conversations through curated essays that reflect on the state of the social sciences today.”

Professor Lee is  an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, a faculty member in the Centre for the Study of the United States, and a Senior Fellow in the Yale University Urban Ethnography Project. His research interests are focused around how gun violence transforms the social worlds and health of young Black men in different contexts. His recent work examines how murder transforms families and communities; how we can use videos to enhance research on interaction; and a collaborative SSHRC-funded study with Professor Julian Tanner and Professor Scot Wortley on youth experiences with guns in Toronto. He is currently writing a book called Ricochet: Gun Violence and Trauma in Killadelphia about the social impacts of gun violence.

Read the full article here. We have included an excerpt below.

I once attended a talk where an audience member asked panelists, “How much does gun violence cost us?” Panelists offered different responses, each highlighting the broad economic burden of shootings. One person talked about the public tax dollars that fund emergency and inpatient care for uninsured gunshot victims. Another panelist noted that shootings often knock a person out of the labor market indefinitely, thus diminishing tax revenues that would have come from their labor. A third person mentioned that the estimated annual costs of firearm injuries exceed the annual budget for the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security combined.

I learned a lot from this panel, but left wondering: What might gun violence research look like if we centered our analysis on victims? What would this growing field look like if we broadened our notion of loss? What if we also focused on the social losses felt by victims, their families, and entire communities after a shooting?

Ethnographers are uniquely positioned to answer these questions. Immersive, long-term fieldwork enables researchers to be “there” with victims as they navigate life after fatal and nonfatal shootings. This is a difficult, but precious vantage point. By spending time with victims, ethnographers gain access to domains of suffering that are often neglected in social science work on gun violence. It’s one thing to read statistics about injury, death, and their associated costs, and an entirely different thing to witness suffering up close. Prior theoretical concerns become less urgent when you are spending time with a mother who is mourning the murder of her child, or when you are with a victim who cannot afford to buy new colostomy bags…

Read the full article

Meet the Professor: Tahseen Shams

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Professor Tahseen Shams is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests involve the intersections of international migration, globalization, race/ethnicity, nationalism and religion, in order to understand how these topics affect immigrant groups. In this interview, she discusses the benefits and influences behind her career in sociology.

What led you to pursue a career in sociology?

This is a funny story! I was a college sophomore, majoring in neuroscience. I was required to take Intro to Sociology as one of the degree requirements. It was huge class and we were all packed in the room like canned sardines. The professor began her lecture with C Wright Mills’ concept of “the sociological imagination,” and the rest was history! I was always interested in history and sociology growing up. But, the idea that my biography and the society’s history are connected—that I live in society as much as society lives in me—was a life-changing way to look at the world. There was no going back after that. I often liken this experience to the moment in the movie The Matrix when Morpheus offers Neo the red and blue pills and Neo decides to take the red pill and enter the Matrix. I decided then that I wanted to keep exploring the world sociologically and changed my major to sociology the day after.

How did you narrow down your areas of research and ultimately decide your field?

My research interests stem from my personal story as a first-generation Bangladeshi American. My family and I had immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager. We settled in a small college town in Mississippi, which is overwhelmingly white, conservative, and Christian. My family and I were noticeably the only non-white and non-black folks for miles around. But my interactions in the first few weeks made me realize that my difference from most of the population there ran deeper than the color of my skin and my accent. It was also that I was raised Muslim and that we were now in post-9/11 America. I wanted to know if there were others like me in Mississippi and what their experiences were like. So, I launched an ethnographic research project during my senior year of college for my honours thesis. The findings of this year-long project led to a publication, the only one on Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in Mississippi. While doing research for that undergraduate project, I fell in love with the literature on immigrant identities, race/ethnicity, and nationalism. I carried these passions with me to UCLA where I focused primarily on international migration.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students taking your classes?

I want my students to fall in love with sociology much like I did when I was an undergrad. I want my students to focus on the big picture rather than minute details. I want them to think about the ways in which the big concepts and ideas in sociology shape the world around them. And if they challenge these ideas and their own beliefs in the process, that would make me very happy indeed!

Meet the Professor: Jeffrey Reitz

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Jeffrey ReitzProfessor Jeffrey Reitz is a Professor, member of faculty at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and former Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research examines the social, economic and political experiences of immigrant and ethnic populations. In this interview, he discusses the importance of sociology, and some influences behind his career.

What do you love about sociology?

Sociology offers perspectives and insights that are limited in the other social sciences, and allows a more complete understanding of the social world. At the same time, sociology offers methods that enable us to demonstrate the importance of these missing perspectives and insights empirically. What the social sciences can contribute, I think, is analytically strategic facts. I try to take an important public issue, and identify the key factual questions that I think would make a difference in public debate. I want to find a way to produce answers to those factual questions, and then introduce them in the discourse in a way which actually has an impact. In the social sciences this is a huge challenge, because so much of what people say is that they want to believe — quite apart from facts. And there is sometimes even a disregard for facts, both on the political left and the political right.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students who are studying sociology?

When you do your research, what’s most important is to choose the right problem. You have to remember that the research is going to take a while, so you can’t choose something that is of passing interest. Also, it is important to describe the problem in common-sense language, avoiding technical jargon. Jargon may be useful, but it can also function as a way of insulating a group of scholars from a wider engagement.

How did you narrow down your areas of research and ultimately decide your field?

I found the area of specialization that came to dominate my career – immigration and intergroup relations – fairly late, after completing my Ph.D., and even after becoming established in my first job. As a sociologist I had pursued a number of areas, but ultimately had to face the reality that to make a contribution requires a depth of commitment and scholarly experience that is rarely possible without intense focus. At the same time, I would not advise thinking in terms of ‘narrowing down your areas’ because while working on a particular topic, whether it is ethnicity, crime, inequality or other topics, it is important also to think of that topic in as broad a context as possible. This is what a sociological approach really means, and it is difficult because it requires one to be conversant with what is said on the subject in the other social sciences – economics, political science, etc., and then to add the sociological dimension, which is often missing in the other approaches. In my own case, I have studied immigration and ethnic relations across the areas of employment, education, community relations, and policy. I think that by including these areas, and seeing their interrelations, one can make the most effective contribution.

Professor Ashley Rubin examines the evolution of prisons at TEDxMississauga

In a TEDx talk, Professor Ashley Rubin recently discussed the history of prisons, while questioning whether it is time for a new approach to punishment that doesn’t involve incarceration. She explains the difference between jails and prisons, and how the evolution of prisons has involved controversy because of the inhumane nature of long term confinement, as well as the expenses of maintaining and managing them. Despite these concerns, Professor Rubin reveals how and why solitary confinement of some type continues to be perceived as necessary. Moreover, modern debates on the operations and efficiency of prisons is about how often people are sent to prison, and what can be done about policies, rather than discussing whether they should still exist. Her talk was part of the TEDx Mississauga series of talks.

Watch the full TEDx talk here.

Professor Rubin is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the UTM campus. Her current research reexamines the dynamics of penal change, focusing on the introduction of new punishments in America and England from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth century. She has conducted projects exploring the uses of penal incarceration before first state prisons, the rise and decline of the proto-prison and modern prison, and the effect of prison authorizations on existing punishments in the United States. Her research also examines the theoretical consequences of analyzing prisons as organizations, including recognizing the dynamics of the diffusion of penal innovations, the tension between organizational concerns and penal goals, and the professionalization efforts of early prison administrators.

Ariel Kenny observes hegemonic masculinity in a DIY punk dive bar in U of T’s Undergraduate Sociology Journal

Ariel Kenny published “‘You Gotta Touch Her Again. You Gotta Lick Her Again’: Observing Hegemonic Masculinity in a DIY Punk Dive Bar” in Volume I of the Undergraduate Sociology Journal (USJ). The article analyzes how both heterosocial and homosocial interactions may reproduce or subvert hegemonic masculinity in the nightlife of the “do it yourself” (DIY) punk scene. To provide illustrative examples of how these processes occur, Ariel observed and recorded interpersonal interactions at a Toronto dive bar within the scene and analyzed them for their structure and content. The findings show that hegemonic masculinity was reproduced not only through men’s interactions with women but by their homosocial interactions with other men as well; male patrons either exhibited passivity towards acknowledging the harassment or vouched in favour of the male harassers. This finding suggests that men in DIY punk may tend to adopt a bystander mentality that excuses them from challenging hegemonic masculinity within the scene–even if they ideologically wish to subvert it.

Ariel is in their fourth year at the University of Toronto and is specializing in Sociology with a minor in English. They are studying sociology to engage with historically neglected and newly emerging social issues to the benefit of those most affected by their impact. Their topics of interest include deviance, gender politics, mental health and social networks. Their favourite sociology course has been SOC204: Intro to Qualitative Methods because it provided their first hands-on experience with conducting research. Going forward, Ariel will pursue graduate-level research and contribute to community development projects for social advocacy and non-profit organizations.

Professor Judith Taylor comments on the growing ‘femtech’ market

In an article by CBC News, Professor Judith Taylor commented on  “femtech,” a growing form of technology focused on women’s health. The article discussed both the liberating possibilities of women having use of data about their reproductive health and the risks of growing private sector surveillance over various aspects of their reproductive lives.

Professor Taylor is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, and is jointly appointed in the Women and Gender Studies Institute, at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on feminist activism, neighbourhood community organizing, and social change making with public institutions. She also teaches and writes about qualitative research methods, feminist approaches to studying people, and community-based learning, with a particular focus on the dilemmas posed by institutional ethical review. In her work, she uses feminist creative work as a lens to better understand the central focus of feminist imagination and life.

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

…The premise behind many companies in this growing sector is that technology can give us more insights into our bodies, biology and well-being, based on our own data, and that can give women the agency to make better informed choices about their health and their lives. These digital tools are “fantastic for women’s own understandings about their bodies,” says Judith Taylor, a professor of sociology in the University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute.

Taylor points to benefits such as being able to track how many days of the week the birth control pill makes women nauseous, and where in the cycle, as well as tracking ovulation for pregnancy and changes in their symptoms from menopause and perimenopause. These are details “that really affect women’s lives, but MDs don’t much care about.

“Further to the notion of technology giving users agency, Taylor says, “Doctors do not seem ambitious to see the root of problems, and apps might be more intrepid than our health-care providers.”

According to Taylor, with these tools, women are tracking their symptoms, making their own diagnoses and organizing around these problems to change medicine. She says, “They did that with fibromyalgia, with postpartum depression and a host of other afflictions medicine didn’t want to deal with but now has to.”

Indeed, for all the ways that our data is now bought, sold, and manipulated, to sell us things and target messages toward us, this is an example of being able to leverage our own data for our own good, to learn more about our health and make better choices for ourselves….

Meet the Professor: Candace Kruttschnitt

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Professor Candace Kruttschnitt is a Professor of Sociology and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her current research encompasses work on female offenders and comparative penology. In this interview, she discusses how criminology and sociology intersect in her work, and shares some insight from her teaching career.

How did you narrow down your areas of research and ultimately decide your field?

My field within Criminology focuses on women as offenders, victims and prison inmates. It all started with a tiny article in the New York Times that focused on increasing arrest rates for women. I found that fascinating and it ended up being the central question in PhD dissertation. Of course, then you start publishing from your dissertation and before you know it, that is your area of expertise.

What do you love about sociology?

As a Criminologist, what I love about sociology is the breadth of the field. If I am working on a paper that involves the mental health of prison inmates, I can talk to Blair Wheaton about what I should be reading. Or a few years ago, the British Journal of Sociology asked me to revise and resubmit an article and it over-lapped with some of the work on immigration. Not knowing this field, I went to Ron Levi for help. I love being surrounded by people who can teach me things and who enrich my knowledge base.

Do you have any stories about particularly positive experiences you have had teaching sociology to undergraduates?

I have had some great times teaching a fourth year seminar on punishment. You can see the students really open up over the course of the semester and share their experiences. I have learned a lot from the students in those courses.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students taking your classes and/or completing a major in sociology? 

Do the best you can; it will always pay off. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions to challenge your instructor and take advantage of their office hours; they are there to help you.  

Meet the Professor: Adam Green

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Professor Adam Green is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research is situated at the intersection of the sociology of sexuality and medical sociology, and aims to develop theory relevant to both areas. In this interview, he discusses the experiences that led to his career in sociology.

What led you to pursue a career in sociology?

As a gay man coming of age in the 1980s, I felt a deep sense of marginality from the dominant culture.  My interest in sociology sprung out of that experience. I wanted to know more about the sociology of homosexuality and further, the sociology of sexualities more generally. How was my perceived marginality a function of institutional and cultural processes? How do social structures shape the lived experience of being gay? How does heteronormativity shape the choices sexual minorities make with respect to sexual practice and sexual identity? These were a few of the questions that led me to pursue a career in sociology.

What, in your own undergraduate experience, was important for you?

Mentorship was extremely important for me as an undergraduate student. Finding professors with whom I had shared interests reaffirmed for me that a career in the academy and that graduate work in sociology were pathways that fit with my interests and capacities.

What do you love about sociology?

What I love most about sociology is its breadth. Sociology  encompasses such a broad range of substantive areas and from such a diversity of methodologies. Literally, any topic that intersects with society can become a focal point of research. And one is not bound by a methodological orthodoxy, as in some other fields, but can find a wide array of methodological tools and approaches to their topic of choice.

Meet the Professor: Rachel La Touche

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Rachel LaTouche

Professor La Touche is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto. Her research centers on inequality at the level of interaction, and within the social contexts that individuals routinely participate, such as how higher education institutions structure the mental health of those within them. In this interview, she discusses the experiences that led to her career in sociology, as well as her positive teaching experiences at U of T.

What led you to pursue a career in sociology?

I started as a Psychology major during undergrad, intrigued by questions in mental health and social psychology. In fact, early in my undergraduate studies, I considered a career in biomedical ethics. After a number of undergraduate courses, though, I felt Sociology was the best fit for my substantive interests. I didn’t start thinking about a “career”  in Sociology until the end of my undergraduate degree – and all thanks to a graduate TA who told me to consider graduate school. I’m not sure I fully understood what that meant at the time, but I did take the recommendation seriously, and considered what doors might open if I pursued an advanced degree. After doing an honours thesis in my senior year, I decided to move forward with an MA and then PhD in Sociology. In a strange (and very privileged) manner, I followed my substantive interests first and foremost; pursuing a career in Sociology came afterward.

What, in your own undergraduate experience, was important for you?

Writing an honours thesis was my first opportunity to conduct research in undergrad, and that helped build my confidence as a young scholar. While it was frustrating at first – in particular, crafting a well-developed research question – I had excellent supervisory support, and was able to design a research study, collect and analyze data, all within a single semester. I’m especially grateful that it taught me the value and challenge of thorough research design – something I continue to develop (and teach) as a scholar today.

What do you enjoy about teaching sociology to undergraduate students?

Sociology gets a bad reputation for just being “common sense,” so teaching allows me to debunk that myth and show students what the discipline really has to offer. More than anything, teaching sociology helps bring students renewed energy for engaging in the world, encouraging them to examine taken-for-granted assumptions about the world, and engage in new lines of inquiry. I feel grateful for the opportunity to help students through this process. Teaching Sociology isn’t one-directional though – I learn so much from my students as well, and I get as much out of that as I do teaching them.

Do you have any stories about particularly positive experiences you have had teaching sociology to undergraduates?

I’ve been fortunate to teach undergraduate Sociology for numerous years, before and during my time here at U of T. In those years I’ve had many positive experiences, from students telling me they decided on Sociology as a major after taking one of my classes, to winning awards for undergraduate instruction. If I had to choose the most rewarding, it would be hearing updates from students after they’ve completed their undergraduate degrees, whether they entered the workforce immediately or continued onto graduate training. It is very comforting to hear past students recall fond memories of the courses they’ve taken and material they covered, and to hear them talk about how they continue to make use of it. There really is nothing else I hope for – I want to see students make use of the material they’ve learned in my courses and well beyond.

Professor Judith Taylor comments on “culture shifts” in the music streaming universe

In an article by CTV News, Professor Judith Taylor commented on how certain changes in the music streaming universe are part of a broader phenomenon, where the public is pressuring musicians to hold their colleagues accountable for their actions. Many artists, including Lady Gaga and Celine Dion, are taking down their collaborations with R. Kelly from music streaming services, due to the history of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Professor Taylor says that altering functions on streaming platforms, such as being able to “mute” certain artists, contributes to creating a culture shift, where people are creating new mechanisms to deal with social wrongs. These mechanisms raise the question of whether artists should be able to take their songs off streaming platforms, which potentially erases slivers of pop context. In response, Professor Taylor states that the controversies behind the recording of duets with problematic artists has already solidified its place in pop culture history. In fact, trying to banish certain songs makes them more potent in people’s memories, making them impossible to erase.

Professor Taylor is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, and is jointly appointed in the Women and Gender Studies Institute, at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on feminist activism, neighbourhood community organizing, and social change making with public institutions. She also teaches and writes about qualitative research methods, feminist approaches to studying people, and community-based learning, with a particular focus on the dilemmas posed by institutional ethical review. In her work, she uses feminist creative work as a lens to better understand the central focus of feminist imagination and life.

Read the full article here. We have included an excerpt below.

…Judith Taylor, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, identifies changes like these as part of a broader phenomenon where the public is pressuring musicians to hold their colleagues accountable for their actions.

“Really this is about trying to create a culture shift,” she said.

“As the legal field has proven itself to be unable to (show) it’s efficacious in dealing with these social wrongs, people are creating new mechanisms — social shaming is one of them.”

It raises the question of whether artists like Gaga and Chance the Rapper should be able to take their songs off streaming platforms, seeing the move as potentially erasing slivers of pop context.

With the demise of physical media, those historical records of song could become harder to find as years pass. Already some unofficial YouTube links to “Do What U Want,” as well as some of Gaga and Kelly’s live televised performances, have been pulled down.

Taylor isn’t convinced that creates any sort of urgency to maintain the public record of Gaga’s song on streaming platforms as a point of reference. She said controversy behind its creation has already solidified its place in pop culture history.

“It’s impossible to erase anything,” she said. “Trying to banish this song makes it more potent in people’s memories.”…

Professor Owusu-Bempah discusses carding on “TVO”

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Owusu-Bempah participated in a discussion on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paiken regarding the issues of carding. Justice Michael Tulloch recently called for an end to random carding in Ontario, among other recommendations, because it has a minimal role in deterring offenders, or reducing crime. Professor Owusu-Bempah spoke as part of a panel.  He spoke to the trend showing the escalation of street checks and their impact, in particular, on male youths of colour and other racialized communities. Research in this area, according to Professor Owusu-Bempah, shows that repeated encounters with police have negative mental health and community safety impacts.

Professor Owusu-Bempah begins speaking around minute 8:30 and onwards. The full video can be found here.

Dr. Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM camps. His research is focused on three main areas: Policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race. He is particularly interested in how people of the African Diaspora (African Canadians, African Americans) perceive and experience law enforcement and punishment. His research has recently been published in the scholarly journals Policing and Society, Crime and Justice, and Theoretical Criminology.

Professor Dan Silver examines the “Ford Nation” and populism in Toronto

Professor Dan Silver’s research was featured on CityLab for his study on how populism took hold in Toronto, particularly under Rob and Doug Ford’s influence in Ontario politics. Professor Silver is studying the rise of the “Ford Nation,” a broader populist movement, along with Fernando Calderòn-Figueroa (a graduate student at U of T), and a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario. Their research provides a warning, especially to left-leaning urbanists, that populism can grow in diverse, progressive places like Toronto, and not only in the outgrowth of left-behind places as commonly believed. Importantly, the study shows that populist movements are a political response to economic and cultural threats, where support is garnered through a promise to protect their followers from these perceived fears.

Professor Silver is an Associate Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. His research areas of interest include social theory, culture and cultural policy. He is co-editor of The Politics of Urban Cultural Policy, and the author of Scenescapes: how qualities of place shape social life. Professor Silver’s current research studies the role of arts and culture in city politics, economics, and residential patterns.

The full story can be found here. We have included an excerpt below.

Before Trump, the late Rob Ford rose to power in Toronto, arguably North America’s most diverse city, filled with tall towers, dense walkable streets, and a vibrant knowledge economy, with a long history of progressivism on social issues. Rob Ford’s rise was not just a one-off event: It was part of a much broader populist movement dubbed “Ford Nation” that ended up propelling his brother Doug to the much more powerful post of premier of Ontario.The rise of Ford’s brand of populism in Toronto is the subject of a new study by my University of Toronto colleagues Daniel Silver and Fernando Calderón-Figueroa, and Zack Taylor, a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario. Their detailed research is a warning to all of us, especially to left-leaning urbanists, that populism can grow in superstar cities. So exactly how did Ford’s populism emerge in Toronto and Ontario, the largest city and largest province of a country whose national political scene is often noted as virtually immune to populism?

For one, Rob Ford did not fit the conventional image of a populist. We think of populists like Trump as being anti-immigrant, but Ford embraced, and was embraced by, a wide band of ethnicities, cultures, and religions. In addition to the white working class, his base of support drew heavily from recent immigrant groups like Arab Muslims, South Asian Hindus, Caribbean Evangelicals and others. The study notes that more than half (57 percent) of Ford supporters said more should be done to protect the rights of racial minorities, a striking departure from the coalition that often supports Trump and other populists in Europe. That said, Ford’s appeal was still rooted in more traditional values regarding family, gender, sexuality, and religion, similar to many conventional populists. As the study points out, “Ford supporters held the LGBTQ community in much lower regard than immigrants and non-whites, and rated feminists lowest of all.”

Meet the editorial board of the Undergraduate Sociology Journal

The Undergraduate Sociology Journal (USJ) is a student-run publication that is open to any student enrolled in an undergraduate program at the St. George campus. It covers sociology’s intersecting disciplines that include, but are not limited to, Criminology, Women and Gender Studies, Indigenous Studies, Diaspora and Transnational Studies, and Economics.The previous and inaugural volume explored and critically analyzed topics of crime and deviance; gender, sexuality and identity; health and sociology; social movements; theory and critical reflections; and urban sociology, with a common concern about how we make sense of the world around us through a sociological lens. The full publication can be found here.

Meet the editorial board

Susha Guan is the Editor-in-Chief of the USJ. She is in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, where she is studying sociology and ethics, society & law (ES&L). She chose to study sociology because of her interests in the development of social institutions, how social inequalities manifest, and the ways that they are perpetuated or undermined. Specifically, her topics of interests include demography (migration, immigration, fertility), political sociology, contemporary sociological theory, social movements and global inequalities. In the future, Susha intends to pursue legal education and research regarding environmental policy.

Marissa Hum is a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, where she studies a double major in sociology and criminology & sociolegal studies. She studies sociology because of her interests in social inequalities, and the mechanisms that facilitate and perpetuate injustices. Her specific areas of interest include crime and deviance, race relations, intersectionality and gender relations. In the future, Marissa hopes to become a lawyer, as she is currently interested in social justice areas of law (such as public interest), human rights and wrongful convictions.

Hyabselam (Olivia) Michael is a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her second year at the University of Toronto, and is studying sociology and health sciences. She is pursuing education in sociology because of her interests in how the functions of society affect various aspects of life, particularly health. Her topics of interest include intersectionality and health disparities due to inequalities of race, ethnicity, gender, and economies. Going forward, she hopes to work within public health while conducting research regarding health disparities found within a given society based on the aforementioned inequalities.

Dumkele Aligwekwe is a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her second year at the University of Toronto, where she is studying sociology and human biology. Her topics of interest include race relations, health disparities (particularly in relation to obstetrical outcomes) and intersectionality. In the future, Dumkele hopes to become and obstetrician/gynecologist.

Amal Khurram is the Design Editor and a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, specializing in sociology. She is studying sociology because it is highly intersectional, which aligns with her broad range of sociological interests. Her topics of interest include crime and deviance, education, health and immigration experiences/economics. In the future, Amal aspires to become a high school teacher.

Naomi Trott is a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, where she is studying sociology, environmental studies and human geography. She studies sociology because of her interest in systems of inequality and domination, and the ways in which they are (re)produced and permeate all aspects of social life. Her topics of interest include race, class and gender, global inequalities, social justice and post-colonialism. Going forward, Naomi hopes to pursue her interests within the intersections of social and environmental justice, particularly in the NGO field.

Paula Jiménez Argumosa is a Copy Editor of the USJ. She is in her fourth year at the University of Toronto, where she is studying commerce and sociology. She is pursuing education in sociology because she seeks to increase her understanding of socially constructed systems and structures, which include learning the frameworks of thought and analysis. Her topics of interests include social movements, political sociology, gender inequalities, and conflict and development. In the future, Paula intends to pursue her interests in gender studies and political sociology through academia and NGOs.

“Living Right, Feeling Good” – Professor Andrew Miles researches the effects of moral action on positive emotion

Andrew Miles

Professor Andrew Miles’ new research project looks into the “feel good” effects of moral behaviour. While previous research has shown that helping others makes people feel good, morality scholars recognize that people moralize many ideals in addition to helping, such as fairness, loyalty to groups, respect for authority, and physical and metaphorical purity. Professor Professor Miles is using funding from the Connaught New Research Award to investigate whether whether living up to any of these personal moral ideals leads to positive emotions.

Professor Miles is answering this question using a series of studies, including both surveys and experiments. The surveys will ask respondents questions related to their moral beliefs, behaviour and emotional states, while the experiments will determine whether recalling moral actions or performing moral behaviours that correspond to their personal moral beliefs generates positive emotions in real time.

Answering this question will forge an important link between studies of moral diversity and work on moral emotions and reveal whether the effects of moral action on emotion observed in past research are really “morality” effects, applicable to any type of moral commitment, or attributable to other processes, such as social approval. A general effect means that the scope of moral influence is wider than previously supposed and implies that moral living– by whatever definition – might be a valuable resource in promoting individual mental health and well-being.

Professor Miles is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. His primary areas of research are morality and theories of human behaviour, with a focus on how moral worldviews vary systematically across individuals, and how morality is tied to both behaviour and emotions. He has extensive experience in quantitative research methods and has taught courses and workshops on a variety of methodological topics at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Dr. Michelle Pannor Silver interviewed in “University Affairs” for her book release

Silver, MichelleUniversity Affairs recently published an interview with Professor Michelle Pannor Silver regarding her new book, Retirement and its Discontents: Why We Won’t Stop Working, Even if We Can. In an attempt to better understand why people in high performance careers perceived retirement as difficulty rather than reprieve, Dr. Silver interviewed doctors, CEOs, athletes, professors, and homemakers in the midst of their transitions into retirement. In the interview, she discusses topics such as the influences behind her work, and its implications within academia on both a personal and institutional level.

Dr.  Silver is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching duties at the UTSC campus, and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society. Her professional interests include gerontology, aging and the life course, retirement and health care expenditures. More specifically, her research interests include health economics, health informatics, health policy, and health services research.

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

UA: How does academia inform perceptions about boundaries between work and life outside of work?

Dr. Silver: Academia is a great example of a line of work where those boundaries between work and life get blurred. There’s an expectation that you’re always thinking about work. Some of it is very deadline-oriented, like grant deadlines are very hard rules and if you miss it by a minute, you’re out, your application will not be looked at. But then there’s other aspects of it like writing and producing articles where the pressure is on you to accept those internal deadlines. To be really successful at it, you have to always be on, always be receptive to getting ideas anywhere.

On the other hand, academics are also a great example of people who can potentially be very successful in retirement. Many of the non-academic retirees I interviewed said “I don’t even know what to do, every day is a weekend.” They didn’t know how to structure their time. But academics do, they have to run a class and coordinate with TAs and all of that. Academics are quite well suited to retirement if they put the skills that they’ve been developing in their work to use for their own personal life.

Read the full story.

Professor Owusu-Bempah discusses cannabis justice measures on “Vice”

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Owusu-Bempah discussed cannabis justice measures in a video on VICE. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been charged with cannabis-related offences, and racialized communities have been hit especially hard. In response, Professor Owusu-Bempah explains a three-pronged approach to reparations: cannabis amnesty and expungement of records; inclusion in the list of the cannabis industry; and reinvestment of some of the tax revenue from legal sales back into communities that were most targeted and harmed by prohibition. In brief, these measures are intended to repair conditions for people with previous records of cannabis related offences, and provide avenues for them to enter into the newly legalized industry.

Professor Owusu-Bempah appears at about minute 3:00. The full video can be found here.

Dr. Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM camps. His research is focused on three main areas: Policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race. He is particularly interested in how people of the African Diaspora (African Canadians, African Americans) perceive and experience law enforcement and punishment. His research has recently been published in the scholarly journals Policing and Society, Crime and Justice, and Theoretical Criminology.

Professor Melissa Milkie talks to CNN about Millenial women and household labour

Professor Melissa Milkie spoke to CNN about gender and household work. As women contribute to household income more than ever before, they are still also doing the majority of the unpaid domestic work. According to Professor Milkie, although both men and women are working more paid hours than previous generations, women are also contributing many more hours of unpaid, domestic work to their households and have fewer leisure hours.

Professor Milkie is a professor of sociology with teaching duties at the UTM campus, and chair of the Graduate Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on culture, gender and family, health, and the intersections between work and family. Her work has been published in academic journals such as Social Forces, Society and Mental Health and the American Sociological Review.

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

Younger women are working longer hours and earning more than ever before. But they’re still carrying more of the burden at home.

While millennial households are more likely to adopt egalitarian views about gender, reporting they want to split household duties and income equally, research shows those promises often collapse under the weight of long-held gender stereotypes.
On an average day, 19% of men reported doing housework like laundry, cleaning and other tasks, compared to 49% of women. Women also spend more time every day doing these tasks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
…Yet as women contribute more to household income, they’re still also doing the majority of the unpaid domestic work. Some researchers have pointed to this as a “stall” in the gender revolution, says Melissa Milkie, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.
“When we talk about things like the wage gap, it’s often not linked to what’s happening in the home, and I think it needs to be, because of that unpaid labor that’s really a central part of people’s work-life balancing,” Milkie says. “With women, the cost is borne in their career or their wages when they’re doing more in the home.”
Young adult men are working slightly more, too. But men also spend more time than women exercising, playing games and enjoying other leisure activities, according to the US Department of Labor.

Professor Gail Super discusses the ‘blurry’ space between policing and collective punishment in South Africa in “U of T News”

Professor Gail Super was featured in U of T News for her research in the ‘blurry’ space between policing and collective punishment in South Africa. After receiving a SSHRC Insight Development Grant in 2018, Professor Super has been attempting to untangle complex factors affecting the landscape of law and justice in South Africa, such as inadequate policing and vigilantism, to learn how they relate to state formation. In the article, she states how the political and social system of white minority rule and racial segregation, enforced by colonialism and over 40 years of apartheid government, has had lasting effects. Professor Super describes how non-state policing continues to be the norm in South Africa and how residents in South Africa’s informal settlements experience extreme hardship, such as high rates of violence and crime, and scarcity of water and safety. Her research demonstrates that in this type of situation, making communities responsible for crime prevention can be dangerous. For her study, she is examining the arrest and trial of a popular community activist in Cape Town, who was accused of kidnapping, assaulting and killing two men believed by residents to have been involved in two incidents of rape and murder. The case ultimately demonstrates how constitutional principles, such as the right to bail, are distorted in practice and applied unevenly.

Professor Super is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. Her broader research program focuses on the political context of penal policy-making, specifically the role of crime and punishment in constituting authority and vice versa. She has published articles in a number of top journals, including The Law and Society Review; Punishment and Society;  and Theoretical Criminology. Her first book Governing through Crime in South Africa: The Politics of Race and Class in Neoliberalizing Regimes was published by Ashgate in 2013.

An excerpt of the article is included below (the full article can be found here).

“In these marginalized communities, there’s often an overlap between lawful forms of crime prevention, like neighbourhood watch groups, and unlawful forms of collective punishment. I’m interested in that blurry in-between space, and what it says about the levels of punitiveness in a democracy,” says Super, an assistant professor of sociology whose study, called “Precarious penality on the periphery: Crime prevention and punishment in South Africa’s informal settlements,” won a $10,000 Connaught Fund New Researcher Award last year.

South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal societies, says Super, a South African citizen who practised human rights law in Namibia. The effects of colonialism and more than 40 years of apartheid government, in which a political and social system of white minority rule and racial segregation was brutally enforced, have had lasting effects, felt well beyond the 1994 transition to formal democracy.

These effects include disproportionately high levels of unevenly distributed violent crime, poverty, and staggeringly high levels of unemployment.

Read the full story.

Religion and Fandom: Sofia Jelovac published in U of T’s Undergraduate Sociology Journal

Sofia Jelovac  published an article entitled “Religion and Fandom” in Volume I of the Undergraduate Sociology Journal. Her work explores the parallels between religious form (as outlined by Durkheim) and fandom through a study of the dynamics of Coldplay and the Coldplayer fanbase. By examining the division of the sacred and the profane, within the realm of fandoms and their interaction rituals through concerts and other forums, Sofia illustrates how fandoms and religious forms constitute and create forms of belief and meaning. Her analysis of the Coldplay fandom invites further critical exploration of modern-day phenomena in relation to religious form by examining devotion based, meaning-making processes.

Sofia is in her fifth year at the University of Toronto, where she is studying sociology and socio-cultural anthropology. She studies sociology due to her interests in the ways that human interactions occur, such as forming relationships and establishing meaning within larger social structures in society. More specifically, she is interested in exploring areas of sociology that are often overlooked, such as the sociology of interactions, patterns, and symbolism that people create and experience on a daily basis, which include topics of consumer society, domestic violence and social networks. Her favourite sociology course has been SOC499: Sociology of Disability, because it taught her how to question the definitions, representations and depictions of disability that are often implicitly and explicitly taught and exposed to society through social relations. In the future, Sofia hopes to become a social worker and therapist to nurture, empower and help others, which would combine her interests in sustainability, travel and human connection.