Congratulations to Professor Sida Liu for his honourable mention in the Asian Law & Society Association Book Award

Congratulations to Professor Sida Liu who recently received an honourable mention in the Asian Law & Society Association Book Award for his book, Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work. The book was co-authored with Terence C. Halliday, and examines the routine work and political mobilization of defense lawyers in China.

Professor Liu is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and teaches on the UTM campus. He studies the sociology of law, organizations and professions, political sociology, criminal justice, globalization, and social theory. He has conducted extensive research on China’s legal system and legal profession, including studies on the globalization of corporate law firms, the feminization of judges, and the career mobility of law practitioners.

More information about the book can be found on the Cambridge University Press publisher site.

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Jenna Valleriani and Professors Adam Green and Barry Adams, recipients of the Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research

Jenna VallerianiCongratulations to PhD Candidate Jenna Valleriani and Professor Adam Green who received the 2017 Anselm Strauss Award for Qualitative Family Research from the National Council on Family Relations for their article on marital monogamy. Jenna is currently completing her dissertation, ‘The Green Rush’: Social Movements, Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Medical Cannabis Industry in Canada, supervised by Professor Candace Kruttschnitt. Professor Green is an Associate Professor of sociology at the St. George campus.

We have posted the citation and abstract of their winning article below. The full article is available through the University of Toronto library portal here.

“Marital Monogamy as Ideal and Practice: The Detraditionalization Thesis in Contemporary Marriages,” Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(April), 416-430.

Within the sociological literature on intimate life, a detraditionalization thesis outlines a marked shift in the construction of marriage in post‐World War II Western societies, suggesting a growing focus on emotional and sexual satisfaction within the marital dyad (Cherlin, 2004; Giddens, 1992). In this article the authors investigated one aspect of marital relations in light of the detraditionalization thesis: marital monogamy. Drawing from 90 in‐depth interviews with both heterosexual and same‐sex married participants in Canada, they found that the detraditionalization thesis appears to capture best the extension of multicultural norms to abstract ideals about marital monogamy, rather than an actual shift in marital sexual practices, particularly among heterosexual respondents. These data call out for greater attention to both the social mediation of Giddens’s detraditionalization thesis and a more nuanced concept of marital fidelity than a simple binary axis of “monogamous/nonmonogamous” permits.

Professor Yoonkyung Lee profiled in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science News

Sociology Professor Yoonkyung Lee was recently featured in an interview by U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science News. The interview explores Professor Lee’s research on the labour conditions and political processes in Korea, as well as her role as the Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies. Professor Lee is an Associate Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the St. George campus. She is a political sociologist with research interests in labour politics, social movements, and political representation.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

The politics of precarious labour and democracy in Korea

November 3, 2017   |  Diana Kuprel

You trace the historical formation of political opposition in Korea. What is unique about Korean society and political life?

Our understanding of democratic politics is hugely pre-defined by the political experience of Western societies. We work with presumed notions, such as modern political systems emerging with industrialization, political pluralism exercised by political parties, and civil society buttressing micro-level democratic processes. By doing so, we often make the mistake of assuming that if something is “different” from the “Western standard,” democracy is an aberration and deficient.

Over the years of my comparative study of political development in non-Western societies like Korea and Taiwan, I have come to learn that they need to be approached on their own terms. Politics in these societies cannot be understood without the historical legacies of colonialism, war and national division, which have set a different terrain for the creation of democratic politics. My task as a scholar is to identify the different trajectories and to explain what this “difference” adds to our knowledge of politics, democracy and social change.

In this sense, Korea presents an intriguing case, with a strong state, a contentious social movement, and relatively weak political parties. These three actors have formed a unique political dynamic under which political stability and predictability are hard to come by. The political force that seizes state power strives to use the overarching authority. Vocal social movements mobilize to contest the excessive state. And political parties are unable to harness the conflicting interests into the formal political process. It is this very dynamic that creates sporadic historical moments when people mobilize, become politically enlightened, directly participate, and make a drastic change in the course of politics. The phenomenal protest that occurred in Korea over several months in 2016 and 2017 led to the formal impeachment of the incumbent president Park Geun-hye—there is no better example that shows the unique political dynamic of Korea.

Read the full article here.

Flaws with the 2016 Census: Professor Robert Brym in Globe and Mail

Robert BrymSociology Professor Robert Brym recently authored an op-ed piece for the Globe and Mail Newspaper. His op-ed discusses flaws in the 2016 census methodology that resulted in the apparent decline of Canada’s Jewish population.  Professor Brym is the S.D. Clark Chair in Sociology and teaches at the St. George Campus. His current research interests include the democratization movement in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

We have posted an excerpt of the piece below.

Robert Brym
Nov. 2, 2017

…All was supposed to return to normal when the Trudeau government came to power. Just one day after taking office, it announced that the 2016 census would revert to its traditional, compulsory form, once again providing Canadians with reliable data about their economic, demographic, housing and ethnic status. But at least one category of the population – Canada’s Jews – may be miffed to learn that more than half their number went missing between 2011 and 2016. Statistics Canada reported this “fact” in a recent 2016 census release.

The 2011 NHS reported 309,650 Canadian Jews by ethnic ancestry, which is believable because it is in line with 2006 census data. In contrast, the 2016 census reports just 143,665 Jews by ethnic ancestry – a decline of nearly 54 per cent in five years. That number defies reason.

Read the full piece here.

PhD Candidate Sarah Cappeliez on the meanings of “terroir” in French and Canadian Wine

Sarah Cappeliez

PhD Candidate Sarah Cappeliez has recently published a paper about the meanings of terroir in the contexts of French and Canadian wine. The paper, published in Poetics, argues that despite its apparent elusiveness as a term, both French and Canadian contexts have understandings of terroir that share an appreciation of nature and place as a powerful force, though the understanding of the human relationship with the land varied by context. This paper draws on Cappeliez’ dissertation research which uses wine as a case for examining how ideas and tastes travel and are adopted in new places. We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available in press and online.

Cappeliez, S. (2017). How well does terroir travel? Illuminating cultural translation using a comparative wine case study. Poetics.

Terroir is a complex French cultural term used to identify and classify artisanal foods and drinks in relation to a specific place. Notoriously “untranslatable”, terroir has nevertheless travelled well beyond the borders of France and Europe more broadly. This paper illuminates the parts of terroir that translate culturally by using a qualitative comparative case study of two contrasting wine regions, and examines how terroir manifests in similar and different ways when it is taken up in a French and a Canadian regional cultural context. Through the analysis of terroir discourse in 30 interviews and 32 websites, this study further clarifies the factors that drive consistency and change in the translation of a cultural idea like terroir. Moving beyond the idea that “terroir is adaptable”, this paper shows how wine actors articulate terroir’s normative principles as constant, but describe terroir’s natural and human practices in locally contingent ways, nuancing our understanding of stability and change in how culture unfolds within a globalized cultural context.

Read the full article here.

PhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk on the Contradictions of Maternal Foodwork

Merin OleschukPhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk recently co-authored a piece on maternal foodwork with Professors Kate Cairns and Josée Johnston that was featured on the Gender & Society blog. The Gender & Society blog posts pieces for a general audience that align with the mandate of the Gender and Society journal.  This blog post examines the careful “balancing act” that mothers perform when deciding what to feed their children according to societal expectations. Using the conceptual figures of the “McDonalds Mom” and the “Organic Mom”, the authors illustrate how mothers are penalized for both healthy and unhealthy choices, and how  different social contexts can perpetuate these undesirable labels or hinder mothers from reaching the acceptable balance. Merin is currently completing her dissertation on how social inequalities shape food and the practices surrounding it.

We have posted an excerpt of the blog post below.

Calibrating Extremes: The Balancing Act of Maternal Foodwork

By Kate Cairns, Josée Johnston and Merin Oleschuk

When it comes to feeding children, mothers today must avoid the appearance of caring too little, or too much. Either extreme garners social stigma, although the penalties are far from equal.

Theresa describes how becoming a mother brought heightened significance to her food decisions. “I really tried to avoid the junk,” she says, hosting a focus group of friends in her Toronto apartment. A mixed-race single mother raising three kids on social assistance, Theresa says the scarcity of time and money makes putting regular healthy meals on the table difficult. But occasionally her efforts pay off. She recalls with pride the time her five-year-old son “went to a birthday party at McDonald’s, came home and threw up because he just wasn’t used to that food.” For Theresa, her son’s intolerance for fast food was evidence of her devoted feeding work.

The specter of the “McDonalds Mom”

When we conducted interviews and focus groups with Toronto women, many mothers described ongoing efforts to feed their kids nutritious meals, while avoiding processed “junk.” In doing so, these women distanced their own feeding practices from an imagined “bad” mother who makes “bad” food choices. Carol (white, producer) admits that she sometimes scrutinizes other grocery carts with a “judgmental eye” when she sees “really awful stuff going down the conveyer belt with kids there.” Tara (a white single-mother who was unable to work due to chronic pain) expressed frustration that her son’s healthy lunches would inevitably be traded for junk because his friends were sent to school with “all this crap.”

As mothers in our study distanced themselves from an unhealthy “Other” who made poor food choices, we were surprised how frequently McDonald’s entered the conversation. McDonald’s seemed to function as a trope symbolizing “easy” meals, “unhealthy” choices, and “bad” mothering more generally. Gail (white, acupuncturist) contrasted her vision of healthy home cooking with a “stereotypical image of someone stopping at McDonald’s to get food for their kids.” Marissa (Black, project manager) confessed that as “busy people we do need to do fast food,” but clarified that “my kids will tell you that does not mean McDonald’s.” Lucia (Latina, social worker) said she and her son “talk about what’s junk and you know, McDonald’s and all that kind of food” in an effort to teach him “what’s healthy, what’s not healthy.”

Again and again, mothers distanced themselves from the figure of the “McDonald’s Mom,” a stigmatized “Other” they used to defend their own feeding practices. While this defense may seem judgmental, we suggest mothers’ efforts to establish this distance reflect the intense pressures they experience feeding their children…

Read the full blog post here.

PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai’s research featured in the Globe and Mail

Research co-authored by PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai was recently featured in an article published online by The Globe and Mail Newspaper. The article highlights the findings of a study conducted by Koltai with Sociology Professors Ronit Dinovitzer and Scott Schieman on the mental health of lawyers in the public and private sectors in both Canada and the USA. Jonathan recently completed and defended his dissertation on the Organizational Contexts of Interrole Conflict and Worker Well-Being. We have posted an excerpt of the article below.


New Canadian research suggests lawyers are more likely to experience mental health struggles the more successful they are in their field.

The study from the University of Toronto, slated for publication in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, compares two national surveys of thousands of lawyers in both Canada and the United States.

In both countries, researchers found a strong correlation between signs of depression and traditional markers of career success.

Lawyers holding down jobs at large firms in the private sector, widely considered to be the most prestigious roles, were most likely to experience depressive symptoms.

Researchers say the findings buck trends found in the general population, where career success is typically equated with fewer mental health risks….

“In the population we know … that groups that are better off in terms of income are also better off in terms of mental health. But if you zoom in to this specific subgroup of lawyers, that pattern is reversed,” Koltai said in a phone interview. “People working in environments with more income on average actually tend to experience more depressive symptoms, and that’s because of their higher levels of stress exposure.”

Koltai said depressive symptoms were less evident among lawyers working in public sector roles, which typically pay less than similar positions in the private sector. One of the major drivers, he said, is the lack of work-life balance typical among those in positions that demand long working hours.

Read the full article here.

Professor Ronit Dinovitzer and PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai featured in Canadian Lawyer Magazine

Associate Sociology Professor Ronit Dinovitzer and PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai were recently featured in the Canadian Lawyer Magazine discussing their research on mental health in the legal profession. The article highlights the research presented by Professor Dinovitzer and Koltai during a conference hosted by the Action Group on Access To Justice’s “Access to Justice Week.”  Together with co-author Professor Scott Schieman, Dinovitzer and Koltai recently published a paper in the March 2017 issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, on the topic of mental health amongst legal professionals titled The Status Health Paradox.

We have posted an excerpt of the Canadian Lawyer Magazine article below.

High-pressure law jobs linked to depression

Written By Aidan Macnab

The more lawyers get paid, the more likely they are to experience depression, dissatisfaction with their career choice and work-life balance conflict, according to research released this week.

In a presentation at the Action Group on Access To Justice’s Access to Justice Week, University of Toronto sociology professor Ronit Dinovitzer and PhD candidate Jonathan Koltai discussed their recent work and the imperative for the legal community to meet challenges it faces in mental health.

The sociologists said lawyers experience higher risk of mental illness and addiction. Private sector lawyers in big firms experience significantly more depression than those in the public sector and lower on the income scale. Stress, burnout and anxiety were reported as the most prevalent among lawyers, according to a Canadian Bar Association survey.

In a 2016 study, which surveyed 12,825 American lawyers, in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 28 per cent of respondents suffered from depression, 19 per cent experienced anxiety and 20 per cent “screened positive for hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.”

The depression, stress, substance abuse and burnout that plague private-sector, big-firm lawyers with high salaries can be attributed to the hours they work, according to Dinovitzer and Koltai. The hours they work lead to work-life conflict.

“It’s probably not enough to tell people that they should go meditate more or do more yoga,” said Koltai. “The problem here doesn’t start with behaviours at the individual level. It has sources in the way work is organized from the top down, in the organizational climates that require or at least glorify extreme work hours and in those environments that provide very little opportunity for workers to balance responsibilities in their competing life domains.”

Koltai said that if those in the legal profession really want to improve in these areas, the answer will need to come from the top down, in the way work is organized at firms.

Read the full article here.

Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann featured in UTM News

Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann were recently featured in an article on the UTM News Page. The article highlights their research about the food preferences of lower socioeconomic status populations. The findings of their study was published in The Journal of Consumer Culture in July 2017. Professor Johnston is a Full Professor and Professor Baumann is an Associate Professor of Sociology, both with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus.

We have included an excerpt of the news article below.

What’s for Dinner? New study reveals how low-income diners choose what’s on their plate

Friday, October 27, 2017 – 12:44pm
Blake Eligh

A study from U of T Mississauga is shedding new light on the complex relationship between food, culture and poverty. The study by Professor Josée Johnston and Associate Professor Shyon Baumann of the Department of Sociology investigates how and why people in low socioeconomic households make the food choices they do, and features surprising results about how low-income diners view healthy eating.

Baumann and Johnston previously reported on how diners in higher socioeconomic brackets make food choices. “But relatively little attention has been paid to the taste preferences of those in lower socioeconomic groups,” Johnston says. “We had never systematically looked at low-income consumers to assess how they valued food.”

A peek at a weekly grocery bill doesn’t provide a full picture about what people would actually like to be eating, she says. “We argue that low-socioeconomic-status respondents demonstrate aesthetic preferences that are distinctly different from that of high socioeconomic status cultural consumption.”

“Our study moves beyond daily economic constraints to look at food ideals—what they describe as desirable and how they justify their preferences,” Baumann says.

Read the full article here.

Professor Dan Silver’s Report on Toronto’s Public Art Policy featured in UofT News

Professor Dan Silver was recently featured in the U of T News discussing Toronto’s public art policy. Professor Silver is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Acting Chair of Sociology at the UTSC campus. He recently co-authored a report titled Redefining Public Art in Toronto, in which he and his co-author Professor Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University, outline recommendations for improving the future of public art in Toronto. The report provides suggestions based on their extensive analysis of public art policy in the city and comparisons with other cities. Professor Silver’s research interests include social theory, cities, culture, and cultural policy.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Toronto needs to adopt a fresh vision for its public art policy, says report co-authored by U of T expert

By Don Campell | Oct. 23, 2017

Toronto needs to develop a fresh vision for its public art projects and integrate public art in all future planning, says a new report on the subject.

“A renewed vision for public art is something that should be given priority, especially as Toronto tries to market itself and position itself as a cultural leader in the country and globally,” says Sara Diamond, president and vice-chancellor of OCAD University, who authored the report with the University of Toronto’s Dan Silver.

The authors and their teams, which included researchers from U of T and OCAD U, pulled together an exhaustive list of materials for the report, titled Redefining Public Art in Toronto. In addition to interviews with artists, architects, developers, politicians and other art experts in Toronto and Montreal, they relied on an inventory map of all public art projects completed in the city from 1967 to 2015, created by Ilana Altman.

They also looked at a host of public art policy documents for the City of Toronto and collected similar documents from 30 other cities around the world as part of a comparative analysis. The result? While there are areas where Toronto is doing well, there are clear areas where it’s falling behind.

Read the full article here.

Professor Ellen Berrey outlines the myths of employment discrimination litigation in article featured in the American Bar Association Journal

Professor Ellen Berrey recently co-authored an article featured in the American Bar Association Journal. The article explores the research and findings from Professor Berrey’s latest book, Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality. Professor Berrey is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. Her research specializes on law and society. The article appeared in the November 2017 issue of the ABA Journal.

We have posted an excerpt below.

10 myths show the harsh realities of employment civil rights litigation

On the surface, America’s commitment to equal opportunity in the workplace has never been clearer. Virtually every company has anti-discrimination policies in place, and there are laws designed to protect these rights across a range of marginalized groups.

But our examination of nearly 1,800 civil rights cases and interviews with parties and their lawyers shows that this progressive vision of the law falls far short in practice. When aggrieved individuals turn to the law, the adversarial character of litigation imposes considerable personal and financial costs that make plaintiffs feel like they’ve lost regardless of the outcome of the case. Employer defendants also are dissatisfied with the system, often feeling “held up” by what they see as frivolous cases. And even when the case is resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, the conditions that gave rise to the lawsuit rarely change.

In fact, the contemporary approach to workplace discrimination law perversely reinforces the very hierarchies that anti-discrimination laws were created to redress…

In our book, Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality, we offer a comprehensive analysis of the system of employment civil rights litigation, using both statistical data from a large random sample of cases and in-depth interviews with plaintiffs, plaintiffs lawyers, defendant employers and defense lawyers about their experiences with and perspectives on discrimination lawsuits…

Read the full article here.

Professor Neda Maghbouleh featured in UofT News

Sociology Assistant Professor Neda Maghbouleh was recently featured in the U of T News discussing her latest book,  The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race. In the article Professor Maghbouleh explains the motivations for her research as well as the methods she employed to learn about Iranian-American youth experiences in the USA.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

U of T’s Neda Maghbouleh explores culture, identity and discrimination in new book about Iranian-Americans

By Romi Levine | Oct. 26, 2017

When President Donald Trump introduced an executive order barring people from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., it was further confirmation for Neda Maghbouleh of what she learned from years spent researching her latest book The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race.

“The people it affected the most proportionately were Iranians and it was precisely because of the predicament I’m describing in the book,” says Maghbouleh, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga.

The Limits of Whiteness explores the grey area where Iranian-Americans exist – they’re legally categorized as white but socially and culturally are often excluded and discriminated against, she says.

To get a real understanding of what it’s like to be an Iranian-American, Maghbouleh interviewed and shadowed 84 young people living across the United States whose parents were born in Iran.

“I was interested in knowing more about the nitty-gritty of everyday life,” she says. “There was so little written about Iranians and I was in the field with my ears open to try to see what were the salient issues.”

Read the full article here.

Professor Berrey’s research on Affirmative Action featured in the Christian Science Monitor

Professor Ellen Berrey was recently featured in an article in the Christian Science Monitor by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo. The article concerns recent controversies in the USA surrounding affirmative action practices in college admissions. The article explores the debates around affirmative action in the  context of US higher education institutions with reference to Professor Berrey’s research. Professor Berrey studies the effect of law, organizational practices, and culture on inequality. She has published work on diversity discourse, affirmative action policies, employment discrimination litigation, corporate social responsibility, and urban gentrification.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

A sticky week for college admissions as affirmative action debate heats up

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo | Aug. 3, 2017

The waters of the affirmative action debate – left relatively undisturbed since a Supreme Court decision upheld its constitutionality last year – were again agitated this week.

The trigger: a leaked internal document from the Department of Justice that signaled to some that the Trump administration is devoting resources to the anti-affirmative action cause. Others say that’s an overblown reaction to an innocuous move to investigate one claim by Asian-Americans.

Today, the majority of top-tier universities maintain a strong commitment to the value of diversity and the narrow use of race in admissions to achieve that. But the steady drumbeat of criticism from those who believe society should be colorblind may have contributed to what new research has found: The percentage of competitive institutions publicly stating that they factor race into admissions has dramatically declined….

From 1994 to 2014, the percentage of selective colleges and universities that publicly state they use race in admissions has declined from more than 60 percent to just 35 percent, researchers Daniel Hirschman of Brown and Ellen Berrey of the University of Toronto found in a paper published in June. The decline has been strongest among lowest tier of competitive schools.

Read the full article here.

PhD Candidate Joshua Harold on collective memory and residential choices

Joshua HaroldPhD Candidate Joshua Harold recently co-authored an article with Professor Eric Fong that was published in the Ethnic and Racial Studies journal. The article examines the influence of collective memory on the residential choices of the Jewish population in Toronto.

Joshua is currently completing his dissertation, Mnemonic Boundaries: Historical Experience and Ethnic Boundary Making supervised by Professor Fong.

The citation and abstract for the paper are included below.

Harold, J., & Fong, E. (2017). Mobilizing memory: collective memory schemas and the social boundaries of Jews in Toronto. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1-19. doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1344719

This paper examines how collective memory informs residential choices by analysing the residential patterns of Jews in Toronto. Our study extends the literature on collective memory and ethnic boundaries to include understandings about how our socio-historical and cultural worlds shape our environment and give it meaning. We argue that collective memory functions symbolically within Jewish neighbourhoods to reproduce meanings about group status and belonging as well as to direct association patterns that manifest as durable residential enclaves. Our findings show how residential clustering patterns reflect the behavioural consequences of the group’s collective memory. Through an in-depth qualitative analysis, we identify four collective memory schemas for ethnic residential clustering which serve as prominent scripts that shape the Jewish residential landscape in Toronto.

Professor David Pettinicchio shares research about the comparative political participation of immigrants in Europe

Assistant Professor David Pettinicchio recently published a blog post on Mobilizing Ideas, a blog produced by the Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dam, for scholars and activists to discuss social movements and change. Professor Pettinicchio’s post explores existing theories about immigrant participation in political processes such as protests, petition-signing, and boycotts, and discusses these theories in relation to the findings of his recent research on immigrant political participation in Europe. Professor Pettinicchio studies political sociology and social policy. He recently published a paper with Dr. Robert de Vries entitled “Immigrant Political Participation in Europe Comparing Different Forms of Political Action across Groups”

We have posted an excerpt of the post below.

Comparing Immigrant Political Participation

David Pettinicchio | Aug. 16, 2017

This year saw numerous episodes of mobilization by immigrants and non-immigrants alike. In Sweden, protesters mobilized against police in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm. Protesters in Cologne, Germany organized against the anti-immigration party, the AfD. London protesters held an event at the U.S. embassy in London against Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” And, protesters in the U.S. mobilized against Trump and his administration’s views and positions on immigration with “A Day Without Immigrants.”

It’s hard to believe that a widely held assumption in the literature on immigrant political participation was that immigrants, particularly non-citizens, were unlikely to become involved politically, especially in more visible, disruptive forms of collective action. Yet, immigrant citizens and non-citizens participate in a wide-range of political action – from signing petitions, to boycotts, to protest demonstrations.

This raises theoretical and empirical questions about how different immigrant political participation is from that of native participation – whether these reveal, as some scholars suggested, “unique patterns” of political participation – especially when it comes to preferences for so-called extra-institutional or more disruptive forms of action.

Indeed, my recent paper with Robert de Vries at the University of Kent draws attention precisely to the often problematic ways in which social movement scholars, political sociologists and other social scientists conceptualize and operationalize participation. We sought to link these concerns to what scholars might expect participation to be like given what we know about collective action.

Read the full post here.

Professor Ellen Berrey featured in The New Yorker Magazine

The New Yorker Magazine recently published a piece called “The Limits of Diversity” discussing debates in the US about affirmative action and the rhetoric around “diversity.” The article prominently features the work of Professor Ellen Berrey. Professor Berrey is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department with teaching responsibilities on the Mississauga campus. She studies the effects of law, organizational practices, and culture on inequality and recently published the book, The Enigma of Diversity.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

The Limits of “Diversity”

Where affirmative action was about compensatory justice, diversity is meant to be a shared benefit. But does the rationale carry weight?

… in “The Enigma of Diversity,” she [Ellen Berrey] sets out to discover how this ideology functions, by spending time in the field. Three fields, in fact: a large (and, by agreement, anonymous) Fortune 500 corporation, a mixed-income neighborhood in Chicago, and a selective public university, the University of Michigan. All three realms were proudly and self-consciously diverse, although carefully so—Michigan had been sued over its affirmative-action program. Berrey’s smart and subtle book aims to show exactly how differently people and institutions use this malleable concept.

The neighborhood that Berrey studied is called Rogers Park, and when she did her research it was roughly thirty-two per cent white, thirty per cent black, twenty-eight per cent Hispanic, and six per cent Asian—neither a rich enclave nor an isolated ghetto. One alderman referred to a controversial plan to offer subsidized housing to low-income residents as a way to “maintain diversity.” But when a representative from a pro-development organization responded that his organization “wants to diversify,” he was using the word to argue against the plan. “There’s already too much low-income housing there,” he said. Meanwhile, at the big corporation, the diversity-management program functioned mainly as a surreal exercise in internal branding, entirely separate from the legal department (which handled claims of discrimination). So-called diversity managers worked to foster an “inclusive” environment, but they seemed to spend much of their time “reiterating the good that would come from diversity,” as a way of justifying their own positions.

Even on campus, where the modern diversity doctrine was fashioned, Berrey found that the doctrine itself was hard to define. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that “racial minorities” were “culturally distinct from but culturally equivalent to white people.” (The cultural differences were considered real enough to make diversity valuable but not real enough to explain, say, disparities in academic achievement.) At one point, Michigan’s admissions-office Web site pictured a welter of enthusiastic believers, including a student who declared, “Diversity is one of the issues I’m most passionate about.” …

It may turn out that the rise of diversity marked the end of the golden age of affirmative action. This summer, Berrey published a paper that analyzed the admissions practices of about a thousand selective colleges in America; she and her co-author, Daniel Hirschman, found that sixty per cent of them had race-conscious admission policies in 1994, but only thirty-five per cent did in 2014. Some public institutions were forced by law to adopt a race-blind admissions policy, but much of the shift came among “middle-status” colleges and universities. Berrey and Hirschman hypothesized that these schools were reacting to a broad political backlash against affirmative action. This retreat may explain why Berrey, who is sympathetic to affirmative action, is reluctant to dismiss the diversity movement, no matter how inchoate or feckless it may seem. The upbeat language of diversity helps camouflage racial demands that might otherwise seem impolite—or unconstitutional. “Diversity is so plastic and broadly appealing,” Berrey writes, “it can justify effective policy interventions such as affirmative admissions, and it can animate progressive political action to redistribute resources to the disadvantaged, too”—measures that Berrey seems to support, and that many other Americans otherwise might not…

Read the full article here.

Professor Jayne Baker on the Times Higher Education Rankings for 2018

Sociology Assistant Professor Jayne Baker was recently featured in an article by UTM’s student newspaper The Medium, discussing the Times Higher Education ranking for the University of Toronto. The article explored what criterion are taken into account to determine university ranking and what the rankings mean to the UofT community. Professor Baker, who researches the sociology of education, gave insight into what the University rankings mean and what social factors (such as socioeconomic background of students) may influence a University’s success.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

What does it really mean to be No. 1?

U of T is ranked number 1 in Canada and the 22nd in the world by Times Higher Education rankings

Jessica Cabral | Sept. 18, 2017

In the recently published Times Higher Education 2018 university ranking, the University of Toronto placed 22nd out of the top 1,000 universities in the world and preserved their standing as the highest ranked Canadian university for the eighth consecutive year. Tied in position with the National University of Singapore, U of T continues to maintain a comfortable spot among some of the world’s highest ranked post-secondary institutions. But, what kind of relevance do these university rankings hold? What, if anything, do they tell us about the quality of the learning experience?

“Rankings are a funny thing, in that they are popular to discuss, especially when you’re at the top, but are sometimes taken to signify more than what is actually being measured,” says Jayne Baker, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at UTM, in an email to The Medium. “Rankings are commonly used as evidence of institutional prestige. However, I think we could all agree that many institutions with high rankings would continue to be prestigious were those rankings not to exist at all.”

As an example, Baker explains that regardless of the presence of yearly university rankings, American Ivy League institutions, known for frequently landing top positions across national and international ranking systems, would continue to maintain their distinguished reputations among employers, provide their students with optimal employment opportunities, and produce powerful leaders because of their established history and selective admissions processes.

“Another important factor to acknowledge is that these are institutions that have historically, and to this day, accepted students from wealthier backgrounds,” says Baker.

Having learnt from published research in the sociology of education, Baker explains that children from families with “higher socioeconomic status” are “associated with better educational outcomes and more advantageous social networks”. Later in life, these factors ultimately contribute to the individual’s success in obtaining a career and their pursuit of education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Baker notes however that,  “the interesting thing about Canada is that our university system is not marked by the kind of steep hierarchy among institutions like you’d find in the United States.”

If institutional history and household wealth play integral roles in developing the high status of American Ivy League schools, what then are the factors that the THE take into consideration?

Read the full article here.

Food security at whose expense? PhD candidate Anelyse Weiler co-authors new article in International Migration

Anelyse WeilerInternational Migration recently published an article co-authored by PhD candidate Anelyse Weiler, along with Janet McLaughlin of Wilfrid Laurier University and Donald Cole at UofT’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Focusing on Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), the authors critically analyze employer claims that changing the status quo for migrant farm workers’ labour and human rights would undermine national food security. In addition, they weigh in on debates about whether remittances alleviate food insecurity and poverty for migrant workers. Their data is based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in Canada, Mexico and Jamaica, along with clinical data from serving farm worker patients in Ontario.

The authors contend that while the SAWP may provide temporary improvements to migrant farm workers’ household food security, this comes at a high cost and fails to address the structural drivers of migration. They document how the very people hired to produce food experience barriers to food security while they are working in Canada. Ultimately, they argue that the concept of ‘feeding the nation’ via migrant farm labour regimes depends on imagining migrant farm workers as racialized outsiders.

Weiler is currently conducting her dissertation fieldwork on socio-ecological dynamics of agrarian change in Pacific Northwest apple production. In 2016, she received an award from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in BC for her research and migrant farm worker advocacy. This past spring, she co-organized an international symposium in Vancouver on emergent forms of collective organizing among precariously employed workers across the food system. She recently published a Policy Brief with Food Secure Canada on how Canada’s national food policy can strengthen health, human rights and dignity with migrant farm workers.

Weiler, A. M., McLaughlin, J., & Cole, D. C. (2017). Food Security at Whose Expense? A Critique of the Canadian Temporary Farm Labour Migration Regime and Proposals for Change. International Migration55(4), 48-63.

The abstract is as follows:

Temporary farm labour migration schemes in Canada have been justified on the premise that they bolster food security for Canadians by addressing agricultural labour shortages, while tempering food insecurity in the Global South via remittances. Such appeals hinge on an ideology defining migrants as racialized outsiders to Canada. Drawing on qualitative interviews and participant observation in Mexico, Jamaica and Canada, we critically analyse how Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program is tied to ideological claims about national food security and agrarianism, and how it purports to address migrant workers’ own food insecurity. We argue remittances only partially, temporarily mitigate food insecurity and fail to strengthen migrant food sovereignty. Data from our clinical encounters with farm workers illustrate structural barriers to healthy food access and negative health consequences. We propose an agenda for further research, along with policies to advance food security and food sovereignty for both migrants and residents of Canada.

Professor Clayton Childress discusses his new book “Under the Cover” on Roundhouse Radio

Sociology Professor Clayton Childress was recently interviewed by Minelle Mahtani in her show “Sense of Place” on Roundhouse Radio (98.3 FM). During the interview Professor Childress discusses the inspiration, research process, and writing style for his recently published book, Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel. The book explores the complex publication process of novels and was published by Princeton University Press. Professor Childress is a faculty member with teaching responsibilities at UTSC. He is a specialist in the sociology of culture.

Roundhouse Radio is a station located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The interview is available to listen to on their site here.

Professor Liu provides insight on China’s legal system

The New York Times Magazine recently published a piece on the treatment of human rights lawyers in China. The article highlights the stories of a group of lawyers in China and the risks and obstacles they face in practicing human rights law in China. U of T’s Sociology Professor Sida Liu was featured in the piece, giving input on the workings of China’s legal system and the history behind government intervention in legal proceedings in China.

Professor Liu has conducted extensive research on China’s legal system and has published work on practicing law in China.  He recently received funding for a research project studying the effects of globalization on lawyers practicing in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

‘Flee at Once’: China’s Besieged Human Rights Lawyers

As the global spotlight on the nation’s domestic policies has dimmed, lawyers for dissidents increasingly face a terrible choice: acquiescence or imprisonment.

Life has never been easy for China’s criminal defense lawyers. Until 1979, the People’s Republic operated with virtually no criminal-justice system whatsoever: The Communist Party organized Soviet-style police and people’s courts to address petty crimes and local disputes, but their primary responsibility was to enforce absolute loyalty to the party. Even the Constitution, the ostensible basis of the law, was rudimentary at best, and served mainly to outline the means of ‘‘socialist industrialization and socialist transformation’’ in order to abolish ‘‘systems of exploitation.’’ The near-constant churn of intraparty purges, revolutionary campaigns and political mobilizations rendered law an afterthought at best and a tool of the bourgeois antirevolutionaries at worst.

The economic reforms of the late 1970s brought legal reform along with them. The legal profession and the criminal-justice system were built from scratch — Mao had purged and destroyed the nascent community of lawyers in one of his ideological campaigns — but there was trouble from the start. These new courts were envisioned not as independent arbiters but as the ‘‘knife handle of the proletarian dictatorship,’’ according to Sida Liu, a professor at the University of Toronto who studies law and society in China. Defense lawyers were often treated like criminals themselves, harassed and imprisoned for fulfilling the basic duties of their profession. Between 1997 and 2001, at least 143 lawyers were arrested, detained or beaten in China for working on criminal cases, according to the Chinese bar association. The threat of punishment — or the allure of a comfortable job at a government-friendly firm — persuaded many lawyers to avoid criminal cases altogether, or to simply accommodate the whims of the authorities.

By the early 2000s, the Chinese leadership under Jiang Zemin was taking a relatively soft approach to ideological conformity — in part because the country was petitioning for membership in the World Trade Organization, which required American approval at a time when United States officials were pressing China on its domestic policies. A new generation of Chinese lawyers was also entering the profession, students who ‘‘would read about constitutionalism, would read about liberal values,’’ says Eva Pils, a reader in transnational law at King’s College, London. ‘‘Students in those days were really studying the American Constitution as much as the Chinese one, and trying to think about ways of giving effect to the Constitution — to revitalize and breathe life into it.’’ A debate within the profession bubbled to the surface: Should lawyers operating in an illegal society follow the law? Faced with the slow strangulation of their rights and protections, some lawyers concluded that in an unjust system, extralegal methods — open letters, micro­blogs, protests and public advocacy — were the only way to uphold the true principles of the law….

Read the full article.