Congratulations to Professor Monica Boyd, recipient of the 2017 Canadian Population Society Award

Boyd, MonicaCongratulations to Professor Monica Boyd who received the Canadian Population Society Award for 2017. The CPS awards this prize once every two years to a Canadian scholar who “has shown outstanding commitment to the profession of demography and whose cumulative work has contributed in important ways to the advancement of the discipline in Canada, through publications, teaching and/or service.” In honouring Professor Boyd, the Canadian Population Society recognized her outstanding research, teaching and service contributions over the past four decades.

Professor Boyd is particularly well known for her pioneering work in incorporating an understanding of gender into the field of immigration studies, and for her more recent work on the integration of 1.5 and second generation immigrants. Her 1989 article in the International Migration Review broke new ground by showing the relationship between gender and networks in the migration process. This continues to be a widely-read and cited article and Professor Boyd has developed an international reputation as an expert in the gendered dimensions of international migration. Professor Boyd’s more recent work has had a significant impact on our understanding of the socioeconomic achievements of people who migrate as children (the 1.5 generation) and those who are the children of migrants (the second generation). Her finding that visible minority immigrant children in Canada – unlike in the United States – do not have lower educational attainments than their non-migrant peers demonstrates the importance of institutional setting and historical contexts for understanding patterns of immigrant integration.

In addition to her research, the CPS award also recognizes Professor Boyd’s extensive service to the profession. She recently served in elected positions as the President of Academy II of the Royal Society (Vice President of the RSC), the President of the Canadian Sociological Association and the chair of the International Migration section of the American Sociological Association. From 1988-1990 she served as President of the Canadian Population Society, and has also recently served as Associate Editor of the premier journal of International Migration, the International Migration Review. For three decades, Professor Boyd was a member of the National Statistics Council, the Advisory Board to the Chief Statistician of Canada and has been sought out by the United Nations for her expertise as a migration scholar.

The honour is no surprise to the many students and faculty members here who have benefited over the years from working with Professor Boyd.  She has already received a teaching award for her contributions to undergraduate education and earlier this year received the department’s graduate faculty mentoring award.  This is also not the first scholarly organization to recognize Professor Boyd’s contributions to the field. She held a Canada Research Chair for fourteen years, was named a Fellow for the Royal Society of Canada in 1997 and received a Outstanding Contribution Award from the Canadian Sociological Association in 2015.

 

Looking for a summer read? Professor Clayton Childress draws on his expertise in book publishing to recommend five.

Professor Clayton Childress recently wrote a blog post for The Conversation.com/ca that offers up summer reading tips based on his expertise from studying the publishing industry.  The full post is available on Conversation website. We have posted an excerpt below.

Five Amazing Books to Read this Summer

July 13, 2017
Clayton Childress

his summer, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, don’t re-read Harry Potter. Likewise for Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is commemorating its 50th anniversary this year.

Instead, embrace a little known fact about both books: their successes were prefaced with massive rejection. Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling’s Potter before Bloomsbury agreed to an initial print run of just 500 copies. One Hundred Years of Solitude beat seemingly insurmountable odds before it was published. It was also dismissed by literary elites the world over before becoming a classic.

In a more recent example, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Sympathizer (2015) was rejected by a baker’s dozen of publishers. The list goes on and on: In 1950, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected by 15 publishers, with one explaining that “even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely, I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.” Moby-Dick was so bad it was supposed to end Herman Melville’s career. Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers and sold so poorly it was out of print within 18 months. After John Grisham’s first novel failed to sell, he promised his wife he’d give up writing after one more try.

For unknown writers, success is random. I’ve spent the last decade of my life studying book publishers, and everyone in the book publishing business knows how difficult it is to get published and to gain success.

During my research, Delia Falconer’s The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers (2006, Soft Skull Press) came up in a marketing and distribution meeting. On mention of the novel, the 20 or so people around the room let out sighs of agony and grief. Falconer’s book, the book they all adored so much, had failed to find the audience they agreed it deserved. They loved it so much that while publishing and promoting it they had suspended what they knew: all hits are flukes. For books, quality and success are, at best, distant cousins of one another.

So, when picking books to read this summer, don’t reach for Harry Potter or One Hundred Years of Solitude. Rowling and Márquez don’t need you. Instead, spend your time reading authors who do need you: the future Rowlings’ and Marquez’s whom fate has yet to shine on.

Read the full article.

PhD candidate Alice Hoe featured in U of T News story on data-driven research

Alice HoePhD candidate Alice Hoe was recently featured in a U of T news item discussing the role of Big Data in research. Hoe has recently completed her dissertation on immigrant labour market outcomes and will shortly begin a postdoctoral fellowship at York University.  The U of T news piece coincided with a visit to the university from Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development. The full article is available here. We have pasted an excerpt below.


Innovation minister visits StatsCan facility at U of T, emphasizes importance of data-driven research

Canada wants to go big on Big Data to boost innovation and inform policy-making – and researchers from post-secondary institutions like the University of Toronto will play a key role.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, delivered that message at a roundtable discussion Friday with U of T President Meric Gertler and researchers from U of T and McMaster University….

The discussion was held inside U of T’s Research Data Centre, a StatsCan-operated facility on the seventh floor of Robarts Library. The secure facility – users must receive special security clearance, no cellphones or cameras are permitted – makes detailed microdata available to U of T and other researchers on subjects ranging from Canadians’ health to their employment status. It’s part of the Canadian Research Data Centres Network (CRDCN), a network of 16 research data centre clusters located on university campuses across the country…

Alice Hoe, a candidate for a PhD in sociology at U of T, knows how access to the right data can shed light on important social and economic issues. She estimates she spent more than 1,000 hours in the U of T data centre studying labour and income data. Her research is focused on understanding how new immigrants to Canada fare in the job market – a subject she was drawn to after watching her university-educated parents struggle upon arriving in Canada from Taiwan.

“Basically what I’ve found is immigrants are more likely to be in bad jobs, and once they’re in these bad jobs, they’re more likely to stay in them than Canadians who are born here,” Hoe said in an interview earlier this week. “They are also more likely to fall out of employment.”

Economic underperformance among new Canadians is not a new phenomenon. But the situation appears to be getting worse, according to Hoe. She said the problem is tied to a shift in immigration patterns away from Europe toward Asia, Africa and Latin America, suggesting language issues, racial discrimination and challenges associated with the recognition of foreign education and professional credentials are all playing a role.

However, Hoe said it’s become increasingly difficult to get an accurate picture of how new Canadians are faring in the workplace because the survey she relied upon to do her research – the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics – was scrapped in 2011 and replaced with one that focuses on income.

“You wouldn’t know whether they have access to health and pension benefits, whether they’re unionized with collective bargaining,” said Hoe.

Read the full article.

Professor Clayton Childress looks under the cover in his new book on book publishing

Professor Clayton Childress has recently published Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel, a book that goes behind the scenes of the literary world by following the life course of a single work of fiction from its beginnings in an author’s creative process through its transformation in the publishing process and its reception by readers. Based in part of Professor Childress’s doctoral research, the book looks at the novel as a cultural product that is both constructed and understood through social processes.

Earlier this year, Professor Childress gave an interview to UTSC News about the book that is available on the UTSC website. Princeton University Press includes the following blurb on their website.

Under the Cover follows the life trajectory of a single work of fiction from its initial inspiration to its reception by reviewers and readers. The subject is Jarrettsville, a historical novel by Cornelia Nixon, which was published in 2009 and based on an actual murder committed by an ancestor of Nixon’s in the postbellum South.

Clayton Childress takes you behind the scenes to examine how Jarrettsville was shepherded across three interdependent fields—authoring, publishing, and reading—and how it was transformed by its journey. Along the way, he covers all aspects of the life of a book, including the author’s creative process, the role of the literary agent, how editors decide which books to acquire, how publishers build lists and distinguish themselves from other publishers, how they sell a book to stores and publicize it, and how authors choose their next projects. Childress looks at how books get selected for the front tables in bookstores, why reviewers and readers can draw such different meanings from the same novel, and how book groups across the country make sense of a novel and what it means to them.

Drawing on original survey data, in-depth interviews, and groundbreaking ethnographic fieldwork, Under the Cover reveals how decisions are made, inequalities are reproduced, and novels are built to travel in the creation, production, and consumption of culture.

PhD student James Lannigan’s Theory and Society article probes Noam Chomsky’s internationally contested reputation.

PhD Student James Lannigan recently co-authored an article comparing the Canadian and US newspaper response to Noam Chomsky’s role as a public intellectual. James is in his 3rd year of PhD studies at the University of Toronto. For his dissertation research, he is currently studying entrepreneurial networks and examining how retailers display organizational identities online.

For this piece, James worked with his co-author, Professor Neil McLaughlin from McMaster University.  In his last year as an undergraduate, James received McMaster University’s Undergraduate Student Research Award and used the award to fund the research for this paper under the supervision of Professor McLaughlin. The article came out in 2017 in Theory and Society. Below is the citation and abstract.

Lannigan, J. & McLaughlin, N. Professors and politics: Noam Chomsky’s contested reputation in the United States and Canada. Theory and Society (2017) 46: 177. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-017-9293-3

There is an extensive literature comparing the politics, sociology and economics of the United States and Canada, but very little work comparing the role that public intellectuals play in the space of public opinion and how their ideas are received in both nations simultaneously. Noam Chomsky provides a theoretically useful example of an established academic and public intellectual whose reputation is deeply contested in both countries. Our comparative case study offers leverage to contribute to debates on the sociology of knowledge, reputations, intellectuals, and the politics of professors using data from six major Canadian and American newspapers from 1995–2009 and an innovative coding of media portrayal. Earlier work has demonstrated that Chomsky is discussed as a public intellectual more prominently in Canada than in the United States (McLaughlin and Townsley in Canadian Review of Sociology, 48(4):341–368, 2011). Here we examine the comparative construction of a “public intellectual” reputation in the context of significant political change. We document small differences between the Canadian and American receptions of Chomsky, show change in the patterns of portrayal and number of publications over time, and offer an analysis of differences between political attacks and consecrations. We demonstrate more engagement with Chomsky’s political view in Canada than in the United States, a rise in Chomsky’s fame post 9/11, and illustrate clear political patterns in attempts to marginalize him.

Professor Neda Maghbouleh’s new book asks what “whiteness” means for Iranian Americans

Professor Neda Maghbouleh has recently published a book exploring the racialization of Iranian Americans. The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race draws on ethnographic and archival research that Professor Maghbouleh began in her dissertation and postdoctoral research projects to show how Iranians navigate ambiguous identities in the American racial landscape.

The book’s publisher, Stanford University Press, includes the following blurb on their website:

When Roya, an Iranian American high school student, is asked to identify her race, she feels anxiety and doubt. According to the federal government, she and others from the Middle East are white. Indeed, a historical myth circulates even in immigrant families like Roya’s, proclaiming Iranians to be the “original” white race. But based on the treatment Roya and her family receive in American schools, airports, workplaces, and neighborhoods—interactions characterized by intolerance or hate—Roya is increasingly certain that she is not white. In The Limits of Whiteness, Neda Maghbouleh offers a groundbreaking, timely look at how Iranians and other Middle Eastern Americans move across the color line.

By shadowing Roya and more than 80 other young people, Maghbouleh documents Iranian Americans’ shifting racial status. Drawing on never-before-analyzed historical and legal evidence, she captures the unique experience of an immigrant group trapped between legal racial invisibility and everyday racial hyper-visibility. Her findings are essential for understanding the unprecedented challenge Middle Easterners now face under “extreme vetting” and potential reclassification out of the “white” box. Maghbouleh tells for the first time the compelling, often heartbreaking story of how a white American immigrant group can become brown and what such a transformation says about race in America.

Read more about the book and Professor Maghbouleh’s research on her website.

Professor Ellen Berrey’s new book puts employment civil rights litigation on trial

Professor Ellen Berrey and two co-authors have recently published a book showing how employment civil rights litigation in the United States works to reinforce the systems of privilege that the laws had set out to eliminate.  Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality uncovers the various obstacles in the legal system that disadvantage plaintiffs and perpetuate inequality in the workplace.

The book, co-authored with Laura Beth Nielsen and Robert L. Nelson, is published by University of Chicago Press. The book’s website provides the following blurb and book trailer:

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, as Ellen Berrey, Robert L. Nelson, and Laura Beth Nielsen compellingly show, 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 comes to reinforce the very hierarchies that anti-discrimination laws were created to redress.

Rights on Trial Book Trailer from American Bar Foundation on Vimeo.

Doctoral Candidate Alexandra Rodney receives SAGE Teaching Innovations Award

Congratulations to PhD candidate Alexandra Rodney who  will be attending the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning’s preconference workshop as a recipient of the 2017 SAGE Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award. The award is funded by SAGE publications and approximately twenty SAGE authors who donate their royalties to provide a fund to offset the costs incurred by graduate students and pretenure faculty of attending the preconference. The award seeks to “prepare a new generation of leaders in the sociology ‘teaching moment'” and is awarded based on 5 criteria:

  1. demonstrated commitment to teaching
  2. potential contribution to the workshop and benefit of attending
  3. depth of reflection on the dynamics of the classroom
  4. financial need
  5. proximity to first full-time college teaching position (recently entered or about to enter)

Alexandra will attend this year’s session which is called “Thinking Matters: Critical Thinking, Active Listening, and Evidence-Based Writing.”  Alexandra is passionate about teaching sociology. She has already participated in 35 teaching-related workshops and earned a Teaching Fundamentals Certificate from the University of Toronto.  She hopes that attending the preconference session at the ASA will help her develop community-engaged and experiential learning activities for students, especially those that are applicable for use in a variety of class sizes and heterogeneous groups.

Alexandra is one of 26 recipients of the SAGE Teaching Innovations Award and the only one from Canada. The full list and the list of sponsoring authors is available here.

U of T at the ASA

This year, 22 faculty members and 25 graduate students from Sociology at the University of Toronto are presenting papers at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociology Association in Montreal. In addition to the people presenting papers, a number of our community are also participating as session organizers, discussants or journal editorial panel members. The meetings happen between August 12th and August 15th. We have listed the papers we’re presenting below in the order of their occurrence, with student presenters shown in italics. Note that some of the papers have unlisted co-authors from other universities. Please refer to the ASA Program for complete information.

Saturday, August 12th

Bill Magee, Optimistic Positivity and Pessimistic Negativity Among American Adults: Effects of Birth-Cohort, Age, Gender, and Race

Jaime Nikolaou, Teen Pregnancy and Doula Care: A Space for Feminist Praxis?

Andrew Nevin, Technological Tethering, Cohort Effects, and the Work-Family Interface

Andreea Mogosanu, Historical Change in Gender Differences in Mastery: The Role of Education and Employment

Ioana Sendroiu and Laura Upenieks, Gender ‘In Practice’: Rethinking the Use of Male Practice Players in NCAA Women’s Basketball

Emine Fidan Elcioglu, The State Effect at the Border: Avoiding Totalizing Theories of Political Power in Migration Studies

Paul Pritchard, A Bifurcated Welcome? Examining the Willingness to Include Seasonal Agricultural Workers in the Host Community

Yukiko Tanaka, Managing Risk, Pursuing Opportunities: Immigration, Citizenship, and Security in Canada

Gordon Brett, Feminist Theory and Embodied Cognition: Bridging the Disciplinary Gap

Mitch McGivor, Inequality in Higher Education: Student Debt, Social Background, and Labour Market Outcomes

Sarah Cappeliez, Wine Nerds and Pleasure-seekers: Understanding Wine Taste Formation and Practice

Katelin Albert, Negotiating State Policy in the Improvised Classroom: An Ethnographic Inquiry into Sexual Health Classrooms

Marie-Lise Drappon-Bisson, Tactical Reproduction in the Pro-Choice Movement in Northern Ireland: Alliance for Choice’s Path Towards Successful Tactics

Milos Brocic, Cultivating Conviction or Negotiating Nuance? Assessing the Impact of Associations on Ideological Polarization

Omar Faruque, Neoliberal Development, Privatizing Nature, and Subaltern Resistance in Bangladesh

Sunday, August 13th

Dan Silver, The Political Order of the City: Neighborhoods and Voting in Toronto, 1997-2014

Andreea Mogosanu and Laura Upenieks, Social Change and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Depression: An Age-Cohort Consideration

Markus Schafer, Religious Attendance Heterogamy and Partnership Quality in Later Life

Atsushi Narisada, Buffering-Resource or Status-Disconfirmation? How Socioeconomic Status Shapes the Relationship between Perceived Under-Reward and Distress

Josee Johnston, On (not) Knowing Where Your Food Comes From: Children, Meat, and Ethical Eating

Ann Mullen, Labored Meanings: Contemporary Artists and the Process and Problems of Producing Artistic Meaning

Lawrence Williams, Dilemmas: Where No Schema Has Gone Before

Patricia Landolt, How Does Multicultural Canada’s Ethnicizing Imperative Shape Latin American Political Incorporation?

Merin Oleschuk, Consuming the Family Meal: News Media Constructions of Home Cooking and Health

Sarah Shah, The Context of Birth Country Gender Inequality on Mental Health Outcomes of Intimate Partner Violence

Louise Birsell-Bauer, Precarious Professionals: Gender Relations in the Academic Profession and the Feminization of Employment Norms

Geoff Wodtke, Regression-based Adjustment for Time-varying Confounders

Monday, August 14th

Markus Schafer, The Role of Health in Late Life Social Inclusion and Exclusion

Kim Pernell, Institutionalized Meaning and Policymaking: Revisiting the Causes of American Financial Deregulation

Cynthia Guzman, Revisiting the Feminist Theory of the State

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Policing Race, Moral Panic and the Growth of Black Prisoners in Canada

David Pettinicchio, Beyond Employment Inequality: Wealth Disparities by Disability Status in Canada and the United States

Yangsook Kim, Good Care in the Elderly Care Sector of South Korea: Gendered Immigration and Ethnic Boundaries

Ioana Sendroiu and Ron Levi, Legality and Exclusion: Discrimination, Legal Cynicism and System Avoidance across the European Roma Experience

Lawrence Williams, Bounded Reflexivity: How Expectations Shape Careers

Irene Boeckmann, Contested Hegemony: Fatherhood Wage Effects across Two U.S. Birth Cohorts

Jennifer Chun and Cynthia Cranford, Becoming Homecare Workers: Chinese Immigrant Women in California’s Oakland Chinatown

Katelin Albert and Steve G. Hoffman, Undone Science and Canadian Health Research

Ronit Dinovitzer, The New Place of Corporate Law Firms in the Structuring of Elite Legal Careers

Melissa Milkie and Scott Schieman, Who Helps with the Homework? Inequity in Parenting Responsibilities and Relationship Quality among Employed Parents

Matthew Parbst, The Impact of Public Opinion on Policy in Cross-National Perspective

Tony Zhang, The Princelings in China: How Do They Benefit from their Red Parents?

Rania Salem, Structural Accommodations of Classic Patriarchy: Women and Workplace Gender Segregation in Qatar

Tuesday, August 15th

Patricia Louie and Blair Wheaton, Revisiting the Black-White Paradox in Mental Disorder in Three Cohorts of Black and White Americans

Jenna Valleriani, Breaking the law for the greater good? Core-stigmatized Organizations and Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in Canada

Martin Lukk, What Kind of Writing is Sociology? Literary Form and Theoretical Integration in the Human Sciences

Jerry Flores, Gender on the Run: Wanted Latinas in a southern California Barrio

Jean-Francois Nault, Determinants of Linguistic Retention: The Case of Ontario’s Francophone Official-Language Minorities

Luisa Farah Schwartzmann, Color Violence, Deadly Geographies and the Meanings of “Race” in Brazil

Jonathan Koltai and Scott Schieman, Financial Strain, Mastery, and Psychological Distress: A Comment on Spuriousness in the Stress Process

 

 

 

Recent PhD graduate Marie-Pier Joly to begin Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Göttingen

Congratulations to Marie-Pier Joly who will begin a postdoctoral research position at the University of Göttingen in August. Marie-Pier defended her dissertation,  Contexts of Exit and the Mental Health and Economic Incorporation of Migrants in Canada, earlier this summer under the supervision of Blair Wheaton, Patricia Landolt (co-supervisors) and Jeff Reitz. The thesis abstract is as follows:

My dissertation explores the impact of contexts of exit on the mental health and economic incorporation of migrants living in Canada, with a specific emphasis on the impact of armed conflicts and human rights violations in countries of origin. The first paper in my dissertation explores the impact of armed conflict according to varying defining characteristics such as severity of the conflict and intra- vs. inter-state focus and finds that migrants from countries with severe intrastate conflict have worse mental health than migrants from countries with no to minor armed conflict and the native-born. The impact of armed conflicts differs by gender, with women experiencing more depressive symptoms and men experiencing more anxiety symptoms. The second paper shows that the impact of armed conflicts is similar to, but does not replace, the impact of human rights violations in countries of origin. The impact of human rights violations is not more pronounced in situations of armed conflicts, and on its own, human rights violations have essentially similar long-term impact on the mental health of migrants as armed conflicts. Each of the first two papers demonstrates that armed conflicts and human rights violations in countries of origin often provoke multiple stressful life events and conditions during the life span that can have cumulative mental health consequences for migrants. The last paper in my dissertation explores the employment and occupational status of migrants from armed conflict countries. It finds that in spite of their high levels of education in Canada, migrants from armed conflict countries experience more difficulties in finding employment, particularly in the early years after migration, and in general achieve lower levels of occupational status, given their education, relative to other migrants and the native-born. When migrants come from countries in conflict, there appears to be an additional discount applied to their job market options after migration. Specifically, education completed prior to migration translates less often into employment success in this group.

At the University of Göttingen, Marie-Pier will study the impact of armed conflict on the mental health of migrants from Muslim-majority countries who live in Canada, the United States, France and Germany. In this project, she will consider the simultaneous impact of variation in the existence of internal conflicts in countries of origin with variation in the context of reception. While there, Marie-Pier will also contribute to a collaborative research project conducting survey research on new migrants and refugees in Germany.

 

Professor Neda Maghbouleh interviewed about Syrian refugee families by Canadian Family

Neda MaghboulehCanadian Family magazine recently ran an article featuring an interview with Professor Neda Maghbouleh. Professor Maghbouleh is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the Mississauga campus. The article asks how Canadians can help Syrian refugee families as they settle in Canada. Professor Maghbouleh’s answers draw from the SSHRC-funded study she is currently conducting with Professors Melissa Milkie and Ito Peng that investigates the mental health challenges faced by Syrian refugee parents.

The full interview is available on the Canadian Family website. We have posted an excerpt of it here.

Making Canada a Home: How Canadians Can Help Syrian Families

Syrian families face cultural, financial, and emotional challenges as newcomers to Canada. Here’s how everyday Canadians can help.

Many parents know the difficulties that come with moving. Leaving behind friends, family, and neighbours can be hard for kids, and at times even heartbreaking. Meanwhile, adjusting to life in a new home can be a long process, taking anywhere from months to years.

Add to these factors a mix of cultural, linguistic, and financial barriers, and migrating families face a unique set of challenges. Yet Syrian families have shouldered theses same burdens as refugees to Canada, and continue to do so, according to a study from the University of Toronto.

A number of these challenges stem from a lack of social resources. Since the launch of Canada’s resettlement program in 2015, sociologists Neda Maghbouleh, Ito Peng, and Melissa Milkie have interviewed Syrian mothers on how immigration has impacted their mental health. Many Syrian mothers expressed feelings of social isolation, with those under government sponsorships describing fewer social ties.

Over time, these feelings of isolation can take an emotional toll. “Uprooting your life to move from one home to another is already a very stressful life event,” Maghbouleh explains. “But for refugees, a sense of control over their destiny can feel elusive or undermined in a new land. So it’s crucial for Canadians to respect and support Syrian newcomers’ sense of agency, purpose, and self-confidence in the process of resettlement.

Read the full article.

Professor Steve Hoffman reflects on predictions for Artificial Intelligence

Steve G. HoffmanProfessor Steve G. Hoffman recently published a piece in Backchannels, the blog of the Society for Social Studies of Science. Backchannels publishes a variety of “less formal writings” on “the current and future state of the field or subfields within science and technology studies.” Professor Hoffman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His research studies the cultural politics of knowledge production.

The blog piece is available on the Backchannels’ webpage. We have posted an excerpt here:

AI’s Prediction Problem

Steve G. Hoffman
04 July, 2017

Artificial Intelligence is finding hype again. Big money has arrived from Google, Elon Musk, and the Chinese government. Global cities like Berlin, Singapore and Toronto jockey to become development hubs for application-based machine intelligence. AlphaGo’s victories over world class Go players make splashy headlines far beyond the pages of IEEE Transactions. Yet in the shadows of the feeding frenzy, a familiar specter haunts. Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking echo the worries of doomsayer futurists by fretting over the rise of superintelligent machines that might see humanity as obsolete impediments to their algorithmic optimization.

There is a familiar formula to all this. AI has long struggled with a prediction problem, careening between promises of automating human drudgery and warnings of Promethean punishment for playing the gods. Humans have been imagining, and fearing, their thinking things for a very long time. Hephaestus built humans in his metal workshop with the help of golden assistants. Early modern era art and science are filled with brazen heads, automated musicians, and an infamous defecating duck. [2] The term “robot” came into popular use in the midst of European industrialization thanks to Karel Čapek’s play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, which chronicled the organized rebellion of mass produced factory slaves. Robot, not coincidently, is derived from the Old Church Slavonic “rabota,” which means “servitude.” Overall, then, we find thinking machines in myth and artifact built to glorify gods, to explain the mystery of life, to amuse, to serve, and to punish. They were, and are, artifacts that test the limits of technical possibility but, more importantly, provide interstitial arenas wherein social and political elites work through morality, ethics, and the modalities of hierarchical domination.

Contemporary AI was launched with a gathering of mathematicians, computer engineers, and proto-cognitive scientists at the Dartmouth Summer Workshop of 1956. The workshop proposal named the field and established an expectation that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” The work that followed in the wake of this workshop institutionalized a tendency toward overconfident prediction. In 1966, workshop alum and co-founder of the MIT AI Lab, Marvin Minsky, received a summer grant to hire a first-year undergraduate student, Gerald Sussman, to solve robot vision. Sussman didn’t make the deadline. Vision turned out to be one of the most difficult challenges in AI over the next four decades. The vision expert Berthold Horn has summarized, “You’ll notice that Sussman never worked in vision again.” [3]

Expectations bring blessing and curse. Horn is among the now senior figures in AI who believe that predictions were and are a mistake for the field. He once pleaded with a colleague to stop telling reporters that robots would be cleaning their house within 5 years. “You’re underestimating the time it will take,” Horn reasoned. His colleague shot back, “I don’t care. Notice that all the dates I’ve chosen were after my retirement!” [3]

Researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford have recently stitched together a database of over 250 AI predictions offered by experts and non-experts between 1950 and 2012. Their main results yield little confidence in the forecasting abilities of their colleagues. [1]

Read the full article.

 

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah’s Op-Ed on repairing the harms of Cannabis Prohibition

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently authored an op-ed in the Toronto Star discussing the need to correct the damage done by Canada’s “war on drugs.” Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His research focuses on people of the African diaspora and policing in Canada.

The full op-ed is available on the Toronto Star website. We have provided an excerpt here:

Let’s repair the harms of Canada’s war on drugs

As we progress toward the legalization of pot, we must ensure that we work to repair the harms done to those most affected by almost a century of prohibition

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah
Mon., July 10, 2017

The legalization of cannabis is a move forward for our country and sends a positive message to the rest of the world about a changing tide in the global war on drugs.

However, as we progress toward legalization, we must ensure that we work to repair the harms done to those most affected by almost a century of prohibition.

Justin Trudeau rose to power based, in part, on a promise to legalize cannabis after having publicly admitted to smoking weed while sitting as a Member of Parliament. Trudeau is certainly not alone in his fondness the drug. Survey data reveal that 11 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older have used it in the past year and over one-third admit to having done so at least once in their lifetime.

These high rates of use are, no doubt, part of the reason we are moving toward legalization. Another important factor is a recognition of the costs associated with criminalizing the drug – from law enforcement expenditures that could be better spent elsewhere to the harms inflicted on individuals who receive criminal records for minor possession.

Although perhaps not as well publicized as in the United States, Canada has been waging its own war on drugs for several decades. Over the past 15 years, for example, Canadian police agencies reported more than 800,000 cannabis possession “incidents” to Statistics Canada.

Importantly, as a series of stories in the Star has shown, despite similar rates of use across racial groups, racialized Canadians have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. In Toronto it is Black and Brown people who have been disproportionately criminalized, contributing further to the social marginalization they already experience…

Read the full article.

 

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Kristie O’Neill and Professor Dan Silver on ASA publication award

Congratulations to Kristie O’Neill and Daniel Silver whose article won the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award for 2017 for the ASA Section on Consumers and Consumption. Kristie is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology. She is currently working on her dissertation, A New Doctrine of Development which is supervised by Erik Schneiderhan, Dan Silver, Josee Johnston, and Zaheer Baber. Dan Silver is an Associate Professor of Sociology specializing in the sociology of culture and theory.

Their winning paper is “From Hungry to Healthy: Simmel, Self-Cultivation and the Transformative Experience of Eating for Beauty” published in the journal, Food, Culture & Society 20(1): 101-132. Please see the abstract below.


Kristie O’Neill and Daniel Silver. 2017. From Hungry to Healthy: Simmel, Self-Cultivation and the Transformative Experience of Eating for Beauty. Food, Culture & Society 20(1): 101-132.

We examine American Cosmopolitan in order to understand how specific foods have been linked to dominant forms of beauty. Three food-beauty nexuses emerge, namely moralism, strategy and holism. To understand how women engaged with these nexuses, we draw on Simmel’s “religiosity.” Simmel traced deeply-felt experiences like self-cultivation (beauty) through cultural objects (food) using religious imagery. In this respect, changing messages about diets suggest profound encounters with the limits of forms of beauty. But the conflict of culture is also apparent: it is difficult to create new forms of beauty or do away with gendered beauty standards altogether.

Welcome to Elysha Daya, incoming Graduate Administrator

Elysha DayaWe welcome Elysha Daya to the department in her new capacity as Graduate Administrator.

Elysha most recently worked as Program Coordinator for a Master’s Program at the Munk School, and has also served in the Graduate Office of the Economics Department at U of T.  As Graduate Administrator, Elysha manages Teaching Assistantships – Allocations/Payments; Funding (UTF, DCA, Internal Awards); PhD Final Oral Examinations; Student Academic Progress; Grade Collection; Registration (including Leave of Absences, Withdrawals and Visiting Students) and Administration of the Graduate Program (Course and Registration Maintenance).

When Elysha is out of the office, she is either watching The Office (her favourite TV show), cooking, spending time with family, or traveling the world! Elysha has quite the travel bug and loves to explore new countries.

Elysha can be found in Room 276, and reached at Sociology.graduate@utoronto.ca or 416-946-4061

 

 

Professor Clayton Childress on cultural appropriation in book publishing

Clayton ChildressProfessor Clayton Childress recently published an is a column in the new online publication, The Conversation, Canada, a publication that seeks to bring academic rigour to Canadian journalism. Professor Childress is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the UTSC campus. His research focuses on the sociology of culture and he recently published Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel with Princeton University Press.

You can find Professor Childress’s column at the Conversation’s home page. We have pasted an excerpt below.


Cultural appropriation and the whiteness of book publishing

June 27, 2017

Last month, cultural appropriation became a big issue in the Canadian publishing and media world after the trade association magazine, Write published a special issue featuring work by Indigenous authors. The editor of the magazine, Hal Niedzviecki, wrote a glib editorial in defence of cultural appropriation.

Niedzviecki resigned and immediately after Canadian media executives irreverently pledged donations toward a “Cultural Appropriation Prize” on late-night Twitter in support of his editorial. The main thrust of the offending Twitter conversation seemed to be that white media elites and writers felt they were under threat of being censored.

The argument was framed in the high-minded rhetoric of freedom and creative license, but underneath that thin veneer, it relied on a belief in white victimization that you’d expect from fringe white nationalists rather than the top one per cent of Canadian mainstream media.

As a scholar of the book publishing industry, I can say with empirical authority that the notion of white people being under threat in publishing crumbles in the face of evidence. As I show in my new book, Under the Cover: The Creation, Production and Reception of a Novel, book publishing is the same as it ever was: it is white-dominated and it’s easier for white people to gain entry to it. Although my research on book publishing is based in the United States, as the sociologist Sarah M. Corse has shown, the U.S. and Canadian book publishing industries are deeply intertwined, and more often than not are actually the same industry.

To understand the real barriers to book publishing, the most important places to look are the points of entry themselves. In publishing, those access points are guarded by literary agents and acquisition editors. They are the gatekeepers, and across the U.S., the gatekeepers of publishing are 95 per cent white.

Read the full article.

Professor Ron Levi moderates Munk and CBC Ideas panel on policing

Ron Levi

On May 15th and 16th, Professor Ron Levi moderated two panels at the Munk School of Global Affairs debating the dynamics of policing, trust and public consent in complex times. This is a two-part series and both parts have been recorded and broadcast on the CBC program IDEAS.

Professor Levi convened the sessions in his capacity as Director of the Munk School’s Global Justice Lab. He is an Associate Professor of Global Affairs and Sociology, the George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Deputy Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs. Professor Levi’s research is on the legal and political dimensions of justice system responses to violence, crime, and human rights violations.

For the first of these panels, Professor Levi brought together Inspector Shawna Coxon from the Toronto Police Service; Todd Foglesong, Professor of Global Practice at the Munk School; and Donald Worme, Q.C., I.P.C., who is a Cree lawyer and founding member of the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada. For the second panel, Inspector Shawna Coxon from the Toronto Police Service was joined by Cal Corley, CEO of the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance and former Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

More information about the panel is available on the CBC IDEAS website. We have embedded the audio below. The pieces first aired on June 15th and June 22nd.




 

Congratulations to the 2017 SSHRC PhD Fellowship Recipients

This year, eight of our PhD students received fellowships from SSHRC. Four received Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program—Doctoral Scholarships and the other four received SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships. This funding will provide them with support for one to four years.

Although all students in the University of Toronto graduate programs have a guaranteed funding package, receiving a SSHRC fellowship provides additional funding and allows them reduce the number of hours devoted to teaching and research assistantships so that they can focus on their dissertation research. All of our PhD students apply for external funding and receive training in developing proposals.

2016-17 SSHRC Fellowship Recipients


Graduate student replacement imageAmny Athamny (SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship) for her project,    Keeping it all a Halal Muslim was never Harder; Identity Formation among Second Generation Muslim Canadians.

 

Graduate student replacement imageAndreea Mogoanu (Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship) for her project, Social Change and the Evolution of Gender Differences in Psychosocial Resources
Tyler Bateman (SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship) for his project, Who cares about nature? The environmental sociology of perception. Andrew Nevin (Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship) for his project, Understanding Chronic Digital Piracy Experiences in Canada

 

Milos Brocic (Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship) for his project, Negotiating Nuance or Cultivating Conviction? Assessing how Group Relations Shape Ideology Paul Pritchard (SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship) for his project, Precarious Transitions: Examining the Intersection of Non-Citizenship and Young Adulthood in the ‘New Economy.’

 

Patricia LouiePatricia Louie (Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship) for her project, Public attitudes towards employment discrimination claimants: Do race and gender matter? Lawrence WilliamsLawrence Williams (SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship) for his project, What Keeps Employees on the Job? Learning from Referred Employees

Recipients from previous years among our current students

Katelin Albert, Louise Birdsell Bauer, James Braun, Sarah Cappeliez, Amanda Couture, Meghan Dawe, Miranda Doff, Athena Engman, Melissa Godbout, Alice Hoe, Andreas Hoffbauer, James Jeong, Timothy Kang, Amy L. Klassen, Katarina Kolar, Mitchell McIvor, Gabe Menard, Jean-Francois Nault, Jaime Nikolaou, Merin Oleschuk, Marianne Quirouette, Alexandra Rodney, Kerri Scheer, Rachel Schumann, Sarah Shah, Anna Slavina, Yukiko Tanaka, S.W. Underwood, and Anelyse Weiler.

 

UTM News profiles Professor Ashley Rubin’s research on prisons

Ashley RubinUTM News recently ran an article discussing Professor Ashley Rubin’s research. Professor Rubin joined the Department of Sociology in 2016 and has undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga Campus. The full article is available on the UTM News site. We have pasted an excerpt below.

 

 

Crime and Punishment: UTM prof studies early American prisons

Blake Eligh

U of T Mississauga assistant professor Ashley Rubin has been fascinated with prisons since her undergraduate years. Rubin, who joined UTM’s Department of Sociology in 2016, studies the evolution of penal systems in America and England from the seventeenth century through the early twentieth century, with a focus on the societal factors that create changes in penal practices.

“I want to understand why we do the things we do,” she says. “Why does punishment take a particular form, and how do those ideas spread?”

She is currently completing a study of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison, which operated from 1829 to 1971, housed between 500 and 2,000 inmates for a variety of crimes including: larceny; burglary; rape; manslaughter; second-degree murder; counterfeiting; and property offences (including horse theft). While the facility is notorious for famous inmate and mobster Al Capone, it has a more important place in American penal history for its unique approach to prisoner treatment and rehabilitation. As part of the Pennsylvania prison system, Eastern State provided a stepping stone between early Colonial incarceration practices and modern-day “Supermax” prisons.

Read full article.

Working Paper 2017-02

Beyond the Manifesto: Mustafa Emirbayer and Relational Sociology

Lily Liang, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sida Liu, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2017-02

June 2017

Keywords: relational sociology, pragmatism, Emirbayer, Dewey, Bourdieu

Full Article


Abstract

Mustafa Emirbayer’s “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology” calls for a process-in-time understanding of the unfolding interaction between structure and agency that reproduces and transforms practical action. This chapter seek to situate Emirbayer’s Manifesto essay in his broader intellectual pursuits in the direction of relational sociology. We begin the chapter by outlining the dynamic interplay among structure, culture, and agency on which Emirbayer builds his research agenda for relational sociology. Then we examine the enduring influences of John Dewey and Pierre Bourdieu on Emirbayer’s relational thinking. Finally, we discuss Emirbayer and Desmond’s research agenda for studying the racial order in America as a prototype of Emirbayerian relational sociology in practice.