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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 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, 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


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.

Working Paper 2017-01

Regression-Based Adjustment for Time-Varying Confounders

Geoff Wodtke, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2017-01

May 2017

Keywords:  marginal structural models, structural nested mean models, inverse probability of treatment weighting, regression with residuals, time-varying confounders

Full article


Social scientists are often interested in estimating the marginal effects of a time-varying treatment on an end-of-study continuous outcome. With observational data, estimating these effects is complicated by the presence of time-varying confounders affected by prior treatments, which may lead to bias in conventional regression and matching estimators. In this situation, the inverse-probability-of-treatment-weighted (IPTW) estimator remains unbiased if treatment assignment is sequentially ignorable and the conditional probability of treatment is correctly modeled, but this method is not without limitations. In particular, it is difficult to use with continuous treatments, and it is relatively inefficient. This article proposes an alternative regression-based estimator – two-stage regression-with-residuals (RWR) – that may overcome some of these limitations in practice. It is unbiased for the marginal effects of a time-varying treatment if treatment assignment is sequentially ignorable, the treatment effects of interest are invariant across levels of the confounders, and a model for the conditional mean of the outcome is correctly specified. The performance of the RWR estimator relative to the IPTW estimator is evaluated with a series of simulation experiments and with an empirical example based on longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Results indicate that it may outperform the IPTW estimator, at least in certain situations.

Professor Ito Peng’s team of undergraduate RAs produce SSHRC storytellers video on Caring about Care

SSHRC logoIn recent years, SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) has held a SSHRC Storytellers contest in which they solicit brief videos from students working on SSHRC-funded research projects. Most of the submissions come from graduate students but that didn’t deter Professor Ito Peng’s team of undergraduate research assistants from doing their own video based on Professor Peng’s SSHRC-funded partnership grant on Gender, Migration and the Work of Care.

The video answers the question: “Why care about care?” and was written, directed and produced by Bastian Leones, Sarah Lima, Melissa Nicholls, Mercer Pommer, Joshua Rodriguez and Inggrid Wibowo under the supervision of the project’s Research Associate, Deanna Pikkov and Professor Ito Peng as Principal Investigator. Watch the video below and read more about the project on the website of the Centre for Global Social Policy.

Professor Dan Silver writes in the Chicago Sun about Chicago’s vibrant scenes

Dan SilverProfessor Dan Silver recently co-authored a column in the Chicago Sun about the shift from neighbourhoods to “scenes” for understanding shifting dynamics in Chicago urban life.

Professor Silver is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Toronto, with undergraduate responsibilities at the Scarborough campus. His research examines, among other things, the causes and consequences of urban scenes.

Professor Silver co-authored the column with Terry Clark of the University of Chicago and it appeared in June 10th’s Chicago Sun. The article draws on research from Silver and Clark’s recent book, Scenscapes: how qualities of place shape social life. We have provided an excerpt below and you can read the entire piece here.

Once a city of neighborhoods, Chicago’s now about making the scene

Columnists 06/10/2017, 06:49pm
Terry N. Clark and Daniel A. Silver

Critics of big cities found new fuel for their fire with the recent news about Chicago’s population decline. In a new census report, the city of Chicago’s population declined by 8,638 from 2015 to 2016. This followed a loss of 4,964 the year before.

First of all, these are miniscule changes for a city of 2.7 million residents. And a closer look reveals a more complex story: there are big differences across neighborhoods and subgroups. The city is attracting tens of thousands of affluent, professional young people, many of whom do not leave for the suburbs when they marry and have children.

Traditional terms like “middle class” or “working class” no longer tell the whole story. New types of jobs are growing in health care, law and other knowledge-based jobs. In a city where “who you know” could once lead to a cushy public sector job, “What you know” is now also a path to success. These new jobs require far fewer people — there are fewer assembly lines to staff or trucks to unload — so raw population is less important than attracting knowledge-based workers.

Another big change is that people often choose cities by considering lifestyle amenities together with the job. Indeed many people accept lower pay for more amenities. The most important industry in Chicago today is entertainment, broadly defined to include restaurants, museums, cuisine, sports, concerts, nightlife and the lakefront.

This is a big switch for the former “hog butcher of the world.” Today, instead of canned pigs, Chicago produces more art school graduates than any other city in the country. Many stay after graduation, thus perpetuating the city’s thriving arts scene. The arts in turn attract others working in many fields.

Summer concerts, sports events and other entertainment outlets attract visitors, some of whom eventually move here. The result: the area around downtown Chicago has been a national leader both in attracting more new residents age 25 to 34 and in job growth. Some parts of the city have seen population double, others are stable and some are in decline. If we look closely, that’s simply how cities work.

We learned this and more while writing our new book, “Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life.” It details many Chicago specifics by comparing how they vary in other locations, from Seoul to Paris to San Francisco. Chicago remains vibrant, although now less a group of ethnic neighborhoods and more a collection of scenes based on new interests as well as primordial roots…

Read more.


Professor Irene Boeckmann’s Connaught-funded project asks how fatherhood affects careers in 33 countries

Irene BoeckmannProfessor Irene Boeckmann has recently received a Connaught New Researcher Award to begin a major project studying the variations in the impact of fatherhood across different national contexts. The Connaught program seeks to help new tenure stream faculty members at the University of Toronto establish competitive research programs.

Professor Boeckmann’s research probes the phenomenon known as “the fatherhood premium.”

Researchers often point to parenthood and care responsibilities for children as a central piece in the puzzle of why economic inequalities between women and men endure. While women tend to incur earnings losses when they become mothers, many men experience just the opposite, i.e. their earnings tend to increase upon entering fatherhood. However, these “fatherhood earnings premiums” vary across different contexts. Professor Boeckmann’s research takes a comparative approach to better understand the sources of these “fatherhood premiums.”

The project asks whether and why men experience earnings increases when becoming fathers in 33 countries across Europe and North America. On the one hand, the variation of these fatherhood premiums may be rooted in cross-national differences in individual or family characteristics of fathers. On the other, it may be the result of variation in the larger socio-political and cultural contexts. For example, work-family policies supporting a male-breadwinner/female-homemaker division of labour may impact whether and how men change their employment patterns when they have children, or how fathers are perceived in the labour market.

In order to answer the research questions, Professor Boeckmann and her students will build a cross-nationally comparative dataset drawing on multiple data sources. This dataset will combine survey data on individuals’ family and labour market characteristics, as well as country-level indicators capturing characteristics of public policies, labour market regulations and cultural contexts. Connaught funding will support the first step in this project, the data collection and data preparation effort. Building this data set will entail the collection of country-level indicators, as well as the harmonization of secondary survey data on individuals from three separate household and labour market surveys.

Two best student papers from our PhD students

Anna SlavinaTony ZhangCongratulations to Anna Slavina and Tony Huiquan Zhang who each received Best Student Paper Awards from their sections of the Canadian Sociology Association.

Anna Slavina’s paper,  “Cultures of Engagement: Crossnational Differences in Political Action Repertoires,” received the Best Student Paper award from the Political Sociology and Social Movements section of the CSA.  Anna is currently a doctoral candidate in Sociology working on her dissertation, Repertoires of Political Engagement: Individual and Contextual Factors. Her PhD committee consists of Robert Brym (Supervisor), Geoff Wodtke, and Ron Levi

Paper Abstract

This paper argues for a greater focus on the role of culture in the study of cross-national patterns of activism. Country-level differences in political engagement are generally studied through an index of activism that collapses several distinct activities into one composite measure or with a focus on only one type of political engagement (e.g. average levels of protest attendance). These differences are typically explained by measures of national wealth, inequality and institutional structures at the contextual level, and personal resources and postmaterialist values at the individual level. I argue that the above approaches have not paid enough attention to the role of culture, either as country specific patterns of engagement, or as individual repertoires for political action. This paper presents findings from a series of Latent Class Analysis (LCA) models based on nationally representative samples from 34 countries. The findings suggest that different forms of political engagement cluster into country specific repertoires of activism. Based on these findings, I argue that variations in patterns of political engagement reflect differences in “styles” or cultural “toolkits” for political action (Swidler, 1986). These national toolkits are conditioned by broader political culture, beliefs and practices.


Tony Huiquan Zhang’s paper, “The Rise of the Princelings in China: Career Advantages and Collective Elite Reproduction,” won Best Student Paper from the Comparative and Historical Sociology section. Tony is a doctoral candidate in Sociology expecting to graduate this fall and begin a new position as Assistant Professor at St. Thomas More College. His dissertation is Contextual Effects and Support for Liberalism: A Comparative Analysis and he is supervised by Robert Brym (Supervisor), Bob Andersen, and Weiguo Zhang.

Paper Abstract

How have China’s princelings benefitted from their family backgrounds in the advancement of their political careers? This study challenges existing factionalist and meritocracy theories of China’s political elites both theoretically and methodologically by developing a theory of collective elite reproduction. Based on quantitative biographical data of more than 270 princelings, the quantitative analyses show that princelings have advantages over non-princeling officials in the Central Committee. Within the princelings, however, ostensible family advantages such as parents’ rank and longevity do not significantly contribute to promotion. The qualitative analysis of princelings’ autobiographies and memoirs suggests that China’s elite reproduction is collective-based and strongly shaped by the state, distinguishing it from elite reproduction based on individual or family ties.

Professor Patricia Landolt reflects on Precarious Noncitizenship and Canadian Sociology

Patricia LandoltProfessor Patricia Landolt recently provided an article for the International Sociological Association’s newsletter, Global Dialogue. In it, she shows how a sociological lens can change the way we think of new trends in migration in Canada and elsewhere. The entire article is available on the Global Dialogue site; we have pasted an excerpt below.

Sociology remains a crucial voice in public debate because it challenges common-sense understanding of pressing social issues. Consider, for example, migration and immigration. In Canada, and other settler countries, immigration is commonly understood as a permanent move, with the goal of increasing the country’s national population. The sociology of migration shows, however, that temporary migration is increasing, and policies that promote migration are leading to precarious noncitizenship. A sociological lens offers counter-hegemonic interpretations of the current immigration system and its impact on social inequality.

Globally, legal status and citizenship are critical determinants of well-being and mobility. But they also create inequality. In recent years states have responded to increased global migration by creating new legal categories for non-citizens, institutionalizing authorized trajectories of non-citizenship, leading migrants to spend years in an uncertain legal status, and often pushing migrants towards illegalization.

Pathways and access to citizenship are increasingly restricted, while extralegal systems for detaining and deporting migrants have proliferated. This global shift differs from country to country, but in Canada, the changing relationship between temporary and permanent immigration has led to the rise of precarious noncitizenship, expressed in immigration, labor markets and the experience of work.

Precarious noncitizenship refers to temporary or limited legal status and the associated experiences of differential inclusion. Precarious legal status means that a person has only a temporary legal right to be present in a country, with limited or no access to state entitlements. Most importantly, precarious noncitizens are deportable; the state can forcibly detain and remove precarious noncitizens from the national territory.

Read more…

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah’s new research project looks into the connection between the representation of black criminality Toronto and growing Black incarceration

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah has recently received a Connaught New Researcher Award to pursue research into the representation of black criminality in Toronto.

Professor Owusu-Bempah’s research addresses a context in which Canada’s Black federal prison population has increased dramatically – from 767 Black inmates in 2005 to 1,340 in 2015. This period coincided with growing public concern and media reporting of gang violence and a rapid expansion of anti-gang legislation and associated policing practices in Toronto, the jurisdiction with Canada’s largest number of Black people. Much of the anti-gang policing was, in fact, targeted to neighbourhoods with large numbers of Black people.

Professor Owusu-Bempah’s research project will look at the impact of anti-gang public discourse and legislation on Toronto’s Black population. His research will analyze the ways that the media frames Toronto’s “street gang” problem, its apparent causes and proposed solutions and how federal, provincial and municipal government debates depicted the causes and solutions to Toronto’s “street gang” problem.

This project will lay the foundation for a larger project connecting popular attitudes, public policy and police behaviour in an effort to understand the growing number of Black people in custody. As Canadian society continues to become more racially, ethnically and religiously diverse, studies like this — projects that examine the impact of social policy on specific sub-populations –will be particularly helpful in fostering a safe, equitable and healthy society.

Professor Sida Liu’s newly funded project studies lawyers in East Asia to understand the spatial consequences of globalization

Sida LiuProfessor Sida Liu recently received funding from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange to pursue research on the geographic integration of lawyers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

Although globalization is often understood as a process of institutional diffusion and creative destruction, Professor Liu argues that it is also a process of spatial integration. China’s rapid rise as a regional and global power in the early twenty-first century has presented both opportunities and threats for adjacent economies in East Asia, particularly Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Professor Liu’s project will use three closely connected corporate legal markets in the Greater China Region (i.e., Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China) to discover the spatial and relational consequences of globalization. His project involves participant observation in law firms, in-depth interviews with lawyers and in-house counsel, and a systematic collection of relevant statistics and reports of professional associations and the media. Through this research, Professor Liu will learn how the lawyers across adjacent national boundaries relate to each other and how workplace interactions shape the boundaries between lawyers, between law firms, or between lawyers and business corporations in the Greater China Region.

At the key intersection between the sociology of law and globalization studies, this project will not only provide the first large-scale social science study on the legal professions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also contribute to the emerging body of sociological scholarship on how globalization shapes emerging economies, such as the BRICS countries.

Professor Jeff Reitz speaks on CityTV about hate crimes against Muslims

ProfessJeffrey Reitzor Jeffrey Reitz recently gave an interview to CityTV news for a piece about hate crimes directed against Muslims. Professor Reitz is the Harney Professor of Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies and has published widely in the area of immigration in Canada and Europe.

The City TV clip is available on The Critical Mention website here.

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Marianne Quirouette, recipient of prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Marianne QuirouetteMarianne Quirouette, who is currently completing her PhD program in the Department of Sociology, has been awarded a prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships to pursue research in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program seeks to support the top postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will “positively contribute to the country’s economic, social and research-based growth.” It is highly competitive and Marianne is one of 23 recipients in the Social Sciences and Humanities from the most recent competition, ranked 2nd of the eligible 157 applications reviewed by the selection committee.

Marianne’s postdoctoral program will build on the research that she has been conducting for her Doctorate. Her PhD dissertation, entitled, Risks, Needs and Reality Checks: Community Work with Disadvantaged Justice-Involved Individuals. This study draws from 105 interviews and two years of fieldwork focusing on the governance of ‘complex-need’ clients who are criminalized and depend on services offered by practitioners in and out of the justice system. Marianne shows that the production, sharing and use of risk knowledges helps community practitioners address a variety of objectives and interests. Her dissertation is supervised by Professors Hannah-Moffat, Phil Goodman and Paula Maurutto.

For her postdoctoral program, Marianne will continue to focus her research on people with multiple disadvantages in the Canadian legal system, this time centering her research on the role of defense lawyers. The title of her postdoctoral project is, Working the Margins: Defense Lawyers in Criminal Courts Negotiating Complexity and Disadvantage. The project abstract follows.

Canada’s criminal justice system is overflowing with multiply disadvantaged people accused of low-level crimes or administrative offenses. To avoid being held in custody, many agree to onerous bail conditions or participate in pre-trial ‘alternatives’ like diversion or specialized courts. These programs require collaboration between courts and non-legal stakeholders, increasing demand for information sharing. To date, no one has studied how criminal defense lawyers negotiate these problem-solving practices – a gap my study addresses. I document and analyze how they work with marginalized clients with complex and intersecting issues (e.g., homelessness, mental health, substance use); how they manage social and therapeutic needs ‘with’ community practitioners while representing their clients’ rights; and how they use and contribute to legal narratives and court practices. I use a case study approach and employ four strategies: (i) observation in two provincial criminal courts, one in Ottawa, one in Toronto [e.g., bail court, drug treatment court], (ii) Semi-structured interviews with defense lawyers [N=40], (iii) Field work in local and provincial committee meetings, and; (iv) Analysis of documents that structure defense work (e.g., protocols, intake forms, and letters of community support). I document legal narratives and practices that are rarely examined, but have significant effects on defendants whose lives are structured by such interventions. Findings will be of interest to legal and human service professionals or academics interested in institutional partnerships and the governance of complex risks/needs. Findings will raise awareness of how current practices can undermine clients’ legal rights (e.g., to be tried within a reasonable time, to be presumed innocent). They also support national and international law and policy reform efforts, allowing professionals, policy makers and advocates to better understand the effects of criminal justice practices.