Sociology PhD Student Laura Upenieks honoured as a U of T Athlete of the Year

Congratulations to Sociology PhD student Laura Upenieks who recently received the Frank Pindar Female Athlete of the Year Award from the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. While we in the Sociology department know Laura for her stellar scholarship, the U of T Varsity Blues know her for her skills on the golf course.

During her nine years at the University of Toronto, Laura has been a member and captain of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Women’s Golf Team. Throughout her varsity career, she has won 15 collegiate events individually (including 3 NCAA events in the United States), and is a two-time OUA individual champion and 7-time OUA team champion. This past summer, Laura represented Team Canada at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei. Laura was also named U of T’s top scholar athlete in 2016, awarded annually to the male and female student who has excelled both academically and athletically during the previous academic year. In 2017, Laura also received a double diamond pin. This award recognizes student-athletes who, while competing on a Varsity team, earned an 80% average or higher in all courses they were enrolled in during the previous academic year 6 or more times during their varsity career. Laura has also been named U of T’s Athlete of the Week on numerous occasions and in October 2017 was the OUA Peak Performer of the Week.

Laura sees her identity as an athlete and as sociologist as intertwined. She states that her experiences in sport shape the qualities that she tries to incorporate in her studies. These include perseverance and resilience, especially when challenges arise, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to getting better with each practice and competitive event. Laura says that she tries to incorporate these qualities into her doctoral studies. “Research is a long process, often with setbacks and challenges that require an unrelenting commitment to the end goal and the ability to persist in the face of obstacles. Both sport and research endeavours also require a supportive community, which I’m fortunate to have.”

Laura also points to the balance that being involved in sport and academic pursuits simultaneously provides, which she thinks end up being beneficial in both domains. Sport, she says, often gives her a much-needed reprieve from the rigours of research, but she will often turn to her research during off-time at sporting competitions to provide perspective and get her mind off the pressures of competition. In addition, she finds that many research ideas come to her during moments of athletic training and competition. Finally, Laura finds that athletic training also forces her to keep active and adhere to a regular workout schedule, which helps her keep sharp, focused, and energized academically.

Laura’s academic record bears witness to the success of her strategy. She is currently in her 4th year of PhD studies with research interests in health inequalities over the life course, aging and health, the sociology of religion and morality, and the sociology of sport.  She has financial support from SSHRC in the form of a Joseph-Armand Bombardier doctoral fellowship and already has fourteen peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters in print.  Her recent research is published in Social Science Research, The Gerontologist, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and by Oxford University Press.

Laura is grateful for the support she has received from her supervisor, Professor Markus Schafer, and all the faculty and graduate students she has worked with at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, and the support from those involved in the U of T Varsity Blues Golf Program. There, she is grateful in particular to all her teammates throughout the years, and coaches Chris Tortorice, Dave Woods, and Pat Reilly who, according to Laura, challenged her to continue improving as an athlete while also being supportive and understanding of her academic time commitments.


Congratulations to Professor Neda Maghbouleh, recipient of an Ontario Early Research Award

Congratulations to Professor Neda Maghbouleh who was recently awarded with one of this year’s Province of Ontario’s Early Researcher Awards. The goal of the Early Researcher Award is to help early career researchers build their research teams. Funded by the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Sciences, the Early Researcher Award provides five years of research funding to exceptional scholars whose research is poised to make an impact on Ontario’s social, cultural and/or economic future. Professor Maghbouleh received the grant for her work studying the experiences of Syrian newcomers in Toronto. This research is part of a larger project that Maghbouleh is pursuing with Professors Ito Peng and Melissa Milkie.

Professor Maghbouleh’s Early Researcher Award project, titled “Settlement, Integration and Stress: A 5-Yr Longitudinal Study of Syrian Newcomer Mothers and Teens in the GTA,” builds on work that Maghbouleh began with Peng and Milkie and financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This project focuses on how Syrian refugee mothers and teens experience family and integration-related stress in the three to five years following settlement. Because two-thirds of Canada’s Wave 1 of Syrian refugee newcomers are children under the age of 18 or the adults caring for them, it is reasonable to expect that they face the enormous tasks involved in acclimatizing themselves to a different culture and environment at the same time as they are dealing with the strains typically associated with childhood, adolescence and parenthood. This research will offer tangible strategies for Ontario’s service providers, sponsor groups, and everyday citizens to more efficiently and effectively support newcomers.

Professor Maghbouleh is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. Her research program addresses the social integration of immigrants from the Middle East who settle in North America. This project follows the completion of her first major research project, on Iranians and race in the U.S., and the publication of her book, The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race.

Working Paper 2018-03

Visualizing demographic evolution using geographically inconsistent census data

Fabio Dias, University of Toronto

Daniel Silver, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2018-03

March 2018

Keywords: Human-centered computing; Visualization; Visualization application domains; Visual analytics; Mathematics of computing; Probability and statistics; Statistical paradigms; Exploratory data analysis

Full Article


Census measurements provide reliable demographic data going back centuries. However, their analysis is often hampered by the lack of geographical consistency across time. We propose a visual analytics system that enables the exploration of geographically inconsistent data. Our method also includes incremental developments in the
representation, clustering, and visual exploration of census data, allowing an easier understanding of the demographic groups present in a city and their evolution over time. We present the feedback of experts in urban sciences and sociology, along with illustrative scenarios in the USA and Canada.

This research was supported by a University of Toronto Connaught Global Challenge grant and is part of the Urban Genome Project.

Professor David Pettinicchio featured by the School of Public Policy and Governance

Sociology Professor David Pettinicchio was recently featured for the School of Public Policy and Governance’s Faculty Feature series. For the interview, Professor Pettinicchio answered questions about his current research, challenges, advice for students, and favorite song. Professor Pettinicchio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus.

The full interview is available on the SPPG website here. We have pasted the opening below.

Faculty Features: David Pettinicchio

SPPG’s series, highlighting our faculty and research community, caught up with David Pettinicchio, an assistant professor of sociology cross-appointed to SPPG, whose speciality is disability rights.

What research are you working on right now?

I am completing my book titled “Empowering Government” under contract with Stanford University Press. The book is about the struggle in entrenching civil rights policies – namely, disability rights in the U.S. – and how political back-stepping generates social movement mobilization whereby advocacy groups through the use of institutional and direct-action tactics seek to ward off efforts to rollback rights. In the book, I look at the ways in which the disability community was empowered by policies created by political entrepreneurs and later, facing political threats, mobilized to protect policies they now had a stake in. I situate the role of social movements in a wider institutional, organizational and cultural context.

In addition, my research team (which includes my colleague Michelle Maroto at the University of Alberta) is currently undertaking a major project studying disability-based employment discrimination in Canada. The limited systematic information we have from qualitative studies and the few surveys on the matter suggest that discrimination is pervasive in limiting the economic opportunities of Canadians with disabilities.

What led you to your focus on the development of social movements?

I think it was a confluence of factors. I became interested in the study of social movements years ago as an undergraduate. As a PhD student, I wanted to tell a story about the development of the disability rights movement but quickly found myself constrained in terms of theoretical tools I had to work with and so I broadened my outlook and found myself telling an exceptionally fascinating story about the dynamic interplay between elites, institutions, organizations and activists. The evolution of the disability rights movement shines light on movement processes most definitely, but also on policy-making, institutional arrangements, the work between institutional and grassroots activists, and the kinds of organizations that help sustain social change projects.

Read the full interview.

Professor Ito Peng on Why Canadians should care about the Global Care Economy

Ito PengProfessor Ito Peng recently wrote and published an article in about the importance of care work in Canada and around the world. is a “digital publication sitting at the intersection of public policy, scholarship and journalism.” It publishes articles on international affairs, Canadian foreign policy and world events. Professor Peng is the Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She has teaching responsibilities at the St. George campus. Professor Peng’s current research focuses on care work migration, gender, and social policy in an internationally comparative framework.

The full article is available on the website. We have pasted an excerpt of the article below.

Why Canadians should care about the global care economy

Care work is undervalued both in Canada and around the world — it’s time to bring it into the conversation about women’s empowerment and gender equality, argues Ito Peng.

Ito Peng
March 16, 2018

We have witnessed over the last couple of weeks a surge of conversations and activities across Canada and beyond around the issue of gender equality. Along with the federal government’s 2018 budget highlighting pay equity and expanded parental leave, many other events have taken place since the beginning of March, including those that marked International Women’s Day and the latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which ran this week in New York.

These events have made people talk and think about gender and gender equality. But one key issue that is not clearly addressed in this conversation, especially in Canada, is the care economy.

‘Care economy’ refers to the sector of economic activities, both paid and unpaid, related to the provision of social and material care. It includes care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, health care, education, and as well, leisure and other personal services, all of which contribute to nurturing and supporting present and future populations.

In Canada, this work is often done by immigrant women, women of colour, and foreign temporary migrant workers. At home and globally, it is still largely considered menial and insignificant and therefore highly undervalued. There are at least three reasons why we should be taking the care economy seriously.

First, the care economy is the fastest expanding sector of the economy, both in terms of total GDP generated and of employment creation. In the United States, for example, direct care work, such as personal care aides and home help aides, has been growing faster than any other occupational group, so much so that by 2020 it will be the largest occupational group, surpassing retail sales. According to the US-based Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, the five key elder care occupations of registered nurses, home health aides, personal care aides, nursing aides, and orderlies and attendants, will create over 2.4 million new jobs in the US between 2010 and 2020.

Today, the service sector is a fundamental component of all high-income and most middle-income country economies. In Canada, the service sector makes up 72 percent of the national GDP and nearly 80 percent of total employment. Within the service sector, care-related services are the fastest growing. This is because of the combination of aging populations and the increasing number of women entering the workforce. Canada’s 65+ population now makes up 17 percent of the total population, up from 13 percent in 2000, a figure that is expected to increase to 23 percent by 2031.

Read the full article.

The Economist profiles Professor Robert Brym’s new research project

Robert BrymProfessor Robert Brym’s new research project conducting a large survey of Canada’s Jews was recently profiled in The Economist. Noting that Jewish leaders in Canada estimate the population of Jews in Canada as about 400,000, making it the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, the article also notes that the Canadian Census is poorly designed to capture accurately both the number of people who identify as Jewish, and the meaning that Jewishness holds for them. Brym and his co-investigators are in the early stages of the research.

Robert Brym is a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the St. George campus. His research expertise encompasses the sociology of intellectuals, social movements in Canada, Jews in Russia, and collective and state violence in Israel and Palestine.

We have pasted an excerpt of the article below. The full article is available on the Economist’s website here.

Maple leaves and mezuzahs: Understanding Canada’s Jews

In Canada, Jewish identity is hard to measure but still strong

May 14, 2018

…many Canadians of Jewish origin sit somewhere on a spectrum between a full embrace of their forebears’ identity and faith, and assimilation into the country’s mainstream culture. On the west coast, in particular, this allows for mix-and-match experimentation that makes the size and profile of the Canadian Jewish community hard to assess.

The most recent Canadian census showed an astonishing decline in the number of self-identified Jews: from 309,650 in 2011 to 143,665 in 2016. That seems like an unbelievable development, but there is in fact, a simple explanation. In both surveys, Statistics Canada, a government agency, asked respondents to give their ethnic or cultural origin and offered a long list of possible answers. “Jewish” was among the suggested options in the first census, but not in the second one. So, presumably, many Jews simply identified themselves by the country where they or their forebears had lived most recently. A campaign has started for a Jewish option in the 2021 census.

Two social scientists, Robert Brym of the University of Toronto and Rhonda Lenton of York University, are now embarking on a wide-ranging study that they hope will provide a more accurate picture. It will ask up to 80 questions about matters such as child-rearing, attitudes to Israel and experience of anti-Semitism. In some ways it will be Canada’s answer to an influential study of American Jews from 2013 that found 22% of self-identified Jews (and 32% of those born after 1980) professed “no religion”.

As with the United States, Canada’s Jewish population began growing in the late 19th century because of pogroms and turmoil in eastern Europe. One stereotype holds that at least in the eastern provinces, Canada’s Jews stayed closer to their old-world roots than American ones. The survey will test that and also look at whether migration to the west is a path out of active Judaism. Mr Brym has said he is prepared to find some extremes of assimilation and religious devotion. Ms Lenton says they want to discover whether, for Jews in general, Canada lives up to its self-image as a mosaic (a land where different groups keep their identity) as opposed to the American “melting-pot” where there is pressure to assimilate.

The survey’s sponsors have also cited more specific concerns. Jewish leaders in Toronto want to know more about recent-ish arrivals from Russia, who were classified as Jewish under the Soviet system but may have little connection to faith; their counterparts in Montreal are concerned about the numbers migrating to the Pacific….

Read the full article.

Professor Steve Hoffman quoted in article on the aftermath of Fukushima’s nuclear disaster.

The Varsity – University of Toronto’s student newspaper – recently marked the seven year anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima with a reflection on the aftermath of the event. Part of the article cites Professor Steve Hoffman’s research published earlier this year. Professor Hoffman teaches sociology at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. His research interests include the sociology of knowledge, technology, and the sociology of disasters.  We have posted an excerpt below. The full article is available on the Varsity’s website here.

Seven years after Fukushima

Nuclear disaster aftermath affects environment and energy policies today
Ian T.D. Thomson
11 March 2018

Despite changing attitudes, not a lot has changed in relation to the production and generation of nuclear energy since the event, according to Steve Hoffman, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology.

“Among the large nuclear producers, only two nations shifted their nuclear energy policies in a significant way in the wake of the Fukushima disaster – Japan and Germany… [However], the reductions of major producers like Japan and Germany has been offset by the increased production in China, which has been growing their nuclear fleet at an extremely rapid rate,” wrote Hoffman.

Hoffman has researched the impact of the Fukushima disaster on German and American energy policies.

There have been several protests against nuclear energy in response to Fukushima. In Europe, 50,000 people from Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands formed a human chain in June 2017, calling for the closure of two of Belgium’s nuclear reactors.

The disaster has also shifted energy-related policies such as plans for the development of a deep geological repository to store high-level nuclear fuel waste. Countries like South Korea now have a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to storing nuclear waste.

“The big story of energy policy around the world in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is that very, very little changed. Globally, nuclear production has levelled off, but that has been happening since Chernobyl. By and large global production is about the same before and after Fukushima,” wrote Hoffman.


Read the full article.

The Annex Sociology podcast hosts Professor Neda Maghbouleh on Iranian-Americans and Whiteness

The Annex Sociology podcast recently hosted Professor Neda Maghbouleh in which they talked about the Oscars, issues around defining generations, and about her recent book, The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race. The Annex is a weekly academic “sociology-themed podcast” hosted by sociologists from CUNY, Georgetown and UCLA.

The podcast with Professor Maghbouleh was episode 23 and is available here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee pens Toronto Star Op Ed on damage to community trust in policing

Jooyoung LeeProfessor Jooyoung Lee recently authored an Op Ed  in the Toronto Star discussing the diminishing reputation of the Toronto police force as more news emerges about the Bruce McArthur investigation. Professor Lee teaches sociology at the St. George campus. His research interests include gun violence and he has taught classes on the sociology of serial murders.

We have posted an excerpt of the op ed below. The full article is available at

Toronto police risk permanent damage to community trust

The Toronto Police Service will need to come clean, admit to its shortcomings, and reach out to the communities that it has alienated across the city.

By Jooyoung Lee
Mon., March 12, 2018

…..I have spent the last decade observing firsthand what happens in cities where police have lost the trust of communities. My research in gangland “South Central” Los Angeles and in Philadelphia’s underground drug markets reveals how communities become alienated from the police — these are places where any perceived affiliation with the cops is frowned upon and sometimes punishable by violence.

Although Toronto is certainly not suffering from the same levels of violence I observed in these communities, there is cause for concern moving forward. If the police don’t clear the air and make amends to communities that feel betrayed by them, people will become less likely to report crimes and co-operate with them during investigations. There are already communities in Toronto where this “code of silence” exists. We don’t want this to spread.

The pioneering Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman, spent much of his career writing about spoiled reputations. He showed that people work hard at managing public impressions because negative reputations are so durable. Once seen in a negative light, it becomes difficult for a person to reestablish themselves as trustworthy and morally upstanding. To make amends, Goffman argued, people have to show they can be trusted again in the future.

Even though Goffman was writing about individuals, he can help us understand the challenges ahead for Toronto police. TPS will need to come clean, admit to its shortcomings, and reach out to the communities that it has alienated across the city. These include the LGBTQ community, racialized communities, and citizens who are concerned about how they’ve handled the McArthur investigation….

Read the full article.

Professor Judith Taylor speaks about International Women’s Day

Professor Judith Taylor spoke recently on CTV and on CP24 about the resurgence of feminism and protests around the world to mark International Women’s Day. Professor Taylor is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies with teaching responsibilities at the St. George campus. Her research focuses on feminist movements around the world. Surveying the movement now, Professor Taylor is confident in its sustainability, saying in the CTV interview that the movement is “very, very sustainable.”

Watch video of the CTV interview.

Watch video of the CP24 interview.




Working Paper 2018-02

Eating for Taste and Eating for Change: Ethical Consumption as a High Status Practice

Emily Huddart Kennedy, Washington State University

Shyon Baumann, University of Toronto

Josée Johnston, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2018-02

March 2018

Keywords: cultural capital, food, ethical consumption

Full Article


Under what conditions is ethical consumption a high status consumption practice? Using unique food consumption survey data on both aesthetic dispositions and ethical consumption, we investigate how these orientations to food are related. Existing research points to two relatively high cultural capital consumer identities: the ‘foodie’, who defines good taste through ‘authentic’ aesthetic standards and the ‘ethical consumer’, whose consumption is driven by moral principles. However, ethical consumption can also be practiced in inexpensive and subcultural ways that may not conform to dominant status hierarchies (e.g., freeganism, food swaps, etc.). In order to better understand the complex cultural terrain of high-status consumption, we investigate how socioeconomic status (SES) is related to foodie and ethical consumer practices and preferences. Using a k-means cluster analysis of intercept survey data from food shoppers in Toronto, we identify four distinct clusters that represent foodies, ethical consumers, and ethical foodies. Through multinomial logistic regression we find that while high SES consumers can be foodies or ethical food consumers, the highest status consumers prioritize both ethical and foodie consumer preferences. Further, we find that respondents’ reported shopping locations and meat consumption corroborate the results of the regression analyses. The highest status consumers eat in a way that conveys both culinary authenticity and morality. That is, ethical consumption can signal high status when it is simultaneously practiced with an aesthetic disposition. These results are an important addition to literature that examines how food consumption repertoires can produce and reinforce classed boundaries.

The data collection for this project was funded by an Early Researcher Award (ERA08-05-060) from the Ontario Ministry of Research to Josée Johnston.

Working Paper 2018-01

A Regression-with-Residuals Method for Estimating
Controlled Direct Effect

Xiang Zhou, Harvard University

Geoffrey T. Wodtke, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2018-01

March 2018

Keywords: Regression Analysis; Methods

Full Article


In a recent contribution, Acharya, Blackwell and Sen (2016) described the method of sequential g-estimation for estimating the controlled direct effect (CDE). We propose an alternative method, which we call ”regression-with-residuals” (RWR), for estimating the CDE. Compared with sequential g-estimation, the RWR method is easier to understand and to implement. Moreimportant, unlike sequential g-estimation, it can easily accommodate several different types of effect moderation, including cases in which the effect of the mediator on the outcome is moderated by a post-treatment, or intermediate, confounder. Although common in the social sciences, this type of effect moderation is typically assumed away in applications of sequential g-estimation, which may lead to bias if effect moderation is in fact present. We illustrate RWR by reanalyzing the effect of plough use on female political participation while allowing the effect of log GDP per capita (the mediator) to vary across levels of several intermediate confounders.

PhD student Patricia Louie discusses her research on representations of race and skin colour in radio and print media

Patricia LouiePatricia Louie recently spoke with the media about the findings of her research into the representation of race and skin colour in medical text books. Her recently published article (with Professor Rima Wilkes of UBC) demonstrates that prominent medical textbooks use very few images of  individuals with dark skin tones in their medical illustrations. This lack of representation, Louie and Wilkes argue, could result in a failure to diagnose conditions like skin cancer on people with dark skin tones. Louie is currently in her second year of PhD studies at the University of Toronto.

Louie spoke about the study on the Global News show, Simi Sara Show available here,  and on CBC’s Here and Now, available here.

Her study has also been featured in the print and online media by The Vancouver Sun, The National Post, Toronto’s CityNews, Science Daily, News1130, Global News, CTV News and the Toronto Star. We have included an excerpt of the Canadian Press article below.

Lack of racial diversity in medical textbooks could mean inequity in care: study

VANCOUVER—Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room in Vancouver, Patricia Louie saw posters that only featured white and light skin-toned people depicted as patients. She wondered if medical textbooks would also reflect what she considered to be a biased portrayal of Canada’s diverse population.

The experience in 2012 led the sociology student who was studying at the University of British Columbia (UBC) at the time to analyze faces in four textbooks widely used in North American medical schools. She concluded in an honours thesis that racial diversity was being ignored.

Most images in medical books are of legs, arms and chests, showing only skin tone, not ethnicity, so Louie broadened her research as a master’s student at the University of Toronto and focused on skin tone in more than 4,000 images in later versions of the same textbooks.

The study by Louie and co-author Rima Wilkes, a sociology professor at UBC, found the proportion of dark skin tones represented was very small in images featured in Atlas of Human Anatomy, Bates’ Guide to Physical Examinations and History Taking, Clinically Oriented Anatomy and Gray’s Anatomy for Students.

Atlas had fewer than 1 per cent of photos featuring dark skin, while the highest amount — 5 per cent — was included in Gray’s, the researchers say in the study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

Imagery of six common cancers for people of colour or dark skin tone hardly exist in the textbooks, says the study, which suggests unequal health care could result.

Read the full article as it appeared in the National Post.

Patricia Louie can be reached at


PhD student Patricia Louie finds that medical textbooks underrepresent race and skin tone

Patricia LouiePhD student Patricia Louie has recently published her research based on research into the diversity of representation in the major text books assigned in medical school. Louie published the paper, together with her co-author Rima Wilkes of UBC, in Social Science Medicine. The article, “Representations of Race and Skin Tone in Medical Textbook Imagery,”  reported on the analysis of over 4,000 images from the four of the most widely assigned textbooks for first and second-year medical students in North America.  The results showed that darker skin tones were underrepresented in medical textbooks, a failing that could have implications for racial bias in clinical practice. We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available online to subscribers.

Louie, P. and Wilkes, R. (2018). Representations of Race and Skin Tone in Medical Textbook Imagery. Social Science Medicine

Although a large literature has documented racial inequities in health care delivery, there continues to be debate about the potential sources of these inequities. Preliminary research suggests that racial inequities are embedded in the curricular edification of physicians and patients. We investigate this hypothesis by considering whether the race and skin tone depicted in images in textbooks assigned at top medical schools reflects the diversity of the U.S. population. We analyzed 4146 images from Atlas of Human Anatomy, Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination & History Taking, Clinically Oriented Anatomy, and Gray’s Anatomy for Students by coding race (White, Black, and Person of Color) and skin tone (light, medium, and dark) at the textbook, chapter, and topic level. While the textbooks approximate the racial distribution of the U.S. population – 62.5% White, 20.4% Black, and 17.0% Person of Color – the skin tones represented – 74.5% light, 21% medium, and 4.5% dark – overrepresent light skin tone and underrepresent dark skin tone. There is also an absence of skin tone diversity at the chapter and topic level. Even though medical texts often have overall proportional racial representation this is not the case for skin tone. Furthermore, racial minorities are still often absent at the topic level. These omissions may provide one route through which bias enters medical treatment.

See press coverage of Louie’s research here.


Professor David Pettinicchio asks if Parkland will really be a turning point in US gun control policy

Professor David Pettinicchio recently authored a blog post for the site Mobilizing Ideas exploring the possibility that the response to the Parkland massacre might be a turning point in the politics of gun control in the United States. Pettinicchio explains that, while the response to this school shooting has been marked by a new and powerful student mobilization, the task of changing both policy and the American political culture surrounding guns is considerable.

Professor Pettinicchio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. He has research interests in social movements, policy change and political elites. Mobilizing Ideas is a blog originating in the the Center for the Study of Social Movements in the University of Notre Dame. The blog features academics and activists discussing social movements and social change. We have included an excerpt of the blog post below. The full article is available here.

Another “Turning Point Myth” in the Political Battle over Gun Control?

David Pettinicchio, February 23, 2018

Parkland is increasingly portrayed as the mass shooting that will finally change things, but are pro-gun supporters right to claim that it is but another headline that gun control advocates are allegedly peddling will bring stricter gun control laws?

Following the Orlando massacre of 2016, there was some hope that hearts and minds, the culture around guns, would finally change in turn facilitating significant policy reforms. In a Washington Post op-ed,  Jennifer Carlson and I noted that for the first time in a string of tragic mass shootings, the LGBTQ2 community –  no stranger to political mobilization – was brought into the gun debate. It’s a constituency with the political know-how and resources, experienced in challenging existing cultural and institutional arrangements. Following our op-ed, we received comments like “Dear NRA, we made it through Stonewall, AIDS, DADT, and through Marriage Equality. You’re next.”

But, the obstacles, at least as we saw them, had less to do with the LGBTQ2 community fighting against the NRA per se – an organization with very deep pockets and strong ties to policymakers. Instead, as I noted in my 2016 Mobilizing Ideas follow-up, the ability of the gay and lesbian rights movement to fight against gun culture lies in its experience transforming what it means to “do politics” in America. That is, they helped redefine American culture. The NRA is a worthy opponent not only because of its political influence, but because of the cultural change it helped foster around guns and identity.

Read more

PhD student Cinthya Guzman and Dan Silver on the place of the classic in Social Theory classes

PhD student Cinthya Guzman and Professor Dan Silver have recently published a paper assessing the practice of teaching theory in Canadian sociology courses. The paper, published in Canadian Review of Sociology,  reports on analyses of the courses taught in 64 Canadian degree-granting sociology programs, the instructors of theory courses, and theory course syllabi from 2012 to 2015. The research found that theory is central to the field, that Marx, Weber and Durkheim dominate the theory taught but that beyond this agreement of “classics,” the field is marked by variation. The findings show that the field of sociology is neither marked by universal agreement nor by absolute division when it comes to its theoretical underpinnings. To the extent that they reveal a unified field, the findings suggest that unity lies more in a distinctive form than in a distinctive content, which defines the space and structure of the field of sociology. Ms. Guzman is in her 3rd year of the PhD program where she is specializing in sociological theory, sociology of culture and studies of sex and gender. Professor Silver teaches and researches in the areas of sociological theory and the sociology of culture.

We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available in press and online.

Guzman, C. and Silver, D. (2018), The Institution of Sociological Theory in Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, 55: 9–39. doi: 10.1111/cars.12177

Using theory syllabi and departmental data collected for three academic years, this paper investigates the institutional practice of theory in sociology departments across Canada. In particular, it examines the position of theory within the sociological curriculum, and how this varies among universities. Taken together, our analyses indicate that theory remains deeply institutionalized at the core of sociological education and Canadian sociologists’ self-understanding; that theorists as a whole show some coherence in how they define themselves, but differ in various ways, especially along lines of region, intellectual background, and gender; that despite these differences, the classical versus contemporary heuristic largely cuts across these divides, as does the strongly ingrained position of a small group of European authors as classics of the discipline as a whole. Nevertheless, who is a classic remains an unsettled question, alternatives to the “classical versus contemporary” heuristic do exist, and theorists’ syllabi reveal diverse “others” as potential candidates. Our findings show that the field of sociology is neither marked by universal agreement nor by absolute division when it comes to its theoretical underpinnings. To the extent that they reveal a unified field, the findings suggest that unity lies more in a distinctive form than in a distinctive content, which defines the space and structure of the field of sociology.

Professor Hae Yeon Choo 2018-19 Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ

Hae Yeon ChooCongratulations to Professor Hae Yeon Choo who has been chosen as a Fellow a the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ for 2018-19 while she on research leave from her duties at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. At the Institute, Professor Choo will participate in the School of Social Sciences which defines its mission as  “the analysis of contemporary societies and social change.” Professor Choo will be one of approximately twenty visiting scholars for the year.

While at the Institute, Professor Choo will concentrate on a research project studying the politics of land ownership in South Korea. Her project focuses on macro-level political contestations over land rights in South Korea, together with the narratives of people who navigate the pursuit of class mobility. While real estate speculation has become a common practice among the South Korean urban middle-class since the 1960s, the advent of parliamentary democracy and the burgeoning of civil society has simultaneously challenged urban displacement based on democratic principles. It is this juxtaposition between intensive marketization forces and a counter force of mobilization based on rights and citizenship that makes the politics of land ownership in South Korea a key research site for the paradox of democracy.

Professor Choo has already collected data from in-depth interviews with urban middle-class homeowners and will use the time to analyze this data and conduct discourse analysis of real estate-related self-help books, legal case laws, and archival data. She will also use her time for writing and participating in the Institute’s intellectual community. Her project will show how market logics become entrenched in everyday life, and how the politics of land ownership are shaped through collective contestations. As such, her work promises to illuminate the paradox of democratic citizenship emerging alongside deepening economic inequality.

Congratulations to recent PhD Kim de Laat, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy

Kim de LaatCongratulations to Kim de Laat, who recently graduated with her PhD and began a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Gender + the Economy (GATE) in the University of Toronto. Kim’s dissertation title is The Shape Of Music To Come: Organizational, Ideational, And Creative Change In The North American Music Industry, 1990-2009. She completed her doctorate under the supervision of Shyon Baumann (chair), Vanina Leschziner, Damon Phillips and Judith Taylor. Her dissertation abstract is as follows.

Dissertation abstract

This dissertation examines the relationship between occupational roles, and creativity, uncertainty, and change in cultural industries. Over the course of three chapters, it uses regression, discourse, and content analysis, as well as in-depth interviews with professional songwriters and music industry personnel to analyze collaborative dynamics and collective sensemaking throughout the transition to digital production in the North American music industry. The first chapter develops meaning-centric measures of creativity to analyze how collaborative strategies shifted throughout the transition to digital production. It demonstrates empirically that musical diversity and innovation operate as countervailing forces – innovative forms can be devoid of diverse content – and calls attention to how limited examinations of cultural production are if the outcomes of interest are misspecified. Failing to attend to artistic form and content renders cultural objects no different from non-cultural phenomena, and leads to impoverished interpretations of institutional dynamics. Chapter 2 identifies how discourse is used to assess new technology and make sense of one’s place within a changing organizational landscape. It demonstrates that the patterned use of analogies and metaphors inform sensemaking and sensegiving efforts based on one’s occupational role. Moreover, a focus on the constraints posed by occupational membership on discursive framing elucidates the conditions under which exploitative or exploratory searches for solutions to organizational change are pursued. While the music industry has undergone massive change, creative labourers are accustomed to working under conditions of uncertainty since such industries experience high rates of failure. To this end, Chapter 3 examines how professional songwriters manage routinized uncertainty in post-bureaucratic work settings. It identifies two conventions that help manage ongoing uncertainties. Namely, equal authorship and professional conciliation mediate tensions between present-day conflict and desires for future success. They allow jurisdictional challenges and varying productivity to be accommodated, and rewards to be distributed in a manner deemed fair. This chapter challenges the notion that post-bureaucratic forms of work organization can be characterized wholesale as either cooperative or conflict-driven. In effect, conflict and cooperation are mutually constitutive within such organizational forms. Collectively, the dissertation chapters advance our understanding of endogenous cultural processes that occur within creative and institutional fields undergoing technological change.

At the Institute for Gender + the Economy, Kim is extending her interest in how actors make sense of change to include a consideration of gender inequality in the workplace. She is conducting a comparative organizational ethnography in order to examine how changing cultural beliefs about parenthood within workplace cultures inform employees’ perceptions and use of family-friendly practices, such as flextime and parental leave.


Congratulations to Jenna Valleriani, postdoc researcher at BC Centre on Substance Use

Jenna VallerianiCongratulations to Jenna Valleriani who will begin a postdoctoral research position at the British Columbia Centre On Substance Use (BCCSU) in January 2018. Jenna defended her dissertation,  ‘Staking a Claim’: Legal and Illegal Cannabis Markets in Canada, in December under the supervision of  Candace Kruttschnitt, Patricia Erickson and Ronit Dinovitzer. The thesis abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This study explores the emergence of the legal medical cannabis market in Canada and examines its impact on the wider medical cannabis market. The growing research investigating entrepreneurship and emerging markets have often failed to consider the identity narratives of the entrepreneurs across legal and illegal spaces and the importance of contextual influences, including wider social and political contexts. Drawing on a case study of cannabis entrepreneurs from illicit Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (MCDs) and legal Licensed Producers (LPs), I use 63 in-depth interviews, fieldwork, and primary and secondary sources, to provide a detailed account of the new industry’s emergence in 2014, which challenged an existing model of medical cannabis access. I explore the emergence of that market on a number of levels. In the first paper, I describe the rich history of medical cannabis access in Canada and the central role of MCDs in that process. By using the policy window framework to analyze two local-level responses to MCDs, I highlight the theoretical utility of using this approach to examine local-level drug policy initiatives and reform. The second paper investigates how MCDs have survived in Canada for two decades without legal or mainstream public support as “core-stigmatized” organizations. By looking at the strategies MCDs employ to buffer stigma, share knowledge informally across organizations, and shelter themselves from police enforcement, I demonstrate how, compared to legal core-stigmatized organizations, MCDs must also navigate a host of legal risks because of their illicit status, which is tied to the source of their core stigma. In the third paper, I center on the experiences and narratives of the key players from both MCDs and LPs. I examine how these entrepreneurs understand and respond to the competitive landscape and draw on boundary work to claim jurisdiction over the medical cannabis market. Taken as a whole, I shift attention away from a moral assessment of the good itself (cannabis) and focus on the “practice of trade” (Anteby 2015). I also strive to highlight the complex nature of medical cannabis access in Canada and how wider social, historical and political contexts matter to the landscape as it exists today. Finally, I bring the entrepreneurs’ experiences to the forefront. In particular, MCDs are often dismissed in larger debates because of their illicit status. Important policy implications for non-medical
cannabis legalization and drug policy in Canada are also discussed, providing insight into the market.

At the BC Centre on Substance Use, Jenna will study the use of cannabis as a substitution for other illicit drugs among people who use drugs, along with other ongoing projects looking at opioid-related overdose and related interventions and treatment interventions for opioid and stimulant use. Jenna is also working with Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy as the lead researcher on a cannabis and youth education project as Canada moves towards cannabis legalization in 2018. 

Congratulations to Alice Hoe, post-doctoral visitor at York University

Alice HoeCongratulations to Alice Hoe who completed her dissertation and has recently begun a new post as a Postdoctoral Visitor at York University. Alice’s dissertation was called Working in ‘Bad Jobs’: Immigrants in the New Canadian Economy. She conducted her research under the supervision of Professor Monica Boyd, with her full committee including Professors Cynthia Cranford and Melissa Milkie. The dissertation abstract follows.

Dissertation Abstract

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Canadian economy experienced two significant changes: the growth of immigrants from non-traditional source regions and major economic restructuring. The work transformation significantly undermined the quality of work, leading to a growing number of ‘bad jobs’, characterized by low wages, lack of fringe benefits, and declining union coverage. The literature on work transformation, however, relies primarily on macro-level theorizing, and pays less attention to how new forms of inequality emerge from these changes. Alternatively, studies on immigrants’ economic integration tend to rely on single-dimension, orthodox indicators of economic outcomes, such as earnings, and many do not incorporate the context of the new economy. Among the studies that do, the use of small samples and qualitative measures limit the ability to identify patterns of inequality. My dissertation fills this gap in the literature by bringing together these two intricately intertwined, yet disparate sets of literature. I analyze how immigrants in Canada are disproportionately affected by the presence of ‘bad jobs’ in the new economy. I study immigrants’ disadvantage on three levels, in three independent papers: 1) likelihood of engaging in ‘bad jobs’, 2) differential long-term outcomes of engaging in ‘bad jobs’, and 3) household-level inequalities based on job quality and nativity status of the household head. I analyze the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, using both cross-sectional and panel data, as well as household-data, which I constructed from cross-sectional individual files. I find that immigrants experience significant disadvantage in the new Canadian economy: they are more likely to work in ‘bad jobs’ and stay in ‘bad jobs’ than the Canadian-born. These individual-level inequalities also translate to household-level inequalities in terms of likelihood of living low-income. The results from this dissertation draw attention to stratification within the new economy and incorporates the context of the new economy into the study of immigrant integration.

For her post-doctoral visitorship, Alice is working for a research partnership called ‘Closing the Employment Standards Enforcement Gap” (website: under the direction of Professor Leah F. Vosko, Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Gender & Work, Political Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. There, she is analyzing administrative and survey data and may also later be involved in constructing a cross-national research database on employment standards.