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.