Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah interviewed on CBC Radio One’s The Current

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah was recently interviewed in an episode of CBC Radio One’s The Current. He discussed the upcoming decriminalization of cannabis in Canada, and its impact on those in marginalized communities who have been disproportionately criminalized for marijuana related offenses. Professor Owusu-Bempah pointed to the system that operates in Oakland, California and suggested that ‘equity permits’ for those previously criminalized could help to mitigate the past injustices. While this would ensure more equality in the accessing of marijuana sales for these communities, socioeconomic factors, stigma, and existing convictions will still present barriers for these groups.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is an assistant professor of sociology whose research focuses on policing, youth marginalization and exclusion, and race, ethnicity and crime; specifically how people of the African Diaspora perceive and experience law enforcement and punishment.

The episode and its transcript are available here. We have posted an excerpt below.

As Canada prepares to de-criminalize cannabis, there are growing calls for an amnesty on pot convictions to right past wrongs, and allow access to a burgeoning industry.

Currently, proposed regulations enable Health Canada to refuse clearance to individuals associated to organized crime; who have past convictions; or anyone with an association to drug trafficking, corruption or violent offences.

Advocates argue enforcement of drug laws have not been equal to all social groups, and it’s necessary to acknowledge a privilege that people in racialized communities don’t have.

“Many Canadians, they can use their privilege to shield themselves from criminalization,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto working on race, crime and criminal justice.

“And then you’ve got other groups of people, many that I work with, who have been the target of the war on drugs, who have been criminalized, in communities that have been criminalized, and they’re now going to be excluded.”

Listen to the episode here.

Professor Robert Brym’s new research profiled in Canadian Jewish News

Sociology Professor Robert Brym’s new research project was recently profiled in the Canadian Jewish News. Together with the Environics Institute for Survey Research and Rhonda Lenton, a sociologist and the president and vice-chancellor of York University,  Professor Robert Brym is embarking on a new landmark study on Jewish populations in major Canadian cities.

The study will select samples of Jews living in four major Canadian cities (Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver) to answer an 80 question survey, which covers topics such as Jewish identity and practice,  experiences with anti-Semitism and discrimination, and demographic characteristics, in order to gauge a more accurate understanding of the Canadian Jewish community, which remains one of the most understudied populations in the world.

Professor Brym is a Full Professor of Sociology and the S.D. Clark Chair in Sociology. He has teaching responsibilities at the St. George Campus.

The following is an excerpt from the news story. The full article is available  here.

Researchers undertaking massive survey of Canadian Jewry

Ron Csillag, Staff Reporter
Jan 25, 2018

Beginning this month, researchers will embark on the first large-scale portrait of Canadian Jews that will look at metrics that have not been gauged by the federal census, which tallies Jews by religion, ethnicity, geography, age, gender, education and family arrangements.

However valuable, the census data does not provide a “substantive understanding about Jewish identity, priorities, attitudes and values,” according to a statement put out by the Environics Institute, which will be conducting the survey.

According to the project’s summary, this type of information “has never been collected among Canadian Jews on a national scale and is becoming increasingly important given the dynamic changes taking place in society generally, and in the Jewish world in particular. It is remarkable that the Canadian Jewish community is one of the least studied in the world, in sharp contrast to that of the U.S.A. and the U.K.”

The study is being carried out by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with Prof. Robert Brym, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, and Rhonda Lenton, a sociologist and the president and vice-chancellor of York University.

Sponsoring organizations include the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, Federation CJA in Montreal, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

Respondents in four cities – Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver – will be asked around 80 questions, covering: Jewish identity; Jewish practice (self and family); childhood upbringing; experiences with anti-Semitism and discrimination; attitudes about Israel; connections to the local Jewish community; demographic characteristics, including ethnic and national background; and city-specific topics developed in collaboration with local sponsors.

More cities may be added, depending on future funding…

Continue with the full article here.

Professor Jerry Flores calls for action for missing and murdered Indigenous women in University of California Press blog post

Professor Jerry Flores recently published a blog post for the University of California Press, entitled “Young and at Risk: Canada’s First Nation Women and California’s Latinas.” Professor Flores is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities on the Mississauga campus. He joined our faculty in 2017 and teaches in the areas of gender and crime, race and ethnicity. In the blog post, Professor Flores draws connections between First Nations women’s disappearances and the California Latina women he studied for his book, Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration. He also provides policy suggestions to help ensure that these young women are no longer vulnerable.  We have included an excerpt of the blog post below.

Young and At Risk: Canada’s First Nation Women and California’s Latinas

Across Canada there has been tens of thousands of missing first nations women like Tamara Lynn Chipman. A similar pattern has occurred near American reservations as well as places like Juarez, Mexico where scores of women as young as 14 years old have been kidnapped, raped, murdered and never returned to their families. Most of these women have received little media coverage, scant support from criminal justice institutions and are seldom found alive, if at all.

As an incoming faculty member in the sociology department at the University of Toronto, a new resident to Canada, and a Chicano feminist I was stunned by these stories. During the last ten years, there have been an increase in documentaries on this issue, scores of independent efforts to find these people, but there has been little government support to successfully find these women or to curtail these disappearances. As I began to read about this issue I was baffled by how similar the stories of these youth compare to the experiences of justice involved Latinas that I interviewed in Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance and Wraparound Incarceration. In this book, I address the multiple home factors that contribute to Latinas in Southern California ending up behind bars and the challenges they face when attempting to return to a “normal life.” I interviewed over 30 young women and included twenty more via group interviews or ethnographic fieldwork.

Read the full post here.

Professor Neda Maghbouleh interviewed on New Books Network podcast

Professor Neda Maghbouleh was recently interviewed on the New Books Network podcast. She discussed her new book The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, which examines the racialized experiences of young Iranian-Americans. The New Books Network is a “consortium of podcasts dedicated to raising the level of public discourse by introducing serious authors to a wide public.” Professor Maghbouleh’s book was featured on the Sociology channel of the New Books Network podcast; she was interviewed by Sarah E. Patterson who is a host on the network and a postdoc in Sociology at the University of Western Ontario. Professor Maghbouleh is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus.

The podcast is available for download and streaming here.

Professor David Pettinicchio examines labour market barriers faced by women with disabilities

Professor David Pettinicchio recently published an article on the Scholars Strategy Network website discussing the findings of his study with Michelle Maroto, “Employment Outcomes Among Men and Women with Disabilities: How the Intersection of Gender and Disability Status Shapes Labor Market Inequality”. According to the study, the negative effects of the intersections between gender and disability cause women with disabilities to face a double disadvantage in the workforce, and they often experience very low employment and earnings levels. Professor Pettinicchio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. We have posted an excerpt of the article below.



David Pettinicchio, University of Toronto

Despite legal protections meant to prevent discrimination and improve working conditions, both women and people with disabilities are still disadvantaged and marginalized in the labor market. Despite gains in education and increases in labor force participation, men still out-earn women. Employment rates among people with disabilities have been declining for the last quarter century and workers with disabilities earn considerably less than workers without disabilities.

The reasons for such persistent disparities are many. Employers may view people with disabilities as being weak, unproductive, or less competent. Such prejudicial assumptions vary – and people with mental or cognitive disabilities are often especially vulnerable to being seen as unstable or dangerous.

Women with disabilities may suffer double disadvantages if negative effects of gender and disability intersect. Both women and disabled people are often “ghettoized” in precarious and nonstandard work arrangements, as employers and society direct such people to occupations deemed “suitably matched” to their status. For example, women are often encouraged or redirected to “women’s work” which typically includes jobs that are lower status, lower paying, and less stable. And disabled people may get similar treatment based on assumptions about what they can and cannot do in workplaces. Disabled women may end up being “twice penalized” or in “double jeopardy.” This can happen because both of the groups they are part of are regularly subjected to discriminatory structures and attitudes in the job market and in society as a whole.

Read the full article here.

Professor Ashley Rubin considers the meaning of criminology in Law and Society Association blog post

Professor Ashley Rubin recently published a blog post for the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network Punishment and Society entitled “What is Criminology? Who is a Criminologist?”. In the post, Professor Rubin discusses the difficulty in defining criminology as a broad, interdisciplinary field and proposes three new subfields within the discipline to ensure greater precision in determining what exactly criminologists study. Professor Rubin is an Assistant Professor in Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Her current research focuses on the dynamics of penal change in America and England from the seventeenth century through to the early twentieth century, and she is currently writing a monograph on the role of prison administrators at the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. We have a posted an excerpt of the post below.

What is Criminology? Who is a Criminologist?

Today marks the end of the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology. Even before this week, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about criminology, its meaning, and who/what it includes. As an interdisciplinary scholar, academic labels mean a lot to me. At JSP, it was drilled into us that we need to demonstrate our disciplinary identity: interdisciplinary scholars often have to “prove” they “are” a sociologist, political scientist, historian, etc. and sometimes get left in the margins when they fall to make this case, falling through the interstices of competing fields. Criminology is an interdisciplinary discipline—some programs more than others—but this issue of identity still matters. 
Living in Canada has also made me question my understanding of criminology. For many reasons, the Canadian academe is much more internationally aware than the American academe: as members of the British Commonwealth, Canadians have more contact with British, Australian, and New Zealander thought and developments. As in many countries, Canadians are also more likely to read American journals *and* their own countries journals, whereas in the US, one might read a British journal regularly, but not much else beyond American journals. Consequently, there are different perspectives than one finds in American academic work alone and, as a further consequence, the same terms and fields have different meanings and theories. Notably, the definition—or at least understanding and content—of criminology is different in Canada: there is a much bigger emphasis on critical perspectives (critical criminology is huge in Canada), so there is a lot of feminist, colonial/post-colonial, critical race, Indigenous, and other perspectives not found in mainstream American criminology. With a stronger influence from the Continent and Great Britain, there is also a more (or different) theoretical orientation. Americans, I have learned, have a particular understanding of theory and methods that is different from the Continental approach, although I’ve not yet been able to articulate this difference. (For now, think how Foucault is different from, say, Rothman in their approaches to prison history. Both are great (and limited) in their own way, but the two men might have a very interesting discussion about what they mean by theory and how they use evidence or why they care about the prison as a social artifact.) From an American perspective, one might say the Canadian/British/Continental approach is less rigorous, but that would be unfair and American-centric; from a Canadian or British perspective, American ideas might be considered narrow, simplistic, and even naive.
 Read the full post here.

PhD candidate Anelyse Weiler co-authors funding report for the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation

Anelyse WeilerPhD candidate Anelyse Weiler recently co-authored “Strengthening Food Security and Food Sovereignty in Northern Canada through North-South Exchanges”, a funding report for the Trudeau Foundation, with Sophia Murphy, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.

The report discussed the Foundation’s targeted areas of inquiry initiative, and focused on increasing the role of Northern communities in food policy related decisions at the national level. Areas in Northern Canada have some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, and often have to spend over half their monthly incomes on food alone due to price inflation and scarce supplies of products.

The Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation funds social science and humanities research in Canada to promote more informed decision making among public policy leaders. Their targeted areas of inquiry initiative encourages further research in three areas that represent major issues within communities and are crucial to the development of Canadian society: diversity, pluralism and the future of citizenship, water, energy and food security, and Indigenous relations in Canada.  Anelyse is currently conducting the research for her dissertation and is a Trudeau Fellow focusing on justice for migrant farm workers. Her dissertation is entitled, The Periphery in the Core: Investigating Migration, Agrarian Citizenship and Metabolic Rift Through a Case Study of the Apple.

The full report can be read here.

Professor Neda Maghbouleh featured on USC podcast

Professor Neda Maghbouleh was recently featured in USC Annenberg’s Michael Radcliffe’s podcast on Tehrangeles, a Los Angeles neighbourhood that’s home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran. In the podcast, Professor Maghbouleh discusses the importance of the area, and how it creates a connection to a home country for its mainly Iranian immigrant population though Iranian-owned businesses and cultural aesthetics. The area provides its residents with a sense of home and belonging, despite being thousands of miles away from Iran. Professor Maghbouleh is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. Her research focuses on race and immigration. She released her first book, The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race, in September.

 Listen to the podcast here.

PhD student Anelyse Weiler interviewed for Toronto Star article on migrant workers

Anelyse WeilerPhD student Anelyse Weiler was recently interviewed for an article in The Toronto Star on temporary migrants workers in Canada and the difficulties they face in obtaining permanent resident status. Weiler’s research focuses on labour migration and sustainable food systems, and she recently co-authored “Food Security at Whose Expense?, a paper that was published in the International Migration Journal in August. We have provided an excerpt of the article below.

He’s worked legally in Canada for 37 years but the government considers him ‘temporary’

By Nicholas Keung

…Anelyse Weiler, a University of Toronto PhD student specializing in labour migration and sustainable food systems, said granting status to migrant farmworkers upon arrival is the only way to liberate a “captive labour force that is readily exploitable by design.”

“When low-wage migrant workers are given the dangling carrot of a pathway to permanent residency, they are vulnerable to highly exploitative employment arrangements during the limbo period before they potentially become permanent residents,” said Weiler, a co-author of a paper — titled Food Security at Whose Expense? — published in the International Migration Journal in August.

“One of the drawbacks of open work permits alone would be that if workers are still deportable and lack a fair appeal process prior to a repatriation order, then they might face similar challenges as today.”

The argument that the migrant worker programs are a win-win for Canada and the workers ignores the lopsided imbalance of power, she said.

“These programs function by taking advantage of racialized global inequality. It’s hard to square the win-win logic with years of research documenting systemic problems of substandard housing, inadequate access to washrooms and unscrupulous job recruiters who charge exorbitant fees,” Weiler noted…

Read the full article.

PhD candidate Lawrence Williams’ Frontiers in Sociology article considers Parsons’ role in contemporary sociological thought

Lawrence WilliamsPhD candidate Lawrence Williams  recently published an article in Frontiers in Sociology. His article demonstrates how the rejection of Parsons by many sociologists ironically influenced the development of an impersonal theory of action. Williams is currently writing his dissertation studying how individuals working in the field of customer service understand their careers and find meaning at work. This article is one of four that Lawrence has had accepted for publication in 2017.

We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is currently available through open access on the Frontiers of Sociology website.

Williams, Lawrence Hamilton. From Conscious Values to Tacit Beliefs: Assessing Parsons’ Influence on Contemporary Sociology. Frontiers in Sociology (2017) 2; DOI=10.3389/fsoc.2017.00010

Much sociological research is now focused on demonstrating how culture both motivates individuals to act and provides them with justifications for their actions (Vaisey, 2009). However, I argue that this sociological work relies on a model of action that sees culture itself as driving action beyond individuals’ reflexive use of culture. I argue that it does so by conceptualizing the internalization of culture as pre-subjective and impersonal, essentially committing what is often deemed the Parsonian problem of diminishing the contingent nature of social action through the use of abstractions. Just as Parsons was charged with placing undue emphasis on various social systems rather than on persons, dominant strands of sociological inquiry overemphasize the salience of shared norms and schemas at the cost of individual perception. The major difference, however, is that while Parsons justified his focus on the system level by framing individuals as highly conscious and deliberate in their actions, contemporary sociologists tend to frame individuals’ actions as largely unconscious and reliant on situational logics. In doing so, the consciously and normatively overdetermined actor in Parsonian sociology is now unconsciously and situationally overdetermined in contemporary sociology, a perspective ironically anticipated and deliberately positioned against by Parsons himself. Thus, I assert that efforts to de-Parsonize the discipline have given rise to theoretical problems that need resolution. I demonstrate how utilizing some of Parsons’ key insights on the importance of simultaneously considering multiple levels of analysis when studying action could be a fruitful way to proceed.

Read the full article here.

Professors Judith Taylor and Josée Johnston consider Hugh Hefner’s cultural impact

Judith TaylorProfessors Judith Taylor and Josée Johnston recently published an article in The Conversation discussing the late Hugh Hefner’s influence on beauty, sexuality, and the objectification of women in the media. Professor Taylor is a faculty member in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies and teaches at the St. George campus. Professor Johnston is a faculty member in Sociology at the UTM campus. Both have done collaborative research on gender, beauty norms and popular culture. We have posted a short excerpt of the longer piece here.

Hugh Hefner’s legacy: Narrow visions of sex and beauty

With the death of Hugh Hefner, the architect of the Playboy empire, comes tributes and stories of his life. One wonders about his origin story, the price of his mansion and why he loved to wear pajamas. Hefner’s death gives us reason to revisit the debate about whether Playboy made room for sexual expression and free speech — or whether it ushered in a pitiful era of objectification of women with still-lingering effects.

What can we say about Hefner’s impact on sexual culture? Did his empire broaden the sexual landscape in the U.S. and abroad? As researchers who look at popular culture, gender and women’s sense of value and sexual selfhood, we assert that Hefner’s effects have been detrimental.

Most centrally, Hefner defined sexuality solely as men’s desire, in which women aim to achieve physical attractiveness as a life project. In this definition, women can consider themselves sexually successful if, and only if, they are desirable to men (or “f*ckable”, as noted by female comedians like Amy Schumer, Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Playboy culture advocated objectification rather than reciprocity, without democratizing heterosexuality and asking men to cultivate, earn and fail at desirability, as women do.

Read the full article here.

Professor Jooyoung Lee unravels NRA gun ownership myths in Maclean’s op-ed

Professor Jooyoung Lee recently published an op ed piece in  Maclean’s magazine reflecting on the American gun lobby in the wake of the October 1st Las Vegas massacre.  Professor Lee notes that the disjuncture between the terrifying realities of mass shootings and the message that the NRA sends to Americans about the value of guns for keeping safe from shootings. Professor Lee is a faculty member at the St. George campus with research expertise in crime and gun violence in the United States. We have posted an excerpt of the article here; the full article is available on the Maclean’s magazine website.

The NRA is wrong: Real life is not an action movie

The NRA has been lying to you. For years, they’ve promoted the same bumper-sticker motto: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” These were the exact words spoken by National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre killed 26, including 20 children. Since then, this saying has taken on a life of its own. It fuels a frontier attitude toward the second amendment and creates unrealistic beliefs amongst gun owners who think they’ll become Dirty Harry when things hit the fan. And, of course, it encourages people to buy more guns.

Trouble is, a close examination of mass shootings—including the recent Las Vegas shooting, which has killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500 others—pokes holes in this logic. The video footage seen thus far reveals an ugly truth: Mass shootings are chaotic, scary, and fleeting, and they rarely conform to our dominant cultural images of active-shooter situations—much less the action-hero prospects promised by LaPierre. While shootouts look cool, stylish, and effortless in movies like John Wick or The Tower, reality is a different animal.

Read the full article here.

Professor David Pettinicchio’s research featured in U of T Magazine

UTM professor David Pettinicchio is currently working on a study of the difficulties faced by Canadians with disabilities in securing employment. His work was recently featured in U of T Magazine. We have posted an excerpt below.

When Getting a Job Is Mission Impossible

By John Lorinc

When Kate Welsh, a 29-year-old artist and educator applies for a job, she faces more than the usual trepidation about whether there will be an interview and an offer of employment at the other end of an inherently competitive process. Welsh (MEd 2017) has a physical disability as well as a chronic illness that flares up from time to time, which means she always has to gauge when, in the process, she should disclose her conditions: in her cover letter or resumé, via a call prior to an interview or even just when she shows up for the meeting.

She also has to investigate whether the venue is genuinely accessible, or just cursorily so. “Arriving at a location that is not accessible is one of the worst things,” says Welsh. “There are so many steps before even getting in the door.”

The reality – borne out by surveys – is that many people with disabilities never get further than an interview. Ontarians with disabilities are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than the working age population as a whole, and tend to earn considerably less when they are hired, says David Pettinicchio, a professor of sociology at U of T Mississauga.

He cites a 2006 Statistics Canada survey that found one in four people with disabilities felt they were denied a job interview because of their conditions. In the U.S., the situation is even more dire.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act is considered to be a highly robust anti-discrimination law, yet only 40 per cent of all people with disabilities in the U.S. work, and their employment rate has actually fallen steadily since the law came into effect.

“The question,” Pettinicchio asks, “is why?”

Read the full article.