Congratulations to Ioana Sendroiu, recipient of the 2017 Daniel G Hill Prize for Best Graduate Paper in Sociology

Ioana SendroiuCongratulations to Ioana Sendroiu, winner of the 2018-19 Daniel G. Hill Prize for Best Graduate Paper in Sociology at the University of Toronto.

The prize honours Daniel G. Hill who was a Canadian sociologist, civil servant, human rights specialist, and Black Canadian historian.  He received his Ph.D. in our department in 1960.  Dr Hill applied his insight and expertise in several important roles including his role as a researcher for the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, serving as the Executive Secretary of the North York Social Planning Council, his position as  assistant director of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, and teaching in the department of sociology at the University of Toronto. In addition, he was the first full-time director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, later becoming the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner. From 1984 to 1989, he served as the Ontario Ombudsman. Dr. Hill also founded the Ontario Black History Society and authored a book titled The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada.  In 1993, he was awarded the Order of Ontario. A few years later, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Ioana’s paper, “Human Rights as Uncertain Performance During the Arab Spring,” appeared in the April 2019 volume of Poetics. It explores how events, in this case the Arab Spring, shape how states vote in the UN Human Rights Council. Ioana shows that the political uncertainty that was caused by the Arab Spring led many repressive states to vote in favour of human rights resolutions, but that this shift was only temporary – once Arab Spring pressures subsided, these states returned to their conventional voting patterns. Ioana builds on this finding to theorize voting behaviours as a performance that are responsive to geopolitical events, and in so doing extends and complicates sociological analyses of human rights diffusion.

Ioana Sendroiu is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto and an Affiliated Scholar of the American Bar Foundation. Her work brings insights from cultural sociology to the study of politics and law, with published articles in Poetics, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and Law & Social Inquiry.

We have pasted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available here.

Ioana Sendroiu, Human rights as uncertain performance during the Arab Spring, Poetics, Volume 73, 2019, Pages 32-44,

Sociological research on human rights analyzes the degree to which states engage with international human rights commitments over time. Yet we have a limited understanding of how specific events shape the long-term trajectory of human rights norms. This paper explores the effect of the Arab Spring on voting in the UN Human Rights Council. Using multiple growth curve models, I find that the emergence of the Arab Spring changed the voting patterns of most non-free states, but only temporarily, and that this holds even when controlling for protest events facing a given country. In contrast, a small set of non-free states did not change their votes during the Arab Spring. Drawing on research from cultural sociology, this paper explains these divergent voting patterns as heterogeneous performances in the face of an event causing deep uncertainty such as the Arab Spring. The paper concludes that commitments to human rights norms must account for how events puncture broader trends, and that engagement with the human rights regime – and perhaps other performances of state legitimacy — requires an understanding of the multiple audiences, events, and policy possibilities to which states are attuned in international forums.

Politics of Empowerment: New Book by Professor David Pettinicchio

Why are decades-old disability rights policies like the ADA facing political threats which undermine their ability to help people with disabilities?

Professor David Pettinicchio’s newly published book, “Politics of Empowerment: Disability Rights and the Cycle of American Policy Reform” aims to answer this question. In addition, he states that it offers a timely explanation for how the United States acts as both policy innovator and laggard. Dr. Pettinichio is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga and an affiliated faculty member in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

The book’s publisher, Standford University Press, includes the following synopsis on their website:

Despite the progress of decades-old disability rights policy, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, threats continue to undermine the wellbeing of Americans with disabilities. The U.S. is, thus, a policy innovator and laggard in this regard. In Politics of Empowerment, David Pettinicchio offers a historically grounded analysis of the singular case of US disability policy, countering long-held views of progress that privilege public demand as its primary driver. By the 1970s, a group of legislators and bureaucrats came to act as “political entrepreneurs.” Motivated by personal and professional commitments, they were seen as experts leading a movement within the government. But as they increasingly faced obstacles to their legislative intentions, nascent disability advocacy and protest groups took the cause to the American people forming the basis of the contemporary disability rights movement. Drawing on extensive archival material, Pettinicchio redefines the relationship between grassroots advocacy and institutional politics, revealing a cycle of progress and backlash embedded in the American political system.

Read more about the book and Professor Pettinicchio’s research on his website.

 

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah: Canada Should Legalize All Recreational Drugs

Akwasi Owusu-BempahProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently wrote and published an opinion piece in the University of Toronto Magazine, entitled “Canada Should Legalize All Recreational Drugs.” Professor Owusu-Bempah is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. He is also the director of research for Cannabis Amnesty, a Canadian organization advocating for pardons for non-violent, minor cannabis offenses.

The full article is available on magazine.utoronto.ca. I have pasted an excerpt from the article below.

Why are most recreational drugs illegal? If the rationale for the war on drugs is to decrease drug use, it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t stopped the production or importation of drugs. Quite the opposite: there are billions of dollars to be made from the illegal drug trade. This often comes with serious violence – sometimes in Canada, but more often in Mexico 1 and other source countries in South America and Central America.

The United States, in particular, has been waging a war on drugs for several decades, 2 and it’s still one of the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. 3 This should tell us that we’re not going to reduce drug use through the enforcement of laws.

Some people use drugs because they enjoy doing so. Many Canadians already consume a number of drugs each week: alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are the most common. People also use harder drugs recreationally, and of course, some of these people develop substance use and abuse problems. But arresting and incarcerating them is not going to help them deal with the issues that are leading them to use or abuse harder drugs in the first place. This is why a public health approach to all drugs, where we’re striving for harm reduction rather than elimination of use, makes the most sense.

For most of human history, drugs haven’t been illegal. It’s only in the last 110 years that we’ve had drug prohibition in Canada. Even so, my neighbours in downtown Toronto often express surprise that cannabis was legalized just recently. Many think it’s been legal, or at least decriminalized, for some time. They think this because of what they look like and where they live: they don’t have to worry about being arrested.

Read the full article here.

Congratulations to Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu on receiving the Connaught New Researcher Award

Congratulations to Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu, whose work has been recognized with the Connaught New Researcher Award. Professor Elcioglu is one of six sociology faculty members to receive this award in 2019. The annual award provides up to $20,000 to new tenure-stream faculty members, and is intended to help them establish a strong research program, and subsequently increase their competitiveness for external funding. “These researchers are doing exciting, innovative work across many different disciplines. It’s the University of Toronto’s hope that this funding will help set the stage for world-leading scholarship and important new discoveries,” stated Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives.

Professor Elcioglu’s project is entitled, “The Political Effects of Taking in Strangers: An Interview-Based Study of the Motivations, Experiences, and Worldviews of Private Refugee Sponsors in Canada”, and aims to discover how people decide to become sponsors and how this decision is shaped by and affects their identities. She also seeks to learn how the experience of sponsorship affects their expectations about who ‘refugees’ are and what their resettlement should look like. And lastly, her research looks to determine whether and how the process of sponsorship reshapes sponsors’ views about the social world, including their own position of relative privilege in the global political economy. 

Immigration policy involves both exclusionary practices–the policing of borders and the deportation of unwanted immigrants–and integrative practices–resettlement programs facilitating the integration of immigrants and refugees accepted into a nation. Canada’s program of Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) offers a rare case study for exploring the political effects of devolving integrative immigration measures. This project will investigate the political effects of this program on the sponsors. Specifically, she will explore whether and how sponsorship reshapes citizens’ worldviews particularly in relation to the state, newcomers, and inequality. In so doing, this project also underlines questions about whether and in what ways participation in statecraft facilitates deeper political and civic engagement among citizens.

As a result, this project will extend and complicate existing theories about the political consequences of involving citizens and civil society in the statecraft of refugee admittance. At the same time, Professor Elcioglu hopes that the findings will also help inform policymakers and the general public about how to make private sponsorship a more sustainable and equitable method of refugee resettlement. 

Scholars’ Conversations: Clayton Childress, Under the Cover

Professor Clayton Childress was recently interviewed as part of the “Scholar’s Conversations” series on the American Sociology Association’s Consumers and Consumption area website. Professor Childress is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at UTSC. The Scholar’s Conversations series consists of graduate students or other scholars in the field interviewing scholars in the field of Consumers and Consumption about recent publications and their approach to studying consumption. Professor Childress spoke to Tim Rosenkranz, a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at The New School for Social Research, about his book, Under the Cover, (Princeton UP, 2017).  Under the Cover follows the life trajectory of a single work of fiction from its initial inspiration to its reception by reviewers and readers.

The full article is available on Consumers and Consumption, however, I’ve inserted an excerpt of the interview below:

Tim Rosenkranz: What does “consumption” mean to you in your work?

Clayton Childress: In my work consumption is either about market transactions or about the taste for and evaluation of goods that comes before or after those transactions. This spans everything from organizational theorists studying the relationship between category blending and market attention, to those working in the traditions of Bourdieu or Peterson studying the relationship between taste and social stratification, to smaller-scale studies of taste formation or practice.

That said, consumption, both analytically and as a research area, is I think the study of activities that takes place in a particular location in the creation, production, and reception of objects. That a Hollywood studio executive is “consuming” scripts when considering them for production is of course true, but the scare quotes I’m using for that are, I believe, very important, as the setting, context, and purpose of that consumption is very different from the types of consumption we study when we say we’re studying consumption. I don’t mind talk of reception being a “second production” or production being a “first consumption” for the purposes of thought experiments, but for what we’re actually interested in, I don’t find that those types of thought experiments push us forward as frequently as we’d sometimes like to believe they do.

Likewise, in my own work I hold consumption as analytically distinct from reception, which for me is expressly about meaning making. In my darker moments I sometimes worry that a lot of meaning making might just be post-hoc justifications for evaluation, but to even express that fear I’m clearly thinking of consumption and reception as siblings of the same parentage rather than as the same thing.

Tim: Your research in the fields of literature and publishing uniquely connects the processes and practices of production and consumption. How did you come to the work on this topic? What sparked your interest in this?

Clayton: My career and research interests can be explained through two anecdotes. The career anecdote is that when I was an undergraduate Bill Hoynes mentioned to us in passing that he subscribed to a bunch of magazines, and his job was basically to sit around and read magazines all day. To me, that sounded amazing. It wasn’t until later that I learned that by magazines he of course meant peer-reviewed journals and he was just translating what those were for us young undergraduates, but I was already hooked. Upon my graduation Bill told me that if I wanted I could go to grad school and become a professional sociologist, but I thought I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t know that they basically pay you to get a PhD, which was mindboggling to me. It took me a couple years to build up the confidence that Bill had in me and to apply to PhD programs, but that’s how I got on the career track.

The research area anecdote is that when I was about seventeen or so DVDs hit the market and I suddenly had access to the thing I had always liked more than movies: directors, and screenwriters, and actors talking about making movies on the commentary tracks on most DVDs. I’ve never had any interest in making art, but I wanted to make a career out of hearing and telling stories about art making, and eventually, art sense-making in reception processes too. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I wasn’t just studying production and reception, but also had to, as Wendy Griswold has written, “rediscover that forgotten soul, the author” to really understand cultural creation, production, and reception from start to finish.

This is all to say that I think I would have tried to do some variant on what I’m doing no matter what, but it’s because of Bill Hoynes that I’m doing this type of stuff as a professional sociologist rather than doing it on nights and weekends or trying to eke a living out of it in some other context.

Read more here.

Congratulations to Professor Ethan Fosse on receiving the Connaught New Researcher Award

Congratulations to Professor Ethan Fosse, whose work has been recognized with the Connaught New Researcher Award. Professor Fosse is one of six sociology faculty members to receive this award in 2019. The annual award provides up to $20,000 to new tenure-stream faculty members, and is intended to help them establish a strong research program, and subsequently increase their competitiveness for external funding. “These researchers are doing exciting, innovative work across many different disciplines. It’s the University of Toronto’s hope that this funding will help set the stage for world-leading scholarship and important new discoveries,” stated Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives.

Professor Fosse’s project, “The Consequences of Downward Social Mobility in the United States and Canada,” aims to provide empirical evidence on the individual-level consequences of social mobility and to address the methodological weaknesses of existing research on the topic.

Downward social mobility, or the movement of an individual from an upper to lower class position, is an increasingly common experience for many people around the world. Some scientific work and much popular debate have speculated on the likely pernicious effects of rising rates of downward mobility on a range of outcomes, from extreme political views to early mortality. Yet, due to critical limitations of existing methods, the social and behavioural sciences still lack valid empirical evidence on the effects of social mobility on a wide variety of important outcomes.

Professor Fosse’s research seeks to remedy this problem by developing a new set of methodological tools for studying the effects of downward social mobility on individuals’ well being (e.g., perceived happiness and stress), attitudes (e.g., trust, political ideology, and out-group bias), and behaviours (e.g., voting, marriage, and fertility). As a result, this project will provide new evidence to address long-standing concerns about the adverse consequences of downward social mobility in the United States and Canada.

Congratulations to Professor Monica Alexander on receiving the Connaught New Researcher Award

Congratulations to Professor Monica Alexander, whose work has been recognized with the Connaught New Researcher Award. Professor Alexander is one of six sociology faculty members to receive this award in 2019. The annual award provides up to $20,000 to new tenure-stream faculty members, and is intended to help them establish a strong research program, and subsequently increase their competitiveness for external funding. “These researchers are doing exciting, innovative work across many different disciplines. It’s the University of Toronto’s hope that this funding will help set the stage for world-leading scholarship and important new discoveries,” stated Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives.

Professor Alexander’s project is entitled, “Using Facebook data to measure and understand migration patterns in Canada”, and proposes the use of Facebook data to produce estimates and short-term projections of migration in Canada. 

Canada’s population has one of the largest migrant shares in the world. Our ability to build policy and provide services to benefit the migrant population is, however, hampered by imprecise knowledge of the patterns of migration. The data that is publicly available on key indicators of migration in Canada are limited. For example, detailed information from the Census is only available every five years, and the migration data published on an annual basis do not offer the granularity or detail required to adequately study localized and short-term changes in migration patterns.

Professor Alexander’s aim is to collect large scale data from the Facebook Advertising Platform and to develop statistical methods to adjust for imperfections in the data. This project will produce timely estimates of certain socioeconomic variables that will provide much needed information on Canadian migrants.

As a result, this project will have a direct impact on improving migration research and working towards understanding the implications and challenges of future population change in Canada.