Congratulations to Fernando Calderón Figueroa, recipient of the 2021 Blanche and Sandy Van Ginkel Graduate Fellowship in Municipal Finance and Governance

Congratulations to Fernando Calderón Figueroa who was awarded the 2021 Blanche and Sandy Van Ginkel Graduate Fellowship in Municipal Finance and Governance from the Institute of Municipal Finance and Governance in the Munk School of Global affairs and Public Policy. Fernando is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology with research interests in the relationship urban and political sociology, social policy, and quantitative and computational methods.

The Blanche and Sandy Van Ginkel Fellowship in Municipal Finance and Governance is offered annually to a full-time graduate student who is enrolled at the University of Toronto, and who is engaged in studies related to municipal finance or governance. This fellowship has been funded by Diamante Development Corporation in support of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG).

Milos Brocic and Professor Dan Silver publish on the Impact of Georg Simmel

Milos BrocicPhD student Miloš Broćić and Professor Dan Silver have recently published an article on the reception of Georg Simmel in the Annual Review of Sociology. The article explores the importance of Simmel’s work for urban and conflict studies since 1975. Miloš Broćić is a doctoral candidate in the department of Sociology. He is currently completing his dissertation that is entitled, Expression in Politics. Professor Dan Silver is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the UT Scarborough (UTSC) Campus. His research focuses on theories, urban environments, culture, and cultural policies.

We have included the citation and abstract of the article. The full article is available online

Miloš Broćić and Daniel Silver. 2021. “The Influence of Simmel on American Sociology Since 1975 Annual Review of Sociology  47:1, 87-108


Recent decades have seen Georg Simmel’s canonical status in American sociology solidify and his impact on research expand. A broad understanding of his influence, however, remains elusive. This review remedies this situation by evaluating Simmel’s legacy in American sociology since 1975. We articulate Simmel’s sociological orientation by elaborating the concepts of form, interaction, and dualism. Employing a network analysis of references to Simmel since 1975, we examine how Simmelian concepts have been adopted in research. We find Simmel became an anchor for change in urban and conflict studies, where scholars moved from his earlier functionalist reception toward a formalist interpretation. This formalist reception consolidated Simmel’s status as a classic in network research and symbolic interactionism during the 1980s. Recent work in economic sociology and the sociology of culture, however, builds on Simmel’s growing reception within relational sociology. We conclude with several ways to further articulate Simmel’s ideas in the discipline.


PhD student Kayla Preston on far right groups, populism and the federal election

PhD student Kayla Preston recently published an article on The Conversation. A political sociologist studying de-radicalization, Kayla wrote about the threat of far right groups in Canada and their potential impact on the federal election. We have included an excerpt of the article below. The full article is available at The Conversation’s website.

With far right groups on the rise, we should keep an eye on populism this federal election

While the Canadian electorate is mostly made up of Liberal, Conservative, Green and New Democrat party supporters, it also includes people who are seeking a new direction for Canadian politics — one that promises to be “for the people.” And some of these people are part of far right groups who are calling for a new populist movement.

Research shows that globally, the far right calls for an authoritarian populist government. This is a drastic step away from traditional conservative governments on the right of the political spectrum. Right-wing populist governments often see themselves as an alternative to the political elitism they envision resides on both the right and the left.

However, they differentiate themselves by providing oversimplified and often divisive solutions to social problems such as income inequality. And this is cause for concern as far right groups and far right violence have been increasing in Canada over the past decade.

read more…

Professor Scott Schieman and PhD Candidate Phil Badawy on difficulties in Remote Work


Professor Scott Schieman and PhD Candidate Phil Badawy recently wrote an op ed in the Toronto Star. Based on their research interviewing Canadian workers, the op ed highlights some of the challenges of remote work. Professor Schieman has ongoing SSHRC-funded research exploring work-life balance and employment satisfaction in Canada. Phil Badawy is currently writing his dissertation, “A “Holy Grail” of Work and Family Life? Complicating Schedule Control as a Resource.” The following is an excerpt of the op ed. The full article is available on the Toronto Star website here.

Remote work makes communication with co-workers harder. Can it be fixed?


Sociology honouring the CAUT censure

The Department of Sociology is honouring the Censure placed upon the University of Toronto by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). This censure is a response to significant evidence that university administration facilitated attempts by an external donor to influence the impending hire of the Director of the International Human Rights Program at the Faculty of Law. The specific stipulations of the censure can be found here and include a call to those outside of the University of Toronto to not accept speaking engagements and to not accept faculty appointments. During this time, the Sociology Department will host neither its Speaker Series nor other departmentally-sponsored events at the University that involve outside speakers. Individual faculty members should, of course, exercise their academic freedom in deciding how to respond to the censure. In the future, the campus-based sociology hiring departments will assess whether hiring processes will go forward. Our decisions will be aligned with how such hires might support early-career scholars and/or diversity goals. Similar to our colleagues in the Department for the Study of Religion, we wish to state that we “support the University of Toronto’s stated purpose of ‘fostering an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish, with vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice.’” 

Please note: Our statement is adapted from the statement posted by the Dept. for the Study of Religion (DSR). 

Professor Fidan Elcioglu’s book, Divided by the Wall, a finalist for prestigious C.Wright Mills Award

Congratulations to Professor Fidan Elcioglu, whose book, Divided by the Wall, is one of seven finalists for the Society for the Study of Social Problem’s C. Wright Mills Award. According to the notice of award, Professor Elcioglu’s book was included among the seven finalists from a pool of 98 strong contenders. The committee noted that the Divided by the Wall “represents cutting-edge sociological scholarship, both empirically and theoretically.”

The C. Wright Mills Award is presented annually. In naming this book a finalist, the committee is attesting that it critically addresses an issue of contemporary public importance, brings to the topic a fresh, imaginative perspective, advances social scientific understanding of the topic, displays a theoretically informed view and empirical orientation, evinces quality in style of writing, and explicitly or implicitly contains implications for courses of action.

Professor Jooyoung Lee on The New Normal podcast speaking about Anti-Asian Racism

Jooyoung LeeProfessor Jooyoung Lee recently appeared on the University of Toronto podcast, The New Normal, to discuss anti-Asian racism. The episode is the first of a two-part series called: Scapegoat. In addition to Professor Lee, the host Maydianne Andrade, also spoke to Diana Fu of Political Science.

The New Normal: ep 19 pt 1: Scapegoat

Anti-Asian racism and violence in North America have been called a “shadow pandemic” – one that has intensified over the past year and builds on a long history of discrimination.

How, then, can we stop it?

“One of the things that I’ve been trying to promote in the aftermath of the shootings in Georgia is the power that allies and bystanders have,” says Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. “If you’re a witness to harassment in public, just speaking up, just doing something … can have significant effects.”

Lee is one of two guests in “Scapegoat,” a special two-part episode of The New Normal podcast hosted by Maydianne Andrade. The second guest is Diana Fu, an associate professor of political science at U of T Scarborough and an expert on U.S.-China relations.

Listen to the podcast.


Storytelling is Big Business: Professor Clayton Childress on the Public Books Blog

Professor Clayton Childress recently published an article in “Public Books,” an online publication dedicated to bringing “scholarly depth to discussions of contemporary ideas, culture, and politics.” Professor Childress’ piece discusses two books, Álvaro Santana-Acuña’s Ascent to Glory: How One Hundred Years of Solitude Was Written and Became a Global Classic and Maryann Erigha’s The Hollywood Jim Crow: The Racial Politics of the Movie Industry and how industry insiders portray their knowledge and lack of knowledge about what works are likely to be both profitable and popular.

Professor Childress is an Associate Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities on the UTSC campus. We have included an excerpt of the article; the full article is available here.

Storytelling is Big Business

by Clayton Childress

A common refrain among people who work in media—and, by extension, among the academics who study them—is that when it comes to what will be profitable, “nobody knows anything.”1 Sometimes people scoff at the idiom because it is taken to mean that nobody knows anything about what will be popular, not that nobody knows anything about what will be profitable. What makes this distinction consequential is that knowing what, and who, will make money should be important in the business of hits. And so, not knowing means that business decisions are often made using the flimsy tool that we turn to when facing our own ignorance: guesses based on our taken-for-granted assumptions, tastes, and biases.

Not all assumptions are based in ignorance. For the most part, people both inside and outside of media industries know what will be popular. Book publishers in the United States, for instance, publish over eight hundred new books per day, and on whatever day you are reading this I can almost promise you that none of those new books will end up being more popular than Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. The same goes for Disney executives in 2019, on the day before the theatrical release of Avengers: Endgame. Not only did they know that an Avengers sequel would be popular, but they also knew that even though a film called I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu would be released at the same time, it was not going to be offering much competition.

Read more.

Congratulations to Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, recipient of a President’s Impact Award

Congratulations to Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah who was recently honoured with a University of Toronto President’s Impact Award. The President’s Impact Awards are given to faculty members “for demonstrable, sustained research impacts” that go beyond academia. The award acknowledges Professor Owusu-Bempah’s research and advocacy work regarding inequality in the criminal justice system.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus. We have included an excerpt of the award announcement. Read the full story here.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recognized with President’s Impact Award

March 31, 2021
For his research and work to raise awareness and understanding of issues related to inequality and the criminal justice system, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah has received the President’s Impact Award.

An assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Owusu-Bempah’s findings have informed public policy around such important issues as race, policing and drug laws.

“My work aims to identify and ameliorate various forms of inequality in our criminal justice system and beyond,” says Owusu-Bempah. “I’m both humbled and heartened to have received the President’s Impact Award for my efforts in this area.”

Read more

UTM’s The Medium feature article profiles PhD student Jordan Foster’s research on social media

UTM’s student newspaper, The Medium, recently published a feature article profiling Jordan Foster’s research on social media. Entitled, “The Promises and Perils of Social Media,” the article discusses Jordan’s work examining the roles of influencers in perpetuating or combating patterns of social inequality.

Jordan is a third year PhD student. His research focuses on culture, consumption and class politics with a look toward how taken-for-granted trends and social media platforms comment on and reproduce existing inequalities in the consumer landscape.

We have included an excerpt of the article below. Read the full article here.

The promises and perils of social media

by Anna Povorozniuk

Social media is everywhere. It follows you from the early morning when you wake up and check Instagram, to lunch break when you retweet a video of a funny dog, and into the night when you scroll endlessly through TikTok videos. All of us, without a doubt, have felt the impact of social media on our lives. But has social media impacted societal functioning as well?

Jordan Foster is a graduate student in the sociology Ph.D. program at the University of Toronto St. George. He grew up with social media platforms blossoming around him and, as a curious undergrad, he began asking questions about social media’s role in society. As a graduate student, he got to transform those questions into research. His research studies focus on culture, consumption, and class politics, with a particular emphasis on how “taken-for-granted” trends and social media platforms emphasize and reproduce existing inequalities.

Social media has changed the landscape of our society in the past couple of years; there is no question about it. “It’s something that a lot of us are thinking about,” says Foster. His main concern is how social media has changed social visibility and how we view the status of others. “Social media has changed the rules of sociality, how we interact and engage with one another,” continues Foster. Analysing this shift allows us to understand how inequality functions on social media. We have to ask ourselves who succeeds on social media and, most importantly, who doesn’t to understand the full dynamics of the issue.

Continue reading…

Postdoctoral Fellow, Daniela Russ recipient of funding for research on computing in former Soviet Union

Congratulations to postdoctoral researcher Daniela Russ who recently received the IEEE Fellowship in the History of Electrical and Computing Technology for her project “Computers, Optimal Planning, and the Science of Energetics in the Soviet Union (1951-1982)“. In this part of her post-doctoral project, Russ asks how cybernetic methods and computing technology enabled engineers to find a compromise between a system optimized with regard to material or cost efficiency. Russ will use the fellowship to fund a several months long research stay in Russia, where she will interview former energy engineers and economists, and consult archives in Moscow, Samara, and Irkutsk.

Daniela Russ is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto where she is working under the supervision of Professor Zaheer Baber. This research is part of Russ’s larger postdoctoral research program, “Nature’s Efficiency: Energetika as a Political Ecology of the Soviet Union (1917-1992)” that examines how Soviet energy engineers and economists shaped planning decisions about which resources to exploit, where to produce, and which technologies to use. She is particularly interested in how the engineers resolved the conflict between material and monetary efficiency. Her goal is to understand both the historical specificities of the Soviet energetic school and relate it to the making of productivist economies in other capitalist and socialist countries.

Hoping to find a more material basis of planning, the Soviet Union was among the first countries to institutionalize energy planning and research. In the view of its early energy engineers, the Soviet Union could avoid the squandering and surpass the productivity of capitalist societies by orienting its economic planning towards the most efficient use of energy. However, monetary needs again and again thwarted material planning and forced the exploitation of secluded gas and oil fields. It is ironic that the energy sector––thought to ensure economic freedom and independence––would swallow the Soviet economy almost entirely over the second half of the twentieth century. Today, some estimate that as much as 70% of the Russian GDP depends directly or indirectly on revenues from oil and gas.


Dr. Ellen Berrey studies the spread of student-led anti-racism protest

Professor Ellen Berrey’s newly SSHRC-funded research project, “Student Protests and University Responses in the United States and Canada, 2012-2018,” with Dr. Alex Hanna (Google, Inc.) examines where, when, why, and how students protest and how university administrations respond. Her goal is to identify patterns in protest mobilization, the diffusion (or spread) of protest, and universities’ management of protest in the United States and Canada between 2012 to 2018. The study also analyzes the competing rhetorical claims made by protesters and administrators, to understand how each side socially constructs the issues at hand.

Her study focuses in particular on student anti-racism protest, although it also investigates the full range of issues raised in campus protests, from fossil fuel divestment to labour strikes. Berrey first became interested in the diffusion of anti-racism student activism in 2015, when students mobilized a wave of anti-racism protests across at least 100 college and university campuses in the United States and Canada. Coinciding with the Black Lives Matter movement, these protests were led by students of colour and drew attention to their experiences of racism within higher education, such as interpersonal hostility from white students and administrators’ inaction. Like all social movements, those mobilizations shared broad goals across campuses and combined those goals with local interests and acts of activism shaped by their distinctive institutional contexts. University administrations reacted in a variety of ways, from bringing in campus and local police to initiating long-term policy changes. The presidential election of Donald Trump prompted another wave of student anti-racism activism, although issues of immigration and the “Muslim Ban” appeared to be at the forefront. Under his presidency, White supremacists organized a smaller number of campus mobilizations, which were opposed by student-led counterprotests. Professor Berrey’s project promises to provide a mapping of these complex dynamics and universities’ strategies of managing them.

Professor Berrey and Dr. Hanna received a SSHRC Insight Development grant in 2017 to begin the study and then, this summer, a SSHRC Insight Grant to complete it. With this funding, she will finish constructing the Student & Campus Protest Events Dataset, a dataset of student protests as reported in American and Canadian campus newspapers, and then will amalgamate it with five existing datasets that contain information on universities’ organizational characteristics, Black Lives Matter protests, and social media. Creating the dataset is a major undertaking, requiring a large team of undergraduate and graduate students. The process involves applying a machine learning system designed by Hanna to identify potentially relevant newspaper articles, then handcoding those articles to identify each protest and relevant details about it. Ultimately, Professor Berrey will use the data to provide a comprehensive overview of the locations, diversity, and diffusion of student protest and patterns in administrations’ reactions in the Black Lives Matter and early Trump eras.

Professor Berrey is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the UT Mississauga (UTM) Campus. She is also an affiliated scholar of the American Bar Foundation. Her research focuses on race and diversity, inequality, organizations, social movements, and culture. She has published various scholarly articles in journals such as Sociological Science, Law & Society Review, and Theory & Society amongst many others. She is the author of two books, both published by the University of Chicago Press: The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice and Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality. Her books have been recognized with numerous awards, including the prestigious Herbert Jacob Book Prize of the Law & Society Association and multiple awards from the American Sociological Association.

article written with input from Professor Berrey.

Statement Regarding Racialized Violence

Racialized violence is an endemic problem of Canadian society. The most recent examples of violence against Black people have sparked outrage around the world. Each instance of police brutality threatens not just individuals but the legitimacy of society as a whole. These instances are not isolated events. They are connected to larger systems that reproduce racial inequalities which are particularly pernicious for Black and Indigenous communities. This social and political context is painful and dire.

As members (faculty, staff and graduate students) of the Tri-campus Department of Sociology at University of Toronto, we do not pretend that a statement will ameliorate racism in Canada, or even in our own department. Still, we must take action to address racism in Canadian society. Our department can do more, and MUST do more.

In the short term, we the undersigned agree to dedicate our resources and time to organizations that support Black Canadians. In the medium term, we the undersigned agree to assist in the promotion and realization of departmental policy and programming on these issues in the next academic year. In the long-term, we the undersigned agree to redouble our efforts to diversify our community and create a more inclusive anti-racist environment.

Adam Isaiah Green

Ali Greey

Alicia Eads

Andreea Mogosanu

Andrew Nevin

Anelyse Weiler

Angela Hick

Anson Au

Blair Wheaton

Bonnie Fox

Bonnie H. Erickson

Brigid Burke

Carmen Lamothe

Chris Smith

Christian Caron

Cinthya Guzman

Clayton Childress

Cynthia Cranford

Dan Silver

David Pettinicchio

Ellen Berrey

Elliot Fonarev

Elysha Daya

Emily Hammond

Erik Schneiderhan

Ethan Fosse

Fedor Dokshin

Fernando Calderón Figueroa

Fidan Elcioglu

Gail Super

Hae Yeon Choo

Hammad Khan

Irene Boeckmann

Ito Peng

James Lannigan

Jayne Baker

Jessica Fields

Jillian Sunderland

Jooyoung Lee

Jordan Foster

Josée Johnston

Joseph M. Bryant

Josh Harold

Judith Taylor

Julia Ingenfeld

Kathy Liddle

Kim Pernell

Kristin Plys

Lisa Iesse

Luisa Farah Schwartzman

Man Xu

Marion Blute

Markus Schafer

Martin Lukk

Melissa Milkie

Merin Oleschuk

Michelle Silver

Neda Maghbouleh

Nicholas D Spence

Noam Keren

Pat Louie

Patrick Leduc

Paul Nelson

Paula Maurutto

Phil Goodman

Philip Badawy

Ping-Chun Hsiung

Rachel La Touche

Rania Salem

Ronit Dinovitzer

Rebecca Lennox

S. W. Underwood

Sagi Ramaj

Scott Schieman

Sebastien Parker

Sharla Alegria

Shawn Perron

Sherri Klassen

Shyon Baumann

Sida Liu

Sitao Li

Soli Dubash

Steve Hoffman

Tahseen Shams

Tyler Bateman

Vanina Leschziner

Weiguo Zhang

Yifang Li

Yoonkyung Lee

Youngrong Lee

Yukiko Tanaka

Yvonne Daoleuxay

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah on defunding the police

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently spoke to the Toronto Star about the movement to defund police in favour of community organizations  especially in the cases of mental health calls. We have included an excerpt of the article below. Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the UT Mississauga campus. His research focuses on the intersection of race, policing and justice.

‘Defunding’ police, funding mental health resources will save lives, experts say

The death of a Toronto woman who fell from her 24th-floor balcony while police were in her home has renewed calls for an overhaul of how society deals with people in mental health crises.

Some experts believe “defunding” police — taking some of the taxpayer money going to law enforcement and putting it towards mental health services — is one way to avoid deadly interactions between officers and people struggling with mental illness.

The blowback follows the death last week of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old woman whose family asked police to take her to a mental health hospital. Police have said they were responding to an assault call, but the family has questioned the role of Toronto officers in her death. The province’s police watchdog has taken over the case.

“I think it’s unfortunate we’ve come to a place in our society that police become first responders to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

“What we should do is take back that money, to defund police, and give it over to mental health professionals who are better equipped to help these people.”

Read the full article.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah on how to reduce police violence

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah spoke to Mugglehead News in response to US House of Representatives suggesting that the War on Drugs was responsible for increases in police violence, particularly against Black people. While the US resolution called for greater accountability, Professor Owusu-Bempah argued that reducing the funding and scope of responsibilities of the police would more effectively reduce police violence. We have included an excerpt of the article below. Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the UT Mississauga campus. His research focuses on the intersection of race, policing and justice.

US House resolution points to war on drugs as contributing to police brutality

Best way to reduce police violence is to scale back funding and amount of responsibility police have, says criminology prof
 Michelle Gamage June 2, 2020  16 min

A new resolution condemning police brutality was introduced in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, citing the war on drugs as contributing to “the systemic targeting of and use of deadly and brutal force against people of colour, particularly black people.”

The resolution calls for increased police accountability, following recent police killings of George Floyd in Minnesota and Brennoa Taylor in Kentucky. The deaths and a history of unarmed black citizens being killed by police have sparked protests and riots in the U.S., as well as demonstrations worldwide, with many demanding the officers involved face criminal charges proportional to their alleged crimes.

But creating more oversight isn’t the best way to reduce police brutality, says Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

As an expert on the intersection of race, crime and criminal justice, Owusu-Bempah says the best way to reduce police violence is to scale back the funding and amount of responsibility police have.

“For centuries we simply asked the police to do more and more and more,” he said. “They are primary responders in issues involving homelessness, mental health and a whole host of other social ills — and of course related to substance use and addiction. I don’t think police are the right institution to be engaging in those areas. I’d rather see a culture of less policing rather than police oversight.”

Owusu-Bempah recommends demilitarizing the police and diverting funds from law enforcement to other social services.

Read the full article…

Recent PhD Graduate, Katelin Albert, to begin new Tenure Track position at University of Victoria

Recent PhD graduate, Katelin Albert will begin a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Katelin graduated on June 13, 2019. Her dissertation is entitled, Technologies of Sexuality: The HPV Vaccine and an Investigation into Parental Responsibility, Progressive Sex-Education, and Adolescent Girls’ Subjectivities, and was completed under the supervision of Hae Yeon Choo, Anna Korteweg, Melissa Milkie, and Zaheer Baber.

Katelin’s dissertation problematizes responsibility and the persistent tensions accompanying vaccines, sexual health, and sex-education in contemporary society. She connect the everyday micro-level of parents, teachers, and adolescent girls, with macro-politics of biomedicine, “good parenting,” and progressive sex-ed to understand how vaccine politics and sex-education relate to girls’ development of their own subjectivities. She argues that while parents and teachers work to be responsible to girls’ health and sexual health, their actions may not support adolescents in ways they imagined. Frist, and beginning with data from 28 qualitative semi-structured interviews with Canadian mothers tasked with consenting to the HPV vaccine, Katelin challenges the overly narrow binary where parents are labeled as “responsible” if they vaccinate, “irresponsible” if they do not. She finds that HPV vaccine-consenting mothers follow normative conceptualizations of responsibility, aligned with HPV vaccination. Some non-HPV vaccine-consenting mothers exercised alternate responsibilities, aligned with broad efforts to manage their teens’ sexual health and sexuality. They extend responsibility beyond cancer protection vis-à-vis vaccines to a more general responsibility for their daughters’ sexual health and self-esteem. Second, and drawing on data generated from observations of four public school sex-education classrooms and interviews with Ontario teachers, she shows that these sex-ed teachers deliver lessons in ways that align with key dimensions of “progressiveness” – facts, choice, and promoting diversity. This piece uncovers how systems of gender, sexual, class, religious, racial, and ethnic inequalities are reproduced despite progressiveness. Finally, and based on 19 qualitative interviews with girls (aged 11-16) and paired interviews with their mothers, Katelin outlines the patterns through which girls’ subjectivities, sexual health knowledge, and thoughts on the HPV vaccine are linked, intertwined, and operate in relation to other people and larger sociocultural structures. This dissertation serves as a call to challenge and reflect on the taken-for-grantedness of biotechnical inventions, like the HPV vaccine, and progressive sex-education in contemporary society.

Katelin’s new position is in Sociology of Health within the Department of Sociology, and she looks forward to collaborating with interdisciplinary colleagues as she continues to explore health decision-making, the diffusion of health responsibility in Canadian society, and how health and sexual health knowledge moves and operates between people and places. In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, she plans to investigate the current socio-political landscape surrounding a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Further, sexual health, sexual experiences, and mental health on campus are growing concerns, and are a key area for her future research. In general, her current and future research program reflects her desire to assess the relationship between health knowledge/information and health experiences. At the University of Victoria, she will teach classes in gender, race, and medicine; health over the life course; and a graduate course in foundations of social theory.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah speaks on podcast about Cannabis and the Criminalization of Black Canadians

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently contributed to a Policy Options podcast entitled “Cannabis and the Criminalization of Black Canadians.” Policy Options is an online newsletter sponsored by the Institute for Public Policy Research.  It airs podcasts every second Wednesday. Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. he has teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus.  Owusu-Bempah has research expertise in the areas of race, policing and drug policy. The podcast includes an interview with Owusu-Bempah and also with Halifax poet, educator, journalist and activist, El Jones.

Listen to the podcast here or on the Policy Options website here.


Recent PhD graduate, Anelyse Weiler, to begin Tenure Track position at the University of Victoria

headshot of Anelyse WeilerPhD Candidate Anelyse Weiler will be joining the University of Victoria’s Department of Sociology as an Assistant Professor. Before her new position begins in July, she will be defending her dissertation on 12 June. Supervised by Josée Johnston with committee members Hannah Wittman (UBC) and Jennifer Chun, her dissertation is entitled, The Periphery in the Core: Cider Production, Agrarian Livelihoods and Tuning Taste in the Pacific Northwest. Here is the abstract for Anelyse‘s dissertation:

This dissertation draws on a case study of emerging craft cider production in the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest. It is guided by the overarching question: To what extent has the contemporary craft cider industry in the Pacific Northwest constrained or enabled agrarian change in land, labour, livelihoods and consumer embodiment? Through a regional analysis encompassing British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon, I draw on ethnographic data from participant observation and in-depth interviews with actors across the craft cider industry from 2017-2019. This dissertation is organized into three distinct analytic chapters. First, I find that while craft cider has helped buffer some farm producers against the volatility of selling raw fruit to large commodity markets, the benefits of this value-added niche market do not widely support continued primary production or farm succession. Some young cidermakers wish to maintain a connection to agrarianism but are shifting away from full-time farming due to lifestyle preferences and political-economic constraints, as exemplified by token forms of on-site production that carry great symbolic weight. Given the craft industry’s emphasis on elevating performances of manual labour intensity and ethical ingredient sourcing, a second analytic chapter focuses on how cidermakers account for the labour of predominantly racialized (im)migrant farmworkers. I find that actors in the craft cider industry engage with inequalities affecting farmworkers through structural obfuscation, ideological justification, and ambivalence or critique. This analysis illuminates both barriers and opportunities to strengthen equity for farmworkers as part of movements to advance food system sustainability. Third, I investigate how actors who are attempting to “tune” people’s tastes away from industrial-scale production navigate the contradictions of their simultaneous dependence on an industrial food system. I find that cidermakers attempt to re-tune consumers’ tastes by appeasing consumers, whose bodies reflect the influence of food system industrialization in the form of taste preferences. Simultaneously, cidermakers endeavour to ease consumers into more diverse possibilities for taste and ecologically resilient farming. Taken as a whole, this dissertation advances scholarly understandings of rural livelihoods, labour in alternative food initiatives, and embodied social change.

Anelyse‘s position forms part of UVic Sociology’s research and teaching specialization in Ecology, Global Issues, and Social Movements. She looks forward to engaging in collaborative and interdisciplinary research focused on food system sustainability, along with labour and migration conditions for workers across the food chain. Next year, she will be teaching classes in qualitative methods along with work and employment.

Recent Phd Graduate Merin Oleschuk to begin Tenure Track position at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Recent PhD recipient, Merin Oleschuk will begin a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Merin graduated on January 10, 2020. Her dissertation is entitled, Domestic Foodwork in Value and Practice: A Study of Food, Inequality and Health in Family Life and she completed it under the supervision of Josée Johnston, Shyon Baumann and Melissa Milkie.  Her dissertation abstract is as follows:

This dissertation explores home-cooked family meals – the ideals and expectations around them, as well as how they are navigated by parents in diverse social positions. This exploration assesses how discourses and practices surrounding family foodwork reflect and shape inequalities in a variety of realms including gendered labour, economic disparities, health outcomes and consumer politics. It utilizes diverse methods including a discourse and content analysis of North American news media, as well as qualitative interviews, cooking observations and food recall conversations with parents in the Greater Toronto Area who are primary cooks in their families. These varied methods facilitate investigation into how home cooking is publicly presented, automatically understood, and emotionally experienced by parents from diverse backgrounds. The dissertation explores these ends in three analytically distinct chapters, offering three key insights. First, the media analysis reveals that public discourse promotes a complex allocation of responsibility for family meals that recognizes multiple structural conditions constraining meals (such as unhealthy food environments and inflated normative standards), yet assigns responsibility for resolving them to individuals (i.e. parents should work harder to combat these constraints and cook more at home). These findings apply to family meals but can also be extended to consider responsibility for social problems within neoliberalism more broadly. Second, interview analysis identifies the ubiquity of a cultural schema of “cooking by our mother’s side”: an automatic, semi-conscious understanding of learning to cook that privileges culinary knowledge acquired during childhood through the social reproductive work of mothers. Analysis of this schema reveals its role in reproducing gendered inequalities and obscuring diversity in food learning, especially by overemphasizing the importance of childhood and masking learning later in life. Third, I qualitatively analyze how socio-economic disadvantage (alongside its intersections with gender and race/ethnicity) negatively impacts the emotional experience of foodwork but does not necessarily predict cooking pleasure. In identifying and exploring five conditions of cooking pleasure, I examine how certain conditions can operate relatively independently from class and facilitate cooking enjoyment for low-income groups. Collectively, the dissertation advances scholarly understanding of the ideals, meanings and emotions encompassing family foodwork, their embeddedness with social inequalities, as well as opportunities for resistance and social change.

Merin’s new position is part of a cluster hire in food security within the University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. She looks forward to working alongside other scholars across disciplines working to improve human and environmental health through the food system. While at Illinois, she plans to continue to develop her research around domestic food labour and consumption while expanding her research programme addressing issues of food insecurity around it. She will teach classes in the areas of food, gender and qualitative methods. Merin currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Guelph, working on the GenEQ: Advancing the Status of Women at the University of Guelph Initiative in the Provost’s Office.

Congratulations to Taylor Price, one of 25 finalists in SSHRC Storytellers Contest

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Taylor Price who recently learned that his submission to the SSHRC Storytellers Competition has been named one of the finalists for 2021. The annual SSHRC Storytellers Competition provides a venue for post-secondary students to showcase their SSHRC-funded research by presenting a 3 minute video or audoclip. The top 25 candidates receive a cash prize and the opportunity to present their research live at the Congress for the Social Sciences and Humanities. Due to covid-19, this year’s showcase will be postponed until 2021.

The twenty-five finalists cover a range of disciplines and highlight research from around the country. Taylor’s submission to the competition is a short video discussing his dissertation research which studies how songwriters are affected by the digital economy. Taylor produced this video in collaboration with AJ Astle from Roadhouse Productions ( Watch Taylor’s video here: