The Rise of Social Animals: The Sociology Department Volleyball Team

Social Animals 2019: Back Row L-R: Martin Lukk, Jason Settels, Laura Upenieks, Andrew Nevin, Prof. Irene Boeckmann, Prof Rachel LaTouche; Front Row L-R: Sebastian Parker, Catherine Yeh

The past two summers (2018, 2019) have witnessed the rise of the Social Animals in the University of Toronto Summer Intramural Volleyball League. Spearheaded in 2018 by Prof. Geoff Wodtke (now at the University of Chicago), the team is comprised of both graduate students and faculty members at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto.

To say that the team has vastly improved since the first game last year would be an understatement. We were the very definition of unprepared and lost at the start of last year–like going into a presentation without slides or a well-thought-out script! Few of us had ever played a competitive volleyball match. In fact, during the first match, we didn’t know how to warm up in proper volleyball format. We didn’t really know that you could hit the ball three times on your own side before it was required to go over the net. In fact, at an even more rudimentary level, we didn’t even bring our own volleyballs to warm-up with…so as could be expected, we lost handily. Initially, we were quite surprised by the level of competition in the league. While we struggled to figure out how to warm-up, these teams were executing back-sets, jump serves, power and offside hits, “quicks,” and back-court hits (translation: volleyball strategies akin to complicated methods in sociology). We competed against several teams comprised of undergraduate students, most of which played intramurals year-round (intramurals are also held during the fall and winter semesters). Many of these players were likely former competitive or high school volleyball players, and some, by our estimation, were probably good enough to make the U of T varsity team if they so desired. So, we knew from the start that it would take nothing short of our best effort to produce a win.

In our first season (2018), we did well to win a few sets here and there off of teams but didn’t muster a win in a best 2 out of 3 set format. We lost a tough three-set match in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual league champions. Despite the results being less than we wanted, we could see improvement each week. Thanks to the tactical expertise of Prof. Scott Schieman and Andrew Nevin, we started to hone in on a strategy that fit our personnel and utilize our skills in an efficient way. With a few good X’s and O’s marked up on the whiteboard (after all, what else are whiteboards really for?), we gained confidence with each bump, volley, serve, spike, and set.

Given the fun that we had in 2018, the team decided to give it another go this past summer (2019). With some familiar faces and some new players, the Social Animals set out to improve on the previous season. And we did! We were competitive in every game, eventually managing to win 2 games outright in the best 2 out of 3 set format. We also won a set off of one of the top teams, representing the best we’ve played until that point. Our last win of the season (August 8, 2019) showcased two years’ worth of improvement and effort. Down 18-13 in the first set, some timely serving by Prof. Rachel LaTouche and some great teamwork (we figured out the three hits on each side thing!) saw us come back and edge our opponents 20-19. Then we found ourselves in a similar predicament in the second set, this time down 17-13. Some masterful serving from Catherine Yeh spearheaded the comeback. And tied 19-19 with the set on the line, a seemingly endless rally saw a wonderful combination of teamwork: a great pass, a

well-timed set, and a ferocious backcourt hit by Andrew Nevin that our opponents weren’t able to return. What a fantastic end to a great season!

For those of you who are interested in joining the team moving forward, we hope to put together a team again for the 2020 summer. The Co-Ed Intramural Volleyball League at the University of Toronto requires 3 males and 3 females to be on the court at all times. We are especially in need of female graduate students or faculty members to play! You are guaranteed to have a great time! Stay tuned for more information in the coming months.

Until then, on 3, ANIMAL MAGIC!

1,2,3, ANIMAL MAGIC!!!!

— post written by Laura Upenieks

Absent from Photo: Tyler Bateman, Prof. Fedor Dokshin, Prof. Angelina Grigoryeva, Prof. Jeffrey Reitz

Former Team Members (2018): Prof. Geoff Wodtke, Prof. Scott Schieman, Atsushi Narisada, Phil Badawy, Marie-Lise Drapeau-Bisson

The team extends a huge thanks to Jeremy Nichols for the design of the team Social Animal t-shirts (now available in grey and black).

Habit and the Body

Congratulations to Doctoral Candidate Athena Engman and Professor Cynthia Cranford who recently published an article on the role of physical capacity in habit formation. Thanks to SSHRC for funding the research that resulted in this publication. The article was recently highlighted by the American Sociological Association as a journal highlight when it appeared earlier this year. You can see the full article here. Below is the citation and abstract.

Athena Engman and Cynthia Cranford (2016) Habit and the Body: Lessons for Social Theories of Habit from the Experiences of People with Physical Disabilities. Sociological Theory: 34 (1): 27-44 DOI: 0.1177/0735275116632555

Habitual action has been an important concept in sociological theory insofar as it allows for a conceptualization of action that does not rely on paradigmatic loyalty to a rational decision-making subject. One insight from theories of habit that is of particular importance for understanding how habit structures experience is the idea that habits are always habits in a world: we act in a material environment that is itself constitutive of action. Relatively little attention, however, has been paid to the ways in which the material environment is preconfigured for action by particular forms of embodiment. Drawing on disability studies as well as an empirical consideration of the experiences of people with physical disabilities and the attendant service providers who work with them, we develop a model of habit that accounts for the variability in habit formation and maintenance that characterizes lived experience.

Mapping the Urban Scenescapes

Dan SilverCongratulations to Professor Dan Silver for his new publication Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life co-authored with Terry Nichols Clark.

The book was published by the University of Chicago Press, which describes the book as such:

Let’s set the scene: there’s a regular on his barstool, beer in hand. He’s watching a young couple execute a complicated series of moves on the dance floor, while at the table in the corner the DJ adjusts his headphones and slips a new beat into the mix. These are all experiences created by a given scene—one where we feel connected to other people, in places like a bar or a community center, a neighborhood parish or even a train station. Scenes enable experiences, but they also cultivate skills, create ambiances, and nourish communities.

In Scenescapes, Daniel Aaron Silver and Terry Nichols Clark examine the patterns and consequences of the amenities that define our streets and strips. They articulate the core dimensions of the theatricality, authenticity, and legitimacy of local scenes—cafes, churches, restaurants, parks, galleries, bowling alleys, and more. Scenescapes not only reimagines cities in cultural terms, it details how scenes shape economic development, residential patterns, and political attitudes and actions. In vivid detail and with wide-angle analyses—encompassing an analysis of 40,000 ZIP codes—Silver and Clark give readers tools for thinking about place; tools that can teach us where to live, work, or relax, and how to organize our communities.

Trans Rights at the University of Toronto

Spencer UnderwoodS.W. Underwood is a PhD student in Sociology with a specialization in gender, family, and critical cultural studies. The recipient of a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier doctoral scholarship, his current research examines gender and family formation among gay men in the transition to parenthood. With Ben Vincent, a PhD student at the University of Leeds, Underwood recently published an Op Ed in the Torontoist discussing trans rights at the University of Toronto. The piece appeared on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Why We Should Stand Up For Trans Rights and Recognition at the University of Toronto

Non-binary students deserve support from U of T faculty, not professors who cast aspersions.

Being transgender is often difficult. In 2015, Ontario researchers found that more than half of trans people have clinical depression, while 43 per cent had a history of attempting suicide [PDF]. Twenty-eight per cent of trans Ontarians could not get employment references with their current name or pronoun, and 58 per cent could not get academic transcripts with the correct name or gender, severely limiting their success on the job market.

Scientific consensus suggests neither biological nor cultural aspects of gender can be adequately explained within a binary [PDF]. Instead, gender develops in a web of environmental and physiological factors, forming diverse bodies and gender identities.

Recognizing the unique needs of transgender people, the Province of Ontario has recently launched public consultations to develop a more comprehensive method for collecting gender data. At the federal level, Bill C-16 aims to curb discrimination based on gender identity.

But not everyone is satisfied with the proposed changes. Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto who specializes in religious belief and personality, stated in an interview with the CBC’s As It Happens that he refuses to call non-binary transgender students by their pronouns, due to the purported absence of scientific evidence “that gender identity and biological sexuality are independently varying constructs.”

Biological sexuality? Exactly what is this? Clearly not sexual orientation. In the science on gender, such a concept holds no clout. Even if Peterson intended to refer to “sex,” his claims falter anyway.

Read the full article.

Welcome New Faculty

This year the Department of Sociology welcomes ten new faculty members into our community of scholars. This is the largest cohort of new faculty members we have seen in decades. They cover research and teaching interests ranging from classical theory to criminology and immigration studies and will help shape the character of the department in the years to come. Though housed across the three campuses, all faculty join together in contributing to the tri-campus graduate department.

Professor Ellen Berrey joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga teaching in the area of Law and Society. She graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University in 2008 and has previously taught at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and at the University of Denver.

Professor Irene Boeckmann is a new faculty member in Family and Demography, teaching at the St. George campus. Professor Boeckmann completed her PhD at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2014 and spent 2015 as a post-doctoral fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany.

Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu brings her expertise in political sociology and immigration to the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Professor Elcioglu received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 2016.

Professor Steve G. Hoffman received his PhD at Northwestern University in 2009 and taught for several years at the University at Buffalo, SUNY before coming to the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Professor Hoffman teaches in the area of social theory and the sociology of disaster.

Professor Rachel La Touche comes to the University of Toronto at St George this year where she is teaching in the areas of research methods and inequality. She received her PhD from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2016 and has previously taught at the University of Mannheim-Germany and at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research(ICPSR) Summer Program at the University ofMichigan.

Professor Yoonkyung Lee joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, St. George. Professor Lee received her PhD at Duke University in 2006 and has previously taught at Binghamton University. Professor Lee is a political sociologist with a focus on Korean studies.

Professor Sida Liu is a new faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Professor Liu is a specialist in the sociology of law. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2009. Before coming to Toronto, Professor Liu taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also currently a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah received his doctorate in 2014 from the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies here at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Before coming back to Toronto, Professor Owusu-Bempah taught for a year at the Indiana University, Bloomington. Professor Owusu-Bempah is a specialist in policing and race.

Professor Kim Pernell comes to the University of Toronto, St. George with expertise in economic sociology, organizational sociology and social policy. Professor Pernell received a PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2016.

Professor Ashley Rubin joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga bringing expertise in the sociology of punishment and prisons. Professor Rubin received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 and previously taught at Florida State University.

Anelyse Weiler on health care for migrant farm workers in Canada

Anelyse WeilerAnelyse Weiler is a PhD student in Sociology with research focusing on migrant farm workers in Canada. With two medical co-authors, Anelyse recently published an article on the BC Medical Journal’s blog. The BC Medical Journal is a general publication for the continuing education of physicians in British Columbia. The blog consists of “short timely pieces for online publication…on any health-related topic.” The piece appeared on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Coming to Grips with Health Barriers and Structural Violence for Migrant Farmworkers: A role for BC physicians

“In Kelowna I walked around all the time with a headache, and I covered my mouth with something so I wouldn’t absorb all of the [pesticide] dust coming out of the cherries. And I mentioned it to the boss . . . from what I have seen. . . . If you get worse, the boss sends you back to Mexico, and the following year he won’t request you [as an employee]. And just like that he has gotten rid of his problems. That’s the issue; I’ve seen bosses discard their best workers simply because they became ill, fell, broke a hand, or fractured part of their body.”
—Felipe, from an interview on 29 September 2013

Felipe (a pseudonym), a 28-year-old man from southern Mexico, is one of approximately 8600 migrant farmworkers living throughout BC. He and other migrant farmworkers are engaged in one of the province’s most dangerous, least regulated, and lowest paid occupations. The majority are men and most are from Mexico or Jamaica, but an increasing number come from other countries. Even though they make tremendous cultural, social, and economic contributions to Canadian society, migrant farmworkers often experience disproportionately adverse health outcomes because they are excluded from many of the rights and protections that citizens and permanent residents enjoy.

Migrant farmworkers are legally entitled to health care—they must be covered either by MSP or private insurance. But Felipe’s story shows how a fear of job termination and deportation generates unique barriers to health for migrant farmworkers. Furthermore, workers are often dependent on employers for transportation from remote rural areas and help to navigate the Canadian medical system.

BC physicians can play a critical role in reducing the gaps in health care for migrant members of our communities, both through everyday clinical practice and advocacy.

Resources and considerations for physicians
If language barriers are a concern, physicians can draw on the Provincial Language Service (PLS), which provides interpreting and translation services over the phone or in person.

To address cultural barriers and migrants’ long working hours, the Umbrella Mobile Clinic provides periodic pop-up farmworker mobile clinics throughout the Fraser Valley. These are staffed by a physician or nurse practitioner as well as multilingual cross-cultural health brokers.

If a physician is clarifying medical or billing issues with private insurance providers, sending-country representatives, English-speaking coworkers, or employers, they should be sensitive to the potential implications of putting patients’ confidentiality at risk. Medical repatriation, where a migrant worker is sent to their country of origin after sustaining an illness or injury (often against their will), is a documented risk for farmworkers. Once repatriated, access to health care and compensation granted to other ill or injured workers in Canada becomes much more complicated.

Read the full article

Ron Levi as Holocaust Education Week’s Scholar in Residence

ron-levi-photo-updatedCongratulations to Professor Ron Levi who has been named the Scholar in Residence for the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre’s 2016 Holocaust Education Week.

Professor Levi is an Associate Professor of Global Affairs and Sociology and holds the George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies. His research examines justice system responses to violence, crime and human rights violations, and he directs the Global Justice Lab that focuses on justice systems under pressure . As scholar in residence for Holocaust Education Week, Professor Levi will participate in the Opening Night presentation on November 2nd, a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on November 4th and a panel discussion on November 9th.

Holocaust Education Week is an annual event presented by the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. This, the 36th Holocaust Education Week presented by the centre, focuses on the theme The Future of Memory. The week’s programming begins on November 2nd and culminates in a commemoration of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass (November 9-10, 1938). This year’s theme asks how the Holocaust will be remembered in the future. Professor Levi connects to this theme by considering the role of our collective memory of the Holocaust in international courts and community safety worldwide. His thoughts, and more about the week’s programing are available here.

Randol Contreras in Toronto Star

contreras-in-the-starThe Toronto Star recently published a feature article discussing Professor Randol Contreras’ research and its connections to his own life. Professor Contreras is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with a specialization in crime and gangs. His Book, The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream, has been highly acclaimed and has won a number of awards. The Toronto Star piece was published on October 2, 2016 and is available online in its entirety. The following is an except of the longer article:

From failed Bronx drug dealer to U of T sociologist

Randol Contreras grew up in the South Bronx, dropping out of school to sell cocaine. So how did he end up as a published author, PhD and professor at the University of Toronto?

By Sandro Contenta

Randol Contreras has been looking frail ever since gastritis started eating at his gut. Sitting at his desk, at the University of Toronto’s sociology department, nothing about him suggests the hard streets. He looks like he might fade into the bare walls of his office.

He grew up in a poor Dominican enclave of the South Bronx in New York City. It was the height of the crack cocaine market and local drug dealers were swimming in cash, splashing it on convertibles, flashy clothes and hot women.

For many in Contreras’s marginalized neighbourhood, the dealers had achieved the only version of the American dream available. “These men were kings,” he says. Some were his relatives, some his close friends. He wanted to be them.

“I failed miserably,” he says, laughing. “I was a really bad drug dealer.”

The experience wasn’t a complete loss. It made him intimately qualified, after joining U of T in the fall of 2014, to teach a sociology course on “drugs in the city.” This fall, at the age of 45, he launches another on street gangs, informed by extensive field research he’s conducting with aging members of the Maravillas, the Mexican neighbourhood gangs of East Los Angeles.

He’s being applauded as a rare voice in academia, making waves in a discipline where ethnographic studies of poor urban communities have “mostly been written by senior white men,” notes U of T sociologist Jooyoung Lee.

He burst onto the sociological scene in 2013 with an astonishing insider’s account of his old neighbourhood. His acclaimed book, The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream, follows the violent path of several South Bronx drug dealers — most of them his childhood friends.

He describes their metamorphosis from simple dealers to gruesome torturers between 1999 and 2004, a fate Contreras narrowly escaped. It is not a portrait of sociopaths. They appear like shockingly brutal pragmatists navigating the social, economic and political pressures bearing down on them.

Read the full article

Professor Candace Kruttschnitt completes term as president of the American Society of Criminology

ckrutschnittCongratulations to Professor Candace Kruttschnitt on completing her term as president of The American Society of Criminology. I sat down and spoke with Professor Kruttschnitt about her experience and insights.

Professor Kruttschnitt has a long attachment to the ASC, having been a devoted member of the organization since receiving her doctorate in 1979. She has always been fascinated by the panels at ASC meetings and has enjoyed the tremendously collegial atmosphere at the meetings. The ASC includes academics, students and practitioners and seeks to “foster criminological scholarship, and to serve as a forum for the dissemination of criminological knowledge.” It speaks to a broad range of issues such as criminal justice policy, juvenile delinquency, and trends in crime statistics.

Professor Kruttschnitt herself is an expert in comparative prison research and women offenders. She has spent time in the United States, England, and the Netherlands studying prison systems and the conditions of confinement for women offenders. She now has a SSHRC grant investigating why it is that, while most offenders age out of crime, some persist.

Kruttschnitt thoroughly enjoyed her term as president. She served as president elect for one year and then served the following year as president. Much of the work was focused on the Annual Meeting. This involved overseeing the scheduling and staffing of the meeting, and organizing committees for awards. With this bird’s eye view of the field, she could see clearly the emerging trends in the field. Some of the biggest trends she sees in criminology scholarship include studies exploring the connection between neighbourhood spaces and crime, mass incarceration in the United States, policing, and issues of discretion based on race, ethnicity and stage of processing in sentencing outcomes.

The capstone of Kruttschnitt’s term was the Annual Meeting that took place in November 2015. Not only did she see her hard work pay off in a four-day event that went off without a hitch, she also presented her Presidential Address. Her address focused on “The Politics, and Place, of Gender in Research on Crime.” Here she drew attention to the need to make criminological theories more gender inclusive, the prominence of victimization in explanations of female offending, and the longstanding stereotypes that infuse work on women inmates. She concluded by suggesting ways in which scholars could help to move this field forward.

Professor Kruttschnitt is a Criminologist with a solid footing in Sociology. Or perhaps she’s a Sociologist with a solid footing in Criminology. She sees the connections between the two fields as integral. While the ASC includes criminologists from a variety of disciplines (e.g., psychology, political science, economics), Kruttschnitt was keen to point out the central role that Sociology has played in the history of Criminology and the continued importance of a sociological perspective on issues related to crime and punishment.

Alannah Vila is a 3rd year Sociology and Statistics student and is currently working at the Department of Sociology as a Work/Study student.