Congratulations to graduate students receiving SSHRC fellowships

SSHRC logoThis year, eight of our PhD students received funding from SSHRC. This funding will provide them with support for one to four years. Although all students in the University of Toronto graduate programs have a guaranteed funding package, receiving a SSHRC fellowship provides additional funding and allows them reduce the number of hours devoted to teaching and research assistantships so that they can focus on their dissertation research. All of our PhD students apply for external funding and receive training in developing proposals.

2021 SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship Recipients

Franklynn Bartol, Gender in the brain, feminism in the lab: How gender politics are shaping contemporary neuroscience
Erika Canossini, Towards a Sociology of Clemency: An Exploration of Pardons in Canada and US.
Maria Finnsdottir, Radical Women: Gendered Citizenship, National Identity, and the Scandinavian Radical Right
Elliot Fonarev, Mapping belonging in queer experiences in Canada
Jordan Foster, Fashion’s Front Row: Social Media Influencers and Status in the Digital Era
Andrew Holmes, From Protests to Parades? Shifting Directions for Canadian LGBTQ Social Movements 
Sara Hormozinejad, ‘Home’ Makers: Belonging and the Precarity of Citizenship for Afghan Migrants in Iran 
Umaima Miraj, Women and Ghadar: A Revolutionary Feminist World-Systems Analysis

Recipients from previous years among our current students

Amny Athamny, Anson Au, Phil Badaway, Tyler Bateman, James Braun, Milos Brocic, Eugene Dim, Miranda Doff, Marie-Lise Drappon-Bisson, Soli Dubash, Athena Engman, Ali Greey, Cinthya Guzman, James Jeong, Hammand Khan,  Rebecca Lennox, Gabe Menard, Andreea Mogoanu, Jean-Francois Nault, Andrew Nevin, Jaime Nikolaou, Laila Omar, Sebastien Parker, Shawn Perron, Kayla Preston, Taylor Price, Paul Pritchard, Kate Rozad, Kerri Scheer, Jillian Sunderland, Yukiko Tanaka, Samia Tecle, S.W. Underwood, and Dana Wray.

Professor Ito Peng begins new Partnership project titled “Care Economies in Context: Towards Sustainable Social and Economic Development”

Professor Ito Peng received news earlier this spring that she has received funding for a second large partnership project. This project, called “Care Economies in Context: Towards Sustainable Social and Economic Development,” pulls together research teams from eight different countries and has funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), The William and and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.

Using a broad definition of “care,” this project will map and measure all paid and unpaid elements of the Care Economy in Canada and seven other countries. These countries span four global regions and represent both the Global North and the Global South. They are: Italy, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Senegal. Once the teams in each country have mapped and measured the individual care economies, they will conduct comparative analyses to understand the  institutions, cultures, and social and economic policies that shape differences and similarities across varying contexts. The team will then develop gender-aware macroeconomic models and other tools for policymakers who are seeking to improve models of care giving in their own jurisdictions.

This project is Professor Peng’s second large partnership project to receive funding from SSHRC. It follows her previous success with the project, Gender, Migration and the Work of Care, that focused specifically on an international comparison of the role of migrant care workers and immigration policies in shaping the structure of care. Both projects involved large teams of international researchers and partnerships with key NGO and policy partner. For this new project, Peng has partnerships with seventeen organizations including UN Women, UN Research Institute for Social Development, the International Labour Organization, The African Population and Health Research Centre, Canadian Labour Congress, International Development Research Centre of Canada, and Canada’s Ministry of Women and Gender Equality. She will lead a team of about thirty academic researchers and the project will provide training opportunities to at least fifty students and junior scholars.

Professor Ito Peng is a Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She is also the Director of the Centre for Global Social Policy at UofT and the Canadian Research Chair in Global Social Policy. More information about the Care Economies in Context project and Professor Peng’s other research is available on the CGSP website.


SSHRC Insight Development Grant Final Deadline

The SSHRC Insight Development Grant provides funding to university-based faculty members for research in its early stages. Funding ranges from $7,000 to $75,000 for projects from 1-2 years in length. Sociology faculty members should inform Sherri Klassen ( if they are interested in applying. The deadlines for this year’s competition are as follows:

  • U of T MRA deadline: January 25, 2021, 9 am
  • U of T SSHRC online submission deadline: January 29, 2021, 9 am
  • SSHRC deadline: February 2, 2021

SSHRC Insight Grant Deadlines

SSHRC Insight Grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities for projects of two to five years in length with funding between $7,000 and $400,000. See information about the SSHRC Insight Grant here. Please contact Sherri Klassen for more information and inform her if you intend to apply to this competition. To work with Sherri on a grant proposal, you should plan to have a draft available to her by the middle of September.

The U of T internal deadline is October 11, 2017 at noon.
The final SSHRC deadline is October 16, 2017.

Allow time to secure approvals from the Chair (and VP Research for UTM and UTSC) before the internal deadline. Note that the UTSC internal deadline is October 9.

Just how much do book prizes matter?

childressBook prizes play a monumental role in contemporary literary culture. Not only do they boost sales for winning and short-listed authors, they also help to define what is seen as “quality” in literature. If the effects of the prize are long lasting, book prize judges wield a tremendous amount of power over culture and literary trends.

To learn about the lasting impact of book prizes, Professor Clayton Childress has recently embarked on a new research project studying the effects of the Booker Prize. Funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, this project will compile and analyze a dataset of all books submitted to the Booker Prize between 1983-1996 and compare the characteristics of the books that were shortlisted with those that weren’t, and which books remained important in terms of their prestige among literary elites, and their popularity among regular readers.

The Booker Prize (now the Man Booker Prize), is arguably the most influential book prize in the English-speaking world. Though focused in the United Kingdom, it has always included books from former Commonwealth countries and has recently broadened its scope to the entire English-speaking world. The publicity that surrounds the Booker prize each year is also remarkable in comparison with other literary prizes.

Professor Childress has already learned a good deal about the Booker prize. His first publication from these data is forthcoming at Poetics and co-authored with Craig M. Rawlings (Northwestern) and Brian Moeran (University of Hong Kong). Together they look at factors that correlated with shortlisting and winning the prize. When compared to all submissions, they found that after first filtering out stories and authors based in England, the prize committees then favour male over female authors and stories. Then, when picking winners, the prize favours stories by and about men in the former colonies that have been published by high-status English publishers. In this way, Professor Childress and colleagues are able to provide some empirical evidence for what the humanities scholar Graham Huggan has argued is a fundamental contradiction of the Booker Prize as an attempt to reconcile “anti-colonial ideologies with neo-colonial market schemes.”

“What if I don’t take my meds?” Amy Klassen’s research has the answer

Congratulations to Doctoral Candidate Amy Lynn Klassen who recently published an article about the governance of non-compliant psychiatric patients under the law, and its implications for understanding capability and risk. She thanks SSHRC for funding the research that resulted in this publication. The full article is currently behind a paywall. For those with access, it is available online ahead of print here. Below is the citation and abstract.

Amy Lynn Klassen (2016) Spinning the Revolving Door: The Governance of Non-Compliant Psychiatric Subjects on Community Treatment Orders. Theoretical Criminology: Published Online Before Print, May 2016 DOI: 0.1177/1362480616646623

This article examines the enactment of community treatment orders (CTOs) in Alberta, Canada to illustrate how civil law is used to constitute and govern psychiatric patients in the community. I argue that the logic of CTOs constitutes the psychiatric patient as a fractured subject who is simultaneously capable/incapable of making medical decisions and at risk/risky. These paradoxical characterizations highlight how depictions of rationality and choice are contingent on consenting to a pharmacological regime designed to normalize these patients. This construction functions to eliminate opportunities for rationally informed types of non-compliance and promotes hospitalization as the only way to manage harmful, risky and non-conforming individuals. I contend that CTOs are a flawed instrument of regulation that cannot manage ‘legally’ capable but non-compliant individuals.

Disability and the Trump Administration

Professor David Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of political sociology and social policy and particular research interests in the area of policy and disability. He currently has a SSHRC-funded research project investigating employer discrimination against persons with disabilities. He recently published an editorial piece in The Hill, a US political newspaper. The full article is available here. We have included the beginning of the piece below.

Disability and the Trump Administration – What’s Next?

In unprecedented fashion, disability-related issues were prominent in this last electoral cycle. During the primaries, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and John Kasich promised to address persistent economic inequalities confronting people with disabilities, as well as address the occupational ghettoization of workers with disabilities into dangerous, lower-paying employment.

Clinton, who spent a great part of her adult life helping members of historically disadvantaged groups that include people with disabilities, moved from a narrow focus on expanding social and health services to a broader platform addressing deep-rooted inequalities that keep people with disabilities down.

Had Clinton won the election, we would no doubt demand that her campaign promises about helping people with disabilities be translated into policy. What might we expect from the Trump Administration?

Trump’s plans for the country are anyone’s guess right now. Much of the post-election anxiety is the result of the vague, sometimes conflicting, and often blustering rhetoric by the president-elect across an array of policy areas. To say that Trump’s platform lacked policy specificities is an understatement. In that vein, Trump has made little mention of disability-related social policy.

Rather, Trump’s association with disability in the campaign came by way of his mocking Serge Kovaleski, the New York Times reporter with arthrogryposis.


Continue reading.

Congratulations to Ito Peng, CRC in Global Social Policy

ito-peng2016Congratulations to Professor Peng, named Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy

This honour recognizes Professor Peng’s academic achievements and her contributions to the emerging field of global social policy. The Canada Research Chair program recognizes scholars in Canada who are “outstanding, world-class researchers whose accomplishments have made a major impact in their fields,” who are recognized internationally as leaders in their fields, who have strong track records training students and who are currently planning innovative original research.

Professor Peng merits the honour as a leader in the field of global social policy. This emerging field seeks to understand how changes in globalization and modes of governance impact social and economic policies and individual citizenship rights at local, national and global levels. It draws its knowledge base from welfare state, political economy, public policy and development studies scholarship, and employs comparative and multi-scalar analysis methods in its analyses.

Professor Peng is one of the world authorities in global social policy, specializing in gender and family policies and welfare states in East Asia. Her research has brought conceptual and empirical understanding to social policy developments and change. Her work has been influential not only to comparative social policy and Asian political economy scholarships, but also for key global policy institutions, such as the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD), UN Women, International Labor Organization (ILO), and World Bank. Her research has shown how changes in domestic factors, such as demography, economy, labour market, and family and gender relations interact with global structures and actors in shaping social policy development within countries. Peng is currently the Director of the Centre for Global Social Policy in the Department of Sociology and the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC funded Partnership Research project (2013-2019), Gender, Migration and the Work of Care: an international comparative perspective.

Professor Peng is the fourth faculty member in the Department of Sociology to receive a Canada Research Chair. She is preceded by Professor John Myles who was a Canada Research Chair in the Social Foundations of Public Policy and Professor Monica Boyd who held the Canada Research Chair in Immigration, Integration and Public Policy. Professor Scott Schieman currently holds a Canada Research Chair in the Social Contexts of Health.

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.

The Social Networks of Seniors

The Faculty of Arts and Science News recently profiled Professor Markus Schafer in their series on “Rising Stars.” The piece discusses Professor Schafer’s doctoral work that studied the social networks of seniors in a residence complex, and his ongoing research into social networks, health and aging more generally.

Read the article here.

Professor Schafer’s research is supported by the Province of Ontario’s Early Researcher Award and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Gender and the Census

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. S.W. recently published an Op Ed in the Toronto Star discussing the gender categories in the Canadian Census. The piece appeared on Friday, May 6, 2016 and the complete article is available online. The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Census needs to reflect modern reality about gender

Ongoing belief in only ‘females’ and ‘males’ obscures variation among us – perpetuating delusions about gender that have consequences, including the gender wage gap, unequal parental leave policies and violence towards women

After 10 years, the long-form Canadian census is back. Young Canadians, primed by a decade of digital media saturation, flocked online in droves so large we took down the website.

It makes sense — and it’s not just false enthusiasm as we collectively do our duty because “it’s the law.” A generation used to sharing its descriptive statistics online (finding friends, networking, dating) would intuitively understand the benefit of the census. Understanding the sociodemographic landscape helps us know and better service ourselves. And after all, that’s what millennials want: a fairer and more representative social democracy.

Yet, as Canadians fill out the census, some gawk at the glaring anachronism of the gender binary, the idea that there are two mutually exclusive genders: males and females, who occupy distinct cultural, social, and sexual roles.

But we know this isn’t true. The recent media awakening to transgender people (Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Jazz Jennings) is evidence that gender variance has gone mainstream.

If we recognize men and women who identify with the genders they were assigned at birth (cisgender) and we recognize men and women who do not identify with their assigned gender (transgender), then surely we agree this difference is worth recording.

As my friend quipped, “Well, they’re not asking about gender. They’re asking about sex!” His point reflects the growing awareness about gender as the patterns of behaviour and expression associated with its respective sex categories. This is good. It shows a recognition of people whose self-concepts do not match the gender assigned them at birth.

Yet, even if we set aside the assumption that transgender people identify with one gender but really have a different ‘sex,’ is Statistics Canada only interested in who has which genitals? I think not. Why then has the cultural recognition of gender-variance not translated into instrumental traction among knowledge producers like Statistics Canada?

Continue reading the article…

Cultural Scenes and Political Attitudes

Diana MillerDan SilverCongratulations to Doctoral Candidate Diana Miller and Professor Dan Silver who recently published an article on the importance of spatial cultural scenes for understanding political attitudes. This research benefited from funding from SSHRC. The full article can be accessed here and I include the citation and abstract below.

Diana L. Miller and Daniel Silver (2016) Cultural Scenes and Contextual Effects on Political Attitudes. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology: 2 (3-4): 241-266 DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2016.1144480

Spatial variation in voting is well documented, but substantively meaningful explanations of how places shape individuals’ politics are lacking. This paper suggests that local cultural ‘scenes’ exert a contextual effect – a spatial effect not driven by demographic differences between individuals in different places – on political attitudes and sensibilities. We measure the local ‘scene’ of Canadian electoral districts (EDs) through an original, national database of amenities, which we code qualitatively to describe those amenities’ cultural attributes. We combine scenes measures with demographic Census data on each constituency, and individual-level data from a 2011 federal election exit poll. Using hierarchical linear models, we find that individuals’ political sensibilities are correlated with the ED-level cultural context in which they reside, controlling for demographic factors at both levels. We find that EDs with self-expressive scenes are correlated with left-leaning political attitudes, while EDs with locally oriented scenes are correlated with right-leaning political attitudes. We hypothesize that the mechanism underlying these findings is that individuals’ local cultural context subtly shapes their political sensibilities.


Sociology of Meat

SSHRCThrough much of human history, meat has enjoyed an exceptionally prominent position in our diet. It is both an important source of protein and a cultural product with deep significance. Nonetheless, current and projected levels of meat consumption over the next several decades promise to overtax the food distribution system, push agriculture to more and greater reliance on industrial meat production practices, and exhaust valuable environmental resources.

Professor Josée Johnston and Professor Shyon Baumann have recently begun a new research project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to study the ideas, beliefs and practices around meat consumption in North America.

They have noted that concerns around industrial-raised meat have coincided with something of a renaissance of meat as a cultural product. Even as tainted meat scandals shock consumers and firms work to allay public fears, meat plays a dominant role on upscale food menus, and butchery skills continue to confer status for chefs and home-cooks alike. Nor has the overall consumption of meat declined.

To study these trends, Johnston, Baumann and their students are scouring contemporary and historic news stories and advertisements related to the meat industry, conducting consumer focus groups, and interviewing meat producers. Despite the growing body of evidence that North American meat consumption is a social and ecological problem, meat carries powerful meanings about class, gender, ethics and taste. In some cases, meat is connected to national identity, and to masculinity.

By understanding how meat consumption is framed in public discourses, this research will help us better understand the social contexts that shape consumer choices about the meat they eat.

Happy Independence Day, Tunisia

March 20th is Independence Day in Tunisia, the only democracy that emerged from the Arab Spring and therefore a model for other countries in the region. It is also less than two weeks after an ISIS attack on Ben Gardane, a town on Tunisia’s border with Libya — the fourth such attack in the country in just over a year, bringing the cumulative death toll to 91, excluding the attackers. Tunisians form the largest national contingent of ISIS recruits. Coalescing on the Libyan side of the border, they represent a serious challenge to the fledgling democracy.

Yet little is known about Tunisians’ attitudes toward democracy. To shed light on this issue, University of Toronto sociologist Robert Brym and Western University sociologist Robert Andersen conducted a SSHRC-funded nationally representative poll of 1,580 Tunisian adults in late February and early March 2015. The results of the survey have just been published in International Sociology, the flagship journal of the International Sociological Association. Their main findings:

  • Most of the country’s citizens are ambivalent about the Arab Spring’s benefits or believe that it was harmful.
  • Support for democracy and freedom of speech has weakened since the Arab Spring.
  • Increased support for women’s rights is key to consolidating democracy in Tunisia. Most analysts agree that Tunisia is the most progressive Arab country when it comes to upholding women’s rights. However, popular support for women’s rights is weak in Tunisia compared to such support in Indonesia, a non-Arab, Muslim-majority country at a similar level of economic development.
  • In Tunisia, support for democracy is not associated with gender but it increases significantly with age and education and is stronger in small towns than in big cities.

Recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia have led to crackdowns on Islamist groups, new restrictions on various democratic freedoms, and growing skepticism among Tunisians about the benefits of democracy. Just how deep the reaction will be and how long it will persist is unclear. It is evident, however, that the reaction represents another hurdle that Tunisian democracy will struggle to overcome. The door on democracy remains ajar in Tunisia but it will take much effort over many years to push it wide open and keep it in that position.

New Website for The Centre for Global Social Policy

cgsp_400x400 2

Established in 2013, The Centre for Global Social Policy functions as a hub supporting collaborative work that takes a global perspective to social policy research.  The Centre is housed in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto; Professor Ito Peng is the Centre’s director.

The Centre’s work is currently dominated by a major project on gender, migration and the work of care. Funded by a SSHRC partnership grant, this multi-institutional project is investigating the ways in which the policies, practice, and the meanings of care are changing in the twenty-first century. Both migration patterns and shifting gender norms play a role in this even as cultural expectations and regulatory frameworks channel and shape the way people around the world perform the work of caring for each other.

The Centre is now halfway through the timeline of this major research project. The newly redesigned website provides descriptions of the goals of the sub-projects, the preliminary research results, and stories that have emerged from the research findings. Visit the new website also for information about upcoming events and training opportunities, and for profiles of the 60 researchers, policy and civil society partners, and students who have come together to share their expertise, learn from each other, and develop solutions for building a just and caring society for all.

Protesting Publics in South Korea

Jennifer_Chun-8In January 2011, Kim Jin-Suk a former welder and union activist, climbed atop Crane 85 located 35 meters above ground at a Hanjin shipyard near the Korean port city of Busan. There, he lived without running water and endured subzero temperatures and monsoon rains for ten consecutive months (309 days) to protest the layoff of 400 shipyard workers.

This year, Professor Jennifer Chun received a SSHRC Insight Grant to study people like Kim Jin-Suk. The project asks: Why do people engage in the kinds of public protest that involve exceptional sacrifice and a high level of social suffering?

Though his case is extreme, Jin-Suk is actually part of a broader trend that is particularly pronounced in South Korea where crackdowns against more traditional forms of labour activism have resulted in the emergence in new, highly dramatic forms of protest. In addition to people like Jin-Suk who protest alone, high above the ground, other protesters have engaged in solitary hunger strikes where one person is committed to the entire duration of the hunger strike, whilst other participants join the protest for part of the time. Yet others use Buddhist prostration rituals as a form of protest. One-person protests help evade legal prohibitions against political assembly by asserting the power of one where the one person is a single node in a long sequence of many.

By examining the cultivation of new protest practices during a period of intensifying inequality and market-driven change, Professor Chun is advancing understanding of the kinds of expectations and aspirations that motivate people to seek justice and the ways in which they connect individual experience with group suffering and public engagement.