Faculty Research Projects
Social processes of interest to sociologists touch our campus, our student body, our colleagues, and the region where we live and work. Migration processes, culture, crime, labour and employment, politics, law, social change, they affect the lives of people around the globe.
Faculty-led research projects are central to the Peel Social Lab's mission to integrate social science research and teaching to provide students diverse experiential learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond.
The goals of the research are to assess the racial climate for our undergraduate students given the pervasive systemic racism that numerous studies have documented in other contexts, including but not limited to academia. The project team aims to understand the experiences of UTM sociology students in relation to what they themselves would define as race and racism. In order to get at complex processes of racialization including subtle, ‘colour-blind’ versions, micro-aggressions (everyday acts of disrespect) and structural barriers, they use qualitative techniques including interviews and focus groups. Undergraduate students collect the data under the supervision of a graduate research assistant and faculty members on the UTM Anti-Racist Task Force.
UTM “sociology students” are defined as any students who take classes through the department, including both sociology and criminology students (specialists, majors and minors); and also any student who is enrolled in our classes. Given the current anti-Black climate off- and on-campus, they focused initial efforts on interviewing Black sociology students; they aim to expand the sample to include Indigenous students and other racialized students.
This ongoing work of the UTM Anti-Racist Task Force increases our understanding of a key issue of relevance for Peel, given the hostile racial climate in the Peel District School Board, and it does so by involving undergraduates in collecting data from the UTM student sociology community.
The proposed project aims to understand the processes of formation and development of age-friendly virtual communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of the virtual communities on the well-being of its older and younger members. It is a case study about a social media group established in the midst of COVID-19, with a mixed method and community- based participatory research.
A WeChat social media group, referred as 老人茶室, or Virtual Seniors Tearoom (VST), has members including academics, policy-makers, service providers, and older adults and their care-givers. The purpose of founding the group was to help mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected older adults. The group developed quickly from about 20 to the present 330 members. Those members are mostly from Chinese immigrant communities in the Greater Toronto Area. The VST has organized Zoom meetings every week, including webinars, chats, or entertainment activities.
The virtual community has helped Chinese seniors tremendously deal with isolation and loneliness, and improve their mental well-being. The WeChat and Zoom activities help older adults connect with their peers, and have multiple chances to interact with younger adults and learn social media and online meeting technology and improve their English. It also helps link older adults with service providers (e.g. Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, COVID-19 Outreach Rapid Response Team Toronto Public Health, Hong Fook Mental Health Association), as well as academics and policy makers.
The formation and development of the VST has provided an opportunity to study and promote age-friendly virtual communities, especially among minority immigrant communities in Canada.
The proposed project will ask a series of questions regarding age-friendly virtual communities, for example: What are the features of an age- friendly virtual community? To what extent a virtual community can be age-friendly, given the diversity (different social groups) of its members with certain common grounds (e.g., culture, interests)? What motivates individuals to form and join virtual communities? In what frequency and capacity do individuals interact with multiple social groups? And to maintain what kind of social relations? How do Chinese seniors understand age-friendly community, as well as virtual age-friendly community?
Professor Zhang proposes a mixed methodology to understand the features and dynamics of building age-friendly communities. With undergraduate research assistants and community members, they will conduct online focus groups, in-depth interviews, participant observation, and questionnaire surveys.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada, older Chinese immigrants have organized themselves to fight against the spread of the coronavirus and mitigate its negative impacts. Recently, Chinese Senior Associations start to use video conferencing technology like Zoom to organize live chat and learning programs. One of such programs is the “English Classes” organized by Kangnaixin Chinese Senior Association in Mississauga.
“English Classes” is a two-month intergenerational teaching and learning program, focused on English oral communication, through casual conversations. The teachers and teaching assistants, 26 of them, are university and high school students, working as volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are about same number of senior students learning English on one-on-one basis, all through Zoom breakout rooms.
The major objectives of the proposed study are: a) what are the motivation, experience, and the impacts of older adults’ learning of English as an additional language; b) what are the motivation, experience, and the impacts of younger adults’ volunteering in teaching English. To a limited extent, the proposed study will help understand the role of senior associations in facilitating intergenerational communication and interaction, and the roles of family in promoting volunteerism among school students. It will also shed light on the coping strategies for COVID-19 in Chinese communities in a time of crisis.
The study will be based on the conceptual framework of active aging developed by the World Health Organization (WHO 2002). It is also a continuity of Professor Zhang’s earlier empirical study of Chinese senior immigrants’ lifelong learning in Canada (Zhu and Zhang 2019). Generativity will also be applied in understanding the intergenerational communication and interaction. The proposed project will shed light on the roles of the younger generation in contributing to and promoting lives of older adults and oneself.
This study will adopt qualitative method including in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The interviews and focus groups will all be online, with a maximum two hours per session. In addition to basic sociodemographic information, the semi-structured interviews will ask questions related to motivation, experience and impacts of learning for older adults, and of teaching for young students.
This study examines a populist-nationalist campaign based on an unfounded conspiracy theory and its dynamic interactions with government, professionals, and the broader public. It advances a scholarly understanding of the consequences of political activism, the racialized dynamics of property rights movements, and the politics of sustainability policy. In the early 2010’s, as the Tea Party movement burgeoned across the United States, some right-wing activists set their sights on local sustainability planning. White, middle class, rural and suburban property owners showed up at town hall meetings to speak out against proposed bike lines and traffic calming, much to the surprise of the planners and government officials they confronted. While some activists cited their opposition to big government, many identified an unexpected adversary: Agenda 21, a 1992 voluntary sustainable development initiative of the United Nations. They viewed U.N. Agenda 21 as a conspiratorial plot by totalitarian global government, implemented through local land-use regulation. The Agenda 21 conspiracy, they claimed, would undermine American sovereignty, property rights, and personal freedom. Their campaign was abetted by grassroots organizing, conservative news media, and online technologies. Although short-lived, their mobilization was consequential, prompting 27 state legislatures to introduce symbolic legislation opposing Agenda 21, four state legislatures to pass such legislation, and the Republican Party to adopt an anti-Agenda 21 position in its presidential platform.
The study asks: how did the anti-Agenda 21 campaign influence local U.S. governance, particularly city and county-level sustainability planning? Drawing on qualitative texts such as local newspaper articles, government meeting minutes, and anti-Agenda 21 web sites, Professor Berrey and her research team have identified anti-Agenda 21 activism in close to 90 U.S. towns, counties, cities, and regions in the early 2010s. For 65 locations, they have reliable documentation of the activists’ mobilizations and their impacts, or lack thereof, on local governance.
Undergraduate students at University of Toronto, and UTM specifically, have been central to the data collection process. This laborious process required gathering and reviewing texts on each of the anti-Agenda 21 mobilizations from online sources such as local newspapers included in library databases, local government websites, and anti-Agenda 21 websites. A co-authored paper on White racial politics and the discourse of property rights in the anti-Agenda 21 mobilization is planned, along with presenting the paper at the U of T sociolegal faculty workshop in October, as well as submission to to Law & Society Review.
A 2012 report produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on mental health and psychosocial needs shows that emotional problems are more frequent among people who have gone through adversities related to humanitarian crises.
Since November 2015, Canada has become home for many Syrian refugees and support systems across the country were set in place. Several thousand Syrian refugees now reside in Peel Region. Orientation to Canadian life, housing, schooling, and employment services along with workshops on parenting and relationships were provided to help in the adjustment and acculturation of this newcomer community. Although such services addressed families’ most immediate needs, psychosocial and emotional support programs were not provided.
In 2016, Peel Newcomer Strategy Group reported a shortage of services that could help refugee families deal with mental health issues. The report includes recent findings from a Mental Health Commission of Canada document on higher rates of PTSD and depression among Syrian refugees and highlights the need for further emphasis on their social inclusion and mental health.
Context of the project
The above background shows a gap in psychosocial emotional support programs necessary for the wellbeing and adjustment of Syrian refugees in Canada. As a researcher with UofT RISE Team since 2018, Professor Kahil has led data collection efforts (interviews and surveys) with Syrian refugee mothers for three consecutive years. Many of the interviews consistently showed a lack in psychosocial support for mothers pre- and post-resettlement in Canada. Most mothers did not get the chance to deal with the emotional trauma of war, loss, and displacement; all of which impacted their wellbeing and that of their families.
The project goal is to develop a free, open access, and practical toolkit, in both Arabic and English, to help Syrian mothers and their community supporters cope with difficult emotions they carry with them into migration and settlement. The toolkit is informed by RISE Team’s 2016 SSHRC/IRCC pilot study, and ongoing data collection (2018-2021) with Peel and Toronto region Syrian mothers. It will also be informed by ideas and suggestions elicited from Professor Kahil’s dissertation research results on the importance of lived experiences, the significance of the arts as a medium for emotional expression, and the utility of emotional awareness and self-reflection techniques for immigrant women.
In 2020-2021, Professor Choo taught two related seminar courses (SOC439Y5 and SOC440Y5) where students pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member. In these courses, every student pursues a research question of their interest in the area of sociology and/or criminology, law and society, develops a research proposal, conducts independent research, analyzes data, presents findings, and completes a final paper by the end of the academic year. The two courses have an estimated total enrolment of 16 students, although the enrollment number can change until the beginning of the term.
Examples of the topics of student research in the past include: (1) income inequality in the GTA; (2) gendered experiences of navigating public space in Mississauga; (3) UTM students who are involved in campus activism about their use of social media and process of becoming politically conscious; (4) Syrian refugees’ experiences in high school in the GTA; (5) South Asian immigrant women who experienced downward career mobility after their immigration to Canada about their experience of job-seeking and employment experiences; (6) identity formation among the Kurdish Diaspora in the GTA; (7) racial profiling and attitude towards the police in Mississauga; and, (8) the spatial configuration of prisons in Ontario. The students use the data to write their assignments and final projects for the course, and Professor Choo supports the students to collect the data and to situate their analysis within the broader social context, and communicate their findings with the public.
The data will be deposited into the data bank in Peel Social Lab, with interviewee consent, and will be used for future teaching and research. Given the Covid situation, this year, it is possible that they would conduct mostly content/discourse analysis of publicly available materials, yet some students may elect to conduct online interviews. Selected portions of students’ observation/analysis will be posted, with the help of the instructor and a research assistant, on a course blog, which is linked to Peel Social Lab, and a Facebook page.
The study seeks to understand patterns behind the variations in student and campus protest movements and university responses in the United States and Canada from 2012 to 2018, with an analytic focus on student anti-racism movements. The project's research objectives are the following:
- To learn the factors that facilitated anti-racism student mobilization and its diffusion across campuses and countries;
- To learn the factors determining university administrations' responses; and
- To understand the relationship between competing claims from protesters and administrators.
Toward this end, Professor Berrey and team are constructing the Student & Campus Protest Events Dataset, an innovative dataset based on student and campus protests reported in student newspapers. They are constructing the dataset using a combination of computational text analysis and hand-coding by undergraduate research assistants, who review and code all student and campus protests reported in all available U.S. and Canadian campus newspapers for 2012-2018. Once completed, they will merge the Dataset with five existing datasets on universities' organizational characteristics, protest events external to universities, and social media, then conduct event history analysis that incorporates spatial proximity measures. To complement the 2012-18 Dataset, they are collecting data on university responses and police actions, and we will conduct qualitative content analysis of activists' and administrators' political claims. These data will 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.
By examining student protests, administrations' responses, and protest policing as well as participants’ political claims over time and across countries, this project will shed light on the determinants and spread of social movements and their dynamic interactions with the organizations they target. It creates the only existing dataset that documents nationally and cross- nationally where, when, and why students have recently mobilized to protest a wide range of issues, racism included. It makes methodological advances by bringing big data techniques to the study of movements. Its novel attention to universities' reactions facilitates an understanding of the consequences of protests. Analysis of activists’ and administrators’ claims-making enables a close reading of the interactions between movements and their organizational settings.
The goals of the research are to understand the various barriers that immigrants face when trying to find a good job and how they navigate those barriers. It is based on qualitative interviews collected and analyzed by UTM students. Students use their networks of family and friends to recruit immigrant (defined as those not born in Canada), mostly living in Peel region, to participate in interviews. These data allow for an analysis of the various dynamics that shape immigrants’ incorporation into a given job, such as immigration policy, broad changes in the economy toward more precarious employment, degree of employer discrimination, and the immigrants’ own social networks, as well as the quality of their jobs in Canada. Interviews also probe the reasons they left their countries and the types of employment they had there.
The Peel Migration and Employment Dataset (PMED) so far includes 75 interviews collected by 41 students from Professor Cranford’s classes.
The immigrants in this database, due to study design, are permanent residents or naturalized citizens. The majority came to Canada through either family sponsorship or as skills-based economic immigrants. Their countries of origin thus far cover a wide range, reflecting the networks and interests of the UTM students in Professor Cranford’s classes. This year, students expanded the reach of the database to include more participants from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
The interviews are a microcosm of labour market precarity and show the various ways precariousness intersects with migration. Preliminary findings show how immigrants get funneled into various segments of the precarious labour market in Peel and Greater Toronto upon arrival, even if they were professionals in their countries. Ongoing analysis is also uncovering the unique ways that gender shapes the downward mobility of immigrant women, the precarity of independent contracting within ethnic economies, and the unique experience of those who came as international students.
When A Conspiracy Theory Comes to Town: The Policy Consequences of the Far Right Movement against Sustainability Planning
This study examines a populist-nationalist campaign based on an unfounded conspiracy theory and the campaign’s dynamic interactions with government. In the early 2010’s, as the Tea Party movement burgeoned across the United States, some right-wing activists set their sights on local sustainability planning. White, middle class, rural and suburban property owners showed up at town hall meetings to speak out against proposed bike lines and traffic calming, much to the surprise of the planners and government officials they confronted. While some activists cited their opposition to big government, many identified an unexpected adversary: Agenda 21, a 1992 voluntary sustainable development initiative of the United Nations. They viewed U.N. Agenda 21 as a conspiratorial plot by totalitarian global government, implemented through local land-use regulation. The Agenda 21 conspiracy, they claimed, would undermine American sovereignty, property rights, and personal freedom. Their campaign was abetted by grassroots organizing, conservative news media, and online technologies. Although short-lived, their mobilization was consequential, prompting dozens of state legislatures to introduce symbolic legislation opposing Agenda 21, four state legislatures to pass such legislation, and the Republican Party to adopt an anti-Agenda 21 position in its presidential platform.
The project advances a scholarly understanding of the consequences of political activism motivated by misinformation, the racialized dynamics of property rights movements, and the politics of sustainability policy. It asks: how did the anti-Agenda 21 campaign influence local U.S. governance, particularly city and county-level sustainability planning? Drawing on qualitative texts such as local newspaper articles, government meeting minutes, and anti-Agenda 21 web sites, Professor Berry has identified anti-Agenda 21 activism in more than 90 U.S. towns, counties, cities, and regions in the early 2010s. For 60 case studies, she has reliable documentation of the activists’ mobilizations and their impacts, or lack thereof, on local governance. An understanding of these cases is enhanced by census data on the communities where mobilizations took place.
The final datasets—one with 60 case studies of protest mobilizations opposed to sustainability planning and another with census data on those communities—will be made publicly available through the PSL data depository.
This is a joint project with Professor Janine Dahinden, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. We are both teaching classes where the notions of ‘culture’ is central, Anna in Toronto, Janine in Neuchâtel. The idea is to give the students in these classes a particular assignment that allows them to reflect on everyday versus analytical conceptualizations of culture, and to let them talk transnationally on Skype: the objective is that the students engage in a debate about how notions of culture are used in policy and public realms in Switzerland and Toronto and to have them reflect on whether there is a usefulness to “culture” as an analytical category. These student exchanges will be part of our analysis and of our paper: their responses will give us insight in how a group of highly diverse Canadian students, the majority of whom are immigrants or of immigrant background, will communicate about concepts of culture with a less diverse group of Swiss students. Their mutual engagements will illustrate when and how ‘culture’ can be a useful category of analysis and when it becomes an essentializing category that reinforces complex inequalities.
Based on these experiences we plan to write an article that will dissect the two contemporary uses of ‘culture:’ 1) its use as a category of analysis that can help us understand human action versus, 2) its use as a highly politicized concept, a category of practice, that creates and reinforces complex inequalities. Currently, the literature is stuck in a conflict between these understandings of culture as the potential of human beings to interpret the world and acting upon the world under different conditions and structural features and the observation of an empirical reality in which uses of “culture” foster essentializing practices.
In our own work, we have discussed the workings of culture in the realm of violence, such as so‐called honour killing (Korteweg and Yurdakul 2009, 2010; Yurdakul and Korteweg 2013, 2019), ‘forced marriage’ (Neubauer and Dahinden 2012) or symbolic violence in terms of boundary drawing (Dahinden 2014). Through this work, we have come to the conclusion that culture can be a useful category of analysis but that that usage is complicated by culture’s everyday deployment in politics and society; it is this complication we now want to center in this next step of our intellectual explorations.
While there was an abundant debate about the notion of culture in the 1990s (see Hannerz 1993, Stolcke 1995, Grillo 2003, Kuper 1999, Wimmer 1996, Volpp 2000, and many more), the discussion has been silent these last decades and needs, 20 years later, to be pushed further, given what we would call strong ‘neo‐culturalist tendencies’ in contemporary migration politics. During the past years, we have seen a rise in attempts to culturalize social issues by many actors in a wide range of public and political fields in ways that reinforce persistence social inequalities: Just think of anti‐genderism (Kuhar and Paternotte 2017), of femo‐and gendernationalism (Farris 2017, Dahinden et al. 2018, Verloo 2018), but also of integration policies (Schinkel 2018, Korteweg 2018) and new far right movements: in all these domains, ‘culture’ is an important element of structural hegemonic strategies to exclude and include people, it is closely linked to the power of the nation‐state and to neoorientalism, and related to questions of ethnicity, class, race and gender. In spite of these neo‐culturalist tendencies, there is currently no state‐of‐the art or cutting‐edge article dealing with this concept in the field of migration studies. Our article aims at filling this gap.
The PSL funding will enable a research assistant to engage in the following research:
- Literature review
- Analyzing two memos written by students in Toronto and Neuchatel on the meanings of culture (one at the beginning and one at the end of our respective courses). Note that the Swiss students write in French and the student we are hiring has bilingual skills.
- To understand the factors that put Indigenous men who have migrated to the Greater Toronto Area and Peel Region at risk
- To learn the role of the police and community in failing to ensure the safety of Indigenous men
- To uncover the precursors that lead up to the injury, death or disappearance of Indigenous men
- To understand how multiple identities like race, class, gender and sexuality influence the lives of Indigenous men in this region
Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann
In the Spring of 2019, Forbes declared Kylie Jenner the youngest ‘self-made billionaire’ in recorded history. Her title as such prompted intense public debate surrounding the rise of the global rich and the virtuousness of wealth— earned or inherited —in today’s economy. These debates contained implicit and explicit critiques of her class privilege (as well as her gender performance). Debates surrounding celebrity, class privilege and wealth are familiar to university students in Peel Region. In fact, our teaching experience at the University of Toronto suggests that young students are keenly aware not only of these debates as they appear in the press and in popular discourse, but their relationship to broader issues surrounding class inequality and celebrity status.
This project is already underway and are seeking support for stages 2, 3 and 4 of our research process.
Stage 1: Data Collection
We will work with an advanced graduate student and an undergraduate research assistant to collect data on students’ perceptions of wealth, class inequality, and celebrity status, a theorized, but as yet, understudied area of research. This data will be collected through 15 focus-group interviews with undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Mississauga. The objective will be to capitalize on the diverse classrooms located within the Peel Region and to use respondent-driven techniques to gain a sample of focus-group participants.
Stage 2: Survey Development and Distribution
Our undergraduate and graduate student will work with us to develop and distribute a survey to students at the University of Toronto Mississauga. This survey is designed to reveal students’ thoughts around the desirability and legitimacy of wealth today, as well as to investigate their relationship to display of wealth and to inequality more broadly.
Stage 3: Coding and Analysis
We ask that our undergraduate student transcribe focus-group interviews to produce a data set available for analysis. We intend to train our undergraduate student to use NVivo, a qualitative software well suited for the analysis of interview data. Once trained, we ask that our undergraduate student begin coding the transcribed interviews, checking in as she does so to ensure inter-coder reliability. Our graduate student will work alongside our undergraduate assistant to ensure that she is supported throughout the process. During this time, he will collect and analyze survey materials from a broader population of students.
Stage 4: Completion of Analysis and Research Dissemination
Our graduate student will review and refine all focus group and survey material, and assist with the publication and dissemination of our findings. This will complete the coding process and ensure that the final corpus of interviews and survey materials are available for analysis and for review with a broader community of researchers.
Managing the Unimaginable: Knowledge Production, Prediction, and Anticipatory Technology among Toronto Area Disaster Management Professionals
Large-scale disasters have grown in prevalence, impact, and cost over the last two decades. The field of disaster and emergency management (DEM), in turn, has developed rapidly. DEM has become institutionalized within most municipal and regional efforts at community planning and economic development. Social studies of disaster have not paid a great deal of attention to DEM as a profession or to the consequences of DEM professionals work for governance, social justice, and disaster vulnerabilities. Instead, disasters have been studied primarily through retrospective case studies. This project adopts a new approach by analyzing the techniques and strategies that DEM professionals use to anticipate disaster events before they occur. Much of the work of DEM professionals involves designing, conducting, and then learning from a wide variety of anticipatory technologies, like simulation exercises focused on developing mitigation plans and response protocols. This project, funded primarily with a SSHRC Insight Grant, investigates how different cultures of knowledge production shape the underlying assumptions of human behaviour and social vulnerability that characterize the predictive work of DEM professionals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
This project is nearing the completion of its first year of data collection. I take a mixedmethods approach that combines interviews with DEM professionals, ethnographic observation of a variety of simulation exercises, and content analysis of various planning documents and “after action” reports. The findings of this study will be especially valuable to sociologists of knowledge production, organizations and work, science and technology studies (STS), and environmental sociology. It also has direct relevance to the DEM practitioners, many of whom work in the Peel Region, that are trying to avert the disasters of our future.
Undergraduate students with interests in qualitative methodology will get first-hand experience working with interview, observational, and textual data (e.g. after-action reports based on simulation exercise outcomes). Three undergraduate RAs will complete approximately ten hours of training with a third-year PhD student and project manager for this study. Students will learn how to code data using NVivo 12, a qualitative software program. They will then code transcripts, fieldnotes, and textual data. They may be involved in some transcription of audio recordings as well, especially group meeting or field recordings that a transcription service (e.g. Rev.com, Otter, etc.) is unable transcribe. Students will gather bi-weekly as a group with the project manager and myself to discuss how coding is progressing and share thoughts about revisions to the codebook. They will also input metadata into NVivo, like assigning “case nodes” to individual and organizational entities, for each of the documents they code. In addition to working in NVivo on data coding and analysis, the program manager and I will be working with UTM undergraduates to develop a Qualtrics survey instrument. The survey will be distributed to DEM professionals in the GTA via a list provided by the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers. The survey will provide representative data on the broader professional field and the prevalence of different forms of anticipatory technology, mandatory reporting mechanisms, and related educational programs in the area.
The study includes interviews and observations at several agencies based in Region of Peel, including Brampton’s Office of Emergency Management, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Sustainable Neighbourhood Acton Program (SNAP), Peel Regional Emergency Management, Hydro One, Enbridge Pipelines Inc., and Metrolinx. Several of these agencies hosted UTM students in conjunction with a senior research seminar funded by PSL in 2019. They have also hosted UTM undergraduates at relevant events such as annual workshops, simulation exercises, and disaster preparedness meetings.
- Hoffman, Steve G. and Yvonne Daoleuxay*. 2020. “The Imaginary Worlds of Disaster and Emergency Management.” 115th American Sociological Association Annual Meeting.
- Daoleuxay, Yvonne* and Hoffman, Steve. G. “'In Real Life It Might Be Different’: Ontological Disharmonies in Disaster and Emergency Management Simulation Exercises.” The Sociology of Disaster and Risk Session, Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference.
* Graduate student
When A Conspiracy Theory Comes to Town: The Impacts of the Far-Right Movement Against Sustainability Planning
This study examines a populist-nationalist campaign based on an unfounded conspiracy theory and its dynamic interactions with government, professionals, and the broader public. It advances a scholarly understanding of the consequences of political activism, the politics of sustainability policy, and the cultural impacts of misinformation. In the early 2010’s, as the Tea Party movement burgeoned across the United States, some right-wing activists set their sights on local sustainability planning. White, middle class, rural and suburban property owners showed up at town hall meetings to speak out against proposed bike lines and traffic calming, much to the surprise of the planners and government officials they confronted. While some activists cited their opposition to big government, many identified an unexpected adversary: Agenda 21, a 1992 voluntary sustainable development initiative of the United Nations. They viewed U.N. Agenda 21 as a conspiratorial plot by totalitarian global government, implemented through local land-use regulation. The Agenda 21 conspiracy, they claimed, would undermine American sovereignty, property rights, and Christianity. Their anti-Agenda 21 campaign was abetted by grassroots organizing, conservative news media, and online technologies. Although short-lived, their mobilization was consequential, prompting 27 state legislatures to introduce symbolic legislation opposing Agenda 21, four state legislatures to pass of such legislation, and the Republican Party to adopt an anti-Agenda 21 position in its presidential platform.
This study asks: how did the anti-Agenda 21 campaign influence local U.S. governance, particularly city and county-level sustainability planning? Drawing on qualitative texts such as local newspaper articles, government meeting minutes, and anti-Agenda 21 web sites, we have identified anti-Agenda 21 activism in approximately 90 towns, counties, cities, and regions across the United States in the early 2010s. Preliminary analysis shows that, in 75% of the municipalities analyzed (n=30), local government accommodated an anti-A21 or anti-sustainability position, typically via the cancellation or modification of a sustainability plan or the election of an anti-Agenda 21 politician. Collaboration and publications based on the data are being explored.
Students will be directly involved in the research process, as they develop and hone their skills in data collection and cleaning. This is intellectually and topically interesting work, as it provides exposure to local conservative culture and politics in different regions of the United States and it connects directly with contemporary political issues related to misinformation, environmentalism, and the rise of the far right. The project provides students with opportunities to directly interact with and develop a close relationship with a UTM professor. Our weekly meetings give them ample opportunity for discussion not only on the project’s methods and goals but also on their own plans for graduate school and career objectives.
During the last two years, Professor Flores has embarked on an ethnographic research project that examines the experiences of Indigenous women in Toronto. In collaboration with community organizations like No More Silence and Maggie’s Sex Workers Collective, he has conducted approximately 30 interviews with at risk women in the city. His initial findings demonstrate that Indigenous women across Canada are fleeing difficult conditions on reserve that include a lack of clean water, adequate housing, drug and alcohol addiction, and a general sense of despair. Some are seeking a better life in Toronto. Once arriving in the city, Indigenous women in Canada face many of the same challenges they fled, including a lack of adequate housing, drug and alcohol addiction, and the constant threat of gendered forms of violence. According to my respondents, community organizations in Toronto that are tasked with helping marginalized peoples are falling short of helping Indigenous women arriving in the city. Instead, institutions like social welfare agencies, children’s aid groups, and the police further hurt Indigenous peoples looking for assistance. Simultaneously, my research demonstrates that Indigenous based organizations in the city are helping these women by picking up the slack of organizations that are intended to help this community. Building on theories of intersectionality, decolonial theory, and Foucault’s ideal of the “racial state, this project will demonstrate how Canadian policies like the Indian Act, residential schools, and the ‘60’s scoop continue to adversely affect life on reserve and the lives of Indigenous peoples coming to Toronto in search of a better life. The University of California Press has agreed to publish this forthcoming book.
Building on this research, Professor Flores recently authored an article titled, “Police Discrimination and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada.” Since 1950, over 3,000 Indigenous women in Canada have been murdered or have completely disappeared. This problem is so pervasive that the Canadian government has admitted that they do not actually know how many Indigenous women have been affected by this phenomenon. Using intersectionality as a lens to analyze this issue, this paper contributes to a growing body of literature on missing and murdered Indigenous women. It will also build on a larger discussion of the continued trauma Indigenous peoples face at the hands of multiple Canadian institutions. Findings suggest that police across the country are slow to respond to request for help. Or simply refuse to help altogether. Police often cite racialized, gendered and class specific reasons for not helping. Problematic tropes include ideas such as “she probably ran away with her boyfriend” or “she is probably off drinking somewhere.” As a whole, the paper sheds light on the interpersonal and systemic discrimination Indigenous peoples face, and the historical and societal discrimination perpetuated by multiple institutions in Canada.
Professors Kristin Plys and Luisa Farah Schwartzman
In 2019-2020, the Peel Social Lab provided a budget of $1,416.70 for students in SOC439H5 Research Project in Sociology and SOC440H5 Research Project in Criminology Law & Society to conduct fieldwork for their course projects. This is a fourth-year seminar course in which students pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member in Sociology. Every student pursues a research question of their interest in the area of sociology, develops a research proposal, conducts independent research, analyzes data, presents findings, and completes a final paper by the end of the academic year. The primary goal is to provide students an opportunity to get hands-on experience of conducting empirical research on issues related to sociology. The seminar discussions focus on the craft of sociological research, including both theory and method.
There were 7 UTM students enrolled in SOC439H5 and SOC440H5 in 2019-2020. Students recently completed their projects and the PSL funding will be used to reimburse their research-related expenses, such as purchase of reference books and online survey software, coffee with interviewees, and transportation for field trips. Examples of student projects include intimate partner violence in the LGBTQIA community of Peel region, the effect of divorce on educational outcomes for young adults, Globalization and medical tourism to the Global South, experiences of refugee teens in Canadian schools, representations of race in the media, gender discrimination in white collar workplaces, etc. At the completion of their projects, the students will have the opportunity to contribute a blog post to the Peel Social Lab’s blog Peel Urbanscapes and report on their findings to the general public. The PSL funding will also be used to support a graduate student to manage the Peel Urbanscapes blog and work with the undergraduate students to edit their blog posts.
How are immigrants sorted into jobs within a labour market characterized by growing and deepening precarity? The Peel Social Lab funded project, “Understanding Labour Markets for Immigrant Workers in Peel Region” is addressing this pressing question by developing and analyzing a new data source based on diverse migration and work history interviews with rich insight into the quality of immigrants’ employment.
The Peel Migration and Employment Database is made up of interviews collected by UTM undergraduate students as part of two fourth year courses taught by Professor Cranford: Migrant Labour (SOC460H5) and Senior Seminar in the Sociology of Work (SOC412H5). Piloted in 2016, additional data collection took place 2018 and 2019. UTM sociology students have also analyzed subsets of these data in our required Qualitative Analysis (SOC387H5) course, while two doctoral students, Yang-sook Kim and Youngrong Lee, are developing an analysis of the multifaceted experiences of these immigrant workers with Cranford.
The Peel Migration and Employment Dataset (PMED) so far includes 76 interviews. The immigrants in this database, due to study design, are permanent residents or naturalized citizens. The majority came to Canada through either family sponsorship or as skills-based economic immigrants. They come from a wide range of countries, reflecting the networks and interests of UTM sociology students. To date the majority are from countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia, with fewer numbers from Eastern or Central Europe, Southern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. This year, students expanded the reach of the database to include more people from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and from African countries.
The interviews represent a microcosm of labour market precarity and show the various ways precariousness intersects with migration. Preliminary findings show how immigrants get funneled into precarious segments of the Greater Toronto labour market upon arrival, despite having permanent immigration status. Analysis of work histories reveal how some are able to move into better jobs over time, through engagement with small business within an ethnic economy, additional training and expanded networks. Yet, many professionals continue to face significant barriers to obtaining jobs equivalent to their education and most from working class backgrounds are stuck in precarious jobs. Explanations for these labour market trajectories include those emphasized in existing scholarship like the mismatch between skills based immigration policy and the control of professional associations, employers’ discriminatory hiring practices and more subtle or indirect racialized exclusion from good jobs or recruitment into bad jobs. Our ongoing analysis is also uncovering multiple ways that gender shapes the downward mobility of immigrant women, the precarity of independent contracting within ethnic economies, and the unique experience of those who came as international students.
The research project is a content analysis of news stories about economic inequality. The study period spans from 2000 to 2014. The study analyses over 2000 articles from 4 newspapers published within this timeframe. Within this time period, the great recession of 2008-09 occurred, and the Occupy Movement emerged and gained a global presence in 2011. The degree of economic inequality in Canada and the United States, by most measures, increased. However, at all times, economic inequality remained lower in Canada than in the United States. This confluence of contextual factors presents the opportunity to study the determinants of news frames. While much research exists about the content of news frames and their effects on public opinion, we know little about how certain news frames predominate over others. This project allows us to determine the relative influence of national discourse (Canada vs. US), objective social conditions (the Great Recession), social movement framing efforts (the Occupy Movement), and newspaper political orientation (left-leaning and right-leaning newspapers). At the same time, the study will be the first to provide an empirical description of how major Canadian and American newspapers covered the issue of economic inequality.
Findings suggest that the largest influence on news coverage was the Occupy Movement. The Occupy Movement increased the coverage of economic inequality by as much as 500%. While the increased attention diminished over time, attention to economic inequality was much greater in 2014, the end of the study period, than before the Occupy Movement emerged. The Occupy Movement also coincided with a tendency to identify inequality as a social problem and to frame it as a problem with social, rather than individual causes.
To download public data from this project, visit the PSL Data Repository page.
- Baumann, Shyon, and Hamnah Majeed*. 2020. "Framing Economic Inequality in the News in Canada and the United States." Palgrave Communications 6(42). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-0418-3
Professor Josée Johnston & PhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk
How do people think about the decision to eat, or not eat meat? In this project, we worked with UTM students to address this question. Our goal was to interview a wide range of consumers in the Peel Region to explore the diverse motivations and cultural frameworks for adopting a diet that either includes or avoids meat. With this aim, each student in an advanced undergraduate sociology seminar (SOC416H5) carried out an in-depth qualitative interview with four friends and family members. In total, 76 participants were interviewed. These interviews were then combined with 60 interviews conducted for an undergraduate independent reading course (SOC491H5), for a total of 136 interviews – a number which included 67 vegetarians and 69 meat eaters. The group of participants was highly diverse, varying in age, gender, ethnicity and region. Two students from the class as well as an additional Master’s student then helped the researchers think through the results, develop a coding sheet, and code the data.
Over the course of 2018 and 2019, the researchers have worked with Shyon Baumann on two publications that explored the results of this research. In the first paper, which has recently been published in Sociological Forum, we help explain why people from diverse backgrounds continue to eat meat despite rising concerns about the meat industry and animal slaughter. We analyze the psychological strategies people employ to justifying meat eating within the context of what sociologists term cultural repertoires—the taken‐for‐granted, unarticulated scripts that inform actions. We distinguish between two types of repertoires: identity repertoires that have a basis in personal, embodied group identities and regularly draw from vivid first‐person experiences; and liberty repertoires that are more abstractly conceptualized and signal peoples' sense of their rights in social space. We find that these repertoires function in distinct ways, both in regard to how participants situated themselves within them, and in their capacity to facilitate active engagement with the ethical implications of conduct. Through these repertoires, we show how the meanings attributed to meat consumption are crucial for understanding its persistence in the face of strong reasons to change, while also advancing literature on cultural repertoires by highlighting their variability.
The second paper from this research explores the long-standing cultural schema linking meat with masculinity and plant consumption with femininity, and analyzes how it fares in a multicultural, class-divided urban context. We employ the concept of exemplars to demonstrate evidence of the schema’s continuity while also identifying challenges emerging from its deployment by people in diverse social positions. We identify four exemplars: the meat-eating multicultural muscle man, the meat-eating fat slob, the vegetarian skinny-rich White woman and the soft-bodied religious vegetarian. Investigation into these exemplars demonstrates how meat-eating and vegetarianism remain gendered, while containing key intersectional features of race, class, religion and embodiment. Our data documents critiques of hegemonic masculinity and class privilege, while also speaking to limited space for widespread adoption of a plant-based diet. Examining the relationship between schemas and exemplars also offers a model for conceptualizing an intersectional approach to gender continuity and change.
The Peel Social Lab provided grant support for SOC411H5 Senior Seminar in Social Institutions: Sustainability, Environmental Risk, and Science-in-the-Making, an undergraduate research seminar at UTM. The goal has been to provide students interested in environmental sociology and risk with meaningful opportunities for hands-on research and civic engagement. This semester, 13 students are enrolled. Each is conducting participatory research with one of five Peel Region organizations or agencies. Lectures and discussions have focused on key traditions within environmental sociology and the sociology of risk as well as the craft of sociological research. Assignments include developing a research question, an original data instrument, administering that data instrument, and writing up results for both a scholarly and lay audience.
Students are partnered with the Association for Canadian Educational Resources (ACER), The City of Brampton’s Emergency Management Office (BEMO), Ecosource, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the UTM campus Environmental Affairs Program. Each student has identified a research problem in collaboration with their partner (and under the supervision of Professor Steve Hoffman). The class, therefore, pushes students to go beyond developing their own independent research project by asking them to collaborate with a “partner organization” to identify ways that their results might prove beneficial to local communities and neighbourhoods.
The students projects have taken on a variety of forms. Three students partnered with ACER are developing data instruments to gauge how and why people volunteer for a variety of ACER programs, assessing both motivational and structural factors that facilitate or discourage volunteering. Students partnered with BEMO are working with the Lighthouse Project, an initiative that works with neighbourhood residents to prepare faith-based organizations to provide disaster relief and resilience training. At Ecosource, student projects focus on the organization’s environmentalist educational efforts as well as the ways that internal planning is both constrained and enabled by the diverse interests of the organization’s funders. Two students have partnered with the TRCA to survey residents and homeowners living in flood prone areas to gauge their perception of risk and how those perceptions influence mitigation strategies. Finally, two students have partnered with the UTM Environmental Affairs Program to discover student awareness of sustainability programs on campus and to gather their ideas for new initiatives. Students are now tasked with the germane task of figuring out how their research results might benefit the communities engage with as well as provide new sociological knowledge.
In 2018-19, the Peel Social Lab provided funding for students in SOC439H5 Research Project in Sociology to conduct fieldwork for their course projects.This is a fourth-year seminar course in which students pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member in Sociology. Every student pursues a research question of their interest in the area of sociology, develops a research proposal, conducts independent research, analyzes data, presents findings, and completes a final paper by the end of the academic year. The primary goal is to provide students an opportunity to get hands-on experience of conducting empirical research on issues related to sociology. The seminar discussions focus on the craft of sociological research, including both theory and method.
There are seven UTM students enrolled in SOC439H5 in 2018-19. Currently, students are still in the process of completing their projects and the PSL funding will be used to reimburse their research-related expenses, such as purchase of reference books and online survey software, coffee with interviewees, and transportation for field trips.
Examples of student projects include the experiences of Kurdish-Canadians in the GTA, women’s navigation of public spaces in Mississauga, media representations of mental health, educational outcomes for ESL students, representations of race in the media, etc. At the completion of their projects, the students will have the opportunity to contribute a blog post to the Peel Social Lab’s blog Peel Urbanscapes and report on their findings to the general public. The PSL funding will also be used to support a graduate student to manage the Peel Urbanscapes blog and work with the undergraduate students to edit their blog posts.
In 2018-19, the Peel Social Lab provided funding for students in SOC440H5 Research Project in Criminology, Law & Society to conduct fieldwork for their course projects. This is a fourth-year seminar course in which students pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member in Criminology, Law and Society. Every student pursues a research question of his/her interest in the area of criminology and/or law and society, develops a research proposal, conducts independent research, analyzes data, presents findings, and completes a final paper by the end of the academic year. The primary goal is to provide students an opportunity to get hands-on experience of conducting empirical research on issues related to crime and law. The seminar discussions focus on the craft of sociological research, including both theory and method.
There are eight UTM students enrolled in SOC440H5 in 2018-19. Currently, students are still in the process of completing their projects and the PSL funding will be used to reimburse their research-related expenses, such as purchase of reference books and online survey software, coffee with interviewees, and transportation for field trips.
Examples of student projects include the experiences of Muslim candidates in the recruitment of the Toronto Police Services, the mental health and wellbeing of correction officers in the GTA, gender inequality in the Peel Region police force, the division of labour in a Mississauga law firm, the lives of homeless people in Toronto, etc. At the completion of their projects, the students will have the opportunity to contribute a blog post to the Peel Social Lab’s blog Peel Urbanscapes and report on their findings to the general public. The PSL funding will also be used to support a graduate student to manage the Peel Urbanscapes blog and work with the undergraduate students to edit their blog posts.
The goals of the research are to understand the various barriers that immigrants face when trying to find a good job and how they navigate those barriers. It is based on qualitative interviews collected and analyzed by UTM students. There is little qualitative research on this question which is a problem because such research is key to understanding how multiple dynamics work together to shape a complex phenomenon like this. There is also empirical value-added since there is little research done on this question in Peel region, despite the fact that an increasing number of immigrants from various countries now settle in Peel.
Students use their networks of family and friends to recruit immigrants, mostly living in Peel region, to participate in interviews. Interviews are semi-structured, following an interview guide developed by Professor Cranford but requiring the student-researcher to add relevant probes that encourage study participants to emphasize what is important to them and to share experiences in depth. These data allow for an analysis of the various dynamics that shape immigrants’ incorporation into a given job, such as immigration policy, broad changes in the economy toward more precarious employment, degree of employer discrimination, and the immigrants’ own social networks, as well as the quality of that job. Class time includes workshops on research ethics and the skill of qualitative interviewing. Students also learn how to analyze qualitative data.
Professor Cranford piloted this project in Winter 2016 in a senior seminar (without PSL funding). At that time, I received ethics approval to use the interviews for future teaching and research if the study participant consented to it. Of the 30 interviews conducted in that seminar, 17 participants agreed to have their confidential interview used for future teaching and research, as did their student-researchers. The ethics protocol has been renewed, allowing for the building of a database.
In Fall 2018, Migrant Labour (SOC460H5) students each interviewed 2 immigrants. Out of the 52 interviews these student-researchers did, 46 people consented to have their confidential interview used for future research and teaching (with the student-research also in agreement). As a result, the Peel Migration and Employment Dataset now includes 63 interviews. This year, I revamped our required Qualitative Analysis course (SOC387) to focus more on data analysis. This Winter SOC387H5 students are analyzing a sub-set of interviews of their choice from the Peel Migration and Employment Dataset. To facilitate the students’ choice of interviews to analyze, Peel Social Lab research assistant Cinthya Guzman helped to construct a table of background information on the 17 interviews archived from the pilot, while the Fall Migrant Labour teaching assistant Yang-sook Kim did the same as she marked the final papers. This Spring (April-June), Professor Cranford will use the PSL funding to fund a research assistant to assess the quality of the interviews for research purposes, and begin to code. This coding will form the basis of a clear language report for the website and the Peel community, and academic publications.
In this research project, the team (supervised by Professor Phil Goodman) investigated the myriad effects of UTM’s Walls to Bridges program on students, staff, and organizations. In UTM’s version of the Walls to Bridges program, half the students are criminology, law and society majors or specialists at UTM, and half are incarcerated people at a jail or prison in the Greater Toronto Area (the latter are enrolled, for the term, as University of Toronto, Mississauga students). The team conducted approximately 15 interviews with ‘outside’ students (i.e., University of Toronto, Mississauga); future research by the team may also interview additional outside students, as well as currently and formerly incarcerated ‘inside’ students. We are also interested in reaching out to staff working at the provincial and/or federal level involved now or in the past with Walls to Bridges. Findings include:
Prior Knowledge and Assumptions
‘Outside’ students held varied assumptions regarding ‘Inside’ students. Some expressed empathy in their consideration of the potential social and structural barriers that may have influenced their peers’ engagement in crime and subsequent incarceration. Alternatively, other Outside students described how before taking the course they perceived Inside students as being less able to be engaged, critical, or knowledgeable; they expected their Inside peers to be less able to contribute at a University level, thus reflecting a process of ‘othering.’ Of those originally holding these more negative views, however, many described how their assumptions changed dramatically over the duration of the course. Outside students consistently discussed how the comprehensive insight and knowledge that Inside students contributed to discussions, as well as evoking critical dialogue within the seminar space, expanded their own understandings of punishment and prison.
Educational and Pedagogical Context
In reflecting on their educational experience, Outside students consistently positioned the communication and acquisition of knowledge as incomparable to that of a traditional university course, beyond that which can be acquired through a textbook and lecture or seminar. Outside students discussed how SOC450H5 humanized Inside students in ways that reconceptualised prisoners beyond mere objects of academic study and criminal classification. Emotional responses evoked during discussions, (i.e. scepticism, frustration, or anger) toward the criminal justice system, aroused a desire among outside students to raise awareness, create transparency, and to produce change surrounding social injustices associated with the penal context.
The intimate space of the classroom was established on mutual equality and respect, the integration of experiential and academic knowledge, collaborative and inclusive opportunities for teaching and learning, and the development of friendships; all combined, these contributed to Outside students’ understandings of SOC450H5 as creating a community. Although students did not themselves perceive a sense of community at the institutional level, many Outside students did express the belief that universities and prisons should have a central role in creating educational opportunities for both prisoners and students – a collective responsibility toward building healthier communities more generally.
The aim of this project was to build on last year's "Multiculturalism at UTM" project, and to continue to collect and analyze interviews of UTM students about race, ethnicity and perceptions of diversity and multiculturalism, while introducing a comparative angle through collaboration with a colleague at the University of São Paulo, Prof. Gislene Aparecida dos Santos. The project also had the pedagogical effect of involving UTM and University of São Paulo undergraduate students in the data collection process, and incorporating students' analysis of their interviews into their own coursework. Both myself and Prof. Santos were teaching a race and ethnicity course last Fall, and so the content of the interviews helped with students understanding and application of the content of the course.
In my course SOC332H5, all 30 students conducted the interviews with other students (one each) and analyzed them for their final projects. While all interviews served the pedagogical purpose, however, only 6 of those interviews could be used for my own research project, since interviewees could opt out of the research use of the interview. In combination with our previous interviews, however, we have now 27 interviews with UTM students, to which I expect to add a few more this semester, as interviews are being conducted by three research opportunity program students working on this project. On the Brazilian side, each student conducted two interviews with other local USP students, and all interviewees authorized the project to be used for research purposes, so that we now have 38 interviews with Brazilian university students that we can use in comparative research. I have shared my data with Prof. Santos and she is starting the comparative analysis, to which I will also contribute later this year. She has also shared with me the transcripts from the interviews that her students collected. In addition to interviewing, my three ROP students have been helping with the literature review for the project, and have had two skype meetings with students from Prof. Santos's class, which they reported as a valuable experience of learning how students understand race, ethnicity and diversity in a completely different context. Brazilian students also seemed curious to learn from our students' experiences, identities and perspectives. One of my ROP students is Brazilian-Canadian and is fluent in Portuguese, and has been helping to read the Brazilian interviews and the relevant literature in Portuguese. She was also involved in helping to translate the interview guide (linguistically and contextually) from Portuguese to English.
Two graduate students have been involved in the coding of the previous round of data collection into the atlas.ti platform. I have started analyzing and data, in combination with an analysis of the equity and diversity module of the SOC100H5 survey, which I had submittted. I have presented these findings to UTM students and staff, providing a general overview of how "diversity", race and ethnicity are experienced by different kinds of students at UTM. This has generated much interest in particular from Mark Overton and staff at Student Affairs and Services, including the International Education Centre. I have briefly talked to them about the possibility of future collaboration, which I will try to follow up on in the near future.
As I looked at the coded data and started theorizing for a possible publication, it became clear that a second round of coding was necessary, which my two graduate research assistants are currently undertaking. The idea is to produce a paper on "pedagogies of multiculturalism and diversity", that is, an academic publication that explored how people come to learn about what mutliculturalism, diversity, race and ethnicity mean. Later this year, Prof. dos Santos and I will work to produce two academic papers that compare the experiences of Brazilian and Canadian students, one in Portuguese for a Brazilian audience, and one in English for a North-American and international audience. Prof. dos Santos expects to be visiting Toronto over the summer, which will greatly aid our collaborative efforts.
The goal of the project was to investigate the experiences of university students at the University of Toronto Mississauga with regard to issues surrounding “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” This meant asking UTM students how they understand these concepts, as well as more concrete questions about their life experiences that could provide insight into the role that race, ethnicity, gender, religion and national identity plays in their lives within and outside the university.
Professor Schwartzman used the funds for the Peel Social Lab to hire an undergraduate and a graduate student, who helped define the questionnaire, get the project through ethics review, and for initial help with recruitment and interview of research participants. Then, since the Fall of 2016, used the Research Opportunity Program to add three undergraduate students to the project and, with additional funds from the Peel Social Lab project, Professor Schwartzman hired an undergraduate for the Winter semester, and was able to maintain the graduate student in the project. The undergraduate students were an essential component in the project, conducting all the interviews themselves, using the questionnaire and the guidance provided by me, and using their own social networks to help find participants.
So far, they have completed much of the data collection process. They have recruited widely within the university through emailing course instructors, going into classes, and using our research assistants own social networks. The researchers managed to collect about 30 interviews with a diverse set of students (in terms of ethnicity, race, national origin, gender, religion, citizenship status, fields of study and year in the university), ranging from 40 minutes to 2 hours long. Right now the undergraduate students are in the process of transcribing the interviews (we have finished transcribing 15 so far), while the graduate research assistant and Professor Schwartzman are in the process of reading through the interviews and finding patterns for coding and analysis.
Settlement, Integration and Stress: A 5 Year Longitudinal Study of Syrian Newcomer Mothers and Teens in the GTA
Professors Neda Maghbouleh, Melissa Milkie and Ito Peng
The recent resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada—in a unique approach bridging government and private sponsorship—has captured the attention of the world. Amidst the excitement and anticipation of their arrival is an urgent need to assess the well-being and integration of Syrian newcomers, as fully 60 percent are children under the age of 15. A pilot study by Professors Maghbouleh, Milkie, and Peng identified key points of stress and provided tangible strategies for service providers and sponsors in their efforts to support refugee families. It did so by interviewing Syrian newcomer mothers to identify parental role strains that undermined their’ well-being and the social and personal resources that buffered the stressors or strain experienced. The team included five UTM undergrads who assisted with transcription, translation, analysis and coding of two waves of in-depth interviews with mothers.
- Maghbouleh, Neda, Laila Omar*, Melissa A. Milkie, and Ito Peng. 2019. “Listening in Arabic: Feminist Research with Syrian Refugee Mothers,” Meridians: Feminism, Face, Transnationalism 18(2): 482- 507.
- Milkie, Melissa A., Neda Maghbouleh, and Ito Peng. 2020. “Stress in Refugee Settlement: Syrian Mothers’ Strains and Buffers During Early Integration in Canada.” In A National Project: Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada, edited by Leah Hamilton, Luisa Veronis, and Margaret Walton-Roberts. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
* Graduate student
Professors Hae Yeon Choo and Sida Liu
As a course supported by the Peel Social Lab, SOC440Y5 “Research Projects in Criminology, Law and Society” provides UTM students an opportunity to conduct empirical research and write up a research paper for their course projects. This is a seminar course where students will pursue advanced research supervised by a faculty member in Criminology, Law and Society. In the 2017-18 academic year, ten students took SOC440Y5 under the supervision of Prof. Sida Liu. The seminar discussions focused on the craft of sociological research, including both theory and methods. Every student pursued a research question of hisor her interest in the area of criminology, law and society, developed a research proposal, conducted independent research using qualitative, quantitative, and/or historical methods, analyzed empirical data, presented findings, and completed a final paper by the end of the academic year. Most students collected their data in the Peel Region and the GTA. Examples of student projects include racial profiling and attitude towards the police, the carceral space and its impact on prisoner behaviour, health services and social welfare for the indigenous people, and public attitude towards death penalty. With the support of the Peel Social Lab, the course gives students hands-on sociological training of conducting empirical research on issues related to crime and law.
Professor Josée Johnston and PhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk
How do people think about the decision to eat, or not eat meat? In this project, we worked with UTM students in an advanced undergraduate sociology seminar (SOC416H5) to address this question. Our goal was to interview a wide range of consumers in the Peel Region to explore the diverse motivations and cultural frameworks for adopting a diet that either includes or avoids meat. The stereotypical image of a vegetarian is a young, white woman who cares about animals and the environment. While there is some empirical truth to this stereotype, it is also a reductive portrayal that obscures the many complex reasons for abstaining from meat consumption. Many diverse communities embrace diets that avoid or eliminate various meat products. This is especially true in a multicultural context, like the Peel Region, where numerous religions have restrictions and prohibitions on the consumption of animal flesh and others wholeheartedly embrace it within their religious rituals.
With the aim of exploring the diverse cultural meanings around meat consumption and abstention, each student in the class carried out an in-depth qualitative interview with four friends and family members. Two students from the class then helped the researchers think through the results, develop a coding sheet, and code the data. In total, 76 participants were interviewed, a number which included 27 vegetarians and 49 meat eaters. The group of participants was highly diverse, varying in age, gender, ethnicity and region. There was a roughly equal number of men and women, and approximately half of the interview pool were undergraduate students. There was an exceptional amount of ethno-cultural diversity in the sample: 65 interviewees were visible minorities (non-Caucasians) (83% of the total sample). Participants were primarily heterosexual (91%), and represented a broad range of religious affiliations – Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Christian – and forms of religious devotion.
We found that consumers used a variety of explanations for making sense of meat consumption, restriction and abstention. The meat-eating majority offered clear, consistent reasons for their habits, while at the same time, vegetarians provided an important contrasting perspective to dominant views on meat-eating. We are currently in the process of data analysis, but thus far we have found five themes emerging: 1) an adherence of meat eaters to what Piazza et al. (2015) call the “4 Ns” — the idea that meat is nice (tasty), normal, natural, and necessary for human health; 2) a strong cultural connection between meat-eating and cultural identity; 3) a dominant association connecting meat consumption with masculinity; 4) a paradoxical relationship between meat consumption and human health whereby meat eaters recognize that meat eating can generate negative health consequences yet paradoxically also use health as a reason for why they consume meat; 5) a broad recognition of the ecological consequences of meat-eating among vegetarians, in contrast to the more varied awareness and acknowledgement of these consequences among meat eaters. These five themes will be explored more deeply in the coming months while the researchers work to produce academic publications from the results.
- Future publications from this research will be posted on Dr. Johnston’s website
The proposed research investigates and fills in the knowledge gap on service utilization by migrant Chinese seniors from mainland China in comparison with those migrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and native born Chinese seniors. Following the critical gerontology, this project investigates the effects of the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and migration status on social meanings of aging and choice of care services. Andersen’s (1995) conceptual framework is adopted in the study of factors influencing service utilization among the senior Chinese Canadians. Those factors include individual’s predisposition to use services (e.g., age gender, education, marital status, family size), their enabling and impeding characteristics (e.g., income, pension, insurance), and their need for care (e.g., perceived and actual needs, health).
The research team, consisting of graduate and undergraduate students, helped conducted 41 interviews and 9 focus group discussions among Chinese seniors in the GTA. One RA has also analyzed all Canadian population census data from 1981 to 2011, and part of 1911 and 1921 census data. Research reports are in progress and will be uploaded upon completion.
Research Objective and Connection to UTM Undergraduates
The stereotypical image of a vegetarian is a young, white woman who cares about animals and the environment. While there is some empirical truth to this stereotype, it is also a reductive portrayal that obscures the many complex reasons for abstaining from meat consumption. Many diverse communities embrace diets that avoid or eliminate various meat products – especially in a multicultural context where numerous religions have prohibitions on the consumption of animal flesh.
In the first stage of this project, Professor Johnston worked with a research assistant to collect data on the cultural meanings of meat consumption in the Peel region, an area characterized by considerable ethno-cultural diversity. This data was collected in an undergraduate independent reading course (SOC491H5) and a Senior Sociology of Culture Seminar (SOC416H5). Together, undergraduate students collected a total of 136 interviews from a highly diverse sample of Peel residents. After the data was collected, a second stage of the research involved working with two undergraduate students to code this substantial amount of qualitative data. Participating in the coding of the data provided an important opportunity to the students to see the next stage of a qualitative research process and. Students saw first-hand how a research project moves from a research question, to large-scale data collection, to coding data to address pre-formulated questions while also identifying emergent themes and issues.
State of Current Research: Analysis and Paper Writing
The research is now in its third stage, which involves working with a graduate assistant to go through the codes using the qualitative data software (Dedoose) and relate findings to relevant academic literature. We have begun that process, and identified three potential research articles that can be written from the data. One of the articles is currently in the process of being constructed (abstract below), and the other two will be started this summer.
Provisional Abstract for First Paper
Environmentalists and animal-lovers provide multiple reasons for consumers to stop eating meat, or at least cut back on their meat consumption. Despite various consumers concerns about meat and the meat industry, meat consumption in North American is sustained at relatively high levels, while rates of vegetarianism are relatively low. In this paper, we examine a diverse sample of Canadian meat eaters and vegetarians to shed light on the contradictory ideas, attitudes and behaviours concerning meat consumption. The researchers have two goals: 1) to draw from a diverse sample of consumers to identify concerns about meat, a contentious but highly-favored consumer product and; 2) identify cultural repertoires used to make sense of continued meat consumption. They find that our sample of Canadian consumers do have serious concerns about the meat industry focussed on animal welfare, the environment, and health, and frequently depict meat consumption in negative terms. Accompanying these concerns about industrial meat production are powerful cultural repertoires justifying continued meat consumption. These concerns can be grouped into three analytic categories: 1) Meat is nice/normal/natural/necessary; 2) Meat reproduces gendered bodies; 3) Meat protects and preserves culture. The researchers argue that these cultural repertoires can help scholars understand the continuity of meat consumption in a climate where meat consumption attracts significant public critiques.
- Executive Summary
- Oleschuk, Merin*, Josée Johnston, and Shyon Baumann. 2019. “Maintaining Meat: Cultural Repertoires and the Meat Paradox in a Diverse Socio-Cultural Context.” Sociological Forum 34(2):337-360. https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12500
* Graduate student