Category Archives: Near and Recent PhD Graduates

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

tc-coverCongratulations 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.

Around the World with a U of T Sociology PhD

We’ve had 263 PhD graduates since 1978. About a quarter of these find employment outside of the academy. The 170 others are employed in tenure track positions in universities around the world.

Home is Canada

The vast majority of our PhD alumni (72%) are or have been employed in Canadian Universities. In fact,  every Canadian university with a PhD program has at least one of our PhD graduates on faculty. Almost half of those are clustered southern Ontario, suggesting that our graduate students develop roots to this part of the world and are happy to stay in the region. The others are spread across the country representing U of T in all regions of the country where there are colleges and universities.

The USA is a close neighbour

Next to Canada, the United States is the most popular destination for our PhD graduates who seek and obtain tenure stream faculty positions. Twenty-three of the 170 alumni in faculty positions have or had careers in universities south of the border, representing U of T in twenty-one institutions of higher learning across thirteen states.

A Global Reach

Outside of Canada and the US, we have PhD alumni working in colleges and universities in twenty-one different countries. Our graduates have found jobs on all continents except for Australia (and Antarctica but, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of opportunities there). Feel free to browse the map to see the details.

P2P: Authentic, Exotic and Racialized Food

Every student in the Sociology PhD program at the University of Toronto completes the Research Practicum course in their second year. This course involves each student working directly on a research project with a faculty member through the various stages of research and writing while also meeting with other graduate students in the course to tackle the hurdles of clarifying, strengthening, and sharpening one’s ideas in a journal-length research article. In this series, we highlight the practicum papers that went on to become published articles, and the students who wrote them.

Oleschuk, Merin. “Foodies of Colour: Authenticity and Exoticism in Omnivorous Food Culture”. Cultural Sociology. 2016 doi: 10.1177/1749975516668709

Merin enteremerin-oleschukd the PhD program knowing that she wanted to work with Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann on research related to the sociology of food. Intrigued by their research on Foodies (2007; 2015) which builds on omnivorous cultural theory and highlights the persistence of inequalities within gourmet food culture despite its increasing democratization, Merin was curious about the ethno-racial inequalities that are embedded in foods being seen as “authentic” and/or “exotic.” This curiosity marked the genesis of her practicum paper.

Merin enrolled in the Research Practicum in 2013 and immediately set out to collect the data she needed for the paper. Her background in anthropology, working within the areas of ethnicity and food, provided her with the substantive knowledge and methodological skills needed to carry out the research. The data collection consisted of conducting 20 semi-structured qualitative interviews with foodies of colour in Toronto. She then analyzed these interviews alongside five additional interviews with foodies of colour that were shared with her from work done for one of Professor Johnston’s related research projects.

Merin’s analysis finds that the frames of “authenticity” and “exoticism” each possess the potential both to encourage cross-cultural understanding and to essentialize or exacerbate ethno-cultural difference. Study participants in this project drew from foodie discourse to determine what they considered “good food”, but they also critiqued it for perpetuating ethno-racial inequalities, such as by making them feel tokenized or “Othered” in the process. On an individual level, participants’ own ethno-racial identities provided them with greater access to cultural capital because they had (or were perceived to have) ties to foods that foodies often valorized – others often looked to them to pass judgement on a food’s “authenticity” or have insider knowledge into the “exotic.”  In her paper, Merin stresses that this does not mean, however, that the frames of “authenticity” and “exoticism” necessarily disrupt the racial and economic ideological structures propping them up. Ultimately, the endowment of cultural capital in foodie culture is still attained through economic privilege and at the expense of reinforcing stereotypes that sustain ethno-racial inequalities.

While writing her paper, Merin received valuable feedback from her practicum supervisors, Josée Johnston, Monica Boyd, Ann Mullen, Ronit Divonitzer, and Phil Goodman as well as fellow students in her cohort. Merin particularly appreciates that the format of the practicum gave her practice presenting her paper orally in front of the group, and gave her insight into questions that the research commonly raises. Merin then submitted and presented a draft of the paper for presentation at the American Sociological Association and Canadian Sociological Association annual meetings that year. Feedback from these presentations helped to further refine the paper for publication. She submitted the paper to Cultural Sociology the following year, and it was accepted for publication. The practicum process ultimately provided Merin with the valuable opportunity to publish a sole authored paper early in her program.

By now, Merin has completed her coursework and is working on a dissertation that she has titled Health and Cooking in Value and Practice: A Mixed Methods Study of Food in Family Life. While still in the general area of sociology of food, the dissertation project charts a slightly different course from the one taken in this paper. In general, her dissertation examines the relationship between peoples’ values and practices when cooking at home, particularly within a context where home cooking is advocated as a key strategy for promoting family health. She uses diverse qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore how and why people cook what they do, while taking into account that the meaning of cooking varies across social positions such as gender, class, and race/ethnicity.

BJS Prize for article on social media in the Egyptian Uprising

bjs-certificateCongratulations to Professor Robert Brym and graduate students Melissa Godbout, Andreas Hoffbauer, Gabe Menard and Tony Huiquan Zhang who recently received the British Journal of Sociology 2016 Prize for their co-authored article, Social Media in the 2011 Egyptian Uprising.

Established in 2009, the BJS award is presented bi-annually to the authors of an article published in the past 24 months that “in the opinion of the judges, makes an outstanding contribution to increasing sociological knowledge.” The article by Brym, Godbout, Hoffbauer, Menard and Zhang was published in May 2014. Professor Brym recently attended the BJS Annual Lecture at the London School of Economics and accepted the prize on behalf of the team. While there, he recorded a short podcast about the paper and the experience writing, publishing and receiving the honour. Congratulations to all five authors!

You can access the winning paper here. The following is the citation and abstract:

Brym, R., Godbout, M., Hoffbauer, A., Menard, G. and Zhang, T. H. (2014), Social media in the 2011 Egyptian uprising. The British Journal of Sociology, 65: 266–292. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12080

This paper uses Gallup poll data to assess two narratives that have crystallized around the 2011 Egyptian uprising: (1) New electronic communications media constituted an important and independent cause of the protests in so far as they enhanced the capacity of demonstrators to extend protest networks, express outrage, organize events, and warn comrades of real-time threats. (2) Net of other factors, new electronic communications media played a relatively minor role in the uprising because they are low-cost, low-risk means of involvement that attract many sympathetic onlookers who are not prepared to engage in high-risk activism. Examining the independent effects of a host of factors associated with high-risk movement activism, the paper concludes that using some new electronic communications media was associated with being a demonstrator. However, grievances, structural availability, and network connections were more important than was the use of new electronic communications media in distinguishing demonstrators from sympathetic onlookers. Thus, although both narratives have some validity, they must both be qualified.

How far can Scholarly Networks Go?

s200_guang_ying-moCongratulations to Guang Ying Mo and her coauthors who were recently awarded one of the Emerald Literati Networks Award for Excellence, 2016!

Mo and her co-authors, Zach Hayat and Barry Wellman, received an Outstanding Author Contribution Award in the Book Series, Studies in Media and Communications. Their award-winning book chapter is: “How Far Can Scholarly Networks Go? Examining the Relationships between Disciplines, Motivations, and Clusters.”

Presented by The Emerald Publishing Group, this award honours the top contributions within the current year’s volume of a book series. According to the award’s literature, the winning chapters demonstrate: “a contribution of something new to the body of knowledge, either in terms of approach or subject matter; excellent structure and presentation and well-written text; rigour in terms of argument or analysis; relevance – to practice and further research, in most cases; up-to-date – demonstrating that the latest/key works in the field have been cited; a work which is clearly within the editorial scope and remit of the book series.” In choosing the outstanding contribution, the editors are, moreover, recognizing it as “of notable outstanding quality.”

Congratulations again to Mo for her excellent work.

In recognition of the award, the publisher has made the full chapter open access for the period of one year. We have pasted the abstract below.

Guang Ying Mo , Zack Hayat , Barry Wellman. How Far can Scholarly Networks Go? Examining the Relationships between Distance, Disciplines, Motivations, and Clusters Communication and Information Technologies Annual. 2015, 107-133.


This study aims to understand the extent to which scholarly networks are connected both in person and through information and communication technologies, and in particular, how distance, disciplines, and motivations for participating in these networks interplay with the clusters they form. The focal point for our analysis is the Graphics, Animation and New Media Network of Centres of Excellence (GRAND NCE), a Canadian scholarly network in which scholars collaborate across disciplinary, institutional, and geographical boundaries in one or multiple projects with the aid of information and communication technologies. To understand the complexity in such networks, we first identified scholars’ clusters within the work, want-to-meet, and help networks of GRAND and examined the correlation between these clusters as well as with disciplines and geographic locations. We then identified three types of motivation that drove scholars to join GRAND: practical issues, novelty-exploration, and networking. Our findings indicate that (1) scholars’ interests in the networking opportunities provided by GRAND may not easily translate into actual interactions. Although scholars express interests in boundary-spanning collaborations, these mostly occur within the same discipline and geographic area. (2) Some motivations are reflected in the structural characteristics of the clusters we identify, while others are irrelevant to the establishment of collaborative ties. We argue that institutional intervention may be used to enhance geographically dispersed, multidisciplinary collaboration.

Alexandra Rodney on Totem Vodka

ali.rodneyUniversity of Toronto PhD Candidate Alexandra Rodney recently published a blog post on the site Sociological Images. The blog, created and edited by Professor Lisa Wade of Occidental College in Los Angeles, provides short sociological discussions of “compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry.” It is widely used by instructors of sociology and by people just interested in exploring contemporary issues through a sociological lens.

Alexandra published a discussion about Totem Vodka, a vodka that was produced for a short time in the Vancouver area in June and July, 2016 before being pulled from the market in response to objections. The piece introduces the concept of Cultural Appropriation and then uses Totem Vodka to illustrate the concept.

The post begins:

Totem Vodka and Indigenous Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation generally refers to the adoption of traditional practices, objects, or images by a person or group that is not part of the originating cAR SocImages screenshotulture. Cultural appropriation can become problematic when it is done without permission, serves to benefit the dominant group, and erases or further marginalizes the oppressed group. In this way, cultural appropriation can recreate larger structures of inequality.

On a recent stroll through a duty-free shop, I was introduced to one of these problematic examples in the form of a new Canadian product named “Totem Vodka,” packaged in a bottle resembling a totem pole. Totem Vodka is not a product of Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Read the full Sociological Images post here


Alexandra Rodney is a PhD Candidate in Sociology with research interests focusing on the Sociology of Culture, and Gender. Her dissertation work probes into the world of food and healthy living blogs to bring understanding to the production and reception of food and fitness discourses in Canada and the United States.

PhD Pathways – Where are our graduates?

Graduating with a PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto can lead to a variety of careers. We’ve had 263 PhD graduates since 1978 and can find employment information about 227 of them. Some trends to note:

PhD Alumni Pie chart all yrs

The majority of our PhD graduates get tenure stream positions in Canada and around the world

Of those we can find data for, 74% of all of our graduates are (or were) pursuing academic careers in tenure track positions. Seventy-one percent of them (122) had positions in Canada. Another 23 have positions in the United States. The rest are around the world.

It can take awhile

Data for recent years shows fewer alumni in tenure stream positions and shows more in postdoctoral or research associate positions. Several of our alumni have taken a few post-doc positions and/or short-term teaching positions before finding and accepting a tenure track position.

A number of our grads have always found employment outside academia

Ten of our graduates since 1978 have found employment in the provincial or federal public service. This was not a preferred or viable option from the mid 1980s to the end of the 1990s but it was before, and it is again. Another fourteen graduates found positions in the private and non-profit sectors. Others are working in “alternative academic” positions within universities and research centres.

Data Analysis appears to be a key skill

Many of the PhD alumni who are working outside of universities have job titles like data analyst, research director, researcher or research associate. There are also a number of consultants who may or may not be using data analysis skills in their daily activities. Very few are pursuing careers which have no apparent connection to the skills gained in graduate school.

Prohibit marijuana for Canadians under 25? How about a hit of reality

Jenna2Jenna Valleriani is a PhD candidate in Sociology and the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies. Her research looks at social movements, entrepeurship and the emergence of new industries. Her dissertation is titled, “ ‘The Green Rush’: Social Movements, Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Medical Cannabis Industry in Canada. Jenna recently published an Op Ed in the Globe and Mail discussing the proposed age restrictions on legal access to marijuana. The piece appeared on Thursday, June 30, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.

Prohibit marijuana for Canadians under 25? How about a hit of reality

The federal government announced Thursday that it would create a task force to handle marijuana legalization. Led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, the task force will feature nine individuals with varying expertise. In the announcement, Health Minister Jane Philpott declared the legalization of cannabis will be “comprehensive and evidence-based”, and yet in the same breath, reminded Canadians “marijuana has negative effects on young brains and brain development in adolescence”.

What Dr. Philpott didn’t acknowledge is that this body of scientific evidence is still being debated in the scientific literature: it’s incomplete and has never actually established that marijuana is the cause in these outcomes of cognitive deficiency. We have also never established what the actual duration of that impairment may be.

Meanwhile, the protecting youth argument has become the cornerstone of what responsible and restrictive legal cannabis access will look like. However, under the guise of trying to protect young people, history illustrates we often end up criminalizing and victimizing them even further. The reiteration of this “concrete evidence” has led some to debate whether cannabis should follow provincial drinking ages, or if access should only be afforded to those who are 25 years of age and older.

Continue reading the article…

Cultural Scenes and Political Attitudes

Diana.MillerCongratulations 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 Dan Silverand 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.


Holly Campeau awarded Dennis Magill Canada Research Award


Congratulations to Ph.D. Candidate Holly Campeau, recipient of the 2016 The Dennis William Magill Canada Research Award. The Dennis William Magill Canada Research Award is awarded annually to a student in the Department of Sociology for a PhD dissertation or journal article of exceptional merit that focuses on an aspect of Canadian society. Preference is given to macro-sociological works.

Holly was awarded the honour based on her article, ‘Police culture’ at work: Making sense of police oversight, British Journal of Criminology (55: 2015) 669-87. Within police studies, ‘police culture’ is often represented as an “ideal-type” and depicted according to a series of values (e.g. conservatism, solidarity, machismo, mission, etc.). This article argues in favour of an alternative, more nuanced conceptualization of police ‘culture’ which draws on concepts from the sociology of culture. Police culture is viewed as a resource, which actors deploy within particular institutional constraints. Drawing on 100 interviews and participant observation in a police department, the analysis shows how officers negotiate meaning in an unsettled occupational environment prompted by heightened levels of police oversight. Two culture indicators are examined: solidarity and mission. Applying this lens, findings reveal that new accountability measures can lead to a weakened sense of officer solidarity and unwillingness to take on risky work. This article represents an explicit attempt to theorize police culture sociologically and invoke an adaptive framework for uncovering how actors use culture within a definable set of structuring conditions.

In awarding Holly the prize, The adjudicating committee wrote “Holly’s research helps us understand how, in a period of increased oversight, police officers are compelled to re-fashion the meaning of their work, using elements of institutional culture as symbolic raw material. The members of the committee were struck by Holly’s theoretical sophistication, the clarity of her exposition, the sensitivity with which she interpreted the data she collected from interviews of 100 police officers and participant observation in a police department, and her substantive contribution to her field of study.”