Sociology is the study of the interactions of human beings and the social structures we create. A basic premise of sociology is that social behaviour cannot be fully understood simply by studying the individuals involved; rather, it requires attention to the wider social contexts in which those individuals are located. This premise is tied to what C. Wright Mills referred to as the “sociological imagination,” a quality of mind that enables us to grasp biography and history and the relations between the two. Mills saw the promise of sociology in its ability to make the connections between the private troubles of individuals and public or social issues. The sociological imagination, therefore, enables insights into not only the social world around us, but our own lives as well.
Sonia Bookman’s teaching areas include urban sociology, media sociology, and consumer culture, which closely relate to her research interests and endeavours.
Bookman is currently researching the branding of urban cultural quarters, focusing on Winnipeg’s Exchange District. She is interested in examining the inclusion and exclusion of various lifestyle and social groupings (in terms of class, ethnicity, or gender) in the intended and lived brand experience, and whether the branding process contributes to social division and spatial segmentation in Winnipeg. In other words, the research is concerned with the relationship between urban branding and social and spatial segmentation, and issues such as the right to define and inhabit urban public space.
In another project, Bookman and co-investigator Dr. Jeffrey Masuda (Environment and Geography) explore long-standing human rights issues facing people who live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They will partner with community-based arts and cultural organizations to highlight these struggles and triumphs. The neighbourhood has been the setting for human rights violations against a succession of its communities: the Coastal Salish First Nations, Japanese Canadians, the African-Canadian settlement known as Hogan’s Alley, and most recently low-income residents who are trying to exercise their right to stay despite ongoing gentrification. The researchers will use stories of resilience, race, marginalization and displacement as a strategy to disrupt the current development-driven branding of this neighbourhood as “JapanTown.”
Dr. Comack is a distinguished professor emerita of sociology whose research focuses on social justice and social equality. One theme of her work pertains to the law-society relation: the role of law in reproducing inequalities of race, class, and gender and the potential that law has to bring about substantive social change in areas of social inequality.
A second, complementary theme has been to understand the life experiences of people—Aboriginal peoples in particular—who are subject to the criminalization process.
Comack is a member of the interdisciplinary and inter-university Manitoba Research Alliance, which recently received a grant for their project on Transforming Aboriginal and Inner-City Communities. As a co-investigator, she engages in community-based collaborative research that aims to uncover strategies for solving the deepening and increasingly complex problems of poverty and social exclusion in Manitoba’s inner-city and Aboriginal communities—especially in relation to justice, safety, and security. One of the studies she is conducting, in collaboration with Nahanni Fontaine of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, involves documenting the experiences Aboriginal peoples have had in their encounters with the police.
In addition to serving on the board of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–Manitoba, Comack serves on the board of journals that have a distinct human rights and social justice focus: the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.
Comack has co-authored a number of contributions to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, including the recent What Happens When the Bed Bugs Do Bite? The Social Impacts of a Bed Bug Infestation on Winnipeg’s Inner-City Residents.
Annette Desmarais is a faculty member in sociology and adjunct professor with the Natural Resource Institute. She is Canada Research Chair in human rights, social justice and food sovereignty.
She was recently featured in UofM’s ResearchLife magazine. Desmarais is currently conducting research on the theory, practice, potential and challenges of food sovereignty in Canada and Spain. In Canada, she conducts participatory research on food sovereignty with the National Farmers Union and on changing land tenure patterns in Saskatchewan. Her research in Spain involves fieldwork with the Basque Farmers Union (EHNE).
In 2013, Desmarais helped monitor elections in Honduras and she is also helping spearhead a proposal for Canada’s first interdisciplinary Master of Human Rights program.
Before joining the world of academia, Desmarais was a farmer for 14 years. She has since earned an MA in gender and development from the University of Sussex, and received a PhD in geography from the University of Calgary.
These practical and scholastic experiences give Desmarais unique insight into her chosen research areas, which include: food sovereignty, globalization and agrarian change, rural social movements and social justice, as well as gender and international development.
Since 1993, she has provided technical support to the international peasant and farm movement, La Vía Campesina. She is the author of La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants, which has been published in six languages. She also co-edited Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community (2010), and Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems (2011).
Desmarais is a member of the international advisory board of the Journal of Peasant Studies and the editorial board of Human Geography. She is a research associate with the Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano (CECCAM), Mexico City. She is also on the advisory committee of the Centre Europe – Tiers Monde (CETIM, Geneva) and the Resource Rights Advisory Committee–Grassroots International Resource Rights for All, and is an advisor to the International Programme Committee of the National Farmers Union.
Jason Edgerton conducts research in the different dimensions of social inequality. He has recently published or submitted articles on the following topics: SES and gender inequalities in educational outcomes; welfare state regimes and educational inequality, education and quality of life; the role of social determinants in healthy child development; cross-national comparison of immigrant integration and multiculturalism policy; and a sociological analysis of the challenges confronting Aboriginal Canadians.
Dr. Fridell is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba. Her human-rights related research analyzes the capacities and strategies of fair trade, community economic development and public provisioning. She also studies economic democracy movements related to these topics.
Her classes on social movements and sociological theory examine struggles over creating democratic societies, and the ideas of social justice that are dreamt of and born within those movements.
Through her position on the board of SEED Winnipeg Fridell helped to promote community economic development programs and research that supported and strengthened local families’ and communities’ economic and democratic capacities. She has also been active in the women’s, food sovereignty, union, Indigenous rights, local democracy and environmental movements.
Fridell earned her PhD from the University of Oregon, her MA from the University of New Mexico, and her BA from Hamline University in Minnesota.
Access to medical and health care is a human right, but access alone is not always enough: in order to best serve clients, health care must also be culturally appropriate. Christopher Fries is working to better understand the factors that make such care possible.
He recently completed a pilot study that looked at the relationship between Canada’s rapidly aging population and the growing popularity of complementary and alternative medicines.
He found that older adults are supplementing their medical care with alternative therapies to gain a sense of responsibility for their health.
Fries is also working on a revised edition of the co-authored Pursuing Health and Wellness: Healthy Societies, Healthy People, which has been adopted as a text for health sociology and health studies courses in more than 15 universities across Canada.
His other areas of expertise include the social determinants of health, medicalization and multiculturalism. Follow him on twitter @healthsociology.
More than 3,000 First Nations homes do not have clean running water. To inform advocacy strategies, Dr. Laura Funk is exploring non-Indigenous Canadians’ understandings of First Nations water concerns, including whether and how they viewed these as a human right and a public health concern.
Funk is completing this project in her role as co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded partnership development grant that addressed water rights for First Nations communities.
In her main line of research, Funk studies issues of family caregiving for older adults (including employed family caregivers) and aging/older adults – groups for which human rights concerns are especially salient. More broadly, Funk is interested in the sociology of health and the social determinants of health.
Funk is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba and a research affiliate with the Centre on Aging. She earned her degrees at the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia, as well as a diploma in gerontology from Simon Fraser University. Before her appointment at the University of Manitoba, she held a postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Through his research, Dr. Mark Hudson helps to ensure that we act justly in response to the demands of our ever-changing world.
For example, he studies the “fair trade” system, which aims to reduce the systemic social injustices of contemporary forms of commodity production and exchange. Hudson also studies techniques used by businesses as they try to adjust to the new realities of climate change. In another project, Hudson is researching issues of procedural justice in the legislative and regulatory systems that oversee development of the tar sands in northern Alberta.
Hudson joined the University of Manitoba’s department of sociology in July of 2009. After completing his PhD at the University of Oregon, he worked as an assistant professor at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and at Northern Arizona University. Hudson is also director of the Global Political Economy program.
Rick Linden has done work in several areas related to human rights and social justice. He has had a longstanding interest in Aboriginal justice. He was a researcher/writer with the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and in 2001 completed reports on Aboriginal Policing and on Crime Prevention in Aboriginal Communities for the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission. In addition, Rick has received SSHRC funding for research on the role of civilian police and peacekeeping. Finally, he has done work in the area of alternative dispute resolution system design which led to a grant from the Law Commission of Canada to evaluate an elder abuse program involving alternative dispute resolution.
Gregg Olsen focuses his research program on social inequality and social policy from a comparative perspective. In addition to ‘material’/economic indicators of inequality (such as poverty, income/wealth distribution, social mobility etc), his research also focuses on the civil, political, and social rights and entitlements that are enjoyed by or withheld from residents or particular groups across a range of axes (such as class, sex/gender, ‘race’/ethnicity, nativity, sexual orientation and ability). These two broad types of inequality are often closely related.
Jeremy Patzer joined the Department of Sociology and Criminology in 2016. His research interests lie in Aboriginal law, Indigenous peoples and the law, transitional justice and historical repair, as well as the sociology of law and contemporary theory. His doctoral research examined the development of case law concerning treaty rights, Aboriginal rights, and Aboriginal title in Canada, arguing that contemporary Aboriginal law is largely the result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s efforts to reconcile a compromising history of colonial dispossession, but that the new forms of justice offered to Indigenous peoples are also thoroughly measured and oriented toward reducing risk to the settler state.
His upcoming research interests envision an examination of the successes and difficulties that Indigenous claimants have encountered in having the courts and the state recognize historical grievances beyond colonial dispossession (such as the Sixties Scoop, etc.) as legally actionable wrongs, as well as the development of critical commentary on Indigenous subjectivities in the Canadian context—in particular commentary that directly incorporates and gives expression to the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous claimants and communities whose lifeways, opportunities, and representations are overdetermined by non-Indigenous institutions.
Dr. Peter is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba. She has published widely in the area of risk and protective factors among a diverse range of marginalized populations, including suicidality, trauma, educational inequality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and queer (LGBTQ) youth. These themes also guide her current research.
Peter is a co-investigator on the Every Teacher Project/Projet Chaque Prof, a national study of Canadian teachers’ perceptions and experiences of LGBTQ-inclusive education practices.
She is also a co-investigator on the National Inventory of School Interventions to Promote Well-being and School Connectedness among LGBTQ Youth and Trans Youth Health Survey. Both of these studies are part of a larger $2-million CIHR-funded project, Reducing Stigma, Promoting Resilience: Population Health Interventions for LGBTQ Youth.
Peter is also an active member of the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre, which is based at the University of British Columbia, and RISE UP Canada (Respect, Inclusion, Safety and Equity – Under Pressure), which is a hub for LGBTQ-inclusive education research in Canada.
Susan Prentice is a feminist sociologist who studies the ways social, economic, political, and organizational policies and practices construct unequal gender relations alongside other forms of social inequality. She is particularly concerned about the interface of work and family, and the contemporary organization of the care of young children. She works with community groups on action research projects, as well as on scholarly work, designed to promote gender and generational justice. Her main area of speciality is family policy and childcare, and she maintains an active interest in systemic discrimination in higher education. Prentice believes that community-university collaborations are a site of exciting scholarship and knowledge generation.
Susan is a member of the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba’s Steering Committee, a Research Associate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba, and is one of eight faculty who launched the federal human rights complaint alleging systemic discrimination in the Canada Research Chairs Program. She holds a seat on the board of the International Centre for the Mixed Economy of Childcare at the University of East London.
Her current research projects include: “What is the Best Policy Mix for Diverse Canadian Families with Young Children? Reimagining Canadian Family Policies,” (SSHRC-funded, 2020-2027) and “Community-Driven Solutions to Poverty: Challenges and Possiblilities” (SSHRC-funded, 2020-2027).
Russell Smandych is a sociology and criminology professor at the University of Manitoba. His research interests include: Youth justice system reform, global criminology, law and Indigenous peoples, and legal history. Smandych recently completed a project that examined the benefits of systematic cross-jurisdictional research on youth justice system reform as well as the outcomes of Canadian youth justice reform, with a particular focus on the implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He also co-authored the book, Fragile Settlements: Aboriginal Peoples, Law and Resistance in Southwest Australia and Prairie Canada, which examines settler colonialism and the legal subjugation of Indigenous peoples in nineteenth century Australia and western Canada. Smandych routinely instructs undergraduate and graduate courses on “Global Criminology and Criminal Justice” in which the topics of human rights and international criminal justice are an integral component.
Jane Ursel is a professor and senior scholar in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and was the founding director of RESOLVE. For the greater part of her academic career, she administered this tri-provincial research centre on interpersonal violence with centres at the Universities of Manitoba, Regina and Calgary. RESOLVE has been involved in well over 100 studies conducted over a period of 12 to 15 years dealing with various aspects of domestic violence, bullying, and exploitation in the sex trade. Ursel maintains that a fundamental human right is for people to be safe from violence and abuse in their own homes and among their intimate relationships.
In 2019, Ursel began a SSHRC-funded study called Impervious to Change? A Mixed Methods Analysis of Criminal Sexual Assault Complaint Attrition Rates, in collaboration with community agencies and professors in law and social work.
Tens of thousands of newcomers are accepted into Canada each year, often immigrating in search of a better life. But settling in a new country can come with unexpected challenges and barriers. Dr. Lori Wilkinson’s research aims to uncover the factors key to successful settlement.
In one project, she’s studying immigrant and refugee children to find out what helps them to succeed in school, as well as to learn more about their experiences with bullying, mental health and finding jobs.
Another study focuses on how much newcomers use and like settlement services. And together with colleagues across the country, Wilkinson is working on a GIS map to help researchers, policy makers and community service providers understand the geographic distribution and diversity of immigrants in Canada’s western region.
Her research has been used by community service providers and governments to identify barriers that prevent some newcomers from accessing settlement services and to design new programs to ease the settlement process.
Wilkinson is a sociology professor and director of Immigration Research West, a research institute focusing on settlement and the integration of newcomers. She is also the editor of the Journal of International Migration and Integration.
To help others better understand issues of social justice and social inequality, particularly among newcomer and racialized minorities, she teaches related courses such as ethnic relations, Canadian society and culture, intergroup relations, immigration and refugee studies, along with research methods and social statistics.
How has the Canadian Museum for Human Rights evolved conceptually over time? And how does it compare to other museums dedicated to advancing social justice and human rights?
In The Idea of a Human Rights Museum – the first independent book about the CMHR – Dr. Andrew Woolford and co-editors Prof. Karen Busby and Dr. Adam Muller present a collection of essays that address these questions and more.
Woolford is a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Manitoba and president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
In another project called Embodying Empathy, he and other academics work with residential school survivors to design, build and test the efficacy of new digital technologies for connecting people emotionally and intellectually to residential school history.
Woolford is also working on a project called Commemorating Assiniboia, which involves survivors in remembrance and historical analysis of Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Indian Residential School.
Woolford has published extensively in the areas of genocide studies and settler colonialism. He wrote This Benevolent Experiment: Indigenous Boarding Schools, Genocide and Redress in Canada and the United States, as well as The Politics of Restorative Justice: A Critical Introduction and Between Justice and Certainty: Treaty-Making in British Columbia. He co-wrote Informal Reckonings: Conflict Resolution in Mediation, Restorative Justice and Reparations and co-edited Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America.