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.”
Elizabeth Comack has focused her research program over the last three decades 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—that are subject to the criminalization process. Her publications include eight books that address these themes. Presently, as a Co-Investigator on a SSHRC/CURA-sponsored project, she is engaged in interdisciplinary, community-based, collaborative research that is aimed at uncovering 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. For instance, one of the studies she is conducting (in collaboration with Nahanni Fontaine of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization) involves documenting the experiences that Aboriginal peoples have had in their encounters with the police.
Dr. Comack is a member of the interdisciplinary and inter-university Manitoba Research Alliance. She is presently involved in research collaborations with a number of Aboriginal and inner-city organizations (including the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Ogijita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (OPK), the Coalition of Community-Based Youth-Serving Agencies, the Native Women’s Transition Centre, Sage House, and the Spence Neighbourhood Association). In addition to serving on the board of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–Manitoba (CCPA–MB), she 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, The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.
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.
Laura Funk is an assistant sociology professor at the University of Manitoba and a recipient of the Centre on Aging's 2012-2013 research fellowship.
Funk's research addresses issues of support, caregiving and responsibility across the life course. This includes aspects of the sociology of health, aging, and family, as well as the social determinants of health, including social support and care work. She examines the responsibility for health and care in various sites such as long-term care and family caregiving. Her current focus is on family care provided to older, chronically and terminally ill individuals, understood within broader social, cultural and structural contexts.
Funk earned her degrees at the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia and 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. She also serves as the book review editor for the Canadian Journal on Aging.
Mark Hudson is engaged in research on the “fair trade” system, which aims to reduce the systemic social injustices of contemporary forms of commodity production and exchange. He is also researching issues of procedural justice in the formation of environmental governance systems at the transnational level by examining patterns of inclusion and exclusion in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) as well as the distribution of environmental and economic costs and benefits arising from MEAs. This latter work contributes to the broad field of environmental justice—an area deeply connected to human rights.
Rod Kueneman has devoted his research career to the analysis of the flaws in social institutional arrangements which cause systemic and structurally generated harm for human beings living within them. His current efforts are directed at locating living community demonstrations of social arrangements that promote the well being of all its members. Understood in a human rights frame, he argues that it is, for example, a human right to an adequate supply of healthy food. The privatization and commoditization of food is a violation of a fundamental human need and right; when a community or nation codifies the rights of some groups to the harm other groups it is an example of a structurally induced, systemic failure to meet a fundamental human right. Part of his work is also directed at what human beings do not have right to do because of their ecological consequences. Human rights must be understood not only in reference to the rights of other human beings but in relation to the rights and needs of other members of the larger community of life of which humans are only a member species. Rod is currently working on an introductory sociology textbook that will systematically analyze contemporary social arrangements in order to point out their deficiencies and to direct our gaze at exemplary practices around the world that enhance our sociological imagination and our collective capacity to promote social justice and basic human rights and a sustainable relationship with the rest of the community of life on this planet.
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.
Tracey Peter is working in collaboration with Dr. Catherine Taylor (UW) on the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. This project has a core social justice and human rights component. Peter and Taylor have also applied, along with Donn Short from the Faculty of Law, for a SSHRC grant to conduct a similar quantitative and qualitative analysis of Canadian teachers. In addition, her work on suicide prevention and mental health promotion takes the position that positive mental health is a human rights issue, which needs to be embedded within a broader focus of social determinants of health. Finally, the work that she has been doing with Lance Roberts and Jason Edgerton on the sociology of education addresses structural inequalities within Canada as well as internationally, which has a strong social justice component.
Chris Powell focuses his research program on three intertwined threads of inquiry. The first is a historical sociology of genocide, focusing on the ways in which genocide has resulted from the expansion of Western civilization, overtly through imperialist conquest, and latently through the non-intentional structural consequences of state-formation. The second is a meta-theoretical examination of concepts of social structure, especially complex system theory and relational sociology. The third is a critical sociology of knowledge that traces out how truths are socially established through power struggles. By joining these three inquiries together, he investigates the fate of cultural difference in a globalizing world. Will the extinction of indigenous peoples and other ‘traditional’ cultures continue apace? Or can the emerging global society be made to guarantee a right to collective difference?
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.
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 ""FemNorthNet: Learning From Women's Experiences Of Community Transformations as a Result of Economic Restructuring" (a CURA-funded project, 2010 - 2015), and ""Advancing Work-Family Reconciliation: Framing Gender And Generational Justice Across Canadian and European Social Movements and Policy." (SSHRC-funded, 2010 - 2013).
For the past three years one strand of Lance Robert’s research programme has been to investigate the inequality of school conditions and their impact on effective teaching and learning. The results of these inquiries reveal that school facilities have both a direct and mediated impacts on student outcomes. The direct impacts are related to the effects of deficiencies in acoustics, thermal comfort, lighting, and indoor air quality on student performance. The larger, mediated impact of facilities concerns their effects on the quality of teaching and learning environments. Poorer school facilities affect student and teacher morale and commitment, as well as a variety of other factors affecting achievement. The inequities in school facilities are connected to the perpetuation of social injustice, since the quality of school conditions are connected to the class background of students. As both academic and non-academic audiences are interested in this work, Lance has written both pure and applied research papers on this topic, which have been published in both academic and trade journals. In addition, he has made a dozen presentations related to this research agenda to a diverse set of audiences—ranging from senior government bureaucrats (Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Alberta), through school officials (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia) to academic researchers in both Canada and the United States.
Professor Roberts was recently appointed a Collaborating Scholar of the National Center for the Twenty-first Century Schoolhouse, San Diego State University. The National Center is a prestigious institute that serves as a source of ideas on school design and educational programming for U.S. educators, policy makers, and design professionals
Russell Smandych is one of the co-organizers of the University of Manitoba Institute for Humanities “Law and Society Research Cluster.” This interdisciplinary and inter-faculty cluster is focusing on the theme of "Law and Human Rights" this year. Dr. Smandych also 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.
Wayne Taylor has investigated the transition from an explicitly racist immigration policy to a class-based policy. He has also investigated sexual harassment in Australia and Canada.
Jane Ursel is the Director of RESOLVE. For the greater part of her academic career she has administered this tri-provincial research centre on interpersonal violence with centres at the Universities of Manitoba, Regina and Calgary. Their material covers 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. Their research has been conducted in partnership with community agencies and policy makers. They have maintained that the most fundamental human right is for people to be safe from violence and abuse in their own home and among their intimate relationships.
RESOLVE works in conjunction with faculties of nursing, law, social work, education and many social science departments in Arts, as well as with government officials and program staff in a many social service agencies. Annually the centre employs between 15 and 25 undergraduate and graduate students at the U of M and an equal number at the Universities of Regina and Calgary. They attract approximately a quarter of a million dollars a year at the U of M site alone. Their projects range from local, to regional to national and international. In addition to student research assistants the centre employs a research associate and has had a post doctoral student for the past two years. In previous years Aboriginal community people have held research internships
Lori Wilkinson has an active research program in the area of social justice and social inequality, particularly among newcomers and racialized minorities. In addition to a number of book chapters and journal articles on this subject, she has received conference funding for the 19th Biennial Conference for Canadian Ethnic Studies, the theme of which was Ethnicity, Civil Society & Public Policy: Engaging Cultures in a Globalizing World. She was the Principal Investigator on the first grant ever awarded by the Glyn Berry Global Peace and Security Fund, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada ($23,600) and a Co-Applicant for an award provided by Canadian International Development Agency ($25,000).
Professor Wilkinson is involved in collaborative research involving immigrant and refugee communities nationwide. She presently holds the position of Economic and Labour Market Domain Leader for the Metropolis Project.
The entirety of Andrew Woolford’s research can by located under the themes of human rights and social justice. With respect to the former, he has an ongoing interest in genocide studies, which is reflected in his membership in the International Association of Genocide Scholars, his participation in a number of workshops and edited volumes on this topic, and in the graduate seminars and undergrad courses he has taught on the topic of “Crime, Genocide, and Society.” In particular, he has addressed four key topics in this field of research: 1) His work on the question of whether or not Canadian Aboriginal peoples were victims of genocide. 2) He has written on the place of criminology in the field of genocide studies, drawing attention to the need for critical criminological reflexivity based upon the role criminalizing discourses have played in previous genocides. 3) He has undertaken, with R.S. Ratner (Emeritus, UBC), a broad comparative study of post-genocide reparative and transitional justice practices. 4) He has examined the “art of impression management” in the Ghetto Theresienstadt.
With respect to the area of Social Justice, Andrew has two major research interests: 1) His work on restorative justice, and conflict resolution more broadly, is inspired by the social justice potential of these alternatives to formal conflict resolution mechanisms. 2) His most recent SSHRC-sponsored project on neoliberalism and social regulation in the inner city examines the extent to which the neoliberal policy shift has affected the rights and social justice opportunities of marginalized inner city residents.
Professor Woolford is the President of the Board of the John Howard Society of Manitoba.