Category Archives: news

Andrea Muehlebach Awarded JHI Fellowship

Photo of Andrea Muehlebach
Prof. Andrea Muehlebach

Prof. Andrea Muehlebach has been awarded a six-month fellowship for 2017-18 from the Jackman Humanities Institute at U of T, one of only six awarded in a very competitive application pool.  Her successful project is titled Property, Right, or Commons? On the Water Insurgency in Europe. Learn more about this project below, and visit t to read about the other fellowship recipients.

Andrea Muehlebach, Department of Anthropology (UTM)
Andrea Muehlebach (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2007) is Associate Professor of Anthropology. She is the author of The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Contemporary Italy (University of Chicago Press) and has published articles in the American Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology, Public Culture, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. Her current work focuses on water and the new political ethics that are emerging around this highly contested resource in Europe. She is on the Editorial Board of Quaderni di Teoria Sociale and Etnofoor.

Property, Right, or Commons? On the Water Insurgency in Europe

My project is a historical-ethnographic exploration of how water has become a vehicle through which Europeans have not only challenged the privatization, commodification, and financialization of water but also proposed new models for the collective care of this precious resource. Having recently completed twelve months of ethnographic research on water insurgencies in Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland, I will be writing a monograph that investigates how water has become a vehicle for Europeans to pursue designs for a better life, all within a context of a Europe reeling from the effects of austerity and a growing democratic deficit. I hope to make two contributions: First, to show that water has become one of the most effective vehicles through which people are pursuing novel projects in law and democracy-making; and second, to demonstrate that water has become an important vehicle through which people have formulated very diverse popular critiques of privatization, financialization, and austerity. I thus respond to a challenge posed by Ben Orlove and Steve Caton, who recently asked what it means to call water a commodity or a right, especially in contexts where these concepts are “highly contested or do not hold sway.” How then can we look to water as a vehicle for novel forms of political practice and social imagination?

Heather Miller Appointed Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning at UTM

Photo of Prof. Heather Miller
Prof. Heather Miller has been appointed Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning at UTM

Congratulations to Prof. Heather Miller! Effective January 1, 2017, she will be taking on a new role at UTM as the Vice-Dean of Teaching and Learning. She will serve in that position until June 30, 2018. Prof. Miller is currently the Chair of Anthropology at UTM and we wish her great success in her new administrative appointment! Here’s what the UTM Vice-Principal Academic and Dean had to say about Prof. Miller in the formal announcement:

Heather Miller has an admirable reputation as an outstanding teacher with a strong commitment to undergraduate education and an exemplary record of service within the University, serving on governance bodies, acting as graduate coordinator for the tri-campus graduate department, as well as various other committees.  Professor Miller has the capacity to work well with colleagues across the university and insight into both undergraduate and graduate teaching.  Her administrative abilities and collegial and consultative approach will serve the university well.

Bonnie McElhinny Wins Larkin Award

Anthropology professor Bonnie McElhinny with her students.
Anthropology professor Bonnie McElhinny with her students. Photo by Diana Tyszko.

Dr. Bonnie McElhinny has been selected for the June Larkin Award for Pedagogical Development for 2017-18 for her project “Something in the Water: Watershed Pedagogies and Teachings about Water in Toronto”. This award recognizes past achievements, and provides for course release to continue to develop innovative pedagogies, and educational technologies in classroom, community and field settings on these topics for 2017-18.

This award honours Dr. June Larkin, an award-winning teacher recognized for her excellence in teaching, educational leadership and community-university connections. Larkin’s book Sexual Harassment: High School Girls Speak Out is cited on the list of the most important 80 books for 21st Century Girls. She is the founding director of Equity Studies at New College. She has headed up curriculum initiatives that include expanding local and international servicing learning programs, developing writing programs, a global food equity initiative with local groups, and a New Media Project that provides instructors with the training to teach students in the multi-modal arguments new media require. Through her community-based research program, the Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) project, Dr. Larkin creates opportunities for students to work with youth, community workers, research and policy makers on youth, sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Dr. Larkin’s overall goal is to produce socially engaged citizens who can apply their academic knowledge to real-life situations for social justice ends.

Excerpt from Dr. McElhinny’s Project Description: “Something in the Water.”

There must be something in the water is used to talk about the emergence of a musical scene, or a social movement. It also marks forms of water contamination. This week, some of the key headlines in the global, national, provincial and local news were about water-related conflicts. There was a massive police crack-down on pipeline protesters, most of them indigenous, at Standing Rock. The Labrador government conceded that the flooding of a dam would be delayed, until Innu and Inuit concerns about the creation of methyl mercury were addressed. The Ontario government agreed to a two-year moratorium on water extraction, in light of massive public protests over Nestle. The City of Toronto hosted a public forum on indigenizing public space in Toronto at OISE, with a key focus on rivers, land features, and Lake Ontario.

What are the best ways for universities to educate students and publics about these issues? In Voices of the Watershed, Lavigne and Gates (2000:212) argue that the most pressing challenge for building a watershed movement for restoration and healing is not more environmental studies, but increasing public understanding of rivers and lakes, enhancing ecological literacy, recruiting and empowering leaders, building citizenship organizations, and linking up water activists so they can work together for a common goal. These goals are those that universities are uniquely positioned to support, as we can learn from community partners facing the same challenges. One strategy that has been developed for such education, within and beyond classrooms, is called place-based education (debates on this term are detailed more fully below)…..Some argue for a place-based approach argues that students learn to think differently through reinhabitation, which requires a series of practices for engaging students outside classrooms (Gruenwald and Smith 2008). However, place-based approaches have been critiqued for failing to take into account indigenous understandings of territory (see e.g. Tuck, McKenzie and McCoy 2014). Some call, therefore, for a feminist, decolonial place-based pedagogy (Somerville 2008, Someville et al 2011) or a land-based pedagogy (Tuck et al 2016)….. With this proposal, I request a half-course release in order to deep and broaden conversations on decolonial place-based pedagogies, with a focus on water, amongst faculty, staff and students and with the many water-based activists in the GTA.

Gillian Gillison Wins 2016 AAS Article Prize for Oceania Article

Congratulations to Prof. Gillian Gillison for receiving the 2016 AAS (Australian Anthropological Society) Article Prize in recognition of her article ‘Whatever Happened to the Mother? A New Look at the Old Problem of the Mother’s Brother in Three New Guinea Societies: Gimi, Daribi, and Iatmul’. A panel of three independent anthropologists judged this article to be the best among many strong submissions in terms of theoretical sophistication, ethnographic depth, quality of writing and originality. Prof. Gillison will be awarded the prize at the Anthropocene Transitions AAS Conference December 12-15, 2016 at the University of Sydney.

Kristin Bright Helps Design Breast Cancer Information Tool

Photo of Kristin Bright
Kristin Bright, assistant professor, teaching stream, at U of T’s Department of Anthropology. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

The following article was posted on Arts & Science News and can also be read at

Breast cancer “decision tree” helps women navigate treatment options

“There is no other tool like this anywhere in North America”

A free information tool largely designed by breast cancer survivors and a University of Toronto medical anthropologist is now available online to explain treatment options for the most common form of cancer in women.

Breast cancer “decision trees” that map out the treatment options for every form of the disease are a key feature of the Be The Choice website, which also includes plain language explanations of medical terminology and the various types of the cancer.

“There is no other tool like this anywhere in North America,” says Kristin Bright, assistant professor, teaching stream, at U of T’s Department of Anthropology.

“Everything from the language and graphics to the colours and fonts is informed by patients and survivors.”

Helping patients understand their disease and consider their options

Screengrab of website
The website also includes plain language explanations of medical terminology and the various types of the cancer.

With many patients facing surgical treatment within a few weeks of diagnosis, the site is meant to help them understand their disease and consider their options.

“A lot of people leave their doctor’s office feeling they either got too much information or too little, and they’ve heard medical terms that haven’t been explained,” says Bright, who was at the New York University School of Medicine and Perlmutter Cancer Center before joining U of T.

“When they go into the decision tree, they’ll see a short description, and then they can choose to read more. It’s sort of an iterative design, so you’re not getting too much information at once.”

While the type of breast cancer may dictate certain procedures that must be followed quickly, there will also be decisions the patient has to make, notes Bright.

These include choosing radiation or chemo treatment before or after surgery, and whether to have immediate breast reconstruction or to wait until later.

Designed to empower and spread cancer health literacy

The tool is not intended to be used in isolation but to empower the patient to discuss the information and options with their care providers. Bright says the designers anticipate that at the very least, the site will reduce anxiety and improve communication.

It’s also an important education tool for spreading cancer health literacy.

“In a very diverse population like Toronto, that’s important, because people might have pre-existing ideas or concepts of what a tumor might be.”

Bright recalls a patient she interviewed while in New York who was from Haiti. The woman put off surgery for two years because, like many in her community, she thought the lump in her breast was caused by menopausal blood that would dissipate.

The site is accessible on any browser or mobile device and is still in the testing phase. Bright and a team of advisors and clinicians have been working on the site for two years, and they hope to gather more feedback from visitors that they can incorporate prior to its official launch in June 2017.

The text is written in Eighth Grade English, and it will be translated for a French-language mirror site before the official launch.

Site to grow and develop

As the site grows and develops over time, the designers hope to add information about post-treatment care, survivorship resources, and complementary and alternative care, such as acupuncture, massage and meditation.

Bright also harbours ambitions the site could eventually contribute to existing patient advocacy movements to improve care in underserved areas by raising awareness.

Start-up funding has come from a grant from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). That money will take them through the launch next year, and then they will be looking for additional funders.

“We’re hoping to spread the word so that people can see that this is often a manageable disease, and there is life after breast cancer,” says Bright.

“I also hope that this tool will help people understand they need to continue monitoring their health, even after treatment.”

Anna-Louise Crago Receives Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case

photo of Anna-Louise Crago
Anna-Louise Crago

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Anna Louise-Crago! She is one of six recipients of the 2016 Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case, which honours Canadians who advance gender equality. Anna-Louise was chosen because of her two decades of work as a human rights advocate, social service-provider and researcher alongside, and as part of, sex worker and street-involved communities. Learn more about the other recipients at

Below is more on why Anna-Louise is so deserving of this award!


Anna-Louise Crago is dedicated to following an inclusive path toward building gender equality, with courage and integrity, in Canada and abroad. Currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, she brings her lived experience in sex work to her studies in anthropology and ground-breaking human-rights initiatives. For two decades, she has been a human rights advocate, social service-provider and researcher alongside, and as part of, sex worker and street-involved communities. At Stella, Montréal’s centre for and by sex workers, Ms. Crago served as coordinator of health and social services. Along with her colleagues at Stella, she was co-recipient of the AIDS Action Award in 2006, given by Human Rights Watch. Ms. Crago has worked with sex workers in over 25 countries in many regions to document the human rights violations they face. She was lead author of a report on violence against sex workers by state-actors in Central Eastern Europe and Central Asia that Human Rights Watch called “ground breaking research” that should serve as a “catalyst to the human rights community.” In 2013, she received the prestigious Trudeau Doctoral Scholar Award from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, to pursue research on sex workers’ experience during armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms. Crago has been influential in advancing policies on a global level that are key in changing country-level approaches to the HIV epidemic to include thousands of sex workers in access to prevention and treatment while addressing violence against sex workers and the harms of criminalization.

Susan Pfeiffer to Receive J. Norman Emerson Silver Medal

Photo of Prof. Susan PfeifferCongratulations to Prof. Susan Pfeiffer! On November 5 she was the first woman to ever be presented with the J. Norman Emerson Silver Medal at the OAS Annual Awards Banquet. The J. Norman Emerson Silver Medal is awarded on occasion to an outstanding Ontario non-professional archaeologist whose life’s work has been consistently of the highest standard, who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of Ontario archaeology and who has earned acclaim for excellence and achievement.

2016-17 Development Seminar Series

Click here to view the Development Seminar Series poster for the 2016-17 academic year.

Upcoming events are also listed below.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Prof. Tania Li (Anthropology, U of T)
After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the mafia system in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zone
Development Seminar co-sponsored by  the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies and the  Munk School of Global Affairs.
12:00-2:00pm, AP 246, 19 Russell St. Register here.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Profs. Nancy Cook and David Butz (Sociology & Geography, Brock University)
Development Seminar, 12:00-2:00pm, AP 246, 19 Russell St. Register here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Prof. Joshua Barker (Anthropology, U of T)
Development Seminar, 12:00-2:00pm, AP 246, 19 Russell St. Register here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Prof. Marion Traub-Werner (Geography, University of Buffalo)
Development Seminar co-sponsored by Geography Intersection Series
3:00-5:00pm, SS2125, 100 St. George St. Register here.

Friday, February, 10, 2017

Prof. Alison Mountz (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Development Seminar co-sponsored by Geography Intersection Series
3:00-5:00pm, SS2125, 100 St. George St. Register here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Prof. Emily Yeh (Geography, University of Colorado)
Development Seminar, 3:00-5:00pm, SS 5017A, 100 St. George St. Register here.

Friday, March 17, 2016

Prof. Kanta Murali (Political Science, University of Toronto)
Development Seminar, 12:00-2:00pm, Location TBA

Friday, March 31, 2017

Prof. Nancy Peluso (UC Berkeley)
Development Seminar co-sponsored by Centre for Southeast Asian Studies,
Munk School of Global Affairs
12:30-2:30pm, AP 246, 19 Russell St. Register here.

Prof. Naisargi Dave Named to Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists

The following U of T News article by Jennifer Robinson is also available at

Top emerging U of T scholars joining Royal Society of Canada’s new college

A physical therapist involved in treating children with disabilities and an anthropologist studying animal activism may not seem to have much in common.

But at the heart of their research is a desire to change perceptions, to deepen discourse and disrupt or expand outmoded ways of thinking.

Today, physical therapist and bioethicist Barbara Gibson and anthropologist Naisargi Dave were among six U of T scholars named by the Royal Society of Canada as members of its College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. See the full list of recipients below.

In 2014, the society decided it needed to create a special college to recognize and foster scholarly leadership and interdisciplinary collaboration among Canada’s “new” generation of scholars, artists and scientists who’ve received their PhD within the last 15 years.

“It means a lot to be a part of it,” said Dave, who is hoping to finish writing her second book this academic year. “I was especially honoured that my senior colleagues sought fit to nominate me for this award.”

“I’m really excited about it. It’s a great honour,” added Gibson.

“The Royal Society of Canada is to be commended for their decision to recognize and support the work of Canada’s emerging scholars,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation. “We’re extremely proud of U of T’s newest members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and look forward to seeing new collaborations and more exciting work from them as a result.”

Since publishing a book on queer activism in India, Dave (left, photo by Wan Park) has turned her attentions to animal-human relationships in the second most populous country in the world. Her research is challenging the commonly held notion that only upper class Westerners are concerned with animal welfare.

She’s also exploring how clashes between what are seen as normative actions (which value consistency and placing issues in context as “good”) and non-normative actions (contradictions) play out in the animal rights activism sphere.

An example, she said, is how a vegetarian or vegan is often questioned about the contradictions in their conduct, e.g. not eating animals but wearing leather shoes. But “normative values rarely need to account for or explain themselves.”

In Gibson’s case, she’s pushing rehabilitation to expand its thinking beyond the confines of biomedicine to include newer areas of research that see disability less as a medical problem to solve and more of a social problem to tackle, e.g., I am disabled by my society, not by my body.

“Rehabilitation is kind of oblivious to this… What I’m interested in is how do we think, talk and add this to the discussion on everyday practice in rehabilitation?” said Gibson, a U of T associate professor and senior scientist at Bloorview Research Institute at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital where she directs the Critical Disability and Rehabilitation Studies unit.

Medical professionals can now predict with fairly good accuracy the likelihood of an individual child with cerebral palsy learning how to walk. “But parents are very hopeful and we don’t want to destroy that hope,” she said, even when the odds are not in their children’s favour.

As part of her research, Gibson has interviewed young people with cerebral palsy, aged eight to 19, to hear first-hand how they view their experiences in rehabilitation.

Some recall the time spent with their physical therapists as positive, such as using video games to encourage them to develop the use of their “bad” arm. While other “children are resentful” when they look back, she explained. Time in rehabilitation was painful and took time away from being in class and playing with friends. In some cases, they didn’t mind being in a wheelchair.

“I’m not saying don’t do it [rehabilitation],” Gibson said. “What I’m trying to do is encourage clinicians to think about treatment more broadly and have these conversations with parents and kids.”

The six 2016 U of T members of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists are:

Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

  • Hani Naguib, department of mechanical and industrial engineering

Faculty of Arts & Science

  • Naisargi Dave, department of anthropology
  • Stephen I. Wright, department of ecology and evolutionary biology

Faculty of Medicine

  • Barbara Gibson, department of physical therapy and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Wolfgang Kuebler, department of surgery and St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Sharon Elizabeth Straus, department of medicine and St. Michael’s Hospital