Professor George Pavlich named Henry Marshall Tory Chair

Expert in sociology of law recognized for outstanding contributions to UAlberta

Sarah Kent - 14 August 2020

Professor George Pavlich of the Faculties of Law and Arts has been named a Henry Marshall Tory Chair in recognition of his outstanding research and contributions to the university.

The Tory Chair commemorates the first president of UAlberta and honours individuals who enhance the university’s reputation with their scholarship, leadership, teaching and community work.

“I am honoured to be named a Henry Marshall Tory Chair and feel especially so in light of Dr. Tory’s quest to champion the academic and public life of the University of Alberta for all people of this province and beyond,” he says.

Pavlich, who just completed his term as the Canada Research Chair in Social Theory, Culture and Law, is an international leader in the field of socio-legal studies. Using historical analysis and social theory, his interdisciplinary research examines processes of criminalization, starting with criminal accusations.

During his five-year term as Tory Chair, Pavlich will trace the history of how particular social categories have created inequality in the Canadian criminal justice system. His research will explore how popular or common conceptions of criminality have historically targeted and marginalized some people more than others.

“By focusing on how individuals are initially captured by law's criminalizing processes (through accusations of crime), my work raises the prospect of limiting entryways to criminal justice institutions and responding to destructive social harm by attending to the collective relations from which it emerges,” says Pavlich.

As the principal investigator on a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Pavlich explores social, cultural and political changes in the nineteenth century North West Territories (Alberta) that determined how people were deemed “criminals” and admitted to colonial criminal justice systems.

“Governing Entry To Criminal Justice in Canada and Britain since 1870,” uses rare archival material to “reveal how Indigenous legal systems were displaced as Dominion criminal law facilitated colonial settlement.”

While he uses historical case studies, Pavlich’s research has significant implications for understanding contemporary criminal justice practices, particularly the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the prison system.

“This research shows how decolonized approaches might embrace legal pluralism and seek other ways to define and govern harmful social actions.”