Faculty Research

Alberta Climate Dialogue

Project Director: David Kahane

Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD) believes that well-designed citizen deliberations can shift the politics of climate change in Alberta, across Canada, and internationally. Our research and action in this university-community partnership will allow us to test theories, understand how to design citizen deliberation for maximum effect, and create tools to allow others to take these steps with us. Thousands of Albertans will take part in innovatively-structured public deliberations that build understanding about the scientific, economic, social, and individual aspects of climate change. Citizens will pool their diverse perspectives, weigh trade-offs and identify opportunities, decide on actions to take within communities, and make recommendations to municipal and provincial governments on climate change policy. ABCD's goal is to make a positive difference in how Albertans understand and respond to climate change, and to transform how Alberta municipalities and the provincial government engage citizens to solve tough environmental issues.

Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience in its Absence

Cressida Heyes

In 2011 Dr Heyes won a SSHRC research grant for her latest book project, now called Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience in its Absence. Taken together, its chapters invite the reader to think about the politics of experience from new vantage points: how can we think first-personally and systemically? How can things that happen that slip past us, scarcely recognizable as "experience" at all, be brought into political conversation? What makes an experience inarticulable or unintelligible, and how can it be redeemed? Working with the examples of our exhaustion in the face of a speeded up world, rape of unconscious victims, and childbirth, the book creates a novel method that sutures genealogy and phenomenology.


CodePink Alert! Transnational Feminist Peace Activism in the post 9/11 Period

Project Director: Siobhan Byrne

This project investigates the political and organizational challenges feminist anti-war activists face while fighting for peace in Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland. This research forms the basis for a new book under contract with UBC Press.

Comparative Provincial Election Project (CPEP)

Project Director: Dr. Jared Wesley, Adjunct Professor

The Comparative Provincial Election Project (CPEP) seizes an unprecedented opportunity to study the quality of democracy in all ten Canadian provinces. Fixed election dates have provided researchers with a natural laboratory for coordinated, relatively-controlled, and replicable comparison of provincial politics in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland & Labrador, British Columbia, and New Brunswick, as did writ-drops in Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. With a view to both understanding and helping Canadians to address the country's civic culture, the CPEP research team is assessing the depth of Canada's "democratic deficit" and explaining any differences across the Canadian provinces. Answers to these questions will provide valuable lessons for academics, officials, and citizens intent on increasing the level of political engagement and satisfaction across Canada. 

The Ethnic Penalty? The Life Course Experiences of Ethnic Minorities

Project Director: Reza Hasmath

This decade-long project consists of a series of studies that investigate ethnic minorities' experiences, from education to the labour market, notably in the Canadian, American, Australian, and Chinese contexts. The studies analyze the 'ethnic penalty' that emerges when looking at the relationship between educational and occupational attainment of ethnic minority members. While intuitively, overt discrimination insofar as one's physical appearance or linguistic abilities, and first generation migrant status, are often cited as prevailing reasons to explain the 'ethnic penalty', the project examines explanatory factors such as an individual's non-cognitive skills and social network, a firm's working culture, and a community's social trust . Further, the project considers the public policy implications of the broader research findings and the lessons learned for other multi-ethnic jurisdictions.

Gender, Peace and Power-sharing Practices in Political Transitions

Project Director: Siobhan Byrne

Working with Dr. Allison McCulloch, Dr. Byrne's project seeks to develop a feminist model of power-sharing. Through fieldwork research and collaborative workshops, they are bringing together lessons of ethnopolitical power-sharing from archetypal cases like Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina with the mandate of the international 'women, peace, and security' agenda. They hope to contribute new thinking to power-sharing design and practice in states experiencing conflict and political transition today, such as Afghanistan and Syria.

How Does the Experience and Behaviour of China Inform International Development Theories and Practices?

Project Director: Reza Hasmath

This project, supported by a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation research grant and a John Fell OUP Research Fund grant, examines the analytical query, what happens when Chinese NGOs that are born and socialized in such a domestic environment, are now "going out" to other jurisdictions with similar or varying political and economic regime types, and institutional environments? The evidence suggests that irrespective of regime types, Chinese NGOs are yet to make a substantial impact. In fact, domestic politics and regulatory frameworks in host nations have constrained Chinese development work and the involvement of Chinese NGOs. At present, the Chinese model of international development is one where temporary one-off projects are favoured; and, insofar as social organizations will play a role, they will be in the domain of government-organized NGOs rather than grassroot NGOs.

The Interactions between the Local State and Non-Governmental Organizations in China

Project Director: Reza Hasmath

This multi-year project, supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, analyzes the interactions between the local state and NGOs in China. In one study, it is argued that not only is the central state actively involved in the development of NGOs, but increasingly the successes of NGOs are determined by their interactions with the local state. Relatedly, in another study it is suggested that one of the main reasons why the local state and NGO may not collaborate is due to a lack of meaningful awareness of each other. In a third study, the potential for Chinese NGOs to develop a communities of practice is analyzed. Finally, in a fourth study it is educed that the characteristics and structures of NGOs in China are shaped by resource strategies developed in response to their ecology of opportunity. These characteristics and structures ultimately influence the construction and performance of citizenship in an authoritarian environment.

Policy Actors, Innovation and Institutional Change in China

Project Director: Reza Hasmath

This project, supported in part by a multi-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is coiled in a body of literature examining authoritarian, single-party bureaucracies that predict local officials would act as a rational bureaucrats and not engage in risky and uncertain policy experimentation. Yet, despite the uncertainty and risk, one can observe a great deal of policy innovation at the subnational level in China, including pilot programs to reform the household registration system, village- and township-level elections, and social welfare programs. The puzzle motivating this the project is thus, what causes local officials in China to do something new - create a new policy, launch a pilot, adopt an experimental policy - especially when innovation is uncertain and risky? An evolutionary approach is employed to analyze how the interaction of policy ideas, individual preferences, and existing institutions in China create incentives for local officials to act as policy entrepreneurs in an authoritarian system, in comparison to the relatively more researched liberal-democratic states.

The Unfinished Project of the Arab Spring: Why "Middle East Exceptionalism" is Still Wrong

Conference Chair: Motjaba Mahdavi

Four years after the recent revolutions/social movements (2011-12) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the region is caught between a number of rocks and many hard places. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the return of a military regime in Egypt, the breakout of proxy/civil war in Syria and Yemen, and the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity have largely replaced hope with despair, and excitement with resentment. Is the Middle East exceptionally immune to democratic movements, values and institutions?

This interdisciplinary international conference is an attempt to examine why and how the MENA region is not immune to democratic social movements. We propose that these revolutions were indicative of deep-rooted socio-cultural and structural transformations in contemporary MENA; they symbolized a popular quest for human dignity, social justice and freedom. The genie is out of the bottle and more progressive changes have yet to come. The contemporary social movements in MENA are open-ended and unfinished projects.