Technologies of Sexuality: Vaccine Politics, Sexual Education, and the Relational Constructions of Complex Responsibilities

This research examines the persistent tensions surrounding vaccines, sexuality, and sexual health in contemporary society. In Ontario, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is administered in schools through school-vaccination programs, and requires parental consent. As part of formal health curriculum, teachers are tasked with educating students about this sexually transmitted infection and this vaccine. This research connects the micro-level practices surrounding parental vaccine decision-making, teaching sexual and health education, and girls’ own understanding of health, sex-ed, and this vaccine, with macro-politics of healthy citizenship, good parenting, and progressive sex-education.

This research is supported by a Doctoral Award from the Social Science & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as well two Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). This dissertation has three main foci: 

1. Mothers play a key role in making family heath decisions. Through what I call responsibility work, I investigate the ways mothers actually work to act in ways that they see as responsible. Doing this allows space to uncover the complex ways that mothers are more than just "responsible or not" in relation to their HPV vaccination decisions.

2. Against a background of controversy and debate, my research investigates social inequalities as they are challenged, managed, and maintained in secondary school sex-education classrooms. Based on ethnographic observation, this research problematizes the idea of “progressiveness” in comprehensive sex-education, and reveals the delicate work teachers do to enact progressiveness in their classrooms.

3.  Drawing on data from individual interviews with mothers and their daughters (aged 11-16), this paper accounts for the embeddedness of adolescent girls’ knowledge, understanding, and thoughts on health, sexual health, and the HPV vaccine. I show that girls prioritize their mothers’ narratives on vaccines as the guiding and dominant narratives in their own understanding and presentation of self around these topics. 


The Dynamics of Knowledge Production

In addition to my dissertation research, I have an interest in knowledge production in health and medical research which led to a publication titled, Erasing the Social From Social Science: The Intellectual Costs Of Boundary-Work And The Canadian Institute Of Health Research. This article is based on data collected during my Master's degree from the University of Victoria in 2011 under the supervision of Dr. William Carroll and Dr. Dorothy Smith. 

In a new research collaboration with Steve Hoffman and Sherri Klassen, we investigate the funding and subsequent publishing trajectories of Canadian health social science scholars as they navigate the politics of funding in Canada, while also producing new scholarship. Building off evidence that "undone science" is at play in the Canadian health funding context, we track the ways in which scholars 'reassemble" their science after funding decisions.

I have also recently published another article titled, "Towards a New Normal: Emergent Elites and Feminist Scholarship,” written as part of an invited ASA author-meets-critic dialogue with Neil Gross, Eleanor Townsley, and Peter Baehr on Stephen Turner’s new book American Sociology: From Pre-disciplinary to Post-Normal. This paper expands Turner’s conversation about the contributions of feminist sociology. I offer this critique to function as an entry point through which to contemplate what elite sociology is, and how it relates to feminist sociology. I argue that Turner under-explores the contributions of feminist sociology by reducing its contributions to advocacy-based scholarship. By placing feminist sociology in opposition to elite sociology, he simplifies the important discussion of elite sociology, and loses sight of feminist sociology’s theoretical and methodological strengths. 

Gender Research

I am involved in several other research projects such as a comparative project with Erik Schneiderhan and Anna Korteweg that has emerged out of an association with faculty at Columbia University in New York, investigating the social, structural, and institutional factors related to sexual violence and assault on university campuses in Canada. 

I also work with Hae Yeon Choo as part of her SSHRC funded research project titled, Cartographies of Gender: The Dynamics of Global Stratification in Gender-Related Refugee Case Law. As the lead research assistant on this project I designed, developed, and coded a qualitative database of gender-based refugee claims in Canada. During this project, I also acted as a research mentor to three undergraduate research assistants, two of whom won the University of Toronto's Dean's Excellence Awards for their work with this project.