Faculty of Arts researchers among beneficiaries of SSHRC funding

York researchers in the Faculty of Arts were awarded a total of $1,307,354 in Standard Research Grant (SRG) funding from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for 2008. Their research will expand our understanding of numerous real-world issues, among them: shedding new light on international labour standards and labour laws; examining China’s historical experience at the turn of the 20th century through the prism of the contemporary popular press; to educating young people in Guyana about safe sex.

The SRG program supports research and develops excellence in research activities in the social sciences and humanities. Close to 38 per cent of York Faculty of Arts applicants received awards, exceeding the national average success rate of 33.1 per cent. Overall, 71 per cent of Faculty of Arts applications received a high enough score from the judging committee either to be funded or deemed worthy of funding by their peers. 

York social science and women’s studies Professor Linda Peake (right) is one of the researchers who received an SRG award. Her project, "Negotiating Sexualities: A Study of Youth and Development in Guyana", examines the changing nature of youth and sexuality in Guyana, a country in which she has spent more than 20 years doing research. Guyana has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Caribbean region and has a high level of teenage pregnancy and family violence. Peake hopes the information she gathers will be used by community groups and policy-makers to stop the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the region and to affect policy in relation to the disease. “This SSHRC grant is absolutely essential,” says Peake.

York humanities Professor Joan Judge (left) also received an SRG for her project. "A New Approach to the Popular Press in China: Gender and Cultural Production, 1904-37" looks at a number of different Chinese women’s journals issued between 1904 and 1937, analyzing cultural practices of the time. Judge focuses on the development of gender relations at a time when formal, female education was officially sanctioned, foot-binding was phased out and women’s public roles were dramatically expanded. Judge’s project examines how China has been, and continues to be, shaped by conflicting definitions of proper female behaviour. She hopes to develop greater insight into the process of modernity in China, a nation gaining increasing global significance. “We will become an extraordinarily impoverished society if we do not recognize the importance of research. Research is important for our own understanding of other societies in an increasingly global world,” says Judge.

Another SRG award winner is sociology Professor Mark Thomas (right) whose project, "From Labour Rights to Human Rights: Emerging Approaches to Labour Standards in the Global Economy", examines how international institutions, labour organizations and labour rights NGOs define labour rights and promote international labour standards. Due to factors associated with globalization, there are widespread risks of a downward pressure on labour standards and basic rights at work such as freedom of association, says Thomas. These pressures have also produced new approaches to regulate labour standards transnationally. Thomas’ project examines economic, political and social factors that shape the regulation of labour standards on a global scale and explores the implications of these processes for the everyday worker. “We often talk about the global economy in terms of productivity or economic growth. But the issue of workers’ rights also needs to be addressed. I think it doesn’t get the attention that it needs,” says Thomas.

"The competition for SSHRC funding is fierce, and the Faculty’s success is a testament to the excellence of our researchers," says Heather Campbell, associate dean, research, Faculty of Arts. "These grants not only enable cutting-edge work; they also enhance our reputation as a renowned research-focused faculty."

Other award-winning SRG projects from the Faculty of Arts include a range of topics from transexualism and gender self-identity, to reclaiming early memories of radio in the lives of everyday Canadians and examining the role that radio played in the homes and lives of ordinary Canadians.