Sara Dorow, PhD, MA, BA

Professor, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept
Director, Faculty of Arts - Deans Office


Professor, Faculty of Arts - Sociology Dept
5-21 Tory (H.M.) Building
11211 Saskatchewan Drive NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H4

Director, Faculty of Arts - Deans Office


Area of Study / Keywords

Gender Work & Family Migration & Mobilities Race & Ethnicity Globalization Qualitative Methods


I received a PhD in Sociology and MA in East Asian Studies from the University of Minnesota. During my graduate career I also studied at Beijing University and UC-Berkeley. Since 2002 I have been at the University of Alberta, where I have served in a series of administrative positions: Founding Director of the Community Service-Learning program, and then Associate Chair (Graduate) and Chair in the Department of Sociology. I was honoured to receive the Distinguished Early Academic Career Award from the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations in 2009, and a Woman of the Year Award (with Susanne Luhmann, Nat Hurley, and Lois Harder) in 2019 for our work in establishing Intersections of Gender as a signature area of research excellence at the University of Alberta. 

When not researching, teaching, writing, or administering, I garden, bike, and aspire to paint.


I use qualitative methods to research socio-spatial aspects of mobility and migration, social reproduction (family, community, and labour), racialization, and gender. For about fifteen years, I have explored these issues within the context of Fort McMurray and the northern Alberta oil/tar sands. Publications include the article (co-authored with Sandrine Jean) "Managing Liminal Time in the Fly-in Fly-out Work Camp" in Human Relations, a special issue of Canadian Journal of Sociology on "Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo, and the Oil/Tar Sands: Revisiting the Sociology of ‘Community'," and the recent major public report Mobile Work and Mental Health. Prior to that, my research efforts were aimed at understanding practices and experiences in transnational adoption, with a focus on China. My book Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship (NYU Press, 2006) was the first book-length study of China-U.S. adoption and remains one of the most cited books in the field.

Much of my research on mobile work on the oil sands was conducted as part of On the Move: Employment-Related Geographical Mobility in the Canadian Context (2012-19), a seven-year SSHRC Partnership project based at Memorial University and led by Barb Neis, for which I was Alberta Team Lead. I have also been a co-investigator on two exciting projects at the University of Alberta: the KIAS-funded "Research at the Intersections of Gender" (with Susanne Luhmann, Nat Hurley, and Lois Harder) and the SSHRC-funded "Feminist Energy Futures", led by Sheena Wilson. As part of the latter, Arlene Oak and I are exploring how social and environmental sustainability intertwine in a community housing project in Edmonton. As part of my ongoing commitment to creative public knowledge mobilization, I have co-produced the online collections Alberta Stories and Mapping Life in Fort McMurray

These have led me to an exciting new endeavour collaborating with photographer Martin Weinhold. Building on his amazing Workspace Canada project, we are producing multimedia work-life narratives of a diverse range of working people across Canada.


I have taught a wide variety of courses at all levels, but my mainstays are Qualitative Methods (518 and now 418), Sociology of Family (Soc 271), and Globalization (Soc 369), along with a new topics seminar in Sociology of Childhood. Teaching is, for me, inseparable from the other two "pillars" of academic life -- research and service -- and from my own lifelong learning. The classroom is an exciting, significant, and sometimes (and importantly) uncertain place of interaction. I served as founding director of the Community Service-Learning Program at the University of Alberta, and have integrated service-learning into both undergraduate and graduate courses. 

I happily supervise graduate students pursuing a variety of topics related to migration/mobility, feminist political economy, identity, transnationalism, the social side of the oil economy, housing, and gender, race, and family.


SOC 402 - Topics in Sociology

Prerequisite: SOC 100 or consent of the instructor. Note: Consult the Department for any additional prerequisites. Course may be taken more than once if topic(s) vary.

SOC 418 - Qualitative Methods in Social Research

Further study of the design and evaluation of qualitative research strategies. Topics include participant observation, ethnomethodology, unobtrusive measures, and document analysis. Prerequisites: SOC 315 or consent of instructor.

Browse more courses taught by Sara Dorow

Featured Publications

Gendered Circuits of Care in the Mobility Regime of the Alberta Oil Sands

S. Dorow and S. Mandizadza

Gender, Place & Culture. 2018 August; 25 (8)

Putting Mobility Theory to Work: Conceptualizing Employment-Related Geographical Mobility

T. Cresswell, S. Dorow, & S. Roseman

Putting Mobility Theory to Work: Conceptualizing Employment-Related Geographical Mobility. 2016 September; 48 (9)

Sara Dorow, Sarah O'Shaughnessy

Canadian Journal of Sociology. 2013 January; 38 (2)

Sara Dorow

2006 January;