Gender Work & Family Race & Ethnicity Globalization Oil Economy Migration & Mobilities
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: founder and 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 the last decade, I have explored these issues within the context of Fort McMurray and the northern Alberta oil/tar sands. Publications include (with Shingirai Mandizadza) "Gendered Circuits of Care in the Mobility Regime of Alberta's Oil Sands" in Gender, Place, & Culture and and a special issue of Canadian Journal of Sociology on "Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo, and the Oil/Tar Sands: Revisiting the Sociology of ‘Community'". 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.
With community partner Val O'Leary (CISM-Fort McMurray) I am currently working on "Mobile Work and Mental Health" (2019-20), a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant that is the first study of mental health experiences of fly-in fly-out workers. This mixed method project is an offshoot 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 am also 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. Among a number of public knowledge mobilization projects, I have co-produced the online collections Alberta Stories and Mapping Life in Fort McMurray.
I have taught a wide variety of courses at all levels, but my mainstays are the graduate Qualitative Methods seminar (Soc 518), Sociology of Family (Soc 271), and Globalization (Soc 369). 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, and gender, race, and family.