Blog


The Work of Collaboration in a Decentralized Postsecondary Institution

posted Mar 9, 2017, 6:11 AM by A Rodney

My latest post for the Innovation Hub, with OISE's Denise Bentum and the Career Centre's Kate Bowers, describes the work we've been doing with the Organizational Learning team. It begins with: 

As mentioned in our last post, the Innovation Hub’s Organizational Learning team has been interviewing faculty and Student Life staff at the University of Toronto to learn about their experiences working with students and with each other. We have been exploring the topics of collaboration and student support, in line with a design-thinking approach, by trying to understand these things from the perspective of staff and faculty. Our goal has been to elicit stories of successful and challenging experiences supporting students and collaborating across the university’s many divisions and departments. We have analysed these stories in order to understand how to meet the needs of both students and frontline workers at the university, and to learn about what they value during intra-institutional collaborations and interactions.

Read the full post here

From Research to Design

posted Mar 9, 2017, 6:06 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Mar 9, 2017, 6:12 AM ]

As the co-lead of the Design Operations team at the University of Toronto's Innovation Hub, I have been a part of shifting how we think the work of gathering insights from students. Instead of "researching" students, we are "designing" with and for students. Read more about this process, and learn about six insights we identified regarding students' needs and values, in my post over at the Innovation Hub's blog.  

What is Design Thinking?

posted Dec 3, 2016, 12:48 PM by A Rodney

My latest post for the Innovation Hub unpacks the methodological approach we are using in order to gather information about the student experience at the University of Toronto. It begins: 

In September I introduced you to the Innovation Hub project and explained how we are working on developing innovative solutions to improve the student experience at the University of Toronto. In this post I’ll describe the method we are using to innovate. At the Innovation Hub we are using a “design thinking” approach.

Read the full post here

Ecosystem Mapping

posted Dec 3, 2016, 12:45 PM by A Rodney

My latest post for the Innovation Hub's blog summarizes an exercise we created in order to map the existing programs and services available for students at the University of Toronto. It begins: 

During the October Innovation Hours we asked students, staff and faculty to help us create a map of the University of Toronto ecosystem as it relates to our five domains of innovationEcosystem mapping is an exercise designed to discover all of the resources an organization has at their disposal including people, programs, services, members and their relation to each other in both digital and physical realms.

Read the full post here

What is an Innovation Hub?

posted Sep 27, 2016, 2:00 PM by A Rodney   [ updated Sep 27, 2016, 2:01 PM ]

I'm doing some work on the Operations Team at the Innovation Hub, a project run by the Division of Student Life at the University of Toronto. Whether you're new to social innovation work or are familiar with the buzz around innovation in higher education, you may be asking yourself "what is an innovation hub?". Find out the answer to this in my latest blog for the Innovation hub here.  

Totem Vodka and Indigenous Cultural Appropriation

posted Aug 24, 2016, 11:28 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Sep 27, 2016, 2:01 PM ]

Cultural appropriation generally refers to the adoption of traditional practices, objects, or images by a person or group that is not part of the originating culture. Cultural appropriation can become problematic when it is done without permission, serves to benefit the dominant group, and erases or further marginalizes the oppressed group. In this way, cultural appropriation can recreate larger structures of inequality.

On a recent stroll through a duty-free shop, I was introduced to one of these problematic examples in the form of a new Canadian product named “Totem Vodka,” packaged in a bottle resembling a totem pole. Totem Vodka is not a product of Indigenous entrepreneurship. Read about why this is a form of problematic cultural appropriation on my Sociological Images post here

Special Focus on the Settlement of Syrian Refugees

posted Dec 9, 2015, 8:40 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Jul 6, 2016, 7:23 AM ]

On December 9th, as a member of the Upper Beaches Lifeline Syria sponsorship group, I participated in the 3rd of 3 webinars about refugee issues put on by Yosief Araya (the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program Coordinator for CatholicCrosscultural Servicestitled "Special Focus on the Settlement of Syrian Refugees”.  This was a fairly short session and here are some highlights. (A summary of the first two webinars can be found here and here.)

Syrian refugees in other countries at present:

2 million + in Turkey

1 million + in Lebanon

600,000 in Jordan

250,000 in Iraq

127,000 in Egypt

Refugees being resettled to Canada are mainly coming from: Lebanon, Jordan

For refugees who are privately sponsored, their date of arrival depends on when the application was submitted.

How Syrian refugees are resettled to Canada

1.    Around 8000 refugees are being resulted through private sponsorships (PSRs), either through sponsorship agreement holders (SAHs), Groups of Five (G5s) or community sponsors (this includes family-linked cases and blended visa cases).

2.    Around 25,000 refugees (by the end of December, 2016) are being resettled through the government-assisted resettlement program (GAR). These are UNHCR-referred cases: they meet UNHCR referrals categories and Canadian priorities  

The UNHCR (and Canada) have resettlement submission categories that prioritize the resettlement of the following:

  •  people who have legal and/or physical protection needs (do not feel safe in their country of asylum…they have faced harassment or violence or risk deportation back to country of origin)
  • survivors of torture and/or violence
  • people who have medical needs (they need immediate medical assistance or else their health will deteriorate if they remain where they are; or the medical assistance they need is unavailable where they are).
  • women and girls at risk
  • family reunification
  • children and adolescents at risk  
  • lack of foreseeable alternative durable solutions (no hope of returning to their home country or resettling where they currently are)

[The categories in red don’t apply to Canada because Canada does not accept unaccompanied children (e.g., orphans) unless they have family here  AND Syrian refugees are not considered “recently” displaced]

-Canada has also emphasized the acceptance of refugees with families/children and sexual minorities (LGBT refugees who are persecuted based on sexual orientation).

Privately-sponsored refugee arrivals in Ontario

The 5 biggest arrivals by the end of 2015 will be in:

1326: Toronto (although this number includes all United Church of Canada-sponsored refugees arriving in Toronto, because the UCC headquarters is in Toronto)

1079: Willowdale (these are mostly Armenian-Syrians sponsored by the Armenian community)

156: Scarborough

141: London

127: Ottawa

What do we anticipate in terms of composition, family size and needs of Syrians who will be resettled?

Religion

87%: Muslims (predominantly Sunni Muslims)

13%: minority Muslims

10%: Christian

3%: Druze

Ethnic makeup

90% Arabs

10% Kurds, Armenians, others

-This composition does not necessarily mirror who is privately sponsored e.g., the 1000 Armenians who are privately sponsored

-UNHCR-selected refugees, however, reflect the composition of the larger Syrian population.

Education

84% literate (90% of men, 77% of women)

-a mix of highly educated and limited education

Language

-some speak English or French

Family composition

-51% women, 41% men

-52% of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18

-most refugees are families with children

-average family size is 4

Health conditions Syrian refugees may have experienced

-vaccine-preventable diseases (immunization upon arrival is key)

-trauma and mental illness

-injuries and disabilities

-sexual violence

Syrian customs

-in terms of greetings, it is common to shake hands except not always between women and men in the Muslim community

-between men and women, as a sign of respect they would put their hands on their chest and bow a little bit instead of hand shaking  

-they are expressive and use a lot of gestures when they talk (this is not aggressive)

-it is common for women of same sex to hold hand or walk arm in arm

-eye contact when interacting is normal

Education

Parents expect kids to come home with tons of homework (to make sure the kids are working hard towards their school duties). It’s considered a sign of learning if they come home with homework. This is perhaps because the school day is much shorter in Syria (8-1). There were no such thing as split classes in Syria (it’s a sign there are not enough teachers)

Food

Middle Eastern food and tea; not eating their food is a sign of disrespect

Taboos

Alcohol consumption (for certain Muslims); pork

Socializing

-premarital sex is considered taboo. As such, asking an unmarried woman if she has children is an insult.

Resources

CIC, population profile – Syrian refugees Nov 2015

Welcome Refugees - Federal website

How can you sponsor and support refugees?

posted Dec 2, 2015, 7:56 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Dec 12, 2015, 11:21 AM ]

On December 2nd, I participated in the 2nd of 3 webinars about refugee issues put on by Yosief Araya (the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program Coordinator for Catholic Crosscultural Services) titled "How Can You Sponsor Refugees and Support Them?". Here is a summary of what we learned! (A summary of the first and third webinars can be found here and here.)

Why are refugees resettled/sponsored?

  • An expression of solidarity with victims of injustice and persecution (based sometimes on religious beliefs or conviction)
  • A tool of international protection (save them from what happens in their country of origin but also in the country of asylum where they may be persecuted or face hostility again)
  • A tool of burden/responsibility sharing (helping other countries and it also opens space/opportunity for more refugees to get protection in UNHCR camps; this is strategic use of resettlement)
  • Resettlement is one of the UNHCR-championed (the UN Refugee Agency) durable solutions.

Three ways refugee’s problems are resolved:

1) Voluntary repatriation: They may return home. This doesn’t usually happen. Most are in a protracted refugee situation. Some stay for decades away from home. Most conflicts don’t get resolved quickly.

2) Local integration: In the country where they are currently. But this is dependent on that country giving them asylum. In many cases, in countries like Jordan that host large numbers of refugees, citizenship/permanent residency is not an option (they don’t have the resources for this).

3) Resettlement: Find a country that will offer permanent status to them and eventually they will become citizens of that country. Refugees are resettled where local integration possibilities do not exist (e.g., Syrian refugees in countries like Jordan that are inundated with hundreds of thousands of refugees but they don’t have the capacity to offer refuge for all of these people).

 

Who can sponsor refugees?

1) Sponsorship agreement holders – An incorporated organization that has signed an agreement to sponsor refugees with the government of Canada. Most are have traditionally been faith-based organizations. Also ethnic based organizations. They have signed a contract with the government and are allowed to sponsor refugees. Once you sign a contract, you will be allocated a certain number of spaces to sponsor refugees and are able to sponsor unlimited numbers. Canada has 97 SAHs now who are very active, they work with constituent groups (CGs) who have been authorized by an SAH to sponsor refugees e.g.,  the United Church of Canada has one sponsorship agreement but each church can act as a CG under the umbrella agreement. 75% of private sponsorship has been done by these SAHs.

2) Group of five – any group of Canadian residents, 5 or more citizens/permanent residents with income, living in the same geographic area. Must be able to show financial capability, no criminal record (because refugees are vulnerable groups; don’t want to expose them to people who could potentially harm them). Cannot have defaulted on previous sponsorship of refugees. Can sponsor only recognized refugees (e.g., Syrian or Iraqi refugees) – before you sponsor refugees, must make sure that UNHCR recognizes this group as refugees (or the host government). These people will have a document showing that they are certified refugees seeking asylum.

3) Community sponsor - any organization, group or corporation. Key difference between these and the group of five: they are not pre-assessed to be a sponsor. Don’t have an agreement with the government but can sponsor on an ad hoc basis. No prior agreement/screening so any organization can assessed on a case by case basis. Also can sponsor only recognized refugees (e.g., Syrian or Iraqi refugees). 


What are settlement responsibilities/challenges?

What sponsors need to provide is similar to what the government provides to most newcomers who come in under the government and go to refugee reception centres. The following must be provided for the duration of the sponsorship (12 months):

·         Reception

·         Housing

·         Financial support

·         Connecting to resources

·         Food

·         Clothing

·         Transportation

·         Childcare

·         Orientation

*211 is a free number that can be called in Toronto to ask about support services

*Sponsored refugees CANNOT access social assistance (e.g., welfare) during these 12 months


Sponsorship costs

There are varying estimated annual settlement costs depending on family size (this estimate includes monthly costs plus a start-up cost). Family size/estimated annual cost:

1: $12,600

2: $22,200

4: $27,000

6: $32,500

We should think of these as the minimum (especially for one person) that the government expects you to have but the actual costs (especially in bigger cities) will be higher). These numbers are equivalent to welfare recipients who are living on the bare minimum with meagre resources. All of the costs do not have to be in dollars. If some of the start-up costs are donated/supplemented (e.g., furniture), the financial cost goes down. 


Issues/challenges in the first year and beyond:

1. Family reunification:

o   In most cases, there are family members left behind; they are often separated because of war/conflict.

o   “Echo effects” – there may be requests to sponsor relatives or friends who were left behind.

*It’s important to note that all potential family members must be declared on the sponsorship application (even if they are in jail or separate from their family at present) or else they cannot be allowed in at a later date. 

2. Cultural Adjustment

There are 4 cultural adjustment stages:

            1) Honeymoon (positive feelings of being on the new country)

            2) Confrontation, crisis and challenge

            3) Stage of reconstruction (recovery)

            4) Adjustment.

Refugees will need more support through the second and third stages. For refugees, the first stage may last longer than other immigrants.

3. Health and RISK FACTORS

Post-migration challenges can jeopardize mental health, including:

o   Acculturation

o   Unemployment

o   Discrimination

o   Structural factors

4. Training and Employment

o   Sponsorship groups can help refugees by:

o   Supporting newcomers to improve their language, skills and knowledge

o   Connecting them with employment counsellors

o   Registering them in job search training

o   Helping them to find a job

o   Encouraging them to enroll in professional training or vocational schools

*sponsored refugees are more likely to become independent because of support from sponsors with a good settlement plan

5. Managing expectations

o   Refugees’ expectations vs: reality of sponsorship, new country (need time to acclimatize), other refugees (comparing self to others and other sponsorship groups)

o   Sponsors’ expectations vs. refugee performance, sponsorship process, interactions

*sponsors often want refugees to be quickly self-sustaining, employed, learning the language but we must manage these expectations. Groups need to accept that the refugees move elsewhere

 

Things for sponsorship groups to consider:

·         Empathy

·         Avoid generalizations

·         Confidentiality (e.g. about refugees’ health conditions)

·         Self-determination (independence) is a goal and may or may not be immediate.

·         Boundaries

·         Participatory approach to settlement

·         Orientation and pre-arrival communication

Other notes:

*If the refugee decides to move to another country, sponsors are no longer financially responsible for them (this is called sponsorship breakdown which is not the fault of the sponsor).

*If the refugee relocates to another province, the sponsorship agreement holder is no longer financially responsible for them (the sponsors should make an effort to find another group to help them but they are not legally bound to find a group).

*The RSTP has seen a tremendous interest in refugee sponsorship. The UNHCR awards a Nansen Refugee Award to groups/individuals that have made a significant contribution to the lives of refugees in many ways. Started in 1954. In 1986 the people of Canada received the award (it had never been given to a nation before). Maybe we can reclaim the Nansen Refugee Award (over the past few years the discourse about refugees has been very negative but maybe this is changing!)

Resources

RSTP resources

Why sponsor refugees (video)?

Refugee sponsorship and expectations (video)

Refugees, mental health and sponsorship (video)

Settlement preparation, handbook for sponsoring groups

Managing expectations, a resource kit for refugee sponsors

Overview of Refugee Issues and Resettlement

posted Nov 25, 2015, 3:24 PM by A Rodney   [ updated Dec 12, 2015, 11:22 AM ]

This morning, as a member of the Upper Beaches Lifeline Syria group, I took part in a Webinar (an online seminar) titled “Overview of Refugee Issues and Resettlement” led by Yosief Araya (the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program Coordinator for Catholic Crosscultural Services). This was Part 1 of a series of webinars on sponsorship and settlement of refugees to promote an understanding of refugees, their unique challenges and resources available to them. In addition to general challenges, they are sharing information on challenges specific to the Syrian refugees as Canada prepares to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees over the next few months. Many thanks to Hilary Johnson, a fellow member of the Upper Beaches Lifeline Syria group, for tipping me off about this Webinar! (See parts 2 and 3 here and here.)

Some highlights from the presentation:

 

WHO IS A REFUGEE?

Generally speaking we use the word very commonly, to refer to both refugees or persons displaced from their homes. Legally, a refugee is someone who is out of their home country because they left for fear of persecution related to race, religion, nationality member of social or political group (includes gender and sexual orientation) and so the person is unwilling or unable to get the protection of their own country. This internationally agreed-upon definition comes from the UN 1951 Refugee Convention (later updated in 1967 to include global citizens). Canada’s own definition of a refugee in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also adds that these people face  threat to life or liberty. Because refugees are not living in their home countries, the international community can do things to support them (unlike internally-displaced persons who are still in their home countries where the international community cannot intervene). The UN Refugee Convention is limited to people outside of their own country.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN IMMIGRANT AND A REFUGEE?

-Refugees escape persecution (migrants may come for other reasons: economic, family, etc.)

-Refugees’ travel may not have been planned

-Refugees may not have travel or identity documents

-Refugees may have to go through various countries and use unconventional means (e.g., brokers, smugglers)

-Migrants continue to enjoy the protection of their home countries while refugees do not

WHO IS RESETTLED TO CANADA?

1. Those outside of Canada (who meet the Convention definition, left their country and are in a second non-Canadian country e.g. a Syrian person who is in a refugee camp in Jordan). These are people who have been individually targeted/persecuted in their home countries.

2. Those in a refugee-like situation. They may not necessarily be individually persecuted/targeted but they don’t feel safe (e.g. because of war or human rights violations or generalized violence in their country of origin). They are seriously affected by civil war, armed conflict or a massive violation of human rights. (e.g. in Syria the country at war so everyone is potentially and seriously affected even if they do not fit the Convention definition of a refugee

WHAT ARE THE WAYS PEOPLE ARE RESETTLED?

1. Privately funded by private sponsors (PSR) – you as a group have the right to identify who you want sponsored/from where and be fully financially responsible

2. Blended visa-office referred (BVOR) – 6 months governmental support, 6 months income support by sponsors

3. Joint assistance (JAR) – fully funded by the government; settlement support from sponsor (e.g., refugees who are high need or have health issues, large families, families with limited/no education, mental health issues  

4. Government assisted (GAR) fully funded by the government

COMMON MYTHS ABOUT REFUGEES

1. They pose a threat to our system/our lives.

These threats have been over-exaggerated. Refugees are predominantly uninvolved in violence. These are people who have been living in refugee camps, they have been known to UNCHR for a long times (often years). They have had to give their fingerprints and undergo extensive screening. Refugees are not terrorists. They are human beings and it is important to remember that most victims of suicide bombers are Muslims in Muslim countries. Refuges are like all of us and their lives are not safe where they are. We need to fight Islamophobia.

2. They receive better governmental assistance and health coverage compared to pensioners or other Canadians.

This is not true. Any services they receive are as permanent residents of the country (which they become when they are granted asylum here). When refugees arrive, they are permanent residents and are therefore eligible for any services available for permanent residents (e.g., mental health services for victims of trauma and torture).

3. Those smuggled deserve less protection.

People who have used smugglers may have had to use unconventional means to get out of Syria because their lives are at risk.  They had no other choice and they are also victims of smugglers. Often if you are running from your country they will not give you an exit visa (something we as Canadians are not familiar with as we do not need one to exit Canada). Also if you are wanted by the state (who you are being persecuted by) they will not give you an exit visa and you may have to hide. Nobody would put their child on a boat unless the boat was safer than the land.

4. Refugees should wait in refugee camps to be selected rather than trying to enter countries directly.

It does not make you a better refugee if you stay in a refugee camp. It’s a matter of who has access to the camps or how much of a risk-taking personality someone has. Many people don’t want to stay in refugee camps because life in camp is not rosy – there are food shortages, people are living in tents and it’s often not safe for women who don’t have protection from a male partner/relative.  

5. Refugees who are less educated or who have limited skills are an economic burden.

Not always; remember these people are refugees not because they are poor but because they are persecuted and fleeing. Refugees could come from any economic or educational background. Safety and security is tantamount for these people. Their  success varies based on skills and education and integration.

GLOBALLY, HOW MANY REFUGEES ARE RESETTLED PER YEAR?

In 2014 UNHCR made resettlement for referred 103,890 refugees resettlement (including 21,154 Syrian refugees). Only 73,000 of these were resettled in 2014.

There are millions of refugees in the world and only a fraction of them are resettled . Why? There are very few resettlement countries and most have restrictive limits on how many people they are allowed to resettle (quota system)

CANADA’S IMMIGRATION PLAN, 2015

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Canada plans to bring between 260,000-285,000 immigrants in 2015

Commitment to settle 14,500 refugees (up to 7000 GARs, 6500 PSRs, 1000 BVORs). This number is low relative to overall immigration categories.

Note there is a commitment to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees on top of this

Other interesting facts to note:

-Privately sponsored Syrian refugees will primarily be coming from Visa posts in Beirut (Lebanon) and Amman (Jordan).

-On the CIC website there is a list of places willing to collect donations for Syrians and also a list of sponsorship groups.

-Refugees from Syria are likely 95% Muslim. Religious information is usually only collected by UNCHR if the person is persecuted because of their religion


Stay tuned for a summary of parts 2 and 3 of this series on refugee resettlement! 

 

 

 

What Celebrity Chefs’ Cookbooks Reveal About Inequality in Cultural Fields

posted Oct 29, 2015, 7:54 AM by A Rodney   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 6:52 AM ]

*This was originally posted on the Canadian Sociological Association Culture Cluster Blog*

Whether you’re channel surfing or browsing in a bookstore, it’s hard to ignore the presence of celebrity chefs and the cultural objects they produce across a variety of platforms. While we think of a chef as someone who has been formally trained to cook in a professional capacity, the celebrity chef may be an amateur cook. The common thread between these media personalities is that they provide instruction and entertainment on cooking and food-competition programs.

Celebrity chefs exist at a nexus of culture, media and fame. Their food-related personalities are created and elevated in the media and their image takes on a value much like a brand. As celebrities, they are also vehicles for social meanings. A celebrity conveys – either directly or indirectly – social values, such as the meaning of work, and achievement, or the definition of gendered and racialized beliefs.

Historians tell us that certain chefs have had a degree of fame since as far back as the 16th century, but today’s chefs are distinguished by the significance of celebrity culture which is exceptionally visual, personal, and is transmitted at an increasingly rapid pace through many different forms of media including books, television, magazines, newspapers and social media. Today we not only know what kind of food Jamie Oliver cooks, but we may even know about his skiing holiday with friends or that he wants an “intimate tattoo” for his 40th birthday.

One of the first television hosts in North America was Julia Child, who had a famous PBS show called, “The French Chef”. What distinguishes historic figures (like Julia Child) from the current slate of cooking personalities is that the former were far more focused on instructional cooking. Things began to change in the 1990s with the arrival of Emeril, and his trademark showmanship style of cooking, which happened in front of a live studio audience. Suddenly, it was no longer enough to stand behind a stovetop and instruct. The new goal was more explicitly about entertaining.

Today’s cooking personalities offer recipes and instruction about cooking techniques, but they also provide an emphasis on their idealized lifestyles and personalities. In 1961, Julia Child’s debut cookbook was titled, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” while forty years later, Nigella Lawson’s debut was more ambitious: “How to be a Domestic Goddess”.  People watch Nigella Lawson not just to learn about how to make a specific dish, but to admire her lifestyle, her attractiveness, and her beautiful home.

Another quality that differentiates today’s food celebrity landscape is the scale on which it exists. Even with the proliferation of television channels, Food Network still draws in a considerable viewership. It is watched nightly by millions of viewers and consistently ranks in the top ten cable networks. And aside from merely attracting viewers and fans, celebrity chefs earn big. In 2012, Forbes named Gordon Ramsay and Rachael Ray as top-earning chefs, with incomes of $38 million and $25 million respectively.

The culinary world is a rich case for scholarly attention because of the increasing permeability of its boundaries. Celebrity chefs today go beyond the stereotype of the white, male French chef. On Food Network and in bookstores, you will find women, people of colour, multicultural cuisines, home cooks and highbrow to lowbrow food. Men like Jamie Oliver are also entering the domestic kitchens, and bringing new symbolic capital to home cooking (just as women enter professional kitchens).

Yet, research tells us that home-cooking is still traditionally gendered as women’s work while in the public realm of the restaurant kitchen, the professional chef has long been considered a male role.

As the impetus for our recent article in Poetics, we (myself, along with co-authorsJosée Johnston and Phillipa Chong) were interested in whether the self-presentations of celebrity chefs shift social boundaries and social inequalities, or whether they reinforce them. Our work, entitled “Making change in the kitchen? A study of celebrity cookbooks, culinary personas, and inequality”, examines the gendered, classed and racialized portrayals of celebrity chefs in their cookbooks.

To do this, we drew on the cultural sociology concept of “producer personas”, or in this case, “culinary personas”. Sociologist Patti Lynne Donze tells us that personas are “fabricated” identities that draw upon shared conventions of “biography, style, and attitude” to emotionally engage others. We can think of a persona as a kind of human brand. The fabricated quality, however, is not synonymous with falseness.  A celebrity chef may genuinely love food in both their public and private life. In a Goffmanian sense, the sociological point we are making is that actors perform different versions of the “self” depending on the “role” required. Personas can’t simply be made up out of thin air. They draw from existing cultural ideas about race, class, gender and so forth.

In the case of culinary personas, celebrity chefs strategically emphasize certain features of their personality to differentiate themselves from other celebrity chefs.However, their personas tend to congregate in a fixed number of categories. This is similar to research on musical personas – there are only a certain number of genres available. So our goal in this paper was to figure out what culinary personas were present in the world of celebrity chefs, and whether women and minorities had equal access to these culinary personas

To operationalize our research question, we conducted a discourse analysis of cookbooks by chefs who hosted television programs on major networks. From this reading, we were able to identify 7 culinary personas, 3 of which exhibit traditionally feminine characteristics (homebody, home stylist, pin-up), and 4 that exhibited elements of hegemonic masculinity (chef-artisan, maverick, gastrosexual, self-made man). These persona types reveal how gender, race, and class intersect in the creation of a persona.

By identifying these seven persona types, we learned that the realm of culinary personas is highly gendered, even though some celebrity chefs are moving across traditional gender boundaries. Professional chefs, like Jamie Oliver and Tyler Florence, do value the home kitchen. And some female chefs have risen to new heights of professional success, like Iron Chef Cat Cora.

However, traditional gendered tropes in the kitchen persist through these culinary personas. They demonstrate the continued relevance of a historic division between the relatively devalued female home-cook, and the publicly celebrated male-chef. With the exception of the gastrosexuals, women are still presenting themselves, by and large, as gate-keepers of family health and domestic cookery. In contrast culinary artists and artisans (a group made up almost exclusively of men) were depicted in masculine terms. In these ways, the status inequalities around gender are reproduced through persona conventions.

Our findings show how the structure and stratification of culinary personas has implications for the reproduction of status hierarchies. It is not just overt discrimination or prejudice that creates status inequalities. Culinary personas indirectly perpetuate inequalities in the culinary field by relying on and reproducing pre-existing sources of authority and expertise. These findings support research documenting how high status groups are more able to brand-themselves and “propertize” their identities as celebrities. Our research suggests that not all culinary roles are equally accessible to new entrants to the field, nor are all chefs equally able to move between different personas. And those with more limited options are women and racialized minorities.

If you’re interested in reading the full text of our article, Poetics has providedfree access to it until January 22, 2015 at the following link:http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Q8Ar,6w-XMWUe

 

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