PhDs Awarded

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Timothy Bryan

Title: Diversity, and the Politics of Hate Crime: An Analysis of the Police Response to Racially and Religiously Motivated Hate Crimes in the Greater Toronto Area
Supervisor: Carmela Murdocca
Member: James Williams
Member: Amanda Glasbeek
Date: August 22, 2019


Tim’s dissertation explores police responses to racially motivated hate crimes in the Greater Toronto Area, particularly the way police officers and municipal police services define, conceptualize and ultimately respond to hate crimes. Two sets of empirical data ground this study: 1) texts, such as police training material, policy and government reports; and 2) 34 semi-structured interviews with uniform and civilian police personnel.

By examining officer accounts of their on-the-ground practices, the training regimes involved in hate crime response, and investigative strategies employed by officers, I trace the way institutional mandates, personal experiences, and notions of Canadian multiculturalism coordinate and legitimize particular forms of intervention.

This research demonstrates that while police services claim that combating hate crime is the main priority in hate crime response, hate crime can easily be obscured by other concerns police believe are more important, such as protecting the reputation of the organization and keeping the peace. In this way, this research shows how the policing of hate crime is organized by a system of racial governance that at times obscures race and racism even as it claims to confront them.

Tim’s dissertation has been funded by the David J Sealey Award, the Martin Cohnstaedt Graduate Research Award for Studies in Non-Violence, and the John Lockwood Memorial Award. Tim is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University.

Daniel Huizenga

Title: Customary Law and Indigenous Rights in South Africa: From Transformative Constitutionalism to Living Law in Struggles for Rural Land Rights
Supervisor: Rosemary Coombe
Member: Annie Bunting
Member: David Szablowski
Date: July 29, 2019


South Africa is well known for the country’s model of racialized territorial government called apartheid and the successful transition to constitutional democracy in April 1994. The South African Constitution provides a framework for the progressive realization of human rights as a measure of transitional justice. The Constitution guarantees land reform to account for histories of racialized dispossession. However, critics argue that land remains insecure for millions of racialized peoples living in rural areas who remain subject to forms of undemocratic chiefly authority. Existing scholarship argues that rural land insecurity is due in part to a failure to legislate an appropriate post-colonial and emancipatory version of customary law as a basis for collective land rights. A common line of argument is that there are two ways of interpreting customary law—as either codified in law, as it was during colonialism, or as ‘living’ customary law, referring to an imagined historical evolution of custom in response to a democratic transition and changing social and economic conditions. For example, literature often focuses on traditional leadership in South Africa and argues that this model of governance, while based on cultural rights as protected in the Constitution, relies on ethnic and territorial control reminiscent of the Bantustan reserves under apartheid. In this dissertation I demonstrate that a dichotomous view of customary law, as either codified or living, is inaccurate in contemporary conditions of neoliberalism wherein forms of authority and subjectivity and claims to territorial control are characterized by multiple actors engaged in networked and horizontal relationships of power. In these conditions, I show, an ethic of transformative constitutionalism paired with forms of government characteristic of neoliberalism have opened opportunities for new articulations of human rights, custom and property, that contribute to the emergence of ‘living law’ and new forms of territorialisation. Moreover, I demonstrate that the transnational indigenous rights movement, and the vernacularization of indigenous rights in South Africa, are unsettling colonial and post-colonial assumptions about customary law in the contemporary period. The characteristics of living law that I identify emerge at the intersection of constitutional law, human rights, customary law, and transnational norms on peasant and indigenous rights through the activities of state agencies, non-governmental organizations, activist lawyers, and corporations who marshal different forms of legitimacy and authority. The dissertation draws from the disciplines of sociolegal studies, legal geography, and legal anthropology, and contributes to work on the topics of human rights, property, neoliberalism, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, customary law, and rural land rights.


Katrin Roots

Title: The Human Trafficking Matrix: Law, Policy and the Front-Line Anti-Trafficking Practices in Canada
Supervisor: Anna Pratt
Member: Annie Bunting
Member: Alan Young
Date: June 15, 2018


Katrin’s dissertation is an empirically grounded examination of front-line anti-trafficking policing and prosecution efforts in Canada with a particular focus on the province of Ontario. The study maps the complex, varied and discontinuous effects of anti-trafficking regimes through grounded and detailed empirical study, which employs diverse methodologies including an analysis of relevant national and international laws and policies, case law, court documents, transcripts, and interviews with criminal justice actors.

The dissertation argues that anti-trafficking efforts in Canada are fueled by fears over transnational harms including organized crime, War on Terror and national security threats and corollary concerns over human rights. Fears over these transnational harms intersect at the domestic level with individual harms, including violence against women, particularly in the context of the sex trade and child sexual exploitation, to form, what Katrin has called ‘the human trafficking matrix’.

The key contribution of Katrin’s research is in demonstrating the local effects of anti-trafficking regimes and enforcement efforts. She shows that the heightened political and popular focus on the threats posed by human trafficking have enabled the operationalization of the trafficking matrix by the criminal justice system in ways that demonstrate the continuation of the historically longstanding aim of protection, particularly in relation to white middle-class women, while criminalizing certain marginalized and racialized groups, especially black men. Yet, her research also shows other notable effects. For example, the significant amounts of funding allocated to combating trafficking has also led to competition between police departments for additional resources. The specialized anti-trafficking police and more recently developed prosecutorial teams are devoted to increasing arrests and convictions for trafficking offences, and have produced new forms of knowledge and expertise. And finally, legal tactics and strategies used in trafficking trials not only shape who can be defined as a trafficking victim and offender but also contribute to shaping the meaning of trafficking on the frontline.

Katrin’s dissertation has been funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Doctoral Scholarship, Osgoode Hall Law School’s Nathanson Centre for Transnational Studies Doctoral Fellowship and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program. Katrin’s work has been published in several academic journals and scholarly collections. Katrin is continuing her research on human trafficking in Canada as a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Carleton University. She can be researched at


Shekoufeh-Farrah Zandnia

Title: A Socio–Legal Analysis of Foreign Credentials Assessments and Recognition in Canada in Law and the Media: Logic, Legitimation and Limitations Regarding Foreign Trained Professionals (FTPs)
Supervisor: Livy Visano
Member: Ian Greene
Member: Jay Goulding
Date: October 2, 2017


The objective of Farrah’s doctoral dissertation is to identify recommendations and policy options geared at improving foreign credentials assessments and recognition in Canada. To achieve this end, a variety of sources – including, doctrinal legal materials (i.e. human rights tribunal and court cases), policies, news media reports as well as secondary literature in law and socio-legal studies – will be qualitatively analyzed and synthesized. The argument will be made that more work needs to be done in relation to: a) the reassessment/improvement of accreditation and employment requirements for FTPs; b) the revision of immigration policies to ensure that they are in tune with labour market demands as well as regulatory requirements and processes; and c) the provision of more expansive legal interpretations/decisions by human rights tribunals and courts, in the realm of regulatory policies and human rights protections, which demonstrate more sensitivity to the social and structural challenges experienced by FTPs. Although regulatory bodies, employers, governments, and legal arbitrators within the justice system have already taken steps towards addressing the predicament of FTPs, a prominent concern for many stakeholders has to do with how best to balance as well as maintain public safety and regulatory standards, while making space for the effective integration of FTPs in the Canadian workforce.

photo of Yael MachtingerYael C.B. Machtinger

Title: A Socio-Legal Investigation of ‘Get’ Jewish Divorce Refusal in New York and Toronto: Agunot Unstitching the Ties that Bind
Supervisor: Annie Bunting
Member: Benjamin Berger
Member: Sara Horowitz
Date: July 17, 2017


Yael’s Doctoral Dissertation focusing on law, religion, storytelling, and gender is a comprehensive, qualitative study of Jewish divorce (get) refusal and the only comparative study between Toronto and New York, the cities with the largest and most diverse Jewish populations in their respective countries. Engaging with diverse stakeholders, Yael concentrates on a classic socio–legal quandary—the gap between law on the books and law in action, but in so doing, places the narratives and experiences of those at the centre of the case study, also at the centre of the scholarly analysis in a way that has not previously been achieved and in the tradition of some seminal socio-legal authors.

Yael weaves together and builds on methodological contributions- such as feminist oral history and facets of ethnography to capture elements of Geertz’s ‘thick descriptions’ of the realities of get refusal, as well as archival and even media and representational analyses stemming from work in the context of slavery. She also builds on and engages with a combination of literatures and theoretical debates that had not previously been in conversation including socio-legal scholarship concerning the nexus of law, religion, identity and culture, with particular focus on legal pluralism and critical legal pluralism in addition to Jewish law and Jewish feminist scholarship. Being an ‘insider’, Yael embraces an interdisciplinary ‘religious feminist’ paradigm, enabling engagement with Jewish law while embracing socio-legal methods and accepting a plurality of legal orders and remedies

Yael argues that nuanced socio-legal inquiries that acknowledge the mutual constitution and overlapping legal norms of law and religion are important. Consequently, legal pluralism, a method of inquiry and analysis concerning overlapping normative orders in specific social fields and commensurability of vying legalities inspire her study, allowing for the interaction and plurality of legal systems—religious and state, and giving space for religion as a valid iteration of identity and valid legal system. This approach allows for a nuanced analysis which would not blame or regulate religion when normative abusive phenomena occur in religious contexts. Yael also develops a critical legal pluralism approach which is tied more closely to first person accounts of law and legal experiences, norms and knowledges, in this case, the stories of women refused a get, framing them as accurately as law makers and mobilizers impacting and transforming social and legal norms by fighting for their right to religion and their right to divorce.

Yael’s research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the Religion and Diversity Project Fellowship, and the Dr. Percy and Bernice Singer Award. She has made a number of contributions to scholarly collections and has also been awarded the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Yael may be reached at:

Matthew McManus

Title: Becoming to Belong: Rethinking Democratic Freedom and the Rule of Law
Supervisor: Les Jacobs
Member: Willem Maas
Member: Allan Hutchinson
Date: February 3, 2017


Matt recently defended his dissertation “Becoming to Belong” and will graduate in 2017 from York's Socio-Legal Studies program. His research focuses on developing a sympathetic critique of the liberal model of consciousness and its relationship to our understanding of law and legal rights in particular. He argues that the popularity of this model of consciousness has contributed to many states adopting of a "liberty" approach to agency. The liberty oriented approach argues that guaranteeing and protecting individual rights to non-coercion by the state exhausts the requirements of justice. In his dissertation, Matt argues that social actors should instead adopt a dignity oriented approach to agency which realizes and amplifies individuals’ context transcending expressive capabilities by democratizing political-legal institutions and the egalitarian re-distribution of goods.  He claims this approach would yield a twinned model of rights to equal democratic authorship and to an equality of human capabilities. The link between the two rights it that when implemented both would respect and amplify human dignity. Matt can be reached at:

Selected Publications:

"McManus, Matthew. Overcoming False Necessity: Making Human Dignity Central to International Human Rights Law. University of Wales Press, Series on International Law. (Proposal accepted. Revised Manuscript Due October 2018)."

Work Experience:

Matt has accepted a full-time renewable position teaching at the Tecnologico de Monterrey university in Mexico City, effective from January 2018.
Responsibilities Include:

  • Research and publication
  • Teaching 2-3 Undergraduate level classes in legal studies and political thought

Summer 2017 I worked for the Committee for International Justice and Accountability after completing my Post-Doctoral position with the Mitacs center in June.