Mervyn Horgan

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Phone number: 
519 824 4120 x56373
MCKN 637
Accepting graduate students for September 2021: 
Yes, both MA and PhD

Cultural Sociology; Classical & Contemporary Social Theory; Urban Sociology; Social Solidarity; Strangership; Copresence; Sociabilities and Incivilities; ‘Mental Illness’; Housing; De/Stigmatization; Recognition; History of the Social Sciences; Sociology of Everyday Life

I’m a social theorist, urbanist and cultural sociologist. My research gathers an eclectic set of substantive interests grounded in a normative commitment to solidarity. I’m especially interested in theorizing copresence (when people are physically present together) in everyday life, which I approach through research on social sites and scenes where strangers mingle, where solidarity is passively produced, tenuously assumed, or threatened with dissolution. One of my current research projects, the Sociable Cites Project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant, with Co-Investigator Prof. Liinamaa), develops the concept of ‘soft solidarity’ to understand how solidarity manifests (or not) through ordinary encounters between strangers in complex multicultural societies across a range of mundane public settings like parks, playgrounds, ice rinks, sidewalks, street fairs, and public transit. This builds upon ongoing research on the RIEL (Researching Incivilities in Everyday Life) project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant). In addition, I also maintain active solo and collaborative research projects on recognition theory, interaction ritual, realist representation, social science history, and (de)stigmatization (especially with regards to both ‘mental illness’ and housing), and the civil sphere in Canada.

At the University of Guelph, I coordinate the PhD and MA Programs in Sociology. In addition, I am a core faculty member of the PhD Program in Social Practice and Transformational Change, and Affiliated Faculty with the Graduate Programs in Critical Studies in Improvisation. I am currently a Faculty Fellow of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and was a Visiting Fellow there in 2018-2019. Previously, I was Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Sociology at Acadia University where I was also Graduate Faculty in the MA Program in Social and Political Thought. My PhD (2010) is from York University (Toronto), while my MA and BA are both from University College Cork, Ireland.

I have longstanding involvements with community organizations and advocacy groups working towards social justice. I was part of the National Graduate Education Taskforce of the National Educational Association for Disabled Students (2012-2016), and worked extensively with colleagues across Canada on the first national level report on the experiences of graduate students with disabilities. I’ve also worked on housing advocacy, with the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, and in Ireland I worked for many years with the Simon Community. In the profession, I have a long record of service to the Canadian Sociology Association, including time on the Executive Committee as Communications Officer (2019-2020) and Secretary (2012-2016). Within the CSA, I’m active in the Social Theory Research Cluster—where I co-founded SECT (the Symposium for Early Career Theorists)—and both the Sociology of Culture and Urban Sociology Research Clusters. I am also a co-founder and active member of the Canadian Network for Critical Sociology, in addition to serving on the Board of the Sociological Theory Research Committee of the International Sociological Association.

If you’re a graduate student (or are considering applying to graduate school) and you’re interested in cultural sociology, social theory, solidarity, copresence, ethnography, documentary film, housing, destigmatization, or urban sociology, please feel free to drop me a line. I welcome the opportunity to develop collaborative research and writing projects with graduate students I advise, and to help drive projects to completion. Students I work with do research in many different subfields that are not always directly connected to my current research, but that do tend to share an interest in meaning-centred analysis and an appreciation for the practical value of social theory.

If you’d like copies of any of my publications and can’t access them online, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email (or snail mail!) and I’m happy to send them along.

Horgan, Mervyn, Saara Liinamaa, Amanda Dakin, Sofia Meligrana, and Xu Meng. 2020, forthcoming. “A Shared Everyday Ethic of Public Sociability: Outdoor Public Ice Rinks as Spaces for Encounter.” Urban Planning 5(4).

Horgan, Mervyn. 2020. “Housing Stigmatization: A General Theory.” Social Inclusion 8(1): 8-19.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2019. “Urban Interaction Ritual: Strangership, Civil Inattention and Everyday Incivilities in Public Space.” Pragmatics 30(1): 116-141.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2019. “Everyday Incivility and the Urban Interaction Order: Theorizing Moral Affordances in Ritualized Interaction.” Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict 7(1): 32–55.

Rotz, Sarah, Evan Gravely, Ian Mosby, Emily Duncan, Elizabeth Finnis, Mervyn Horgan, Joseph LeBlanc, Ralph Martin, Hannah Tait Neufeld, Andrew Nixon, Laxmi Pant, Vivian Shalla, and Evan Fraser. 2019. “Automated Pastures and the Digital Divide: How Agricultural Technologies Are Shaping Labour and Rural Communities.” Journal of Rural Studies 68: 112–22.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2018. “Territorial Stigmatization and Territorial Destigmatization: A Cultural Sociology of Symbolic Strategy in Parkdale's (Toronto) Gentrification” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 42(3): 500-516.

Horgan, Mervyn and Liinamaa, Saara. 2018. “First but Not a Founder: Annie Marion MacLean and the History and Institutionalization of Canadian Sociology.” Pp. 121–26 in Reading sociology: Canadian perspectives, edited by L. Tepperman, P. Albanese, and E. M. Alexander. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Horgan, Mervyn & Liinamaa, Saara. 2017. “The Social Quarantining of Migrant Labour: Everyday Effects of Temporary Foreign Worker Regulation in Canada” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43(5): 713-730. 

Horgan, Mervyn. 2017. “Interaction, Indifference, Injustice: Elements of a Normative Theory of Urban Solidarity” in Kurasawa, F. Interrogating the Social: Critical Sociology for the 21st Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2017. “Mundane Mutualities: Solidarity & Strangership in Everyday Urban Life” in Oosterlynck, S., M. Loopmans & N. Schuermans (eds.) Place, Diversity, Solidarity. London & New York: Routledge.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2014. “Durkheim, Development and the Devil: A Cultural Sociology of Community Conflict.” Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers Canadiens de Sociologie 39(4):741–63.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2014. “Serendipitous City: Towards an Aleatory Urbanism.” Pp. 55–76 in Cartographies of Place: Navigating the Urban, edited by J. Marchessault and M. Darroch. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Horgan, Mervyn and Leslie Kern. 2014. “Urban Public Spaces: Streets,  Strangership and Securitization.” Pp. 112–32 in Urban Canada, edited by H. Hiller. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2013. “Flop Houses, Fancy Hotels and ‘Second-Rate Bohemia’: Zorbaugh’s The Gold Coast and the Slum and the Gentrification Debate.” Pp. 178–98 in The Chicago School Diaspora: Epistemology and Substance. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Platt, Jennifer, Charles Crothers, and Mervyn Horgan. 2013. “Producing Ethnographies: Workplace Ethnographies in History.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 49(1):45–62.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2012a. “Strangers and Strangership.” Journal of Intercultural Studies 33(6):607–22.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2012b. “Sweat, Slow Motion and Solidarity: Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad in Ireland.” Visual Studies 27(02):164–72.

Carlson, Jesse and Mervyn Horgan. 2011. “Altruism and Society Sui Generis: Countering Evolutionary Psychology with Durkheim.” Altruism, Morality and Social Solidarity Forum 3(1):17–24.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2004. “Anti-Urbanism as a Way of Life: Disdain for Dublin in the Nationalist Imaginary.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 30(2):38–47.

Keohane, Kieran, Carmen Kuhling, and Mervyn Horgan. 2004. “Road Traffic Accidents and the Experience of Accelerated Modernization in Ireland.” Pp. 9–40 in Collision Culture: Transformations in Everyday Life in Ireland. Dublin: Liffey Press.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2003. “Where Is the Social in a Self-Portrait? Towards a Sociology of Self-Portraiture.” Pp. 221–30 in Mirror or Mask? Self-representation in the Modern Age, edited by D. Blostein and P. Kleber. Berlin: Vistas.

Keohane, Kieran, Carmen Kuhling, and Mervyn Horgan. 2002. “Collision Culture: Road Traffic Accidents and the Experience of Accelerated Modernisation in Ireland.” Irish Journal of Sociology 12(1):45–66. 

Current Students

  • Aidan Lockhart (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Badges and Bars: The Spectre of the Prison in Police Everyday Lifeworlds (Advisor)
  • Christopher Worden (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Arts Worker Experiences of Diversity and Representation in Publicly-Funded Arts Organizations (Co-Advisor with Saara Liinamaa)
  • Xu Meng (PhD Sociology, ongoing), Symbolic Consumption and Public Space (Advisor)
  • Devan Hunter (PhD Sociology, ongoing), Copresence and Embodiment in Intergenerational Artistic Practice (Advisor)
  • Edith Wilson (PhD Sociology, ongoing) Problems of Identity Formation in Canada (Advisor)
  • Amanda Dakin (MA Sociology, ongoing), Defensive Architecture, Homeless Persons and Public Space (Advisor)
  • Annie Simpson (PhD Sociology, ongoing), A Contemporary Profile of Street-Involved Youth (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Valérie Grand'Maison (PhD Sociology, ongoing) Violence & Women with Disabilities (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Meaghan Wrathall (PhD Sociology, ongoing) Drugs and Rural Culture (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Sofia Meligrana (MA Sociology, ongoing), Cultural (Mis)appropriation: How Visible Minority Students Respond to Cultural Appropriation (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Steve Donnelly (MA Critical Studies in Improvisation, ongoing), Improvised Street Theatre and Political Possibility in Public Spaces (MA Advisory Committee Member)

Former Students

  • Daniel Kudla (PhD Sociology, 2019), Business Improvement Areas and the Justification of Urban Revitalization: Using the Pragmatic Sociology of Critique to Understand Neoliberal Urban Governance (Co-Advisor with Patrick Parnaby)
  • Timothy Wykes (PhD Sociology, 2020) The Legitimacy of ‘Compassionate Mix’: Post-Revanchist Urban Policy and Bottom-up Influence in Downtown Oshawa, Ontario (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Guila Benchimol (PhD Sociology, 2019), Victims are Doing it for Themselves: Examining the Move from Victim to Advocate (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Amir Mostaghim (PhD Sociology, 2018), Everybody Must Get Stoned? The Role of Gender and Ethnicity in Mediating the Differentiated Normalization of Marijuana Use (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Devan Hunter (MA Sociology, 2020), 100% Vegan: A Recipe for Identity Made with Real Values, Practices, Gender and Other Social Ingredients (Advisor)
  • Edith Wilson (MA Sociology, 2018), ‘Washrooms for Customers Only’: The Morality and Ethics of Sh*tting in the City (Advisor)
  • Yvonne Daoleuxay (MA Sociology, 2017), An Exploratory Analysis of the Management Consulting Profession in Canada (Advisor)
  • Justin Doran (MA Sociology, 2017), A Retrospective Analysis of the Career Trajectories of Film Directors (Advisor)
  • Danielle McNally (MA Sociology, 2016), A Relative Silence: Exploring Abject Embodiment and Conditions of Domination (Advisor)
  • Julia Taucer (Masters in Landscape Architecture, 2016), Design for Citizen-Generated Urban Interventions: Understanding the Relationship Between Formal and Informal Urban Design in Toronto (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Karen Cook (MA Sociology, 2016) An examination of front-of-pack labels as a method of health promotion (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Aidan Lockhart (MA Sociology, 2015), Exploring the Triad: An Analysis of the Relations Between Cultural Sensibilities, Pop-Culture, and the Juridico-Carceral Apparatus (Advisor)
  • Nicole Andrejek (MA Sociology, 2014) They Expect You’ll Be Expecting: An Exploration of Dominant Discourses and Women’s Reproductive Identities (Advisory Committee Member)
  • Sonja Sapach (MA Social & Political Thought, Acadia University, 2013), The WoW Factor: The Development of Social Solidarity in Azeroth (Advisor)  

External Examiner

  • Carleigh Pope (2019, Masters in Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph), Landscape Architecture for Hyper-Diverse Cities: Renewal of Toronto’s Tower Housing Stock in a Time of Unprecedented Diversity
  • Daniel Rotzstain (2018, Masters in Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph), Enhancing Strip Mall Landscapes in Toronto’s Inner Suburbs
  • Christopher McElligott (2017, PhD Social Science, National University of Ireland, Cork) Life in the City Starts at the Centre: A genealogy of the Neoliberal City, through four generations of shopping spaces in Toronto
  • Malissa Bryan (2015, MA Sociology, University of Guelph) ‘Where Are all the Black Students?’: An Investigation of the Role of Black Collectives in Predominantly White Institutions
  • Eduardo Huesca (2015, MA Sociology & International Development Studies, University of Guelph) Mapping the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Restriction of the SAWP Worker
  • Danielle Sutton (2015, MA Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy, University of Guelph) News Coverage of Officer-Involved Domestic Violence: A Comparative Content Analysis
  • Teresa Szoke (2015 MA Geography, University of Guelph), Investigating the Geographies of Community-based Public Art and Gentrification in Downtown Eastside Vancouver