Mervyn Horgan

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

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

My research gathers an eclectic set of substantive interests grounded in a normative commitment to solidarity. My expertize is in social theory, cultural sociology, the sociology of everyday life, urban sociology, and housing studies. Like many sociologists, I’m especially interested in the relationship between largely invisible structural forces and everyday experience. As part of this interest, I study copresence (when people are physically present together) in everyday urban life, through research on public spaces where strangers mingle, where solidarity is passively produced, tenuously assumed, or threatened with dissolution. I lead the Sociable Cites Project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant, with Co-Investigator Prof. Liinamaa) where we look 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, ice rinks, sidewalks, street fairs, and public transit. While our work was significantly impacted by the pandemic, our fantastic research team has published several articles, and a report on Spaces of Sociability (funded by a SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grant). This dovetails with ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration on a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant with colleagues in Landscape Architecture on the plazaPOPS project where we work with local communities in Toronto’s inner suburbs to research the social impacts of new privately-owned public spaces in strip malls. I also lead the ‘Improvisation, Public Spaces, and the Practice of Everyday Life’ research stream  as part of the Improvising Futures project (SSHRC Partnership Grant) with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. My previous research on the Researching Incivilities in Everyday Life (RIEL) project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant) has led to exciting new international collaboration on ‘interactionally troublesome exchanges’ funded by the Finnish Academy. In addition, with support from a SSHRC Connection Grant, I am co-editing a collection, The Civil Sphere in Canada with Prof. Jeffrey Alexander, bringing together Canadian and international scholars to explore questions of solidarity and justice in Canadian society. Taking another tack on these big questions of justice and solidarity, my newest project, the Rental Experience Project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant, 2023-2028) centers on renters’ experiences in the context of the housing affordability crisis with the aim of understanding how different kinds of rental scenarios impact renters’ everyday lives. All of the above keeps me plenty busy, but I also maintain ongoing solo and collaborative research projects on recognition theory, social science history, and (de)stigmatization (especially around ‘mental illness’ and housing).

My PhD (2010) is from York University (Toronto), while my MA and BA are both from University College Cork, Ireland. Earlier in my career (2008-2013), 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. At the University of Guelph, I enjoy working with many of our best and brightest graduate students in both the PhD and MA Programs in Sociology, and as 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 a Faculty Fellow of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and was a Visiting Fellow there in Department of Sociology at Yale in 2018-2019.

Service to the community and to the profession are important. I have longstanding involvements with community organizations and advocacy groups working towards social justice. I am especially passionate about housing issues and have worked in housing advocacy with the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust. In Ireland I worked for many years serving homeless people in Cork city with the Simon Community. In 2022-2023, I was appointed to the City of Guelph’s Short Term Rental Working Group, and helped craft municipal policy recommendations to regulate short-term rentals. I was part of the National Graduate Education Taskforce of the National Educational Association for Disabled Students (2012-2016), working extensively with colleagues across Canada on the first national level report on the experiences of graduate students with disabilities. 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 several Research Clusters, including the Social Theory Research Cluster (where I co-founded SECT—the Symposium for Early Career Theorists, held annually since 2015),the Urban Sociology Research Cluster, the Sociology of Culture Research Cluster, and the Sociology of Housing Research Cluster. I was also a co-founder of the Canadian Network for Critical Sociology (2011-2019). In addition to serving on the Board of the Sociological Theory Research Committee of the International Sociological Association (2018-present). 

If you’re a graduate student or are considering applying to graduate school, and you’re interested in housing, cultural sociology, social theory, solidarity, copresence, ethnography, destigmatization, documentary film, or urban sociology, please feel free to drop me a line. I especially enjoy developing collaborative research and writing projects with graduate students that I advise. This helps drive projects to completion. Students I work with do research in many different subfields that are not always directly connected to my research, but that do tend to share an interest in meaning-centered analysis, qualitative methods, 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, and Saara Liinamaa. 2023, forthcoming. “Entanglements of Improvisation, Conviviality, and Conflict in Everyday Encounters in Public Space:  Introduction to the Special Issue” Urban Planning 8(4): 1-4 (open access)

Horgan, Mervyn, Saara Liinamaa, Amanda Dakin, Devan Hunter, Sofia Meligrana, Edith Wilson, and Meng Xu. 2023, forthcoming. “Pandemic-facilitated interaction and new affordances of sociability: how strangers improvise around masks and physical distancing in Canadian urban public spaces.” COVID-19 and the Social Sciences. N’Dri Assié-Lumumba and Erwan Dianteill (eds.). Paris: UNESCO. (open access)

Horgan, Mervyn. 2023. “Center Renters: Tenant Epistemologies as Research Strategy.” Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue Canadienne de Sociologie 60(1): 167–71. (open access)

Horgan, Mervyn, and Liinamaa, Saara. 2023. “Why You’ve Probably Never Heard of the First Canadian to Get a PhD in Sociology.” in Reading sociology: decolonizing Canada, edited by J. Jean-Pierre, V. Watts, C. E.James, P. Albanese, X. Chen, and M. Graydon. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. pp.244-249.

Horgan, Mervyn, Saara Liinamaa, Katie K. MacLeod, Thomas McIlwraith, Devan Hunter, Edith Wilson, & Meng Xu. 2022. Spaces of Sociability: Enhancing Copresence & Communal Life in Canada. Ottawa: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council & Employment and Social Development Canada. (open access)

Liinamaa, Saara, Mervyn Horgan, Amanda Dakin, Sofia Meligrana, and Meng Xu. 2021. “Everyday Multiculturalism on Ice: Observations from Hockey-Free Outdoor Urban Public Ice Rinks.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 53(3):261–75.

Horgan, Mervyn. 2021. “Sacred Civility? An Alternative Conceptual Architecture Informed by Cultural Sociology.” Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture 17(1):9–33.

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. 2020. “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) GentrificationInternational 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 CanadaJournal 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.

Mervyn Horgan. 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 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

  • Meng Xu (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Emerging ‘Public Space’ in Urban China: Sociability and Shopping Malls (Advisor)
  • Devan Hunter (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Copresence, Embodiment and Intergenerational Solidarity – current SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship holder  (Co-Advisor with Prof. Saara Liinamaa)
  • Edith Wilson (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Becoming a Housing Activist – SSHRC Storytellers Finalist (Advisor)
  • Christopher Worden (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Arts Worker Experiences of Diversity and Representation in Publicly-Funded Arts Organizations (Co-Advisor with Prof. Saara Liinamaa)
  • Aidan Lockhart (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Badges and Bars: The Spectre of the Prison in Police Everyday Lifeworlds (Advisor)
  • Leah Connor (PhD student, Social Practice & Transformational Change ongoing), Intimate Relations and Coercive Control (Co-advisor with Prof. Tugçe Elliati-Köse)
  • Addison Kornel (PhD student, Sociology), Homeownership and the Affordable Housing Crisis (Advisor)
  • Anna Henry (MA student, Sociology), Stigmatization & Destigmatization (Advisor)
  • Annie Simpson (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), A Contemporary Profile of Street-Involved Youth (Advisor: Prof. William O’Grady)
  • Brad Ross (PhD Candidate Sociology, ongoing), Craft Breweries and Rural Communities (Advisor: Prof. Erin Nelson)
  • Amanda Buchnea (PhD Candidate Social Practice & Transformational Change, ongoing), Cross-Systems Solidarity, Rights and Youth Homelessness (Advisor: Prof. Leah Levac)
  • Bob Wiseman (PhD student, Critical Studies in Improvisation, ongoing), Improvisation & Cathartic Experience (Advisor: Prof. Daniel Fischlin)

Former Students

  • Dr. Katie McLeod (Postdoctoral Fellow, 2022) Spaces of Sociability Project (Advisor)
  • Sofia Meligrana (MA Sociology, 2022), Culture Vultures:  How Ethnic Minorities Attending Universities  Respond to Cultural Appropriation (Advisory Committee Member, Advisor: Prof. Saara Liinamaa)
  • Amanda Dakin (MA Sociology, 2021), The Subtle Art of Exclusion: An Examination of Hostile Urban Design in Guelph, Ontario. (Advisor)
  • Devan Hunter (MA Sociology, 2020), 100% Vegan: A Recipe for Identity Made with Real Values, Practices, Gender and Other Social Ingredients (Advisor) – currently PhD Candidate, University of Guelph
  • 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, Advisor: Prof. Mavis Morton)
  • 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) – currently Assistant Professor, Memorial University
  • Guila Benchimol (PhD Sociology, 2019), Victims are Doing it for Themselves: Examining the Move from Victim to Advocate (Advisory Committee Member, Advisory Committee Member, Advisor: Prof. Myrna Dawson)
  • Edith Wilson (MA Sociology, 2018), ‘Washrooms for Customers Only’: The Morality and Ethics of Sh*tting in the City (Advisor) - currently PhD Candidate, University of Guelph
  • 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, Advisor: Prof. Andrew Hathaway)
  • Yvonne Daoleuxay (MA Sociology, 2017), An Exploratory Analysis of the Management Consulting Profession in Canada (Advisor) - currently PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
  • 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, Advisor: Prof. Karen Landman)
  • Karen Cook (MA Sociology, 2016) An examination of front-of-pack labels as a method of health promotion (Advisory Committee Member, Advisor: Prof. Anthony Winson)
  • Aidan Lockhart (MA Sociology, 2015), Exploring the Triad: An Analysis of the Relations Between Cultural Sensibilities, Pop-Culture, and the Juridico-Carceral Apparatus (Advisor) - currently PhD Candidate University of Guelph
  • Nicole Andrejek (MA Sociology, 2014) They Expect You’ll Be Expecting: An Exploration of Dominant Discourses and Women’s Reproductive Identities (Advisory Committee Member, Advisor: Prof. Cecil Foster)
  • Sonja Sapach (MA Social & Political Thought, Acadia University, 2013), The WoW Factor: The Development of Social Solidarity in Azeroth (Advisor) – Awarded PhD (2021), University of Alberta

External Examiner

  • Stephanie Brocklehurst (2023, PhD, Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, Western University) The Biopolitics of Re-imagining and Re-membering London, Ontario's Old East Village
  • 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