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Insight Development Grants 2012

IDG 2012

Chris Barrington-Leigh, Institute for Health and Social Policy
Andre Costopoulos, Anthropology
Matthew Hunter, Art History and Communication Studies
Krzysztof Pelc, Political Science
Eran Shor, Sociology
Will Straw, Art History and Communication Studies
John Zucchi, History and Classical Studies


Chris Barrington-LeighChris Barrington-Leigh
Socioeconomic stratification of subjective well-being: a four-country study
Amount awarded: 74,871
Keywords: economic inequality, subjective well-being, welfare, income, wealth, cross-national comparison, panel data, relative income effects

Existing studies of disparity tend to use an index of inequality in income as a measure of socioeconomic stratification. Rather than using a metric restricted to pecuniary impoverishment, in his 2010 study, Professor Barrington-Leigh defined a socioeconomic gradient of subjective well-being (SWB) based on the strength of the relationship between economic rank and life satisfaction. Building on this previous work, this investigation examines the intensity of this measure of income-mediated social structure as it varies across countries and over time. Professor Barrington-Leigh proposes to advance the empirical understanding of this "social gradient of well-being" through the use of detailed panel survey data. He will use data from four countries -- Canada, Germany, Russia, and South Korea -- whose national statistical agencies conduct major panel surveys, following samples of their residents from year to year and compiling extraordinarily detailed information about their lives. The information gathered from countries will provide the needed depth, content, and diversity in order to estimate the social gradient of well-being and its variation over time and geography, to assess its robustness to alternative measures of economic status. Changes in underlying economic and social circumstances over time and across geography will be analyzed with corresponding changes in social gradients of well-being, using statistical regression techniques appropriate to time-varying data with multiple scales of geographic resolution. The methodology and findings in this project will seed a larger research program addressing major questions in the current understanding of happiness and disparity around the world.Student training will provide experience in the full cycle of the academic research process, from problem specification to literature survey to specific question formulation, coding, appropriate quantitative analysis, interpretation, collaboration, and scientific communication. The study’s knowledge mobilization plan goals are to foster inquiry and communication with broad audiences, including academia, the public, and government agencies, through academic conference presentations and papers, a website including animated maps and social media.


Andre CostopoulosAndre Costopoulos
Environmental stability as a resource: The case of prehistoric Eastern James Bay
Amount awarded: $72,800
Keywords: archaeology, environment, adaptation, climate change, north, boreal

Why do people sometimes choose to live together in large and stable communities, and sometimes choose to disperse and adopt more mobile adaptations? What is the role of environment and environmental change in constraining and driving those decisions? Post-glacial northern environments provide an ideal context in which Professor Andre Costopoulos and his team, in collaboration with the Cree community of Wemindji, will study the relationship between global climate change, local environmental change, and human adaptation, including settlement patterns. As a first step toward evaluating the strength and significance of regional scale variability in rates of environmental change as a constraint on human settlement patterns in general, they will test whether our a new understanding of prehistoric northern hunter-gatherer settlement patterns, developed using Northern Finnish data, can be generalized to other post glacial environments characterized by high rates of shoreline displacement, specifically Eastern James Bay in Northern Quebec, and eventually to very different environments. His team will conduct archaeological surveys along selected paleoshorelines on the Cree territory of Wemindji to test the association between settlement density and elaboration on the one hand, and regional scale variability in shoreline displacement at various periods in the region’s prehistory on the other. Students will participate in the laboratory analysis of archaeological and environmental samples, as well as the GIS modeling of the data. They also learn about the logistical organization and planning of research and develop a clearer knowledge and understanding of the articulation between the identification and collection of samples, and the subsequent production and analysis of data. The results will be disseminated through the publication of refereed articles and academic conference presentations in anthropology and archaeology, to the larger academic community in ecology and geography, and to the local Cree community through conferences and papers. The conclusions along with the data will be added to the lab web site, along with results from previous research projects that led to the insight at the core of this one. [Photo Credit: Owen Egan]


Matthew HunterMatthew Hunter
Liquid Intelligence: Joshua Reynolds and the Temporally-Evolving Chemical Object in the British Enlightenment
Amount awarded: $74,771
Keywords: art history, history of science and technology, eighteenth century, history and theory of photography, art theory

Prof. Matthew Hunter’s project offers a new approach to the study of Enlightenment painting, early photography and the relations we draw between them. An investigation of the chemical enterprise of visual art in Britain's long eighteenth century, this project centers around the persistent perception that Joshua Reynolds (the leading painter of his generation and first President of Britain's Royal Academy of Arts) was a dangerously misguided chemist. Reynolds crafted visually striking images that came together quickly and halted audiences dead in their tracks. Yet, those paintings often began to deteriorate just as rapidly—flaking, discoloring, visibly altering in time. What this project argues is that Reynolds’s risky, chemical enterprise was not only interestingly valued in the painter’s milieu, but instructively symptomatic of the complex entanglements between art and science so crucial to visualization in industrializing Britain. Accordingly, this project aims to historicize the radical experiments with pictorial facture practiced and theorized by leading visual artists of the British Enlightenment, with particular emphasis upon the circles of Joshua Reynolds. Expositing traditions of making and thinking with chemical images that change in time, this project also advances a model of interdisciplinary research that grows through the phased, multivalent circulation of knowledge. Built around first-hand study of images and their material analysis, the project conjoins analysis of objects in collections in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. with iterative digital research distributed among a team of graduate students. Learning to integrate digital and analogue investigations while developing their own research contributions, the project offers graduate students an excellent forum for intellectual growth and academic training. Initial findings from this project will be presented at “Liquid Intelligence and the Aesthetics of Fluidity,” a two-day conference at Montréal’s McCord Museum on Oct. 25-6, 2013.
[Image caption:
Joseph Wright of Derby, The Alchymist, in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, Discovers Phosphorous, and prays for the Successful Conclusion of his operation, as was the custom of the Ancient Chymical Astrologers (oil on canvas, ca. 1771; Derby Museum and Art Gallery)]


Krzysztof Pelc
Words Matter: How the Wording of World Trade Organization Verdicts Affects Legal Outcomes
Amount Awarded: $72,331
Keywords: international relations, international law, precedent, World Trade Organization, automated text analysis, compliance, courts

Do words matter? In the context of judicial review, scholars give a lot of weight to the import of words, but does a judge's choice of specific words have any bearing on the outcome of a case? In other words, aside from the direction of a ruling---i.e., who wins or loses---does the structure of a legal verdict matter? This is the focus of Professor Pelc’s project. Working with Dr. Busch at Georgetown University, he proposes to use automated text analysis to assess how the structure of legal verdicts in the jurisprudence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) shape outcomes

among litigants in the case at hand, as well as in subsequent cases. In this sense, his objective is to evaluate the role of precedent through a novel analysis of the structure of WTO dispute settlement. This project thus takes a first step in offering a micro-level study of precedent in WTO law, probing the weight of specific words and the structure of legal arguments in a systematic, large-n study. In doing so, he will focus on three related questions. First, how do the rhetorics of rulings convey the decisiveness of a ruling, and its impact on subsequent behaviour? Second, do established precedents give rise to increasing consistency in legal reasoning? Third, can the use of language in legal rulings itself be explained by exogenous factors? Law is a fundamentally rhetorical exercise, yet current research falls short of exploring the implications of this. Professor Pelc proposes a novel first step in doing so, asking whether the language of WTO rulings affects legal outcomes; whether there is observably growing consistency in WTO case law; and whether choices of language can themselves be explained by exogenous factors, such as the identity of litigants. Professor Pelc’s methodological approach will draw on tested software (Wordscores) as well as develop customized coding, classification, measurement and indexing to analyze WTO cases. Students in political science and computer science will participate in the organization and analysis of texts, benefiting from training and experience in textual analysis skills and resources. Study results will be disseminated through a project website and conferences in political science, legal studies and text analysis. This research program will be of direct interest not only to both political scientists and legal scholars, but also to policy makers in developing countries and in Canada who will profit from a new set of tools that can provide a picture of the extent to which past decisions on a given matter are likely to influence future legal outcomes.


Eran ShorEran Shor
A Cross-National Analysis of the Factors Shaping Counterterrorist Legislation Policies
Amount awarded: $74,988
Keywords: terrorism, counterterrorism, state policies, legislation, cross national, comparative, longitudinal

Recently published data (Shor, 2011) show a striking disparity between the globally declining number of terrorist acts and the rising number of counterterrorist laws. How can we account for this discrepancy? Why do some countries at specific times adopt extensive counterterrorist legislative measures, while others prefer various other tactics (e.g. mass killings of civilians) that do not involve legislative measures? And how can one explain differences and similarities in the content and focus of counterterrorist legislation? The proposed study seeks to explore empirically different explanations for the historical variations in states' counterterrorist legislation. In order to do so, Professor Eran Shor will expand, update, and validate the newly assembled Global Counterterrorist Legislation Database (GCLD). Using this database to measure counterterrorist legislation cross-nationally, he will then conduct a cross-national time-series statistical analysis of the various factors (including the number and severity of terrorist acts) that have influenced counterterrorist legislation between the years 1970-2007. The second part of this project will serve to complement and elaborate on the first, using a comparative historical and content analysis of counterterrorist legislation, relevant media discourse, and parliamentary debates in four selected case studies (Canada, the US, Israel, and Australia) during the last four decades. The current project will offer the first wide-scope, time-series, cross-national evaluation of counterterrorist legislation and its impact on both international and domestic terrorism. Examining this legislation and its results will provide important information and tools to decision makers and security forces in their fight against terrorism and will inform the public debate over the issue. Graduate students will get experience and intensive training in conducting critical literature review and analysis of secondary scholarly sources, content analysis of laws, media content and parliamentary records data and statistical data analysis. The results of the study will be communicated through the Global Counterterrorist Legislation Database, scholarly conferences, and research articles that will be submitted to a number of journals and press releases.


Will StrawWill Straw
The urban night as interdisciplinary object
Amount awarded: $29,673
Keywords: urban, night, economy, policy, culture

During the last two decades the urban night has become the focus of public policy in many countries across the globe. From the early 1990s onwards, urban economists, administrators and scholars of government have spoken with increased frequency of "24-hour cities", "night-time economies" and "cultures of the night." While we can trace this new concern with the night as policy-object to Great Britain in the early 1990s, an attention to night on the part of governments and stakeholders is increasingly evident across Europe. More recently, references to "night time economies" and night-time culture has turned up in the policy statements and cultural plans of Canadian cities. The urban night raises questions of security, subsistence and the provisioning of municipal services -- questions which are dealt with across several levels of government and in response to multiple forms of public concern and intervention. Professor Straw’s research project is concerned with the urban night as an object of interdisciplinary cultural analysis. It springs from two relatively recent developments. One is the emergence of the night (urban and non-urban) as a rich focus of scholarship by historians, sociologists, anthropologists, art historians and others over the past two decades. The second is the range of recent interventions which have sought to transform the status of the urban night within economic, governmental and cultural discourse. Conducted in collaboration with scholars in sociology (Anouk Bélanger, UQAM), law (Stamitia Piper, McGill), film (Janine Marchessault, York University) and visual arts (Michael Darroch, University of Windsor), the research proposed here will gather examples of practices which define the status of night within Canadian cities and analyze the policy frameworks which enable or restrict these practices. Students will devise innovative and effective ways of presenting the project’s finding on the website, and work with the city-wide cultural development group “Culture Montreal,” which brings together the key arts organizations in the city. The main tool for knowledge mobilization will be a comprehensive inventory of issues, policies, and initiatives having to do with the relationship between culture and the urban night within Canadian cities. This inventory will take the form of an easily updated website. The research will form the basis, as well, of an edited journal issue.


John ZucchiJohn Zucchi
Mad Flights and Impulsive Migration: Canadian Migrants to Brazil in the 1890s
Amount awarded: $74,998
Keywords: migration studies, social history, transnational, Canada, Quebec, Britain, Brazil

Most overseas emigrants from Europe and Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were connected to social networks that provided them with information with which they could make a rational decision to migrate. A small minority, however, migrated on impulse. Professor Zucchi’s research project seeks to understand why they did so. The project will focus on a group of "impulsive" migrants from Montreal, Canada, who journeyed to the state of São Paulo, Brazil in 1896 and who responded impulsively to advertisements and agents who lured them to Brazil on the promises of free land and free passage to South America. This study hypothesizes that impulsive migrants are not linked to traditional migratory networks as they are not anchored in their communities, and thus respond irrationally to local stimuli - enticements, inducements to migrate, which usually misrepresent reality. The research explores a number of questions: Does the decision to migrate depend on the social or occupational backgrounds of the migrants or access to capital? What role do the family and gender play in the decision? Do migrants act rationally (base their reasons on sound analysis) or on impulse? Are they “induced” or enticed to migrate? The aim of this project is to probe the relationship between migration, gender, class and ethnicity, with a particular twist: to discover why some men and women migrate on impulse. Archives of diplomatic and bureaucratic correspondence and newspaper sources from Brazil, Britain, and Canada will allow Professor Zucchi to establish the contours of this unsuccessful migration episode. Students will be involved in assembling and managing databases, researching newspapers, and entering qualitative and quantitative data from the assessment rolls and censuses into a database. The results will be presented in prepared databases on the migrants, and a series of papers and articles. The long-term plan is to write a monograph on impulsive migration.