Mervyn Horgan

University of Guelph

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).