FASS News, Research

FASS researchers awarded 2020 Social Sciences and Humanities Council Insight Grants

July 09, 2020

SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) is pleased to congratulate faculty members from across our many departments who have been awarded Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) Insight Grants for 2020

Principle investigators from across FASS units have been awarded a total of $2,097,181 in new funding to support their research. These include: Evan McCuish (criminology), Krishna Pendakaur (economics), Sophie McCall (English), Colette Colligan (English), Michelle Levy (English), Sasha Colby (English), John Craig (history), John Alderete (linguistics), Henny Yeung (linguistics), Panayiotis Pappas (linguistics), Laura Aknin (psychology), Wendy Thornton (psychology), and Kathleen Millar (sociology and anthropology). 

Congratulations also goes out to FASS SFU co-applicants and collaborators on successful Insight Grant projects including but not limited to: Martin Bouchard (criminology), Chris Bidner (economics), Marianne Ignace (linguistics), Murray Munro (linguistics), and Pamela Stern (sociology and anthropology). 

Insight Grants aim to build knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world. By supporting and fostering excellence in social sciences and humanities research, the program deepens, widens and increases our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as informing the search for solutions to societal challenges. 

FASS researchers will be working on a diverse array of research projects, ranging from the economics of household decision-making and consumption in Bangladesh and Malawi; infant- and child-directed speech with caregivers in multilingual settings; and investigating how journalistic processes mediated international coverage of the criminal trials of Anglo-Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in the 19th century, to name just a few*.

Congratulations to all SFU lead researchers, co-applicants, collaborators and students who are involved in these exciting multidisciplinary and collaborative projects!

*full titles and abridged descriptions of SFU SSHRC Insight Grant projects can be found below. If you are a co-applicant or collaborator and would like to send us your project title and brief descriptions, please email

Evan McCuish
Assistant Professor, Criminology
Project title: The linked lives of offenders: A social network analysis approach

McCuish’s project asks what kinds of social interactions influence young offender‘s involvement in offending over the life course of young offenders. The project utilizes data from the longitudinal study, the Incarcerated Serious and Violent Young Offender Study (ISVYOS), which follows 1721 formerly incarcerated adolescents into adulthood. 

McCuish’s project will collect data on data on the friendship, co-offending, and conflictual social ties that members of the study have, both in prison and in the community, to unravel the life course criminology notion of ‘linked lives.’ Findings will be shared with Canadian and international criminal justice system practitioners to help inform the prevention of violence in prisons and communities. 

Chris Bidner
Associate Professor, Economics
Project title: Unbundling Female Empowerment

In a joint collaboration with professor Siwan Anderson from University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Vancouver School of Economics, Bidner’s research project on “Unbundling Female Empowerment” received a SSHRC Insight Grant worth $250,000. The project aims to expand our understanding of gender issues in the context of developing countries by carefully and systematically “unbundling” the various components of female empowerment. The insights gained from this project will help inform international development policy initiatives to promote gender equality and female empowerment. 

Krishna Pendakur
Professor, Economics
Project title: Short Panel Analysis of Household Models

The objectives of Pendakur’s research on household decision-making and consumption in Bangladesh and Malawi are threefold: to design a more dynamic collective household model, to develop new econometric techniques, and to create public-use datasets for further research. The outcomes from Pendakur’s project will have applications beyond academia. The methods developed will allow policy makers to engage in consumer choice analyses more closely, and make the prediction of useful policy objects such as inflation rates more accurate and robust.

Sophie McCall
Associate Professor, English
Project title: Indigenous-Led Collaboration in the Indigenous Literary Arts

SFU English’s Sophie McCall and Kristina Fagan Bidwell of the University of Saskatchewan are co-researchers on this project which investigates Indigenous-led collaboration in Indigenous literary arts in Canada. They define Indigenous-led collaboration as a diverse set of alliance-building practices—carried out by either Indigenous and non-Indigenous or all-Indigenous groups—that prioritize Indigenous leadership in building relationships across cultures, languages, and histories. 

McCall is the principal investigator and a Scottish-descended settler scholar, while Fagan Bidwell is an Inuk literary scholar and member of the NunatuKavut Inuit community of southern Labrador. Their project aims to both recover neglected or overlooked collaborative productions in the Indigenous literary archive as well as conduct qualitative interviews to see how Indigenous and settler collaborators working in a variety of disciplines build relationships across differences. They also hope to co- co-author a Handbook on Collaborative Practice Collaborative Practice as an outcome of this research.

Colette Colligan
Professor, English
Project title: Wilde News Abroad: International Journalism and Oscar Wilde's London Sex Trials 

Combining archival research and computational approaches for gathering newspaper coverage, Colette Colligan’s project examines international news coverage of Anglo-Irish writer Oscar Wilde’s famous criminal trials of the late 19th century. 

Colligan is interested in how journalistic processes mediated the international circulation of one of the most sensational news stories of its time. The trials caught worldwide attention and resulted in Wilde’s conviction of ‘gross indecency,’ in 1895. Colligan notes Wilde was at the height of his celebrity when he was arrested and his trials spurred social debates about homosexuality, metropolitan degeneracy, and aristocratic privilege, and fueling journalistic competition to get the news first. Her project aims to contribute a new cultural analysis of the history of international journalism and its mediating role in cultural globalisation at a time when global telegraphic communications were reaching maturity.   

Michelle Levy
Professor, English
Project title: Women's Books, 1660-1830                 

Michelle Levy’s project launches the second phase of The Women’s Print History Project, a comprehensive digital bibliography of women’s books. The Insight Grant will allow the expansion of the first phase of the project’s records to include women who were engaged in roles outside of authorship in occupations such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and also as editors, compilers, translators, engravers, illustrators and composers. 

Taking a team approach to expand the bibliography, the project will collaborate with scholars with expertise in the print culture of France (Colette Colligan, SFU), America (Melissa Homestead, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and Early-Modern Britain (Kate Ozment, Cal Poly Pomona). This expansion in data will allow scholars to trace the interconnections and influences between women, their labour and their writing in the Atlantic world and make it possible to reconstruct social, economic and geographical networks within the book trades. In addition, the project will also help scholars analyze new knowledge about the historical trends that define women’s labour in the print marketplace during this important period in the history of books and of women's position in society.

The project has received ongoing development support from SFU’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab. Funding from SSHRC will allow five SFU students (current, incoming and graduated) to continue to work on the project: Kandice Sharren (PhD English); Kate Moffatt (BA and MA English); Sara Penn (BA and incoming MA English); Victoria DeHart (BA archeology and history); Hanieh Ghaderi (BA candidate, GSWS), and Amanda Law (BA candidate, English). Also, regular podcasts about the research will be posted in the coming year. Please check out and the project’s Instagram page at @womensprinthistoryproject. Contact Project Director Michelle Levy ( to learn more or become involved.

Sasha Colby
Associate Professor, English
Project Title: The Biographical Lens: WW II Forced Labour and Modernist Photographic Life Histories, 1920-1946

Drawing on studies in forced labour, modernism and photography as well as approaches in auto/biographical, theatre and literary studies, Sasha Colby’s project has the goal of adapting three popular biographical forms: biographical narrative, the memoir and biographical drama. She aims to use each of these as a mode of inquiry into the intersection of WW II forced labour narratives and specific social and artistic histories of photography during the period 1920-1946.

The project includes a wide body of both primary and secondary sources: print, digital, and aural forced labour narratives, studies in WW II, photography, literary and visual modernism, and auto/biographical materials including letters, interviews and notebooks, as well as Displaced Persons’ camp photography and film. 

Colby will combine analytical research, theatre-based inquiry and biographical synthesis to produce three unique pieces:  

  1. A biographical narrative intermarrying French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s prisoner of war forced labour internment and artistic development, 1920-1946.
  2. A research-enriched memoir tracing Ukrainian-Canadian forced labourer Irina Kylynych’s experience in the Nazi controlled Leica Camera factory and employment in the Leica owners’ household during the family’s sustained efforts to smuggle persecuted people out of Germany, 1941-1945.
  3. A biographical drama exploring forced labourers’ experience of mass displacement, staged with Cartier Bresson’s Displaced Persons’ camp photographs and films, 1945-1946.

Inviting a range of critical and general audiences in to the research process through series of workshops, talk-back sessions and interactions, the project’s process aims to create dynamic forms of dialogue around the research and its transmission as well as shape final versions of the project outcomes. In turn, the data drawn from these sessions will form the basis for the project’s fourth objective, a comparative analysis of the three biographical forms’ effectiveness in creating and communicating interdisciplinary research.

John Craig’s project is driven by two main questions: What was the impact of the English Reformation upon the festive and dramatic culture of the British Isles and specifically upon the eastern counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire? And how, in turn, and with what consequences, did changes in the popular experience of dramatic performances shape the dominant modes of religious belief in this region of England?

Craig notes that these questions have been much debated in general terms by late medievalists, historians and students of theatre,” but that they have not seriously taken on “for these counties because the records concerned with early drama have not been brought together in a way that would permit analysis.  

The project’s questions are contextualized both by debates and religious changes happening in the British Isles in the 16th and 17th centuries, and situated in scholarly work on medieval drama and the ongoing work of Toronto-based international research project The Records of Early English Drama (REED). Craig is the lead historian for the REED East Anglian collections and says his project will contribute to REED by 1) researching all surviving evidence for Norfolk, and 2) editing and publishing three new online collections for the counties of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and the city of Norwich.

This research will benefit students and scholars alike as the new collections will allow them to gain insight and understanding of religious and cultural identities of eastern England, a region that gave crucial support to the Parliamentary cause in the bitter bloodshed and violence of the civil wars, part of Britain’s last wars of religion, the legacies of which have shaped the modern world.

Henny Yeung
Assistant Professor, Linguistics
Project title: Linguistic Analysis of Infant- and Child-directed Speech in One's First and Second Languages

Henny Yeung’s project examines infant- and child-directed speech with caregivers in multilingual settings in Canada. Most of Canada’s population growth comes from immigration and so multilingual newcomers will likely to use some combination of their first, or native, language (L1) as well as English or French as their non-native, or second language (L2) when addressing infants and children. The prevalence of multilingual caregivers in Canada presents several issues and challenging choices, such as which language to speak so as to best support children as they navigate their own identities and 21st century economic and cultural landscapes. 

There is little research that describes the linguistic properties of parent and caregiver speech to infants and children when spoken in the caregiver’s L1 versus their L2. The proposed project aims to: describe how caregivers use their L1 and L2 when speaking with their children; analyze potential linguistic differences in infant-directed speech (IDS) or child-directed speech (CDS) when a caregiver uses their L1 or L2; assess how IDS or CDS in a caregiver’s L2 is perceived by adult listeners; and study how infants and children process IDS or CDS when a caregiver is speaking an L2. The outcomes and impact of this project will help educators, policy-makers and caregivers make informed choices regarding language use in parenting.

John Alderete
Professor, Linguistics
Project title: Speech Production and Speech Errors: New Directions Using Corpus and Experimental Methods in English and Cantonese

John Alderete’s project takes on a scientific study of speech errors and the impact on speech production. As a tremendously complex behaviour, speaking involves assigning concepts to words (lexical selection), retrieving the sounds inside words (phonological encoding), and expressing words with explicit motor actions (articulation). Despite wide acceptance of these distinct production processes, there is debate on what kinds of information these processes have access to and how they might interact through this information in speaking. The study of lexical properties, such as a word’s frequency or confusability with other words, has significant promise for advancing the debate over interactivity because lexical properties reveal how word-level information is accessed by these processes, and how interactions across the three production processes occur.

Alderete’s study will investigate the impact of lexical factors on speech production through the scientific study of speech errors. Fifty years of research has shown that speech errors are a methodologically sound way of studying speech production because they naturally reflect the underlying mechanisms in normal language production. Preliminary research found important effects of lexical properties on speech error patterns that suggest interactions weave through all three production processes. The researchers will address existing empirical lacunae by investigating large datasets of speech errors from two typologically distinct languages, English and Cantonese.

Panayiotis Pappas  
Associate Professor, Linguistics
Project title: Dialect Features in the Greek of Greek-Canadians  

Panayiotis Pappas’ project was conceived as an international collaboration between Pappas and two linguists from the Modern Greek Dialects Laboratory in Greece. It will explore foundational issues in quantitative sociolinguistics by examining four key dialectal features of Modern Greek in the speech of Greek-Canadians.

It will first compile a linguistically annotated machine-readable corpus of Modern Greek spoken by first generation Greek-Canadians, who arrived in Canada between 1945 and 1975. These interviews were recorded and transcribed during a previous project, Immigrec, which was completed in December 2018. This large sample comprises participants from almost all dialectal areas of Greece, both sexes, as well as a wide range of educational backgrounds ranging from barely literate to university educated. These recordings will help preserve dialects of Modern Greek which are quickly vanishing in Greece itself. 

The study aims to make an original contribution to the field of Modern Greek dialectology by constructing a rich spoken corpus of dialects that are facing extinction and by examining seminal and yet under-studied dialectal features using a quantitative approach. The existence of such an annotated corpus will allow for the efficient analysis of other interesting linguistic phenomena, which are quite likely to emerge during the process of annotation and analysis, such as language contact and ethnolinguistic vitality. The availability of an open access annotated corpus will also invite other scholars to explore different aspects of these dialectological data.

Lara Aknin
Associate Professor, Psychology
Project Title: Building a Better "thank-you": Investigating Effective Gratitude Content to Promote Sustained Prosociality 

Lara Aknin’s research aims to identify what makes messages of gratitude effective.  Humans are extraordinarily prosocial. Most people care for their families, assist their neighbours, donate money to charity, and some even give blood to strangers they will never meet. While a single act of kindness can provide benefits, charitable organizations and interpersonal relationships often thrive with sustained support. Repeat donors allow charities to budget their resources responsibly, and relationships with those we count on in times of need tend to be long-lasting. 

Accordingly, Aknin’s research seeks to explore the role of gratitude in interpersonal and charitable giving contexts in order to determine how it shapes self-perceptions, well-being and prosociality. In particular, this project will investigate whether gratitude expressions—messages of appreciation typically provided after prosocial action—can be used to effectively promote sustained prosociality. The goal of this research is to identify the content of effective gratitude messages, defined here as messages that boost the benefactor’s positive feelings and self-perceptions to promote sustained assistance for the beneficiary. 

Wendy Thornton
Professor, Psychology
Project title: Understanding Fraud Susceptibility in Adulthood

A goal of Wendy Thornton’s research project is to develop a comprehensive model of psychosocial predictors of fraud susceptibility in adulthood. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a disproportionate increase in financial fraud, with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reporting a staggering $1.2 million dollars lost to fraud between March and April 2020. Thus, more than ever before, understanding and facilitating resilience to fraud has sweeping psychological and economic implications. 

While there is little doubt that older adults are targeted more frequently and have less ability to recover losses from fraud, the question of whether older adults have characteristics that make them uniquely susceptible to fraud remains hotly debated. The belief that older adults are more fraud susceptible also bolsters old-age stereotypes of cognitive decline and frailty, reinforces stigma against fraud victims, and may increase victims’ reluctance to report being scammed. 

Using the Everyday Social Decisions task developed in the Cognitive Aging Research Lab, this project will determine the magnitude of age differences and other risk factors for fraud susceptibility in adults aged 18-99. Elucidating factors associated with fraud susceptibility are necessary to develop strategies to optimize decision making for individuals faced with potentially misleading information across domains (i.e., financial, romantic, health). The findings will also facilitate targeted initiatives to educate the general public and inform policy makers on approaches to minimize fraud risk.

Kathleen Millar
Associate Professor, Sociology & Anthropology
Project Title: Dealing with Default: The Lived Experience of Consumer Debt in Brazil        

Kathleen Millar’s project looks at the unintended consequences of the global push to financial inclusion through an ethnographic study of default in Brazil. “Just give money to the poor" is the mantra of financial inclusion programs that have recently swept across the global South from India to Indonesia to South Africa to Brazil. 

Financial inclusion has become a widely promoted social policy and development project. Yet paradoxically, while financial inclusion programs have been celebrated as a way to lift millions out of poverty, they have often also produced the opposite effect. Such is the case of Brazil. In the early 2000s, efforts by the left-leaning government to provide bank accounts and extend credit to low-income Brazilians generated the country's largest consumer debt crisis in its history. Today, 40 per cent of all adult Brazilians are in default. 

Through an analysis of household debt during a time of political and economic upheaval in Brazil, Millar’s project will provide insights for policymakers and grassroots organizations devoted to improving the life conditions of low-income citizens in one of the most unequal countries of the world.