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$1.6M for social science research at Memorial

By Meaghan Whelan

What do religion and Disney, the Canadian news media and climate change, and employment after retirement have in common? They are among the 26 projects being led by Memorial researchers to receive more than $1.6 million in new research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

"Research in the social sciences and humanities is essential to our understanding of the complex and rapidly changing world we share, our place in and impact on that world, and our interactions with one another," said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research) of Memorial University. "These investments, earned in a tough national competition, will enable talented researchers at Memorial to contribute to that understanding, and to help effect a safer, more civil and sustainable future for Canada and the world."

Research funded by the SSHRC is meant to enhance our understanding of modern social, cultural, technological, environmental, economic and wellness issues. Minister of Industry Gary Goodyear recently announced the Government of Canada's investment of $121 million through SSHRC to support more than 1,700 projects across Canada.

Dr. Jennifer Porter, Department of Religious Studies, received funding for her project, Religion and Disney: Exploring the Dimensions of Disney's Religious Work in Films, Theme Park Productions and Fan Communities.

She will investigate the impact that Disney entertainment has on the worldviews of audiences by observing Disney fan communities. Unlike any other study to date, this project seeks to identify the meanings fans take from Disney films and theme parks, what impact these meanings have on their religious and ideological worldviews, and what such impacts might say about the ideological positioning of Disney fans in global cultural and religious landscapes. The project will contribute to a more generalized understanding of religion in the 21st century, and point to new ways of being religious in a media and consumption driven world.

Dr. Mark Stoddart, Department of Sociology, received funding for his project, Canadian News Media and Climate Change Discourse Networks, 1997-2010.
Climate change is an ongoing, much politicized and much publicized issue around the globe. Dr. Stoddart's focus on climate change discourse in Canada is particularly relevant, given the concerns about the potential climate impacts of Alberta's oil sands, Canada's role in the debates about Arctic sovereignty given the receding polar ice, and the fact that Canada is ranked among the worst per-capita greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Dr. Stoddart also received funding for Puffins, Kayaks and Oil Rigs: Shifting Modes of Society-Environment Interaction on the Newfoundland Coast.

Dr. Amy Warren, Faculty of Business, is the lead researcher on a study of bridge employment, the work that an individual partakes in after retiring from their career. Dr. Warren and her co-investigators, Dr. Kathryne Dupré (also a Memorial University faculty member) and Dr. Kevin Kelloway, are interested in bridge employees' perceptions and experiences during this form of employment. Given the large number of baby boomers who will soon retire from their careers and the financial impact of the economic crisis, it is expected that many more people may consider working bridge jobs.

A complete list of the projects funded at Memorial can be found on pages 9 and 11.