Sarah Wakefield

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I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto, as well as the Director of the undergraduate Health Studies Program in University College.

I was trained as a health geographer, and still teach in that area and engage with that academic community. However, my real academic passion is activism: understanding how individuals and organizations work together to create just, healthy, and sustainable communities; what motivates activist work, what sustains it, and how it can be most effective.  Not surprisingly, this leads into all kinds of interesting questions about engagement, inclusion, and justice.  My current research explores activism in relation to two topics – food systems and neighbourhood-level community development.

My research approach is eclectic – I draw on a range of theoretical perspectives and use a number of different qualitative and quantitative methods to explore my areas of interest.  However, most of my current research involves partnerships with activist groups, community organizations and policy actors, in order to maximize the relevance and utility of my work as a tool for social and political change.

I am an almost-lifelong resident of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; I completed my Masters and PhD degrees at McMaster University after an undergraduate degree at Carleton University in Ottawa.  I met my wonderful spouse in Hamilton, and I now commute from a home there to my job in Toronto.  Much of my research work and community engagement is focussed on and in Hamilton.

Recent publications

Wakefield, S. Fredrickson, K. and Brown, T. 2015. Food security and health in Canada: Imaginaries, exclusions and possibilities. The Canadian Geographer 59(1): 82–92.

Cahaus, M., Wakefield, S. and Peng, Y.  2015. Social change or business-as-usual at City Hall? Examining an urban municipal government’s response to neighbourhood-level health inequities. Social Science and Medicine 133: 366-73

Levkoe, C. and S. Wakefield. 2014.   Understanding contemporary networks of environmental and social change: complex assemblages within Canada’s ‘food movement’. Environmental Politics 23(2): 302-320.

Jerme, E. and Wakefield, S.  2013. Growing a just garden: Environmental justice and the development of a community garden policy for Hamilton, Ontario. Planning Theory and Practice 14(3): 295–314.

Gibson-Wood, H., Wakefield, S. 2013. “Participation”, white privilege and environmental justice: Understanding environmentalism among Hispanics in Toronto.  Antipode 45(3): 641-662.

Wakefield, S., Klassen, C.  Fleming, J., and Skinner, A.  2013.  Sweet Charity, revisited: Organizational responses to food insecurity in Hamilton and Toronto, Canada. Critical Social Policy 33(3): 427-450.