Since 1990 I have taught at Memorial University where I am currently a full Professor and department Head. I have previously taught at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Toronto, and Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. My undergraduate degree as well as my master’s degree are from Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1980 I was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. My thesis titled Institutional Change in Nineteenth-Century French Music (Microfiche: ISBN 0-315-05253-8. Canadian Thesis: 53147) was an attempt to create a musical equivalent of Harrison White and Cynthia White’s social history of French painting, Canvases and Careers.
- The value of anecdotal evidence in sociology
- Critical discourse analysis of news stories on Chinese-Americans
- Discourses of self and other in ethnic-minority media
- Reformulating the concept of stereotype
- Sociological theories of human-object interaction
- Self-presentation through vernacular interior decoration
- The career of the semiotician and novelist Paul Bouissac
The Pleasures of Time: Two Men, A Life (Toronto, ON: Insomniac Press, 2003). 310 pp. [Review]
The Language and Politics of Exclusion: Others in Discourse (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997). 294 pp. [Review]
The Socialness of Things: Essays on the Socio-semiotics of Objects (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994). 482 pp [Review]
Ethnic Minority Media: An International Perspective (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992). 298 pp. [Review]
Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution and Social Interaction (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1990). 456 pp. [Review]
Selective List of Academic Publications and Chapters in Books
Review of Valerie Alia’s Un/Covering the North: News, Media, and Aboriginal People. In The Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 26 (2), Spring 2001, pp. 233-235.
“Critical Representations,” Semiotic Review of Books, September 1999, 10 (3), pp. 3-5.
“The Rhetoric of Othering.” In S. H. Riggins (Ed.), The Language and Politics of Exclusion: Others in Discourse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997, pp. 1-30.
“Fieldwork in the Living Room: An Autoethnographic Essay.” In S. H. Riggins (Ed.), The Socialness of Things: Essays on the Socio-Semiotics of Objects. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994, pp. 101-147.
“Life as a Metaphor: Current Issues in Dramaturgical Analysis,” Semiotica, 95 (1 & 2), 1993, pp. 153-165.
“Inadvertent Assimilationism in the Canadian Native Press.” In S. H. Riggins (Ed.), Ethnic Minority Media: An International Perspective. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992, pp. 102-126.
“If Work Made People Rich: An Oral History of General Farming, 1905-1925.” Midwestern Folklore, 17 (2), 1991, pp. 73-109.
“The Power of Things: The Role of Domestic Objects in the Presentation of Self.” In S. H. Riggins (Ed.), Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1990, pp. 341-367.
“News as Texts and Actions,” Semiotica, 78 (3 & 4), 1990, pp. 359-374.
“The Spirit of Commerce in the Journalism of Carlos McCarty,” Indiana Magazine of History, LXXXIV (3), 1988, pp. 262-281.
“Democratizing the Arts: France in an Era of Austerity,” Queen’s Quarterly, 92 (1), 1986, pp. 149-161. (With Khoa Pham).
“The Semiotics of Things: Towards a Sociology of Human-Object Interaction,” Recherches Sémiotiques / Semiotic Inquiry (RS/SI), V, 1985, pp. 69-77.
“Institutional Change in Nineteenth-Century French Music,” Current Perspectives in Social Theory, 1985, pp. 243-260.
“Michel Foucault: An Interview,” Ethos, 1 (2), 1983, pp. 4-9. Reprinted as “The Minimalist Self.” In Lawrence Kritzman (Ed.), Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings of Michel Foucault, 1977-1984. New York: Methuen, 1988, pp. 3-16. French translation: In Michel Foucault, Dits et écrits, 1954-1988. Vol. IV. Paris: Gallimard, 1994, pp. 525-538.
Native North Americans and the Media: Studies in Minority Journalism. Special issue of the journal Anthropologica edited by S. H. Riggins, XXV (1), 1983. Includes the article “The Organizational Structure of the Toronto Native Times (1968-1981),” pp. 37-52
Sociology 4106. Mass Media and Public Opinion
Sociologists and journalists have much in common professionally, although in public we often prefer to emphasize our differences. Several well-known sociologists worked as journalists; some of the methods for acquiring information are relatively similar, for example, participant observation and investigative journalism. The predominant perspective in both professions is a commitment to writing objective, value-free literature. However, sociologists and journalists work in very different organizational settings and sociologists attempt to arrive at more general and systematic kinds of knowledge. The similarity in occupational perspectives and the crucial impact of journalists in the shaping of public opinion make the mass media a challenging object of study for sociologists.
This course provides an introduction to the varied theoretical approaches which have characterized the sociological investigation of the mass media. The instructor will attempt to present these perspective in a non-judgmental manner considering both their theoretical advantages and weaknesses. Students will be encouraged to learn to assess their own responses to media content as a first step in acquiring a critical understanding of how the media influence public opinion. Thus an important component of this course, one which accounts for one-third of the final grade, is a series of structured exercises in which students are required to analyze in class the content of various genres of mass media. The concepts used in analyses will be explained in lectures and students will be given case studies of each genre. However, the particular examples chosen for the quizzes will not be distributed prior to the exam date. Genres studied in these quizzes include print advertisements, narratives (short stories or fairy tales), television news, and rock videos. The themes of these exercises — discourses of gender, environmentalism, and Otherness — are common ones in the media and lend themselves to analyses without requiring a specialized knowledge of their subject matter. A few lectures will also deal with the work environment of professional journalists.
This is a course in both sociology and cultural studies. Sociology is understood in the context of this class as the more humanistic and qualitative types of social theory such as symbolic interactionism. Cultural studies might be defined as an intellectual and political tradition that concentrates on the meaning and social significance conveyed through “texts,” broadly defined to include films and conversations as well as sophisticated literature and popular mass media. Cultural studies resembles to some extent such apparently different theoretical frameworks as symbolic interactionism and Marxism. In both cultural studies and symbolic interactionism scholars examine how meaning is produced through the formal structures of language and symbols; in both perspectives sociologists are interested in individual and group representation. But cultural studies tends to be more political in nature — explicitly promoting inclusiveness and tolerance — than is characteristic of more scientific types of social theory.
Films used in this course include the following. From China and Taiwan: Pushing Hands, Eat Drink Man Woman, Shower, and The True Hearted. From Japan: Rhapsody in August and Shall We Dance?. From Vietnam: The Scent of Green Papaya. From India: Salaam Bombay! and The Home and the World. From France Delicatessen and Indochine. From Italy: Cinema Paradiso. From Denmark: Babette’s Feast. From Australia Strictly Ballroom. The American Native film, Smoke Signals.
Sociology 3180. Minority Groups
The formation of a group identity requires the public articulation of discourses of similarity and difference. Embracing certain identities seems to require explicitly rejecting other identities. The term “Others” thus refers to groups which are perceived — for whatever reason — as mildly or radically different. The discourses of similarity and difference which are highlighted in this course are those that define ethnicity and race.
Ethnicity is a sense of community that arises as a result of perceived common ancestry, culture, language, history, religion or customs. Ethnic identity is a dynamic process that includes an individual’s choice to identify with a group as well as outsiders’ reactions to that group. Especially in a modern society characterized by satellite broadcasting, tourism, inter-racial marriage, and mass migration, ethnic identity is a fragile, fluctuating, and negotiated identity. It is only in part determined by birth or by physical characteristics.
This is a course in both sociology and cultural studies. Sociology is understood in the context of this class as the more humanistic types of social theory such as symbolic interactionism. Cultural studies might be conceptualized as an intellectual and political tradition that concentrates on the meaning and social significance conveyed through “texts,” broadly defined to include films and conversations as well as sophisticated literature and popular mass media. Cultural studies resembles to some extent such apparently different theoretical perspectives as symbolic interactionism and Marxism. In both cultural studies and symbolic interactionism scholars examine how meaning is produced through the formal structures of language and symbols; in both perspectives sociologists are interested in individual and group representation. On the other hand, cultural studies, like Marxism, tends to be more political in nature — explicitly promoting inclusiveness and tolerance — than is characteristic of more scientific types of social theory.
Chinese-Canadians are the largest “visible minority” in Canada. Most have arrived since the 1960s, although the community can be traced back to the 1850s. Thus several readings and lectures in this course deal with the historic and contemporary experiences of Chinese minorities in North America and Asia. This part of the course includes readings and lectures about Taoism and Buddhism, traditional sources of social values in China. It should also be emphasized that the experiences of a wide diversity of minority groups are discussed in readings and lectures in the early and concluding weeks of the term.
Attendance in requires at one Wild Goose Qigong class and one Taoist Tai Chi class, which will be offered during regular class hours. Students are required to see outside class one film in Chinese (with English subtitles) about the experiences of Chinese immigrants in North America.
Requirements include an essay (worth 25% of the final grade), which is a critical discourse analysis of ONE newspaper article on ethnic minority relations. The newspaper article will be chosen by the instructor from either The Globe and Mail or The New York Times.
Sociology / Anthropology 2270. Families
This course has been organized as a wide-ranging introduction to the sociology of families. The study of families was a rather stodgy specialty in sociology until it was gradually transformed over the past thirty years by the women’s movement, which highlighted the political nature of many features of personal life. The influence of the women’s movement will be taken into account in this course without renouncing the ideal of objectivity which is part of the scientific tradition of sociology. Everyone in a given society has a definition of “the family” as part of her/his commonsense knowledge. But when these definitions are examined closely, it becomes obvious that the family, as commonly understood, is actually a very vague concept although most people may not be consciously aware of many of the ambiguities. Commonsense thinking ignores the fact that there is not one type of ideal family or actual family, but a variety of coexisting types that can be documented both historically and cross-culturally. The course attempts to survey this variety of family structures. The course will take a non-judgmental perspective towards the whole spectrum of the new politics of the family, examining topics that range from relatively “traditional” couples to those who reject state-supported affectional relationship, from the “new celibacy” to “sexual liberation,” from “child-free couples” to “single parents,” from the “pro-family” new right to “socialist feminism,” and from the “normalization of divorce” to the family as a “little utopia.”
Journalism and Non-Academic Writings
“Shoofly Quilts and Poetry,” The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Facts and Arguments column, July 18, 2005, p. A 14.
Photograph of choreographer Jeffrey Chan, Wu Ming Dance Project, Toronto Star, August 23, 2004, E3.
“Afterward: Stills Alive.” In Bill Whorrall, Goodbye Mom and Pop: Independent Businesses in Southern Indiana. Shoals, IN: Privately published, 1999, pp. 219-221.
“Growing Musical in Indiana.” In Bill Whorrall (Ed.), The Last Republic of Indiana. Shoals, IN: Privately published, 1996, N.P.
Bill Whorrall (Ed.), with contributions by Stephen Harold Riggins and Thomas Rogers. A Photographic History of Martin County: Indiana Album. Shoals, IN: Privately published, 1993. “The Photographic Portraits of Alonzo Spears,” pp. 128-141. Excerpts from previously published journalism: pp. 166-168, 326-327, 454-455. Relevant photographs: numbers 487, 519, 733, and 859.
About forty newspaper and magazine articles published in the Toronto Native Times, Ontario Indian, Toronto Arts News, and Arts Insight (Arts Indiana), 1980-1983.
Country Lilacs. Eithel Riggins’ Account of the National Ledgerwood Family in Southern Indiana, 1830-1930. Toronto: Privately published, 1983. 115 pages.
“Notes Toward a Portrait of Reba (Brown) Chandler.” In Bill Whorrall (Ed.), The Republic of Indiana No. II. Shoals, IN: Privately published. 1983, N.P.