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Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 25, 2003

U of G profs win top book prize

Two University of Guelph professors have been awarded the top annual Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA) book prize for their look at the effects of contemporary corporate strategies such as plant closures and downsizing on manufacturing-dependent rural communities in Canada.

Co-authors Tony Winson and Belinda Leach of the department of sociology and anthropology received the 2003 John Porter Memorial Book Prize for Contingent Labour, Disrupted Lives: Labour and Community in the New Rural Economy.

The prize was created in 1980 by the CSAA in memory of sociologist John Porter to recognize work contributing to the advancement of sociological or anthropological knowledge of Canada. Porter, who died in 1979, was concerned with the equality of opportunity and the exercise of power by elites in society. His major work, The Vertical Mosaic: An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada, challenged the image that Canada was a classless society with no barriers to opportunity.

"The name of John Porter was of such historical significance for the establishment of the social sciences in Canada, and it is a great privilege to be associated with the prize established to honour his memory," said Winson.

Added Leach: "This award is important to me because our colleagues have recognized this area of work, specifically on rural Canada, to be important. It's also an honour to be associated with Porter tradition, along with earlier recipients of the prize, such as Dorothy Smith."

Winson and Leach will present the John Porter Award Lecture in June 2004 at the annual meeting of the CSAA in Winnipeg.

In Contingent Labour, Disrupted Lives, the authors argue that the new rural economy involves a fundamental shift in the stability and security of people's lives and forces them to rebuild their lives in the new economic terrain.

Their research is based on studies of five rural manufacturing towns in Ontario hit by plant shutdowns and downsizing, and the effects of layoffs and what Winson and Leach call "contingent labour" on workers and the community. They supplemented the case studies with data collected from other small (population 3,000 to 7,000) manufacturing-dependent communities around southern Ontario.

Winson and Leach explore the communities of Elora and Harriston, both affected by the closure of Canada Packers plants, and Mount Forest, which saw a Westinghouse plant shut down. They also examine Arnprior in eastern Ontario, where Weavexx closed a weaving mill, then looked at the effects of downsizing a paper mill in Iroquois Falls in northern Ontario.

Along with former graduate student Sandra Watson, they made repeated visits to each town to interview numerous employers, employees, municipal officials and social agencies.

"Like Porter's The Vertical Mosaic, Winson and Leach's volume addresses major issues of social inequality and power distribution in Canada," said James Curtis, chair of the CSAA John Porter Memorial Book Prize Committee. Contingent Labour, Disrupted Lives "is broad and sweeping in research approach, squarely embedded in the theoretical literature, insightful, well-written and accessible, and offers important policy suggestions," he said.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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