The Family: Power, Conflict and Diversity – with Julia Hemphill

Professor Julia Hemphill offered her new course on “The Family: Power, Conflict and Diversity” during May, from May 1 to May 31, 2014.

Description: We turn a critical eye towards ‘The Family’. Comparing and contrasting competing definitions of what constitutes “a family”, we will explore the family as a social institution and as a setting for interpersonal relationships. We will examine the normative and non-normative life course of ‘the family’, addressing such topics as partnering/repartnering, raising children, work, and aging. We will also delve into topics like violence and conflict, which are endemic to many families. Power, and how it operates both inside and outside of ‘families’ will be at the core of our analysis. In addition to power, another core theme will be “difference”, and how our differences (along the lines of gender, class, ‘race’, sexuality and ability) are created, maintained, and disparately valued both inside and outside of families. Finally, we will pay close attention to how various types of families are represented in both political and popular culture.

start/end dates – May 1 / May 31, 2014

Schedule and readings: Our discussions will be guided by my lecture posts and by selected online readings and videos, some of which will be peer-reviewed and academic, while others will come from online news publications and the popular culture. Specific reading and discussion goals are set for each week, and students can proceed at their own pace. There are no live events planned. Everything about the course and all readings have been provided within the PSA Moodle website. Course lectures, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive Julia Hemphill’s replies in discussion forums. There is nothing “live” you can miss – log in and participate anytime day or night, 24/7, throughout May.


Julia Hemphill is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at York University, Toronto. She is freelance researcher and a college professor. She has taught a variety of courses at Humber College in Toronto, including classes on ‘The Family’, ‘Feminisms’, ‘Popular Culture’, and ‘The Body’. Julia’s current research area is the sociology of food. She is examining food networks and food security in rural Ontario, identifying the barriers that farmers encounter in selling their products to local consumers. She is also currently writing in the area of humor and social norms, analyzing how humor can be used to both challenge, but also sometimes reinforce problematic messages about gender and ‘race’.