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Denis Jeffrey, Associate Professor

photo of Jeffrey Denis

Jeffrey Denis

Associate Professor

Social Psychology Program

Department of Sociology

Area(s) of Interest:


I am a settler Canadian of mixed European ancestry and an Associate Professor of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (Dish with One Spoon territory).

Broadly speaking, my research investigates the social processes that shape the well-being of historically marginalized communities and the strategies, alliances, policies, and practices that can bring about more just and sustainable societies.

Born and raised in Toronto, I majored in Sociology and Psychology at the University of Toronto. My first foray into sociological research involved documenting the transformation and forced closure of the Wellesley Hospital, a major teaching hospital in Toronto that had been a leader in HIV treatment and innovative approaches to community participation in decision-making.

Encouraged by my mentors at U of T (especially Dennis Magill), I then completed my MA and PhD degrees in Sociology at Harvard, under the supervision of William Julius Wilson and Michèle Lamont. While in graduate school, my attention shifted from a general concern with racism, inequality, and health to a specific focus on Indigenous-settler relations and decolonization.

My PhD research involved 18 months of fieldwork, 160 interviews, and a photovoice project with Anishinaabe, Métis, and white residents of Northwestern Ontario (Treaty #3 territory). This research formed the basis of my forthcoming book, Canada at a Crossroads: Boundaries, Bridges, and Laissez-Faire Racism in Indigenous-Settler Relations. Drawing on group position theory and other critical perspectives, this book examines the sources of conflict and cooperation between Indigenous and settler communities in a small-town settler-colonial context and the promise and pitfalls of commonly proposed “solutions” to white racism, such as intergroup contact, education, and collective action.

In other research, I have conducted in-depth interviews with settler Canadians who participated in Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Idle No More events, with the goal of understanding the experiences and conditions that lead to engagement in solidarity activities with Indigenous peoples. Based on this research, graduate students (Kerry Bailey and Mollie McGuire) and I have published a series of papers on the pathways whereby some settlers come to seek reconciliation and how they understand their roles in the process. Along with Lynne Davis and Raven Sinclair, I also co-edited a special issue of Settler Colonial Studies on Pathways of Settler Decolonization (now available as a book through Routledge).

I have also collaborated on multiple community-based research projects with Indigenous communities. The Poverty Action Research Project (PARP), led by Fred Wien at Dalhousie University, involved working with five First Nations across Canada to develop poverty reduction and community development strategies and to monitor changes in community well-being. The Two-Eyed Seeing Project, also led by Dr. Wien, is a partnership with 13 Mi’kmaq communities in Nova Scotia seeking to document the causes and consequences of economic poverty and to support the development of a culturally appropriate social policy framework.

Most recently, in partnership with the non-profit group Reconciliation Kenora, I received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to conduct a series of sharing circles with Anishinaabe, Métis, and settler residents of Kenora, Ontario (Treaty #3 territory) on local community understandings of and barriers to reconciliation. I am also a co-investigator on another SSHRC-funded project, "For the Long Haul" (led by Lynne Davis at Trent University), about the conditions that foster long-term Indigenous-settler alliances, how such alliances develop over time, and the role that alliances can play in achieving social change.



PhD, Harvard University, 2011

MA, Harvard University, 2006

BA (Hon), University of Toronto, 2004


Sociology courses taught
SOCIOL 758 - Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
SOCIOL 4RR3 - Indigenous Peoples and Canada
SOCIOL 2RR3 - Case Studies of Social Inequality
Social Psychology courses taught
SOC PSY 4B03 - Special Topics in Social Psychology
SOC PSY 3D03 - Exploring Social Psychological Perspectives
SOC PSY 2YY3 - Perspectives and Theories in Social Psychology


Selected Publications


Denis, Jeffrey S. 2015. “Contact Theory in a Small-Town Settler-Colonial Context: The Reproduction of Laissez-Faire Racism in Indigenous-White Canadian Relations.” American Sociological Review 80(1): 218-242.

Denis, Jeffrey S. 2012. “Transforming Meanings and Group Positions: Tactics and Framing in Anishinaabe-White Relations in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 35(3): 453-470.

Denis, Jeffrey S., Gérard Duhaime, and David Newhouse. 2017. “Indigenous Conceptions of Well-Being: Rejecting Poverty, Pursuing Mino-Bimaadiziwin.” Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development 10(2): 124-146.

McGuire, Mollie C., and Jeffrey S. Denis. 2019. "Unsettling Pathways: How Some Settlers Come to Seek Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples." Settler Colonial Studies, DOI:

Sylvestre, Paul, Heather Castleden, Jeff Denis, Debbie Martin, and Amy Bombay. 2019. "The Tools at their Fingertips: How Settler Colonial Geographies Shape Medical Educators’ Strategies for Grappling with Anti-Indigenous Racism." Social Science and Medicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112363

Wien, Fred, Jeff Denis, Jennifer S Dockstator, Mark S Dockstator, Gérard Duhaime, Charlotte Loppie, John Loxley, Carla Moore, David Newhouse, Warren Weir, Judy Whiteduck, Wanda Wuttunee. 2019. "First Nation Paths to Well-Being: Lessons from the Poverty Action Research Project." Global Health Promotion 26(3-S): 6-16. []

Yeung, Sharon, Amy Bombay, Chad Walker, Jeff Denis, Debbie Martin, Paul Sylvestre, and Heather Castleden. 2018. "Predictors of Medical Student Interest in Indigenous Health Learning and Clinical Practice: A Canadian Case Study." BMC Medical Education 18:307 []


Denis, Jeffrey S. Forthcoming. Canada at a Crossroads: Boundaries, Bridges, and Laissez-Faire Racism in Indigenous-Settler Relations. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Davis, Lynne, Jeffrey S. Denis, and Raven Sinclair. (Editors). 2018. Pathways of Settler Decolonization. New York: Routledge. [Originally published as a special issue of Settler Colonial Studies]

Goyette, David, Dennis William Magill, and Jeff Denis (Editors). 2006. Survival Strategies: The Life, Death, and Renaissance of a Canadian Teaching Hospital. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press. 


Denis, Jeffrey S. 2018. “Sociology of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.” Online supplement to SOC+, 4th edition, edited by Robert J. Brym. Toronto: Nelson.

Denis, Jeffrey S., and Kerry A. Bailey. 2016. “‘You Can’t Have Reconciliation without Justice’: How Non-Indigenous Participants in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Process Understand their Roles and Goals.” Pp. 137-158 in The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation: Non-Indigenous People and the Responsibility to Engage, edited by Sarah Maddison, Tom Clark, and Ravi de Costa. Singapore: Springer.

Denis, Jeffrey S. 2015. "A Four Directions Model: Understanding the Rise and Resonance of an Indigenous Self-Determination Movement.” Pp. 208-228 in More Will Sing their Way to Freedom: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence, edited by Elaine Coburn. Halifax: Fernwood.

Denis, Jeffrey S. 2014. "Why Idle No More Is Gaining Strength, and Why All Canadians Should Care." Pp. 217-219 in The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, edited by The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing. [Reprint from Toronto Star, Opinion/Editorial, December 20, 2012]

Denis, Jeffrey S. 2011. “Bridging Understandings: Anishinaabe and White Perspectives on the Residential School Apology and Prospects for Reconciliation.” Pp. 257-262 in Reading Sociology: Canadian Perspectives, 2nd edition, edited by Lorne Tepperman and Angela Kalyta. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.


Olivier, Jasmine, Matthew Clair, and Jeffrey S. Denis. 2019. "Racism." In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer and Chris Rojek. John Wiley & Sons. DOI: 10.1002/9781405165518.wbeos1238

Clair, Matthew, and Jeffrey S. Denis. 2015. “Sociology of Racism.” Pp. 857-863 in International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, edited by James D. Wright. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.


Denis, Jeff. 2016. “From Reconciliation to Decolonization: How Settlers Engage in Solidarity Activism.” Pp. 151-153 in Wrongs to Rights: How Churches Can Engage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, edited by Steve Heinrichs. Winnipeg, MB: Mennonite Central Committee.

Denis, Jeff. 2016. “Racism and inequity won’t be ended by awareness alone.” Hamilton Spectator, Op-ed, July 12. 

Denis, Jeffrey S. 2013. “Book Review: Us, Them, and Others, and the Missing Cornerstone of Colonization.” Journal of International Migration and Integration 16(2): 431-436. 

Selected Research Grants

2018-2020: SSHRC Insight Development Grant: “Azhe-mino-gahbewewin: Identifying Local Community Priorities for Reconciliation in Kenora, Ontario," principal investigator (in partnership with Reconciliation Kenora)

2018-2020: SSHRC Insight Development Grant: "For the Long Haul: What We Can Learn from Long-Term Indigenous-Settler Alliances," co-investigator (PI: Lynne Davis, Trent University)

2016-2018: Canadian Research Data Centre Network, APS Mini Grant: “Cultural Connectedness and Health among First Nations, Métis, and Inuit People Living Off Reserve," principal investigator

2013-2018: Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Establishment Grant: “‘You go to emergency, you’re treated like dirt’: Reducing Aboriginal experiences of racism in health care through a medical school intervention," co-investigator (PI: Heather Castleden, Queen's University)

2013-2018: CIHR, Open Operating Grant: “Building a Social Policy Framework for the Health and Well-Being of Mi’kmaq Communities: A Two-Eyed Seeing Approach,” co-investigator (PI: Fred Wien, Dalhousie University, in partnership with the Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO))

2010-2018: CIHR, Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, Aboriginal Health Intervention Research Grant: “A Poverty Reduction Approach to Improving the Health and Well-Being of First Nation Communities,” co-Investigator (PI: Fred Wien, Dalhousie University, in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations)

2012-2014: McMaster University, Standard Research Grant, Arts Research Board: “Pathways to Being an Ally: How Some Non-Indigenous Canadians Embrace Reconciliation," principal investigator