Congratulations to Lawrence Williams, recipient of the 2017 Daniel G Hill Prize for Best Graduate Paper in Sociology

November 28, 2017 by Sherri Klassen

Congratulations to Lawrence Williams, winner of the 2017 Daniel G Hill Prize for Best Graduate Paper in Sociology at the University of Toronto.  The department awards the prize annually to an Ontario resident graduate student on the basis of the quality of a paper published between July and June of the award year.

Williams's winning article asserts that many recent attempts to bring cognitive and social psychological concepts into sociological accounts of action have tended to portray action as strictly unconsciously motivated or consciously motivated. Through an analysis of conversations between individuals who are sexually attracted to minors, however, he finds that these individuals often reflect on and refrain from acting upon their sexual desires in ways which cannot be reduced to strictly unconscious or conscious means. As such, rather than frame pedophilia as a disposition which unconsciously determines thought and action, he argues that it can better be conceptualized as an intuition which individuals learn to reflexively manage and negotiate as they encounter resistance from those around them. He extends this finding to challenge work which asserts that dispositions or unconscious drives tightly guide action by drawing on psychological research on intuition.

This article is one of four that Williams has had accepted for publication in 2017. He is currently writing his dissertation titled, Meaning at Work: How Expectations Shape Careers

The prize honours Daniel G. Hill who was a Canadian sociologist, civil servant, human rights specialist, and Black Canadian historian.  He received his PhD in our department in 1960.  Dr Hill applied his insight and expertise in several important roles including his role as a researcher for the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, serving as the Executive Secretary of the North York Social Planning Council, his position as  assistant director of the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, and teaching in the department of sociology at the University of Toronto. In addition, he was the first full-time director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, later becoming the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner. From 1984 to 1989, he served as the Ontario Ombudsman. Dr Hill also founded the Ontario Black History Society, and authored a book titled The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada.  In 1993, he was awarded the Order of Ontario. A few years later, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Congratulations also go to our two honorable mention recipients for this award -- James Braun and Gordon Brett.

Lawrence's paper “Talk of Pedophilia: The Reflexive Management of Desire” appeared in the December 2016 volume of Deviant Behavior.  It is available to subscribers here 

Williams, L. H. (2017). Talk of pedophilia: The reflexive management of desire. Deviant Behavior, 38(12), 1406-1418.

Sociologists have increasingly been using theories and models borrowed from cognitive science and psychology to address questions of personal motivation. One influential model is the dual-process model, a cognitive model which holds that individuals think and act either unconsciously and automatically, or consciously and deliberately. Through an analysis of conversations between individuals who are sexually attracted to minors, however, I find that these individuals’ sexual desires cannot be reduced to strictly automatic or deliberate means. Due to the taboo nature of this sexual preference in these individuals’ locales, their unconscious sexual desires are frequently called into question and made conscious.