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William Shaffir

William Shaffir

William Shaffir

Full Professor

Full-Time Faculty

Areas of Interest


Research Interests

  1. Is there life after politics? Undoubtedly. But interestingly, politicians experience a number of serious challenges as they learn to cope with political defeat. This study of ex-politicians, conceptualized in terms of status passage and role exit, examines the impact of political defeat, whether federally, provincially and even locally, in terms of identity loss, employment opportunities, and family life.
  2. I am currently involved in a study about messianic proselytization. The research focuses around the claims of a hassidic sect that its previous leader, who died in June 1994, was the messiah and that the Redemption is imminent. The research examines the various claims that are offered to support the group's beliefs as well as how members deal with prophecy disconfirmation.
  3. I have a long-standing interest in, and continue to research and write about, hassidic communities. This research generally focuses around issues of socialization, identity and boundary maintenance, and social control.
  4. Some of my recent research examines the dynamics of religious conversion and defection.


Research Grants

2002: Grant from University of Calgary-Gorbachev Foundation (and V. Satzewich) “The Formation of Inter-Ethnic Tolerance in Russian Society”
2001: S.S.H.R.C. grant, Qualitative Analysis Conference.
1999: S.S.H.R.C. grant, 3 years – The Invisble Stigma: A Study of Ex-Politicians.
1993: S.S.H.R.C. grant, 3 years--The Process of Messianic Proselytization.
1990: S.S.H.R.C. grant in connection with "Montreal's Hassidic Jews Revisited" study.



  • Ph.D., McGill University, 1972



Selected Publications


2005: (And D. Pawluch and C. Miall, eds.) Doing Ethnography: Researching Everyday Life . Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press.

1997: (and Bar Lev, eds.) Leaving Religion and Religious Life . Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press.

1994:(and M.L. Dietz and R. Prus, eds.) Doing Everyday Life: Ethnography as Human Lived Experience . Toronto: Copp Clark Longman Ltd.

1993: (and Robert Brym and Morton Weinfeld, eds.) The Jews In Canada . Toronto: Oxford University Press.

1990: (and Robert Stebbins, eds.) Experiencing Fieldwork: An Inside View of Qualitative Research . Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

•  (and Cyril Levitt) The Riot at Christie Pits . Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys

1987 (and Jack Haas) Becoming Doctors: The Adoption of a Cloak of Competence . Connecticut: JAI Press.


2004 (and M. Rosenberg and J. Haas) “Socialization.” Pp. 79-103 in R. Brym (ed.) New Society . Fourth Edition. Toronto: Harcourt Brace.

2003 (And Dorothy Pawluch) “Occupations and Professions.” Pp. 893-913 in L.T. Reynolds and N. J. Herman-Kinney (eds.) Handbook Of Symbolic Interactionism . AltaMira Press.

2003 (And R. Stebbins) “Introduction to Fieldwork.” Pp. 2-16 in Mark R. Pogrebin (ed.) Qualitative Approaches to Criminal Justice: Perspectives From the Field . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

2000 “Movements in and out of Orthodox Judaism: The Cases of Penitents and the Disaffected.” Pp. 269-285 in Leslie J. Francis and Yaacov J. Katz (eds.) Joining and Leaving Religion: Research Perspectives . Trowbridge, Waltshire: Gracewing.

1999 (and J. Haas) “Impression Management: Becoming a Doctor at McMaster University.” Pp. 33-46 in R. Brym (ed.) Society in Question: Sociological Reading For The 21 st Century . Second Edition. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company.


2004 “Secular Studies In A Hassidic Enclave: ‘What Do We Need It For?' The Jewish Journal of Sociology 46 (1&2): 59-77

2002 (and S. Kleinknecht) “The Trauma of Political Defeat.” Canadian Parliamentary Review 25 (3): 16-21

2002 “Outremont's Hassidim and their Neighbours: An Eruv and its Repercussions.” The Jewish Journal of Sociology 44, Nos. 1&2: 56-71.

2001 “Fieldwork Among Hassidic Jews: Moral Challenges and Missed Opportunities.” The Jewish Journal of Sociology 43, Nos. 1&2: 53-69

1999 “Doing Ethnography: Reflections on Finding Your Way.” Journal of Cotemporary Ethnography 28 (6): 676-686.

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