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Ellen Berrey, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and an affiliated scholar of the American Bar Foundation. Her research explores the cultural dynamics of race and racism, law, organizations, and social movements. 


Her first book, The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice (University of Chicago Press 2015) was awarded the 2016 Herbert Jacob Book Prize of the Law & Society Association, the 2016 Distinguished Book Award of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Sociology of Law section, and the 2016 Mary Douglas Book Prize Honorable Mention of the ASA Sociology of the Culture section. You can read about it in the New Yorker. Her Salon article, "Diversity Is for White People," has been shared on social media more than 33,000 times. 

Her most recent book, with Robert Nelson and Laura Beth Nielsen, Rights on Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality (University of Chicago Press 2017) was awarded the 2018 Distinguished Book Award, Honorable Mention, of the American Sociological Association (ASA) Sociology of Law section. It was featured in an Author-Meets-Critics session at the June 2018 meeting of the Law & Society Association. For more, visit the book website and check out chapter 1

Her two current projects examine campus protest movements in the U.S. and Canada in the 2010s (with Alex Hanna), with a focus on anti-racist activism, and a conspiracy theory-fuelled social movement against sustainability planning. Read more about them here.


Praise for The Enigma of Diversity


"Vibrant, vital, and incisive." 

Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University


"A remarkable contribution." 

Osagie Obasogie, University of California-Hastings School of Law


"The ethnography of the corporation . . . is worth the price of the book alone." 

John Skrentny, University of California-San Diego

Ellen Berrey

Research Updates 


Back from medical leave! In April, Alex Hanna and I did our first (!!) presentation on our study of U.S. and Canadian campus protest and university and police responses, for the Columbia University Wealth & Inequality Seminar. 

Over the past 5 1/2 years, Alex and I have employed a team of RAs - 26 in total - who have coded, adjudicated, and cleaned protest data based on 16,069 articles in student newspapers. They are amazing. This project is huge.


As an invited panelist at Stanford's Inaugural IDEAL Fellows conference in October, I spoke in conversation with Jordan Starck's excellent research on the diversity benefits paradigm.  

My research obenefit corporations, published in the Tennessee Journal of Business Law, has been downloaded from the journal web site 9,460 times

At the American Sociological Association annual meeting in August, I presented my articles on affirmative action, published with Dan Hirschman and prabhdeep singh kehal and participated in a conversation on "Becoming a Sociologist of Law."


The 2022 Law & Society Association Graduate Student & Early Career workshop in June, which I co-chaired with Shauhin Taleshtook place both virtually and in Lisbon, Portugal. It was fantastic. For junior law student & society scholars, esp advanced PhD students,, I highly recommend applying to this terrific annual program. 


Winter: Published! My article with prabhdeep singh kehal and Dan Hirschman on what happens to student enrollments when universities drop affirmative action, in Sociology of Race & Ethnicity (pre-print here).

Winter: I joined esteemed colleagues for a discussion on "Revisiting Cultural Methods to Address Racism" (video and synopsis here), through the ASA Sociology of Culture Section's Culture and Contemporary Life webinar series. 

Spring: With prabhdeep singh kehal and Dan Hirschman, I presented on “Putting Diversity Narratives in Context: Affirmative Action Policy Across the Field of Higher Education” at the Harvard University Culture and Social Analysis Workshop.

I had the honor of delivering the Keynote Address for the annual meeting of the New York State Sociological Association, with Fatima Al Saadie: “How Should We Explain Movements and Policy Motivated by Conspiracy Theory? On the Empirics and Ethics of Studying Trumpism.” 


Aug: Submitted! Here's my paper with prabhdeep singh kehal and Dan Hirschman on what happens to student enrollments when universities drop affirmative action.

Summer: An undergraduate student, Fatima Al Saadie, received a UofT Excellence Award and a Mitacs award to continue our collaborative research on the anti-Agenda 21 movement. Go Fatima!

Spring: Check out my webinar on "Are Benefit Corporations Beneficial?" for The Conference Board's Sustainability Watch Series.  

The Canadian government (SSHRC) is providing additional funds for my study, with Alex Hanna, of campus protest and university responses in the U.S .and Canada, 2012-18. This fall, we will be growing our research team of 7 student RAs to appx. 16 RAs in order to finish creating our protest event dataset.


Winter: My book chapter on the anti-Agenda 21 uprising is out, in an edited volume with esteemed contributors in the areas of international studies and culture.


Oct: Presented my study of the political mobilization against local sustainability planning with a stellar team of undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Mississauga sustainability conference. 

June: Promoted to Associate Professor! Yay! 

Contact me if you'd like a copy of “Is Diversity Racial Justice? Affirmative Action in Admissions and the Promises and Perils of Law,” now out in Challenging the Status Quo: Diversity, Democracy, and Equality in the 21st Century, Eds. Sharon Collins and David G. Embrick.

My research obenefit corporations, published in the Tennessee Journal of Business Law, has been downloaded from the journal web site 2,770+ times


Sept: Alex Hanna and I launch a major extension of our cross-national study of student protest, thanks to funding from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Aug: Rights on Trial was recognized with an honorable mention for the 2018 Distinguished Book Prize of the Sociology of Law section of the American Sociological Association.

June 9: Author Meets Reader session on Rights on Trial  at the Law & Society Association meeting in Toronto. Woohoo!


June 8: Speaking at LSA on my study of social enterprise and benefit corporations. Send an email if you want the slides.  

May: For my current thoughts on The Enigma of Diversity, affirmative action, diversity policies, multiculturalism discourse in Canada, and how universities can do better, check out this written interview for the Munk School, by Shannon Clarke. 

Spring: Robyn Stryker's very thoughtful review of Rights on Trial, out in Social Forces.

Jan. 19: Check out my interview with Univ. of Toronto News on Trump's first year in office


Fall: Care about #MeToo and #TimesUp? See our latest pieces on employment discrimination law: “Here’s What to Know Before You File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit” (TIME motto) and "10 Myths Show the Harsh Realities of Employment Civil Rights Litigation” (American Bar Association Journal)

Dec. 8: Speaking on "Rights on Trial"  with Laura Beth and Bob at l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris!), at a workshop on our book and Lauren Edelman's excellent book, Working Law

Nov. 7: "Rights on Trial," University of Notre Dame

Sept 27: Chicago book launch at the ABF

Aug: See my new article on affirmative action trends, 1988-2014.


July 10: Rights on Trial launchCheck it out here.

June: Join the party for my new book or hear my talk about it (with Laura Beth) at the Law & Society Association annual meeting in Mexico City.

Apr: Catch me at the University of Toronto Mississauga Celebration of Books.

Feb: Author-Meets-Critics session on The Enigma of Diversity at the Eastern Sociological Society

Jan: I'll be speaking on my forthcoming book, Rights on Trial: How Employment Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality, at the University of California-Irvine Department of Crime, Law and Society. There also will be a discussion of The Enigma of Diversity at the UC-Irvine Law School, sponsored by the Center on Law, Equality, and Race (CLEaR).


Dec: I delivered the Andrews Lecture at Bates College, speaking on the enigma of diversity before Trump and now. Inspired by the great work happening there!

July:  I have officially begun at the University of Toronto! You now can reach me at

June: The Enigma of Diversity wins the Distinguished Book Prize of the Sociology of Law section and the Mary Douglas Book Award honorable mention of the Sociology of Culture section, both of the American Sociological Association.

April: The Enigma of Diversity wins the 2016 Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law & Society Association. 


March: American Journal of Sociology reviews my book: "exceptionally ambitious . . . a major contribution to the study of race"


March-April: I'll be speaking about my book at Williams College, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Harvard Business School. Drop me a note if you'll be in town


Jan. 22: La Vie des Idées reviews my book. Hopefully the English translation will be out soon!



Nov. 3: Choice recommends my book.


Oct. 25: My Salon op-ed, "Diversity Is for White People" is getting buzz.  One of the most read Salon articles this week! In total, 30,000+ Facebook shares on Salon's website.


Oct. 19: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity's review of my book: "compelling and beautifully written."


September: The Enigma of Diversity has been selected for an Author-Meets-Critics session at the Aug. 2016 meeting of the American Sociological Association. Less than 7% of the 400+ books considered were selected.


Sept. 15: The first review of my book! By Shamus Khan in Public Books: "an impressive achievement."


Sept. 12: Podcast interview Enigma of Diversity with The Society Page's Office Hours.


June 16: Double radio appearances: 

"Defining Diversity" on Georgia Public Radio's On Second Thought program


"The Enigma of Diveristy, continued," on Conversations with Jim Anderson, WUFO 1080AM


May 29: "Making a Civil Rights Claim for Affirmative Action: BAMN’s Legal Mobilization and the Legacy of Race-Conscious Policies," Presentation at the Law & Society Association annual meeting


Starting May 13: Guest blogging at the popular sociology blog,


May 18: Official release of The Enigma of Diversity


May 12: "The Enigma of Diversity," on Conversations with Jim Anderson, WUFO 1080AM


April 6: "Can We Race Together? An Autopsy 

Op-ed in The Society Pages

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