Karen Bird is Associate Professor of Political Science at McMaster
University. She specializes in comparative politics, with particular
attention to gender and ethnic diversity. Dr. Bird teaches teaches
courses in Comparative Politics, the Politics of Multiculturalism,
Research Design and Methods. She has been a visiting research fellow at
several European research centres, including the Centre
d’Informatisation des Données Socio-Politiques (CIDSP) in Grenoble,
France, the Academy for Migration Studies in Aalborg (AMID), Denmark,
and the Unité de Recherches Migrations et Société (URMIS) in Paris,
France. She has also taught political science courses at the Instituts
d’Etudes Politiques in Grenoble and Lille.
Dr. Bird’s research addresses the descriptive and substantive representation of women and ethnic minorities across parliamentary democracies. She has explored these issues through two research streams. One concerns women’s representation, and includes work on the role and impact of gender parity laws in France. The other addresses modes of political incorporation, mobilization, and representation of immigrants and ethnic minorities—in particular, examining variations in the opportunity structure for minority representation across different political systems. Combining these two streams, she has sought to develop conceptual and practical insights on including women and minorities in research and in political arrangements for more inclusive forms of representation and governance.
Dr. Bird was awarded an SSHRC research grant (2009-2011) for her project “Comparing Ethnic Minority Representation Across Parliamentary Democracies.” She has recently published a book from that project (co-edited with Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas Wüst): The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010). She is a co-investigator in the “Welcoming Communities Initiative” which is an SSHRC-funded Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) investigating immigrant and minority integration in smaller and medium-sized cities in Ontario. Among her current research projects is a study that looks at the causes of under-representation of women and visible minorities within municipal politics in Ontario. Methodologically, Dr. Bird’s work combines comparative historical analysis that is principally qualitative (archival research, interviews, focus groups), more quantitative approaches (including experiments and large-sample surveys).
3G03 – Ethnicity and Multiculturalism: Theory and Practice
3N06 – Research Methods and Statistical Analysis for Political Science
4AA6 – Race and U.S. Politics
746 –Democracy and Diversity: Multicultural Policies in Comparative Perspective
796 – Research Design and Methods
Research & Supervisory Interests
I teach courses in Comparative Politics, US Politics, The Politics of Multiculturalism, and Research Methods and Statistics. I have been a visiting research fellow at several European research centres, including the Centre d’Informatisation des Données Socio-Politiques (CIDSP) in Grenoble, France, the Academy for Migration Studies in Aalborg (AMID), Denmark, and the Unité de Recherches Migrations et Société (URMIS) in Paris, France. I have also taught political science courses at the Instituts d’Etudes Politiques in Grenoble and Lille.
My research interests lie in comparative politics. Within this area, my work is focused upon multiculturalism and citizenship, civil liberties, and the political representation of women and minorities in democratic societies. I am presently writing articles on the implementation of France’s gender parity law at various electoral levels, and a book manuscript comparing the political representation of ethnic minorities in several states. A paper that forms the framework for this latter project is available online. Methodologically, my work combines comparative historical analysis that is principally qualitative (archival research, interviews, focus groups), with cross-national surveys.
I am interested in supervising students who are working in the following areas of political science:
- Multiculturalism, ethnicity, “race” relations and citizenship
- Gender and women in politics
- Issues of political representation, electoral and party systems
- Politics of immigration
- Civil liberties (especially issues related to freedom of speech, political tolerance, measures to combat racism and discrimination)
- U.S. politics; French politics; European politics
- Political psychology; political socialization
- Civic and democratic education
Major Research Funding
1. SSHRC Standard Research Grant (2009-2011)
- "Political Representation of Ethnic Minorities and Immigrants in Parliamentary Democracies"
The overall objective of this research is to contribute to our understanding of how ethnic minority representation varies from country to country, as well as within countries. The focus is on minority representatives themselves, on teh opportunities and obstacles they encounter in different political systems, and on how they respond to these. The countries that will be examined closely are Canada, France and Denmark, though patterns of minority representation in other countries will also be considered.
2. SSHRC-CURA (2009-2012)
"Welcoming Communities Initiative" (co-investigator)
- The Welcoming Communities Initiative is examining the challenges faced by small and medium-sized Ontario cities in the attraction and inclusion of immigrants and minorities, working to strengthen municipal capacity to respond to and overcome these challenges, working to strengthen the capacity of the voluntary sector that plays such a crucial role in service delivery and social inclusion, and testing and implementing strategies for creating and sustaining communities in which all members feel comfortable and valued. The Initiative is also helping federal and provincial ministries to develop and improve their policy and program interventions.
- One of the main criteria of a representative democracy is that it secure equitable representation of all concerned groups in the development of public policies. Yet, at the beginning of the 21st century, women and ethnic minorities remain largely under-represented in the democratic legislatures of the world. The Women and Minorities Project seeks to advance our understanding of the sources of this exclusion, and the paths to inclusion for both groups. This research project focuses on the following areas of interest:
Descriptive representation: Who are the women/minorities who run as candidates, and who get elected as representatives? What parties are they active in? Is there anything distinctive about their recruitment and career paths?
Policy focus and outcomes: What issues do female/minority representatives focus on? How effective are they in influencing policy debates and outcomes?
Democratic responsiveness: Does the presence of women/minorities in legislative bodies make a difference in the nature and quality of representation and democracy? Is there anything distinctive about the relationship of women/minority representatives to voters?
Institutional and cultural variables: How do political circumstances and opportunities for representation differ between women and ethnic minorities? How do they vary from country to country? What is the effect of voting rules and other political system variables on the representation of these groups?
The research is comparative; it seeks to draw together and evaluate findings on women’s and ethnic minority representation from a range of democratic countries.
This project is funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, and the Arts Research Board of McMaster University.
4. SSHRC Standard Research Grant
“Across Boundaries: Gender, Race and Political Representation”
- Research examining efforts in various countries to make representative assemblies more inclusive of women and ethnic minorities, and comparing the representative functions of elected women and ethnic minorities.
5. SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative
“Globalization and Autonomy”
- A major collaborative research project to examine the complex changes experienced and actions taken by individuals and communities in response to globalization. In this project, I am examining national, regional and international responses to racist hate speech, focusing on new developments in the battle against the global, electronic diffusion of such propaganda. This project will trace the evolution of legal and civil society responses to racist speech in both advanced industrial polities and in non-democratic states.
6. Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS), France
“Gender Parity in France”
- A research project examining the implementation of gender parity in French elections.
7. SSHRC Strategic Program: Exploring Social Cohesion in a Globalizing Era
“Workers and Social Cohesion in a Globalizing Era”
- A research grant to investigate how workers are coping with increased competition in an era of globalization, and what effects this is having on social cohesion. In this project, I am examining the role of work in helping immigrants to integrate into Canadian society.
Selected Publications & Presentations
- Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas M. Wüst (ed.). The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010).
- Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas M. Wüst. “Ethnic Diversity, Political Participation and Representation: A Theoretical Framework.” In The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010: 1-21).
- Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas M. Wüst. “Voter Turnout Among Immigrants and Visible Minorities in Comparative Perspective.” In The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies(Routledge 2010: 25-65).
- Karen Bird, Thomas Saalfeld and Andreas M. Wüst. “Party Choices Among Immigrants and Visible Minorities in Comparative Perspective.” In The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010: 66-106).
- Karen Bird. “Patterns of Substantive Representation Among Visible Minority MPs: Evidence from Canada’s House of Commons.” In The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010: 207-229).
- Thomas Saalfeld, Andreas M. Wüst and Karen Bird. “Epilogue: Towards a Strategic Model of Minority Participation and Representation.” In The Political Representation of Immigrants and Minorities: Voters, Parties and Parliaments in Liberal Democracies (Routledge 2010: 266-275).
- Karen Bird. “Gendering Minority Participation in Public Life.” In Marc Weller (ed.), Political Participation of Minorities: A Commentary on International Standards and Practices (Oxford 2010: 150-173).
- Karen Bird and Mohammed Khan. “Giving Minorities a Voice: Understanding Ethnic Minority Representation in Canadian Politics, and the Factors that Enhance It.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Laval University, Montreal, Québec, June 2010.
- Karen Bird. “Political Representation of Immigrants and Visible Minorities among Parliamentary Democracies: Master Narratives and Counter Narratives – OR – What We Can Learn by Including Canada as a Case.” Council of European Studies Conference Montreal, Québec, April 2010.
- Karen Bird and Jessica Franklin. “From Colour-Blindness to Recognition? Political Paths to New Identity Practices in France and Brazil.” Prepared for presentation at the conference: Le multiculturalisme a-t-il un avenir? Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne University, 26-27 February 2010.
- Karen Bird. “Gendering Minority Participation in Public Life.” Paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, February 2010.
- Karen Bird and Jessica Merolli. “Diversity and Inclusion in the City of Hamilton. Balancing Economic and Social Dimensions in Municipal Policy Making.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Carleton University, Ottawa Ontario, June 2009.
- Karen Bird. “Running Visible Minority Candidates in Canada: The Effects of Voter and Candidate Ethnicity and Gender on Vote Choice.” Prepared for presentation at the Democracy and Diversity Workshop, Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario, 7-8 May, 2009.
- “Lessons from France: The Role of Quotas and Electoral Reform for Improving Women’s Representation in Canada.” In Henry Milner (ed.), Steps Toward Making Every Vote Count: Electoral System Reform in Canada and its Provinces. (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2004), pp 191-214.
- “Obstacles to Ethnic Minority Representation in Local Government in Canada.” In Caroline Andrew (ed.), Our Diverse Cities (Ottawa: Metropolis and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2004), pp 182-186.
- “The Effects of Gender Parity in Elections: The French Case.” In John Gaffney (ed.), The French Presidential and Legislative Elections of 2002 (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), pp 238-259.
- "The Political Representation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in Established Democracies: A Framework for Comparative Research." Working Paper presented for the Academy of Migration Studies in Denmark (AMID), Aalborg University (11 November, 2003).
- “Does parity work? Results from French elections.” Feminist Studies 28:3 (Fall 2002), pp 691-698.
- “ Valeurs démocratiques et propos à caractère raciste en France et aux Etats-Unis.” La Revue internationale de politique comparée 9: 3 (October 2002).
- “Elections municipales de 2001: La mise en oeuvre de la parité hommes/femmes.” Fiches pratiques: Politique et communication, 34 (December 2001).
- “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Parité… and Diversité ? The Difficult Question of Ethnic Difference in the French Parity Debate.” Contemporary French Civilization 25: 2 (Summer/Fall 2001), pp 271-292.
- “L’impossible réglementation des propos à caractère raciste aux Etats-Unis.” La Revue française de droit constitutionnel, 46 (2001), pp 265-287.
- “Racist Speech or Free Speech? A Comparison of the Law in France and the United States.” Comparative Politics, 32: 4 (July 2000), pp 399-418.
- “Group Recognition in the Civic Republic: Citizenship, Equality and Pluralism in France.” In Mistaken Identities: The Second Wave of Controversy over “Political Correctness,” edited by Cyril Levitt, Scott Davies and Neil McLaughlin (New York: Peter Lang, 1999), pp 221-240.