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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

Dr. Heather Sykes

Heather Sykes wearing a black blazer and white collared shirt.
Heather Sykes, PhD
Associate Professor
Dept of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto

Research Overview

I'm an Associate Professor with the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at OISE. My research interests focus on issues of sexuality in physical education and sport, through the lenses of post-structural, queer and feminist theories. My recent book, titled "Queer Bodies: Sexualities, Genders & Fatness in Physical Education," presents students' narratives about homophobia, transphobia and fat phobia. and raises ethical questions about how society constructs ideals about 'healthy' and 'athletic' bodies.Currently, I am researching how gender justice activist mobilize against sporting mega-events, such as the Olympics. I have been Co-Editor of the journal Curriculum Inquiry and am actively involved in the North American Society for Sport Sociology and the American Educational Research Association.

Curriculum Vitae

Academic History

Ph.D. Educational Studies. University of British Columbia, 1994-1998

9M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction. University of Regina, 1990-1992

P.G.C.E. Physical Education and Integrated Science. Loughborough University of Technology, England, 1984

B.Sc.(Hons) Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management. Loughborough University of Technology, England, 1980-1983

Teaching Overview

I teach graduate courses in curriculum studies, queer theory and curriculum, critical ethnography and qualitative methodology. Increasingly I am offering my courses as online classes.

Representative Publications


Sykes, H. (2011). Queer Bodies: Sexualities, Genders & Fatness in Physical Education. New York, Peter Lang.


Sykes, H. & McPhail, D. (2007). Unbearable lessons: Contesting fat phobia in physical education. Sociology of Sport Journal, 25, 66-96.

Sykes, H. (2007). Anxious identification in ‘The Sopranos’ and sport. Sport, Education and Society, 12(2), 127-139.

Cavanagh, S. & Sykes, H. (2006). Transsexual bodies at the Olympics. Body and Society, 12(3), 75-102.

Research Grants and Contracts

Currently I'm conducting a qualitative research project to examine how anti-globalization movements mobilize and resist local gender struggles, neoliberalism and globalized mega-events such as the Olympics, OutGames, Gay Pride and the G20. I have begun to analyze how the LGBT Pride Houses at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver seemed to have no political solidarity with the Indigenous 'No Olympics on Stolen Land' protests. I argue this produced a particular type of gay sporting subject which reinforces white settler homo-nationalism in Canada.

[2011-2014 Funded by SSHRC $140,720]

My previous research project explored how students with 'queer bodies' negotiated and resisted homophobia, transphobia and fat phobia in Canadian physical education. Students' narratives reveal how the physical education profession is haunted by whitened transphobic, heteronormative and fat phobic imaginaries about 'queer bodies'. I analyze how these ways in which the body is imagined, and idealized, plays a crucial role in maintaining the illusions of compulsory heterosexuality, unremarkable whiteness, everyday able-bodiedness and healthiness.

[2005-2009 Funded by SSHRC $83,860]

Honours and Awards

• Lillian Robinson Scholar, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, Montreal, Qu. 2011

• Visiting Research Fellow, Carnegie Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK 2006-2009

• Canadian Studies Association Invited Academic Exchange, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Universidad del Rosario, Argentina, 2005

Professional Activities

I am actively involved in the Queer Studies SIG of the American Educational Research Association and the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport