Kate Cairns, PhD

Kate Cairns
Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Associate Professor of Childhood Studies

Office: 329 Cooper Street, Room 213

Dr. Kate Cairns joined the Department of Childhood Studies in 2014 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in sociology at the University of Toronto. Her work brings a feminist perspective to the politics of childhood and explores how young people are positioned as the promise or threat of collective futures. She has investigated these dynamics across diverse sites, including neoliberal education reform, maternal foodwork, and youth urban agriculture. Dr. Cairns is a member of the Common Worlds Research Collective, and serves on the editorial boards for Contemporary SociologyCurriculum Inquiry, and the Critical Perspectives on Youth series with NYU Press.

Dr. Cairns is the coauthor of Food and Femininity (2015, Bloomsbury) and Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life (2017, Routledge). Her research on food, consumption and mothering has appeared in venues such as Gender & SocietyJournal of Consumer CultureTheory and Society, and Signs. More recently, she has studied contemporary efforts to connect children and young people with their food as well as community struggles for environmental justice, with publications in AntipodeChildren’s Geographies, Curriculum Inquiry, and Harvard Educational Review. Dr. Cairns teaches courses in children’s geographies, gender and education, girlhood studies, and introduction to childhood studies.


Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 2011

M.A., Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 2007

B.A., Department of Sociology (First Class Honours), McGill University, 2005


Childhood and Youth; Feminist Theory; Qualitative Methods; Gender; Girlhood Studies; Children’s Geographies; Food Studies; Education and Inequality; Environmental Justice


Undergraduate: Children’s Geographies; Gender and Education; Developing Minds and Bodies; Introduction to Childhood Studies

Graduate: Children’s Geographies; Girlhood Studies


View Full CV Here



Johnston, Josée, Kate Cairns, and Shyon Baumann. 2017. Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life. New York: Routledge.

Cairns, Kate, and Josée Johnston. 2015. Food and Femininity. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.



Cairns, Kate. Forthcoming. Feeling environmental justice: Pedagogies of slow violence. Curriculum Inquiry.

Backer, David I. and Kate Cairns. 2021. Social reproduction theory revisited. British Journal of Sociology of Education. Online first, July 27, 2021.

MacKendrick, Norah, and Kate Cairns. 2019. The polluted child and maternal responsibility in the US environmental health movement. Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 44(2): 307-332.

Cairns, Kate. 2018. Beyond magic carrots: Garden pedagogies and the rhetoric of effects. Harvard Educational Review 88(4): 516-537.

Cairns, Kate. 2018. Youth, temporality and territorial stigma: Finding good in Camden, New JerseyAntipode. Published online July 2 2018.

Cairns, Kate. 2018. Relational foodwork: Young people and food insecurityChildren & Society 32(2018): 174-184.

Cairns, Kate and Josée Johnston. 2018. On (not) knowing where your food comes from: Meat, mothering and ethical eatingAgriculture and Human Values 35(3): 569-580.

Cairns, Kate. 2017. Connecting to food: Cultivating children in the school gardenChildren’s Geographies 15(3): 304-318.

Cairns, Kate, Deborah McPhail, Claudyne Chevrier and Jill Bucklaschuk. 2015. The Family Behind the Farm: Race and the affective geographies of Manitoba pork productionAntipode. 47(5): 1184-1202. 

Cairns, Kate, and Josée Johnston. 2015. Choosing health: Embodied neoliberalism, postfeminism and the “do-diet”Theory and Society. 44(2): 153-175.



Cairns, Kate, Norah MacKendrick and Josée Johnston. 2021. The ‘organic child’ idea holds mothers to an impossible standard. In The State of Families: Law, Policy and the Meanings of Relationships. Edited by Jennifer Reich, 306-308. New York and London: Routledge.

Cairns, Kate. 2019. Mapping futures, making selves: How rural young people experience The Real Game. In Our Rural Selves: Memory and the Visual in Canadian Childhoods, edited by Claudia Mitchell and April Mandrona, 224-242. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Cairns, Kate, Josée Johnston, and Merin Oleschuk. 2018. Calibrating Motherhood. In Feeding children inside and outside the home: Critical perspectives, edited by Vicki Harman, Benedetta Cappellini, Charlotte Fairclough, 174-190. London: Routledge.

Johnston, Josée, Kate Cairns, and Merin Oleschuk. 2017. A Kind Diet: Cultivating Consumer Politics, Status, and Femininity through Ethical Eating. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Food and Popular Culture, edited by Kathleen LeBesco and Peter Naccarato, 286-300. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cairns, Kate. 2017. Morality and Relationality in Children’s Foodscapes. In Geographies of Identities and Subjectivities, edited by Claire Dwyer and Nancy Worth, Vol. 4 of Geographies of Children and Young People, editor-in-chief Tracey Skelton, 371-388. Singapore: Springer. 

Cairns, Kate. 2015. Girls’ studies in the rural. In Feminisms and Ruralities, edited by B. Pini, B. Brandth, and J. Little, 167-180. Lexington Books.

Selected Non-Academic Writing

Cairns, Kate. 2020. Assignment: Earth – Children as agents of environmental change. In Changing Childhoods, July 14, 2020.

Cairns, Kate, Norah MacKendrick and Josée Johnston. 2020. The ‘organic child’ ideal holds mothers to an impossible standard. Aeon February 19, 2020.

Backer, David, and Kate Cairns. 2019. Meeting needs. n+1 April 9, 2019. https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/meeting-needs/

MacKendrick, Norah and Kate Cairns. 2019. Born Pre-Polluted: Mothers and Environmental Risk. WRISK blog, February 27, 2019.

Backer, David I., and Kate Cairns. 2017. Movement pedagogy: Beyond the class/identity impasse. Viewpoint Magazine, December 21, 2017.

Cairns, Kate, Josée Johnston and Merin Oleschuk. 2017. Calibrating extremes: The balancing act of maternal foodwork. Blog post for Gender & Society. October 17, 2017.

Selected News and Media Appearances

Pedersen, Shani. 2020. It’s no longer just women in the kitchen, but food is still gendered. OXY Magazine, December 1, 2020.

Pagoni, Susan. 2018. Nobody Is Safe: Disordered Eating in the Age of Foodies. Los Angeles Review of Books, April 26, 2018.

Nargi, Lela. 2018. Want to Understand Food Insecurity? Talk to the Children Living Through It. Slate, April 2, 2018.

McLaughlin, Tom. 2018. Food-Insecure Teens Focus on Helping Moms Put Food on the Table, says New Rutgers-Camden Research. Rutgers Today Feature, January 2018.

Food & Femininity (with Dr. Kate Cairns). Interview on the Racist Sandwich podcast, June 29, 2016.

Eblen, Shannon. 2016. Organic, low-fat, gluten-free: What food labels meanCourier-Post, 19 Feb 2016.

Even in the 21st Century, women take on the major role in food work. Interview on NewsWorks Tonight, WHYY, Dec. 24, 2015.

McLaughlin, Tom. 2015. A Full Plate: Rutgers-Camden Researcher Explores Food and Femininity in New Book. Rutgers Today Feature, December 11, 2015.

Do You Have an Organic Child? Interview on the Slate parenting podcast, Mom and Dad Are Fighting. July 30, 2015.