Kate Cairns
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 Gender & Society and the Critical Perspectives on Youth series with NYU Press. During 2018-2019 she is a Faculty Fellow at the Rutgers-New Brunswick Institute for Research on Women.

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 & Society, Journal of Consumer Culture, Theory and Society, and Signs. More recently, she has studied contemporary efforts to connect children and young people with their food, with publications in Antipode, Children’s Geographies, 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. Beyond magic carrots: Garden pedagogies and the rhetoric of effects. Harvard Educational Review.

MacKendrick, Norah, and Kate Cairns. Forthcoming. The polluted child and maternal responsibility in the US environmental health movement. Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

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

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

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

Cairns, Kate. 2017. Connecting to food: Cultivating children in the school garden. Children’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 production. Antipode. 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. 2014. Both here and elsewhere: Rural girls’ contradictory visions of the future. Gender and Education, 26(5): 477-489.

Cairns, Kate. 2013. Youth, dirt, and the spatialization of subjectivity: An intersectional approach to white rural imaginaries. Canadian Journal of Sociology 38(4): 623-646.

Cairns, Kate, Josée Johnston and Norah MacKendrick. 2013. Feeding the ‘organic child’: Mothering through ethical consumption. Journal of Consumer Culture, 13(2): 96-117.

Cairns, Kate. 2013. The subject of neoliberal affects: Rural youth envision their futures. The Canadian Geographer. 57(3): 337-344.

Cairns, Kate. 2013. Ethnographic locations: The geographies of feminist post-structural ethnography. Ethnography and Education 8(3): 323-337.

Cairns, Kate, Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann. 2010. Caring about food: Doing gender in the foodie kitchen. Gender & Society 24(5): 591-615


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.

Cairns, Kate, Kim DeLaat, Shyon Baumann, and Josée Johnston. 2014. The caring, committed Eco-Mom: Consumer ideals and lived realities. In Green Consumption: The Global Rise of Eco-Chic, edited by B. Barendregt and R. Jaffe, 100-114. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Gaztambide-Fernández, Rubén, Kate Cairns, and Chandni Desai. 2013. The sense of entitlement. In Privilege, Agency, and Affect, edited by P. Aggleton and C. Maxwell, 32-49. Palgrave Macmillan.

Cairns, Kate. 2013. Reading futures: Exploring rural students’ literacy practices in neo-liberal times. In Rethinking Rural Literacies: Transnational Perspectives, edited by B. Green and M. Corbett. Palgrave.

Johnston, Josée, and Kate Cairns. 2012. Eating for change. In Commodity activism: Cultural resistance in neoliberal times, edited by S. Banet-Weiser and R. Muhkerjee, 219-239. New York University Press

Selected News and Media Appearances

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.

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

Johnston, Josée, Kate Cairns, and Shyon Baumann. 2017. Using Consumer Culture to Teach Sociological Thinking. Blog post for Consume This! Jan 4 2017.

Oleschuk, Merin, Kate Cairns, and Josée Johnston. 2016. Let’s Rethink the Pressure of Cooking Family Meals this Holiday Season. Blog post on Huff Post Parents Canada, December 20, 2016.

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 mean. Courier-Post, 19 Feb 2016.

Markey, Charlotte N. 2016. Eating Right in 2016: Still ‘Women’s Work?’ Feature on Psychology Today, Jan. 11, 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.