Jump to Main Content
Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size
Curriculum, Teaching  & Learning
Heather Sykes

Heather Sykes
Associate Professor

phone: (416) 978-0073
email: heather.sykes@utoronto.ca  

Department: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

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 and settler colonialism in sport and physical education, through the lenses of post-structural, queer and feminist theories.
Currently, I am researching how gender justice activist mobilize against sporting mega-events, such as the Olympics. My recent book 'The Sexual and Gender Politics of Sport Mega-events: Roving Colonialism' examines sporting homonationalism and anti-colonial resistance. It offers a counter-narrative to the view that gay and lesbian inclusion in sport is simply a matter of universal human rights. The book calls for LGBT social movements in sport to move away from complicity with neoliberalism, nationalism and colonial-racial logics, particularly Islamophobia, toward a decolonial politics of solidarity.
My first 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. I have been Co-Editor of the journal Curriculum Inquiry and am actively involved in the North American Society for Sport Sociology, National Women's Studies Association and the American Educational Research Association.

Curriculum Vitae


Academic History

Ph.D. Educational Studies. University of British Columbia, 1994-1998
M.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, qualitative and poststructural methodology. I offer my courses as face-to-face and online classes.

Representative Publications


Sykes, H. (2017). Sexual and Gender Politics of Sport Mega-Events: Roving Colonialism. London, Routledge.

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


Sykes, H. (2016). Olympic homonationalisms. Public: Art/Culture/Ideas. 53, 140-148.

Sykes, H. (2016). Gay Pride on Stolen Land: Homonationalism and settler colonialism at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Sport Sociology Journal. 33, 54-65.

Hamzeh, M. & Sykes, H. (2015). Egyptian Football Ultras and the January 25th Revolution: Anti-corporate, anti-militarist and martyrdom masculinities. Journal of Anthropology of the Middle East, 9(2), 91-107.

Sykes. H. (2014). Un-settling sex: Researcher self-reflexivity, queer theory and settler colonialism. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 6(4), 583-595.

Sykes, H. (2011). Queering Curriculum Studies. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 8(1), 29-31.

Sykes, H. (2009). The qBody Project: From lesbians in physical education to queer bodies in/out of school. Journal of Lesbian Studies. 13(3), 238-254.

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.

Sykes, H. & Goldstein, T. (2004). From performing to performed ethnography. Teaching Education, 15(1), 41-61.

Sykes, H. (2001). Understanding and overstanding: Feminist-poststructural life histories of physical education teachers. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14(1), 13-31.

Research Grants and Contracts

Currently I'm conducting a qualitative research project to examine how anti-colonial social movements mobilize and resist local gender struggles, securitization, neoliberalism at sport mega-events such as the Olympics. I analyzed 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

Alan Ingham Lecture, North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, Portland, OR. 2014
Keynote Lecture, AIESEP World Congress, Auckland, New Zealand/Aotearoa. 2014
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