Photo of Maria Gurevich

Maria Gurevich



Training Location(s):

PhD, York University (1997)

MA, York University (1989)

BSc, University of Toronto (1986)

Primary Affiliation(s):

Ryerson Fellow at Massey College (University of Toronto), (2016-2017)

Ryerson University, (2001-present)

Career Focus:

Critical psychology; critical theory; gender and sexuality; health psychology; psychosocial oncology.


Maria Gurevich was born December 25th, 1963 in Odessa, then a city in the USSR. The women in her family were highly educated, and included physicians, nurses, and academics. She was raised in an environment that, although not explicitly feminist, communicated an egalitarian view of men and women’s intellectual capabilities: “I feel like the feminist identity predated me.” She grew up loving math and science, and excelling in those subjects was a standard expectation. Her family home buzzed with animated discussions of politics, culture and social justice.

Gurevich and her family came to Toronto when she was 13. During the five years prior to their arrival they spent various lengths of time in Italy, Israel, and the United States. She draws a parallel between her “peripatetic existence” migrating through these countries and her later ability to “move between [the] different worlds” of mainstream health psychology and critical feminist psychology. In Toronto, Gurevich’s academic exposure to issues of sex and gender began in high school, where teachers “were using assignments to deconstruct and address gender and discrimination.” It wasn’t until she enrolled at the University of Toronto (U of T), however, that she began to situate gender and sex in the context of feminism as a theoretical and social practice. At U of T, Gurevich engaged with gender issues through a course on “what was then called sex-role differences” and in discussions with other social justice-oriented students.

During her undergraduate studies, she developed some doubts about her chosen course of study. She had initially set herself on a track to become a speech pathologist, but was far more intellectually stimulated in her elective courses on philosophy, literature, and psychology. When she needed to declare a major, Gurevich chose psychology, an area that had never crossed her mind prior to taking her first course in the subject. She was drawn to it by the strength of U of T’s faculty, a “dynamic and inspiring” group, but also because it affirmed her curiosity in the discursive constructions of human behaviour and identity.

Gurevich was not yet able to freely engage this curiosity on her own terms, however, given the mainstream (and mostly cognitive psychology) focus of the department. As an undergraduate, she was most excited by the few courses that taught critical perspectives. When she enrolled as a graduate student at York University, she continued to take such courses, but again sidelined this interest while she adopted her supervisor’s more positivistic approach. At the PhD level, her supervisor supported her qualitative work on identity renegotiation in HIV-positive women, but since qualitative and critical methods were outside his own expertise, Gurevich’s research was largely self-guided.

While completing her PhD, Gurevich discovered psychologist Cynthia Mathieson’s work on cancer and identity renegotiation at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her introduction to Mathieson’s work was “a little bit of an ‘aha’ moment”; she had found “someone else who [was] interested in questions of identity” and who could guide her in feminist methodologies. She pursued a post-doctoral fellowship in health psychology with Mathieson in 1996 and completed it in 1998. During this time, Gurevich taught her first courses on gender and sexuality. She loved teaching, but was drawn again into research. In 1999 she accepted a clinical research fellowship at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto and once again committed to an important, but less personally resonant, area of research.

This fellowship ended in 2001, and Gurevich then became a professor in the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto. By this point she had published a few articles on discourses of gender and sexuality, but felt she was likely hired for her now substantial experience with more conventional health research. The position was secure and flexible enough that eventually Gurevich moved away from her dual focus on illness-related distress and trauma to a singular focus on on the application of critical theory to discourses of gender and sexuality in psychology and culture. She now applies discourse analysis to interviews and texts that center on desire, pleasure, empowerment, and other concepts that form the discursive parameters of sexuality.

Her research examines the ways that popular and scientific discourses about sexuality intersect with people’s everyday experiences, with negotiation of sexual (im)possibilities and (dis)pleasures at the core. This work interrogates normative assumptions about sexual health, agency, desire, and relationship conduct, based on privilege, power, and access.

To her readers and colleagues, Gurevich expresses how feminist poststructuralist methods can be used to render visible the epistemological assumptions embedded within psychology. Her colleagues at Ryerson are mainly her students. Gurevich greatly values the opportunity to mentor likeminded students: “ it is one of the most gratifying and generative aspects of academic life” for her. She notes that students are “full collaborators” in her work, and as she supports them with her own experience, she also continually learns from their creativity and influences. Together, they operate the Sexuality Hub: Integrating Feminist Theory (SHiFT) Lab.

A central current line of research in the SHiFT lab addresses the role of sexual technologies in sexual expectations and practices (e.g., sexual enhancement medication, pornography, sexual expert advice, and digital dating). Other key projects focus on gender diversity, sexual consent, and masculinity discourses. Investigators’ interpretations are guided by a variety of feminist epistemologies that range from theoretical (e.g. post-Lacanian feminist psychoanalysis) to empirical (e.g. critical discourse analysis). Some of their past projects have looked at erasures of bisexuality in queer theory, and sexuality discourses among those suffering from illnesses closely linked with sexuality, such as HIV and testicular cancer.

As a mentor, Gurevich also imparts to her students the importance of participating in psychological societies. Relatively few psychologists are committed to theoretical research, and organizations devoted to gender and the theory and history of psychology have become the main venues where Gurevich connects with peers to receive intellectual inspiration and support. The International Society for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP) is one such key venue. Gurevich and her students also regularly participate in the meetings of the Psychology of Women Section (POWS) of the British Psychological Society, a venue particularly receptive to feminist poststructuralist work. As she notes, “POWS just feels like home to me…you don’t have to define discourse analysis, you don’t have to define … what post-structuralism is, everybody’s read it and thought about it for a hundred years and it’s easy.” She has also been affiliated with the Canadian Psychological Association’s (CPA) Section for Women and Psychology since 1993 and spent 13 years as their abstract coordinator. Since 2003, she has served variously as Consulting Editor, Associate Editor and Qualitative Expert (Consultant to the Editor) for Psychology of Women Quarterly. She is also on the Executive Committee of the ISTP.

Gurevich has received awards from Ryerson University and the CPA for her teaching and mentorship. In her lab, she strives to cultivate a space for students to think deeply about feminist post-structuralist approaches and their implications for the students’ own research interests. She believes that strong critical work in psychology can infiltrate popular discourses on sexuality, choice and empowerment and create greater critical capacities among audiences outside the academy.

By Tal Davidson (2016)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works

Gurevich, M., Leedham, U., Brown-Bowers, A., Cormier, N., & Mercer, Z. (2016). Propping up pharma’s (natural) neoliberal phallic man: Pharmaceutical representations of the ideal sexuopharmaceutical user. Culture, Health & Sexuality. Advance online publication

Gurevich, M., Brown-Bowers, A., Cosma, S., Vasilovsky, A. T., Leedham, U., & Cormier, N. (2016, in press). Sexually progressive and proficient: Pornographic syntax and postfeminist fantasies. Sexualities, 0(0):1-27.DOI: 10.1177/1363460716665785

Gurevich, M., Mercer, Z., Cormier, N., & Leedham, U. (2016, in press). Responsible or reckless men?: Sexuopharmaceutical messages differentiated by sexual identity of users. Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

Vasilovsky, A., & Gurevich, M. (2016, in press). “The body that cannot be contained”: Queering psychology’s gay male body dissatisfaction imperative. Sexualities, 0(0):1-22. DOI: 10.1177/1363460716675140

Brown-Bowers, A., Gurevich, M., Vasilovsky, A. T., Cosma, S., & Matti, S. (2015). Managed not missing: Young women’s discourses of sexual desire within a postfeminist heterosexual marketplace. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39: 320-336.

Gurevich, M., Vasilovsky, A. T., Brown-Bowers, A., & Cosma, S. (2015). Affective conjunctions: Social norms, semiotic circuits, and fantasy. Theory & Psychology, 25: 513-540.

Gurevich, M., Bailey, H., & Bower, J. (2009). Querying theory and politics: The epistemic (dis) location of bisexuality within queer theory. Journal of Bisexuality, 9(3-4), 235-257.

Gurevich, M., Mathieson, C. M., Bower, J., & Dhayanandhan, B. (2007). Disciplining bodies, desires and subjectivities: Sexuality in HIV-positive women. Feminism & Psychology, 17(1), 9-38.

Gurevich, M., Bower, J., Mathieson, C.M., & Dhayanandhan, B. (2007). ‘What do they look like and are they among us?’ Bisexuality, (dis)closure and (un)viability. In E. Peel & V. Clarke (Eds.), Out in Psychology: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Perspectives (pp. 217-242). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Gurevich, M., Bishop, S., Bower, J., Malka, M., & Naihof-Young, J. (2004). (Dis)embodying gender and sexuality in testicular cancer. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 1597-1607.