Book on Vancouver honoured

Nov 03, 2005, vol. 34, no. 6
By Diane Luckow

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A book co-edited by SFU associate professor of anthropology Dara Culhane and SFU alumna Leslie Robertson was among four finalists for the 2005 city of Vancouver book award.

In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver tells seven personal, complex but hopeful stories from women in Vancouver's downtown eastside. The book is the offshoot of a five-year project on women's health and housing in the downtown eastside, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Culhane was the principal investigator.

“Seven of the women we worked with were very interested in telling and publishing their own stories,” says Culhane. She and Robertson went through a unique process with the women, interviewing them, transcribing the interviews, re-reading and talking with the women so they could edit their transcripts.

“We worked with them for a year-and-a-half, trying to develop a long-term process where they could create like any other autobiographer or writer who has the opportunity to read and reread and edit and think about their work before making it public.” Because the women aren't writers and a few aren't readers, much of the process was conducted through multiple interviews and conversations as an oral history process. Culhane says the women, who opted for anonymity in the book due to their circumstances and concerns about the effects on their children, are happy with their stories.

“I feel we accomplished what we set out to do,” she says. “We created a space where they could represent themselves. It was also worthwhile as a project in developing collaborative ethnographic methodologies.”

Culhane and her research group are currently completing community reports for the project and then plan academic publications on their findings. The Vancouver book award winner was Lance Berelowitz for Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination.

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