Fall 2015 Colloquium Series

Tuesday talks, SFU Burnaby
Free and open to all. Brown bag lunch

Canadian Sex Workers' Confidence in the Police


September 29  

Dr Cecilia Benoit is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria and Scientist at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC. Apart from research focused on the occupation of midwifery and the organization of maternity care in Canada and internationally, she is involved in a variety of projects that employ mixed methodologies to investigate the health of different vulnerable groups, including Aboriginal women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, young people confronting health stigmas linked to obesity and asthma, street-involved youth in transition to adulthood, workers in lower-prestige service occupations, adults in the sex industry, and pregnant and early parenting women dealing with addiction and other challenges. Cecilia has received numerous awards for her scholarship and community outreach activities. Most recently, she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2013) and Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2013). She is currently leading two CIHR-funded projects that adopt an intersectionality lens: “Team Grant on contexts of vulnerabilities, resiliencies and care among people in the sex industry” and “Interventions to promote health and healthy equity for pregnant and early parenting women facing substance use and other challenges.”

Abstract: Little is known about the level of confidence in the police among adults working in the Canadian sex industry. This mixed-methods paper examines the impact of working in the sex industry on confidence in the police through analysis of descriptive data gathered from face-to-face semi-structured interviews with sex workers (N=218) carried out in 2013 in six urban areas, as well as thematic analysis of participants’ narratives about their perceptions of and interactions with the police. Results shown that almost two-thirds of sex workers have little or no confidence in the police, mainly because of interpersonal concerns (police being unapproachable/not easy to talk to and not treating sex workers fairly). Tellingly, over half of participants said that they had experienced discrimination from the police or in the courts at least once in their life time, and two-thirds reported that the police do a poor job in treating sex workers fairly. Analysis of participants' narratives give depth to these descriptive findings. There is much work to be done to boost sex workers’ confidence in the police and their comfort in seeking help when in need. Given that Canada’s prostitution laws have recently become more restrictive, involving the criminalization of most forms of public communication, purchasing and advertising of sexual services, this challenge is likely to be daunting.

Aerial Imagination and the Aesthetic of Circulation in Cuba


October 27

Dr Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier is an Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, Co-Curator of the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography, and an Associate Member of the Institute for Performance Studies at Simon Fraser Univesrity. She teaches Visual Culture, Visual Anthropology and The Anthropology of Sound. She conducts research on youth popular culture, digital data and music consumption and circulation in Cuba since the year 2000. In 2015, she received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to fund her project “Wires, Waves and Webs: Media Infrastructures and Sonic Aesthetics in Contemporary Cuba”.  She directed the film Golden Scars (2010), in part funded by the NFB of Canada, and co-directed Fabrik Funk (2015), an ethno-fiction about funk music in the periphery of São Paulo.

Abstract:  On the 1st of July 2015, Cubans had for the first time access to legal Wi-Fi Internet connections. In Santiago de Cuba, Wi-Fi antennas were installed in four access points: three in parks and one in a popular back alley. At twilight, many Cubans head for these public areas to connect to the Internet via their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Most connect to get in touch with their family and friends living abroad. The antennas become the electromagnet around which Cubans sit to catch the best possible connection. This paper explores how people imagine, not only the waves that emerge from the antennas, but more generally, how things travel in the sky. In thinking visually about how Cubans imagine the sky as a space in which things –often invisible –like digital data, bad sights (mala vista) and internal maps, can travel above the rooftops, this paper shows the complexity of the current Cuban aerial imagination. The paper further explores how ‘ethno-graphic’ novels, produced in collaboration with a Cuban artist, can delve into individual stories and narratives, and provide an aesthetic, poetic and sensual engagement with how people imagine things circulating in the sky.  

Entangled Emplacement:  Ethnographic Reading of Canadian Muslims’ Engagement with the World of Palliative Care


November 17

Dr. Parin Dossa is Professor of Anthropology and Associate Member in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. Her ethnographic work has focused on Muslim women in Canada, Lamu (Kenya), Afghanistan and of late India. Her research interests include: displacement, inequality and injustice, structural violence, disability, storytelling, memory work and diaspora. She is the author of (a) Politics and Poetics of Migration: Narratives of Iranian Women from the Diaspora (2004); (b) Racialized Bodies, Disabling Worlds: Storied Lives of Immigrant Muslim Women (2009) and Afghanistan Remembers: Narrations of Violence and Culinary Practices (2014). She is currently working on two projects (a) Transnational Aging and Kin-Work; (b) From Knowledge to Collaborative Engagement:  Case Study of Canadian Muslims in “Palliative Care.”

Abstract: How do Canadian Muslims engage with the exclusive and ambiguous terrain of palliative care?  An ethnographic response to this question requires addressing a systemic paradox:  namely, patient-centred and compassionate care is contingent upon diagnoses of terminal illness. Drawing upon my long-standing research among Muslims in metropolis Vancouver, I use the construct of entangled emplacement to show the multiple ways in which research participants engage with this paradox.  Allied closely to the non-conventional ethnographic methods of mindful walking, memory work and imagining, the construct of entangled emplacement captures the research participants’ expansive understanding of palliative care;  one that includes the process of displacement and reimagining a diasporic “home”, tangled elements of which come into play at the time of death.  In the light of neoliberal restructuring of the Canadian health system, I explore the implications of research findings for deep-level conversations across socio-cultural and medicalized boundaries, and tangled pathways of what has come to be known as “palliative care.”