Spring 2017 Colloquium Series

Burnaby Campus, Simon Fraser University

All talks held in Academic Quadrangle Building, Room 5067 (Ellen Gee Common Room)

1:00 - 2:20 p.m.

Free and open to the public


The Assembled Transgender Child

January 31, 2017    

Ann Travers, Associate Professor of Sociology, Simon Fraser University


We are witnessing a period of rapid social change in North America whereby an increasing number of transgender children are making themselves visible while a social movement consisting of their parents, therapeutic/medical providers and trans adults and young people are insisting that failure to provide acceptance and support to trans kids will have dire consequences. We see these mostly white and/or relatively wealthy, binary-conforming children and their supportive families circulate on talk shows, in the news and via social media platforms. But gender nonconforming children have been identified as a clinical population and subject to increasing medicalization in North America since the 1960s, a process that added a clinical dimension to the gender policing children experience in daily life. I trace the recent history of the medicalization of transgender children and draw on my interviews with transgender children, young people and their parents to make the case that a particular type of transgender child – a new, transnormative model – is being assembled via racialized and class-mediated access to hormone blockers and or ‘cross-sex’ hormones. I conclude with the argument that the less precarious transgender child (of relative privilege) is increasingly being positioned as a (proto)-citizen-consumer in a racialized [new] biomedical market.

Ecological Justice, Urban Mobilities & the Production of Nature

February 28, 2017     

Nicholas Scott, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Simon Fraser University


What makes the city ecologically good? In this talk I explore how ecology takes root through mundane urban mobilities, specifically car driving and cycling. I start with an early finding from my research on cycling in Vancouver: while the environment does not motivate many people to bike, many people ride to nature, even ‘wilderness,’ in the city. Drawing on mobile video data collected in five major Canadian cities (2014–2016), I analyze how cyclists perform nature in their everyday lives. I argue these performances of nature engender ‘wilderness mobilities,’ drawing on open-ended, adventurous notions of wilderness (Vannini and Vannini 2016) and affective, multisensorial notions of vélomobility. My data show how cyclists in different cities animate the urban wild, not as some tired and romantic vision of nature as pristine, undisturbed space set apart from human culture and activity, but as ecologically valuable moments of cultivating associations with (and attention to) nonhumans. I demonstrate, further, how wilderness performances by cyclists figure into a larger production of nature, drawing on the work of Henri Lefebvre, that contests the abstract, disembodied space of utilitarian value into which automobility ushers nature as a predetermined destination. I conclude by puzzling over whether the fragile moral terrain of ecology, in fierce tension with anthropocentric notions of the good life, can actually support the good city. I suggest it can, particularly if ecology can make bridges with social justice. To become sustainable, cycling can’t simply promote a white, gentrified planet; it must also become inclusive.   

Island Futures and Caribbean Survival

March 28, 2017    

Mimi Sheller, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


What geographical imagery and imagination is necessary to describe the contemporary Caribbean? And related to this, what forms of citizenship and agency remain for its people in the face of ongoing forms of coloniality? Binary concepts such as local/global, center/margins, developed/developing, and North/South were never a good fit for the developmental diversity and spatial complexity of the Caribbean region, and are even less so today. Stitched together by arriving and departing flights, the to and fro of cruise ships and private yachts, the flows of freight terminals and roadways, satellite dishes and high-speed internet connections, monetary remittances and return migrants, drug-smugglers and refugees, rising seas and changing climate, the Caribbean calls for a new spatial imagination. How is this entire region as a set of specific states and territories being re-spatialized, re-scaled and re-imagined in the face of contemporary processes of neo-liberal development, global mobility and spatial restructuring? And how are Caribbean people and states reimagining the region and their place in the world in the face of these economic and political forces, and the irresistible ecological and social changes that they unleash? Migration remains a crucial option for many and monetary remittances keep home economies afloat, but rising sea levels and changing rainfall patterns threaten the entire region.

This talk will examine the region’s growing insertion into deepening forms of planetary urbanism, including the expansion of the Panama Canal and the growth in Chinese direct investment in infrastructure projects and industrial zones. This has different impacts across the region. Independent countries face hard choices. Jamaica struggles with the decision to re-open bauxite mining in its interior, build a highly polluting coal-fired power station, and turn a protected island into a logistics hub in order to attract Chinese investment. Cuba is opening its economy to a new wave of visitors and foreign investors, but exacerbating social inequality; while Haiti remains “occupied” by U.N. peacekeeping forces and still struggles to form a government and rebuild its economy ever since the aftermath of the devastating 2011 earthquake, the spread of deadly cholera, and the second blow of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Meanwhile non-independent territories are fragile: Puerto Rico faces $72 billion in debt and economic ruin, while smaller territories like the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, or the Turks and Caicos are caught up in the vagaries of offshore banking and tourism.

This consideration of Caribbean futures will join the long tradition of Caribbean studies of mobility (theorized in terms of diaspora, archipelagos, relationality, rhizome, tidalectics, etc.) with insights from the new mobilities paradigm (Sheller and Urry, 2006; Urry, 2007; Sheller, 2011). This new transdisciplinary approach, I argue, can help us generate alternative ways of thinking about globalization, territoriality, im/mobilities, and planetary geo-ecological systems. In doing so it also draws on new studies of software, information infrastructures, and virtual space, alongside close attention to critical perspectives on island development, and humanitarian responses to disaster and climate change. 

Supported by the FASS Dean's Speakers' Fund

See Dr Mimi Sheller's Public Lecture on March 29th at the SFU Vancouver Campus, Harbour Centre, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m.