" Broadly, my research asks how we come to make sense of living with a sense of crisis. I work with the sociality of the emotions that come up when the future feels uncertain and how grief and anxiety can orient us toward the politics of our feelings."

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Sarah Law

January 18, 2024

Sociology master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I am a sociology (MA) student, a climate justice organizer, facilitator, and the Director of Feeling at DoingSTS.

I came to study sociology after trying out a couple of different streams in my undergrad. I bounced around in philosophy, political science, english, and criminology for a while; but nothing seemed to tinker with the complexity of systems that I concerned myself with in the way that sociology could.

I’ve spoken about how I came to my honours thesis topic of ecological grief with the Simon Fraser Public Interest Group (SFPIRG) and my community engaged work. Ultimately, being able to conduct research that was relevant, wanted, and needed in the communities I’m apart of is my motivation. I want to contribute to fields of study that address the concerns of living in the consequences of late stage capitalism and settler colonial occupation - and more importantly - in what ways we can imagine and build better visions of the future.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

I did my BA (honours) in sociology and had incredible mentorship from faculty in my department who have been unrelenting in their support and encouragement to pursue my scholarly ambition.

Dr. Amanda Watson supervised my undergraduate honours thesis "Resistance and Resilience in the Era of Ecological Grief" and is now my committee member. Amanda's dedication to care for her students, in research and teaching is a rarity. I wanted to continue working with Amanda and cherish her expertise, advice, and guidance. She was the first professor to introduce me to sociology and my love for critical theory. As the years go by, she continues to shape how I think for the better.

Dr. Kyle Willmott was the second reader on my honours thesis and is now my MA supervisor. I am deeply grateful for his mentorship and how hard he pushes me to conquer my self-doubt. Kyle is a dedicated supervisor and intensely recruited me into the department in the final two semesters of my undergrad. I’m so grateful he did. The story is long, and you can read more about it here

I have deep ties to SFU and I am incredibly grateful to receive mentorship and guidance from the powerhouse faculty members of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. Amanda Watson, Dr. Kyle Willmott and Dr. Jie Yang's investments in my academic success and care for my work are palpable.

I am also supported by the J.Wosk Centre for Dialogue and the Office for Community Engagement in all of my passion projects and community organizing work. With their support, I was able to develop and host a climate emotions conference this past summer and a social justice youth program.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

Broadly, my research asks how we come to make sense of living with a sense of crisis. I work with the sociality of the emotions that come up when the future feels uncertain and how grief and anxiety can orient us toward the politics of our feelings.

My honours thesis offered an understanding of ecological grief (eco grief) as a socially, politically, and culturally informed response to the climate crisis. I argue that eco grief is an embodies practice of grief where acceptance and mourning are a continuous emotional practice that is inclusive of mourning environmental-related losses, hopes for the futures, and deeply held beliefs about our political realities. I recently wrote a chapter titled “Climate Mourning, Soft & Soft” in our book “Everything is a Lab: Doing Ordinary Science” (2023) that you can read here.

My master's thesis project asks how financial freedom is imagined through an “entrepreneurial” subjectivity that is encoded with moral, racial and gendered politics. I look at what people’s hopes and plans for retirement tell us about our political, and economic climate. I’m currently working through how to understand how financial freedom is felt, imagined, and practiced through the exploitation, reliance, care, and governance of the self.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

neoliberalism; affect theory; living with crisis

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

I have TM'd for SA302W Cultures of Capitalism twice with Dr. Amanda Watson, which was one of my favourite courses in my undergraduate career and inspired me to write an honours thesis. It was a full-circle moment to mark and help develop student papers that could be future honours theses! It made me realize how much I would love to mentor students in the future and how much fun it is to see students make connections and get excited about their questions.

I am currently TA-ing for SA150 Introduction to Sociology with Dr. Kyle Willmott for a second semester. It's been great putting my workshop facilitation skills to good use in hosting tutorials for students and having more hands-on experience in teaching. I love seeing the lightbulb moments. I've had such lovely and generous students who are excited to learn and who have great ideas. It's rewarding to watch them progress throughout the semester.

I am also a RA for Dr. Jie Yang who has been another generous mentor of mine. She is brilliant and encouraging; she never fails to remind me of the importance of my work. I am grateful to be on her RA team and in the processes of academic publishing and witness her expertise. I am a fan of her work, so to be trusted with her manuscripts to edit and provide feedback is surreal.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I am so grateful to have received an SSHRC to fund my Master's project. I can focus on my studies and choose to do work that contributes to my academic interests rather than scrambling for work to pay my rent and bills.

I worked many jobs throughout my undergraduate career to support myself financially. It is difficult and precarious to have financial security as a queer person without parents as a support system. I am extremely lucky to be held and cherished by comrades, peers, community, chosen family, and wonderful friends. Receiving this SSHRC meant that I could breathe and sleep easier for the next year.

I remember being too scared to open the confirmation email and my best friend came over and convinced me to open it. The stakes were high. We both screamed and cried happy tears in my living room when we read the good news. We jumped around screaming and shared the cake she brought to celebrate - she somehow knew it would be good news.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

Put in the effort and time to develop strong relationships with your cohort. Have each other's backs, celebrate every milestone, and cherish each other's brilliance. No one does anything alone.

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

I've been doing community organizing work for over 8 years, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being involved in your department, the university, and the community at large. Consider that being active in your communities can also make you a better scholar.

I am the graduate department representative for the Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Student Association (SAGSA). It's a great way to be involved in your department, advocate for graduate students, and build community by hosting events.

I'd recommend putting your sociological imagination to good use and getting involved with groups TSSU and SFPIRG. The university works because we do! I am also the Director of Feeling with my beloved methods lab Doing STS. We work across affect and feminist science and technology studies (STS) and host public workshops based on our research, public lectures, and recently published a book with Imbricate! Press.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

I'm still learning how to do this, but my first step was to not check my email on the weekends!


Contact Sarah:sarah_law@sfu.ca

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