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Grad Student Spotlight: Sarah Law

September 22, 2023

Welcome to the Graduate Student Spotlight where we highlight the remarkable journeys of our graduate students! Through these spotlights, we aim to showcase the diverse talents and inspiring stories that enrich our academic community. Join us as we introduce you to the inspiring journeys and contributions of our exceptional graduate students.

Sarah Law 婉雯
BA in Sociology (Hons.) and Cert. in Social Justice ('22)

How did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in Sociology? What interested you most about it?

I was in my last two semesters of my undergrad planning and writing my honours thesis when I took classes with Dr. Kyle Willmott. He had written on my final paper for SA 442-Indigenous Settler Relations in Fall 2021 to come see him in office hours to talk about grad school. I hadn’t considered an academic career as an option for myself, despite writing an honours thesis at the time.

I took another one of his classes (SA 340-Social Policy) the following Spring 2022 and Dr. Willmott was relentlessly encouraging to reconsider my initial hesitancy. He talked me through my worries and doubts after class almost every week and mentored me through figuring out my research interests (he still does!) I intended to take a year off before doing a Master’s, but fate had other plans for me, and I was submitting an MA application the week of my honours thesis defence. I was and still am incredibly lucky to have such strong faculty support from Dr. Willmott, Dr. Amanda Watson, and Dr. Jie Yang in their mentorship and advocacy.

I am most interested in the opportunity being able to run with ideas, thread through theory, and pursue big questions in creative and rigorous ways. Having the luxury to spend so much time with my own thoughts and read is another huge advantage to not only my research, but in putting theories to practice with passion projects.

What is your research about? How you defined your research subject and questions for the thesis?

I have two primary research interests, the first being my BA thesis topic on ecological grief (eco grief) political mourning, and affect theories. I looked at the sociality of emotions through feminist theories of affect to offer eco grief as an embodied and affective response – a continuous practice of grief that shapes how we understand the climate crisis as a systemic problem that mourns environmental losses, hopes for the future, and deeply held beliefs about our social and political realities. 

It’s been over a year since I defended that project, and it continues to unfold into projects, conferences, and workshops. I’m incredibly grateful to have so much room to play with in that work, be in community with climate justice organizers, and be mentored by Dr. Watson. I’m currently working on an updated piece on that research a more scholarly tone, but you can find my writing on climate mourning, worldmaking, and crafting with dead matter in zine format.

My MA topic looks to understand how financial freedom is imagined through different forms of “entrepreneurial” subjectivities that are encoded with moral meanings of money and racial and gendered politics. I’m working through how to understand another kind of late capitalist/crisis affect in this project, specifically economic anxieties, and how they are felt, imagined, and practiced through neoliberal imperatives of the self: self-exploitation, self-care, self-reliance, and self-governing.

What are your plans after completing the master’s program?

It’s my intention to take a year off before pursuing a PhD, knowing full well that I’ve been swayed before. For now, I am committed to giving my all to my research, community organizing, public workshops, my beloved methods lab DoingSTS, and other writing projects. I’m open to see how all these projects come to alignment in the future.

What advice would you give to current/future master students?

I’m working on taking this piece of my own advice; but have a sacred interest/hobby that you refuse to theorize or formulate into a research interest. (Also try to resist theorizing the politics of that refusal.) It’s hard when you become so immersed in theory. It’s just so easy and exciting when you see it in the everyday everywhere!  You never get bored when your mind becomes your own playground of theorization – just don’t let it consume you.

Secondly, put in time to getting to form relationships within your cohort. Having their support, care, and understanding as you go through these journeys together makes it all so joyful. I am so lucky to be in a cohort that is so involved, thoughtful, and kind. We have our little traditions and surprise each other to celebrate birthdays, leaving for field work, prospectus defenses, a finished abstract, the big and small. Make sure you celebrate everything.

"We have our little traditions and surprise each other to celebrate birthdays, leaving for field work, prospectus defenses, a finished abstract, the big and small. Make sure you celebrate everything."

Lastly, get involved with groups like SAGSA, TSSU, and SFPIRG that work to make the university a better place for graduate students. Show support and show up in solidarity for social action, protests, and mutual aid. Put your sociological imagination and praxis to work!

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