FES Research Day


When: Friday March 11, 9:30AM - 6:00PM
Where: FES Lounge, ground floor of HNES Building, outside Room 137

9:30AM - 9:45AM: Welcome and Coffee


9:45AM - 11:00AM: PhD Panel 1 – Colonialism, Indigeneity and Resistance

Delon Omrow: The other side of the conservation coin: a critical discourse analysis of Guyana's community-owned conservation area

Criminologist Michael Lynch coined the term ‘green criminology’ in 1990 and 25 years later, the field has evolved, inviting myriad vistas of inquiry into the nature of crimes against the environment. For example, ‘green criminology’ has four main objectives: (1) to record the existence of ‘green crimes’, developing basic typologies and distinctions between primary and secondary environmental crimes; (2) to document the laws which have been established to address eco-crimes, taking heed of the complications associated with enforcement; (3) to link ‘green crimes’ to social inequalities; and (4) to identify what role, if any, green social movements play bringing about social change, ending the exploitative and ecologically destructive practices of states and corporations. It is the third objective which serves as the impetus of this article, proposing the question: how might an eco-crimes framework advance our understanding of conservation under current neoliberal regimes?

In this paper, I embark upon a critical analysis of the Memorandum of Cooperation between Conservation International, the government of Guyana and the Amerindian community known as the Wai Wai. Conservation International has played an influential role in assisting the local community establish the country’s first community-owned conservation area (C.O.C.A.) in the Konashen District. Much of the extant literature on what I refer to as “the other side of the conservation coin” thoughtfully captures the social and environmental injustices associated with conservation initiatives, but what of the cognitive injustices of conservation? An exploration of the cognitive injustices inherent in conservation can be advanced by Boaventura de Sousa Santos’ “abyssal thinking” and the radical division of social reality into “this side of the line” and “the other side of the line”. Invoking critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a methodology, I reveal the visible, and invisible distinctions, inherent in the creation of Guyana’s community-owned conservation area. The crux of my argument is that the visible distinction between Modern Science/Indigenous Knowledge is buttressed by a collection of invisible distinctions which perpetuate an abyssal ideology regarding the racial and cultural inferiority of the indigenous peoples of Guyana. It is the cognitive injustice of discursively reconstructing the Amerindians as irrecusably “backwards”, then, which is linked to both social and environmental injustices, leading Santos to declare “there can be no global social justice without global cognitive justice”.

Adam Lewis: “Prefiguring Resistance Against Settler Colonialism: The Radical Imagination and the Move Towards Anarchist Decolonial Futures”

This paper aims to contribute to imagining possible anti-colonial and decolonizing futures in the context of settler colonialism by drawing on the work by Max Haiven and Alex Khasnabish (2014) on the radical imagination in social movement and social movement research contexts. They argue for a prefigurative view of social movement organization and research, where the radical imagination is an ‘aspirational’ push to bring ‘possible futures “back” to work on the present, to inspire action and new forms of solidarity today’ (3). In this paper I take up this prefigurative notion in order to conceive of how this approach might be applied to social movements and research seeking to develop anti-colonial and decolonizing politics within the specific context of settler colonialism in the north of the Americas.

To do so I bring together the diverse fields of settler colonial studies, Indigenous resurgence and resistance, social movement research, and anarchist prefiguration as part of the construction of my own research process for my dissertation. I argue that prefiguration is a necessary part of moving towards anti-colonial and decolonizing politics, while at the same time it is crucial to draw from past traditions and histories of resistance. In particular social movement, and those who research with them, need to carefully ground their work within the context of ongoing structures of settler colonialism.

In order to begin to imagine what prefiguration might look like I combine the radical imagination with what Adam Barker (2009) has called ‘radical experimentation’ in order to create social movement and social movement research spaces to collectively engage questions of the construction of possible futures here and now, while also turning to the necessity of ‘unsettling’ contemporary social movement analysis and practices.

11:00AM - 11:15AM: Coffee


11:15AM - 12:00PM: Presentation

Sheila Colla: Conserving the Buzz: An Evidence-based Approach to Pollinator Conservation in Canada

The plight of pollinators has recently become an environmental issue of significant public interest. Declines in pollination services could result in decreased crop production and negatively impact the sustainability of natural ecosystems. Thus far, policy has focused on mitigating declines of the non-native Honey bee (Apis mellifera), primarily due to pesticide use. However, scientific research indicates conserving native pollinator biodiversity is more critical to maintain pollination services in natural and agricultural landscapes. Dr. Colla will discuss what is known about the role of native pollinators in Canada and their current conservation status. The role of environmental stressors such as pesticide use, disease spillover and climate change will be reviewed. Using best available science, a National Policy for Native Pollinator Conservation in Canada will be recommended.


12:00PM - 12:30PM: Presentation

Andrew Zealley: Left To Our Own Devices

This performance piece "remixes" Zealley's performative video installation, Cienfuegos (2011, duration: 12 minutes, 45 seconds), by engaging the audience, and their personal digital devices, as sound instruments. Left To Our Own Devices comprises video, sound, performative gesture, and a conceptual music score that instructs the audience in their participatory role. In Cienfuegos, fire takes the form of a visual mantra through a performative sequence of lighting one hundred wooden matchsticks, each match lit from the previous. Elemental in alchemy and shamanism, fire here represents infinite energy and the intensity of silence acts as a conducer for the image. As a meditation on the continuum of spirit, the title is literal (one hundred fires) and also functions as homage to Santiago-based artist and educator, Rodrigo Cienfuegos, a collaborator and friend of the artist.

Zealley’s interests include questions surrounding gay men’s inclinations towards healing and the role of sex, and sexual energies, in this context. How does “outsider” or “liminal” status make it possible and necessary for queer men to think about healing and spirituality in new and inventive ways? In what ways is sex one of the central axes around which gay men’s spiritual practices and spiritual experiences are organized? Senior Canadian artist—and founding member of artist group General Idea—AA Bronson identifies Joseph Kramer’s work, through the Body Electric School, as key to his own healing practice. Bronson notes “[i]n 1992 I attended the Body Electric’s ‘Sacred Intimate’ workshop, invented and led by […] Kramer as one of his experiential, residential workshops […] radical, gay, neo-tantric, pseudo-psychological, sexpositive retreats that were to spawn an international community of men seeking to be healers to their people, and seeking to be healed” (Bronson 2001:54). What attracts gay men to the role of healer? Researcher Peter Savastano suggests that it is “by virtue of their exclusion from most of the world’s religious traditions [that] queer men find themselves in a kind of spiritual ‘Diaspora’” (Savastano 2007:9). He associates gay neo-shamanism and healing as forms of bricolage, composites of ideologies and references culled from many spiritual frameworks. In an email dialogue with Zealley concerning Cienfuegos and queerness, artist Luis Jacob inquires “how do people, who have not traditionally had the option of making children, pass knowledge from generation to generation? The idea is that queer people use culture as a resource. We pass things on culturally. For me, your piece of the matches lighting the matches, is a beautiful image of this” (Jacob, private correspondence, 2012).
Cienfuegos was last performed as part of the Subtle Technologies Festival: En.Moreno, at The Gladstone Hotel, in May 2015.


12:30PM - 1:30PM: Lunch and Talk

Deborah McGregor: Indigenous Environmental Justice Theory and Practice

This presentation will explore ideas for how to advance the theory and practice of environmental justice scholarship by engaging with Indigenous intellectual traditions. By grounding Indigenous EJ in Indigenous epistemological and ontological foundations, a distinct framework will emerge. It is anticipated (and hoped) that such engagement will be lead to a deeper understanding of Indigenous EJ and more importantly how to visualize achieving justice.


1:30PM - 3:00PM: PhD Student Panel 2 – Environmental Disasters, Environmental Damage

Reena Shadaan: "I Know My Own Body… They Lied…”: Racialized Women, Environmental Justice, and the Contestation of Knowledge Claims in Institute WV, and Old Bhopal, India

The following will consider the phenomenon of the dismissal of women's health-related knowledge and lived experiences within the context of two diverse, but historically connected, environmental justice (EJ) struggles. The first is located in Institute, West Virginia, within the wider region of Kanawha Valley – or “Cancer Valley”. The second is in Old Bhopal, India, an area that is severely impacted by the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. In both areas, women discuss the dismissal of their health experiences, and specifically, doctors’ refusal to draw connections between their health struggles and their exposure to toxins – which many identify as the root cause of their illnesses. While diverse factors – ranging from industry-touted misinformation, to the absence of comprehensive health studies – contribute to this denial, I intend to discuss the intersections of gender, race and class marginalization, and the underlying role of these factors in the dismissal of these toxic-impacted women’s knowledge claims.

Myles Wieselman: Burning Water or Blowing Smoke? Examining the Socio-Cultural Dynamics Surrounding the Emergence of Competing Environmental Groups in Response to an Environmental Controversy in Rural Alberta

In the rural tourist town of Rosebud Alberta (population under 100), known primarily for its opera house and theatre school, an environmental controversy has arisen. High levels of methane gas (and other contaminants) are believed to be in the water wells of numerous residents. In response to this contamination, a group of local residents has come together to actively fight for social and environmental justice against Encana (the corporation they believe to have contaminated their wells through the process of coalbed methane fracturing), and the Alberta government (for poor regulatory oversight). However, ambiguities as to the origin and harm of this contamination (Alberta Environment’s ‘controversial’ testing process suggests that these wells were contaminated by the residents themselves via poor maintenance) have facilitated the emergence of a counter group of citizens fighting to curtail the negative stigma associated with being labeled a contaminated community, thereby preserving the reputation of a town that derives much of its income from tourism and where much of its community infrastructure is sponsored by funds from Encana. This sets up an interesting dynamic between environmental ‘minimalists’ and ‘maximalists’ (Mix and Shriver 2007)—a dynamic that allows for the analysis of ‘the social amplification of risk’ versus the ‘domestication of danger,’ and the impact that these forms of social construction have upon social movements in response to environmental controversies—all set within the neoliberal socio-economic/political and cultural context that is the Alberta petrostate.

Natali Downer: The Case of Rana Plaza: Disaster Vulnerability, Inequity and State Corporate Crime

The collapse of the Rana Plaza complex on April 24th, 2013 is the deadliest garment factory accident in history. Over 1,129 garment workers lost their lives and thousands were injured in what was largely reported as a structural failure. In this article, I interrogate this claim and investigate the structural determinants of this incubating disaster. Bangladesh is densely populated with many living below the poverty line. The socio-historical case study of Bangladesh reveals how this technological disaster was more than a structural failure but an emergent disaster at the intersection of social vulnerability, regulatory failure, globalization and consumer capitalism.

Peter Hobbs: The Tale of the Sarnia Nose: How Does Petrocapitalism Make You Feel? In Pursuit of a Regional Sensorium

The Tale of the Sarnia Nose is a comic book that focuses on the subtle and not so subtle structures of power inherent to Canada’s Chemical Valley, a vast industrial corridor in Ontario that is home to 62 giant petrochemical plants engaged in oil refining and polymer and plastics manufacturing. The people of the region are constantly exposed to ambient poisons that can build up in the blood and bones and result in an assortment of chronic and lethal diseases. Along with ambient poisons, the petro plants also disseminate a worldview, one that the local population cannot help but absorb and react to. To explain my argument in less abstract terms: Each time local residents catch a whiff of the rotten egg smell of sulphur dioxide (which can happen several times in the course of a week) they are bluntly reminded of a regional hierarchy in which the financial success of the petrochemical companies is held above everything else. The paper I am proposing is an excerpt of a comic book chapter in my dissertation. Rather than using drawings to simplify things, I have tended towards thick description and complexity. In other words, while I have used the comic format to depict sequential events, much of the imagery consists of isolated fragments that together speak/depict a larger ecological story or assemblage. The primary goal is to draw something of the messy material and psychic politics that together constitute Chemical Valley.


3:00PM - 3:15PM: Coffee


3:15PM - 4:00PM: Presentation

Stefan Kipfer: In Transit: Ecosocialism, the Urban Question and Campaigns for Free Public Transportation

Ecological socialism can be said to be an open-ended constellation of political and intellectual currents with marxist, counter-colonial and feminist connotations. While a few of these currents have histories that are much older than contemporary environmentalisms, their current ecosocialist political content has emerged from struggles as varied as landless peasant movements, red-green alliances of workers and environmentalists, projects for indigenous self-determination and mobilizations against environmental injustice. In ecosocialist praxis, urban questions are not always central and thus raise a number of thorny issues. This contribution uses the example of campaigns for free and decommodified public transportation to (1) highlight the insights ecosocialism brings to transit organizing and (2) insist on the challenges transportation harbours for ecosocialist orientations. Among latter are considerations of scale, the division of labour, political organizing and planning.


4:00PM - 5:00PM: PhD Student Panel 3 – Reflecting on Research: A Critical Discussion of Methods

Sarah Switzer: Unpacking the Visual: Towards a Critical Reading of Participatory Visual Research

In the past decade, there has been a proliferation of arts-based methods in health research, with particular interest in participatory visual methods.1,2 However, while much is written about the form and legitimacy of arts-based health methods, substantive questions and theoretical issues are often neglected,1,5 leading to what Fraser & al Sayah (2011) describe as a lack of “theoretical clarity”, and an over-reliance on description of methods vs. methodology. Furthermore, literature on participatory methods has tended to be over celebratory6,7 and has eluded discussion of the methods’ limitations or challenges.8 Drawing on theory from sociology, anthropology, education, cultural studies, contemporary art and health, this paper sketches out what a critical and interdisciplinary reading of participatory visual methods might look like for visual methods researchers. I begin by briefly mapping out how/why researchers might use participatory visual methods before teasing out some methodological opportunities and limitations of these methods. Grounding my analysis in the use of photovoice and photo-elicitation in health research, I ask: How might an interdisciplinary reading allow us to reframe what counts as the visual in both design, data collection and analysis? How have understandings of ‘art’ and photography as shaped by dynamics of race, gender and class contribute to our thinking about visual methods? How do we critically understand issues of power and participation? How might these issues apply to how we might make sense of participant-generated visuals? How might we move beyond the ‘celebratory’ so that we can engage in the tensions of the work?

Clara McCallum Fraser: “A new approach to planning – developing an Indigenous-non-Indigenous research institute”

Over the past several years, I have been working in partnership with Carolyn King, former Chief of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, and planning consultant, to develop what we’ve been referring to as the Aboriginal Consultation Initiative. To begin with, the idea was to create an online resource that would be of use to municipal planners and Indigenous consultation staff (mostly First Nations, on reserves) as they muddle through the evolving consultation processes in Ontario. This idea grew and evolved until this past September, when we brought together 23 people to meet over two days in order to discuss issues around the duty to consult Aboriginal peoples and planning in Ontario. The participants were both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, as well as interdisciplinary, coming from planning, archaeology, law, economic development, and policy. Over the two-day roundtable gathering, this group of people discussed in several small groups some of the biggest problems facing planners and Indigenous consultation workers at the moment, and how these issues fit into the larger context of the discourse around Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

In this presentation I will be talking about how this group is moving forward to establish an Indigenous-non-Indigenous research institute, of sorts, highlighting some of the issues that were raised by the group, and for myself as a researcher.


5:00PM - 6:00PM: Social Gathering