Register for the 2020-2021 SDF Speaker Series

Image version of the Senior Doctoral Fellow schedule

Wednesday, May 5, 1:30-2:00pm

Catia Dignard (Caribbean Studies)

Linguistic Representations of Black Characters in Cuban Fiction of the New Millennium

If scholarship has focused on the return to the stereotypical portrayals of black characters during the 1990s, and that were common to the pre-revolutionary era, what had not yet been addressed is how differentiating linguistic traits (manner of speech) have been used to represent black characters in more recent Cuban fiction, a narrative strategy that goes back to colonial times. Apart from conveying “authenticity” (i.e. the details of the Havana slang) when building fictional characters, such a literary device, I contend, was also a way to emphasise the Island’s socioeconomic and cultural decadence or “involution” during this decade of economic upheaval. Since the second decade of the new millennium, other voices, namely from the Caribbean side of the Island, have emerged and imposed themselves in fiction, leading me to explore the other levels of significance of this narrative strategy. What follows is a tale about continuity and subversion.

Catia Dignard is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her dissertation examines the topic of linguistic representations of Black characters in contemporary Cuban fiction, and how these reflect evolving notions of nationhood, class and race relations on the Island. The first part of this talk will consist of the process and journey that lead to this “work in progress”. The second part will touch upon her preliminary findings and the work that lies ahead.


Wednesday, May 19, 1:30-3:00pm

Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing (Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity)

Grief Medicines

Grief Medicines is a research project learning from Indigenous grief workers and through the land about what helps urban Indigenous community members through experiences of loss. The project is guided by Anishinaabe and Indigenous feminist and two spirit thought, taking a co-theorizing approach to thinking together with community members. This presentation will share some of the project’s findings in relation to how Indigenous women and two spirit people are theorizing grief work, medicines, and healing, in the context of living through the violences of settler colonialism. As will be discussed in the presentation, grief work is relational and self-determined; medicines are self-determining; and healing is an insufficient word to express the complex, intersecting ways that people endure, resist, and live beyond the harms imposed through violent systems. Regeneration, or making new life, is one way that plant medicines respond to wounding – but new life is only possible with appropriately caring conditions. In this way, grief work needs to be collective, attending to what grief medicines mean to different people, depending on context, depending on needs. As the findings of this project show, when communities collaboratively prioritize meeting and supporting people where they are at, more life becomes possible.

Lucy El-Sherif (Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity)

Dabke on Turtle Island: Pedagogy, and the Multicultural Shaping of Settler Citizenship in Canada 

What does it mean to dance a belonging to one stolen land on another stolen land? During a 24-month critical performance ethnography, I engaged with youth practicing and performing dabke (Palestinian folk-dancing) in the context of Canada’s 150th confederation anniversary yearlong celebrations to understand Arab and Muslim youth subject formation. I examine the youth’s narratives of belonging to Canada and their relationships to Palestine while learning and performing dabke in Canada. I use critical spatial analysis and theories of cultural production to examine how their gendered somatic experiences interact with cultural representation and self-representation. I argue that the youth’s engagement with dabke is a joyful expression of Palestine that proudly connects them to their land in embodied ways, as an imagined and idealized alternative site of Arab and Muslim subject formation. Nevertheless, the youth performing dabke are situated in settler discourses that shape their spatial imaginaries and practices to embody colonial power, and I conclude that Arab and Muslim racial inequality is shaped by settler colonial relations to space and place.

This research intervenes in pressing debates on critical race, settler colonialism, citizenship and transnationalism, and questions what it means to belong to settler states as racialized people. It examines how racism unevenly fashions both the structural subject positions available to settlers, and the pedagogical processes of social citizenship that shape their subjectivities. Rather than an examination of overt state violence, my focus on disguised forms of state violence orients the field towards violence’s banality in shaping youth subjectivities. As an iconic example of joy, collectivity and relationship to occupied Palestine, dabke can help us understand the relationship between racialized belonging and settler citizenship for other diasporic groups living in the heart of states that colonize their homelands.

Jade Kim (International Foundation Program)

Exploring Participation in Graduate-Level Seminars: International Students Speaking English as an Additional Language

Canadian universities and colleges are increasingly characterized by cultural and linguistic diversity. In university and college, students are quickly introduced to particular ways of thinking and using language (Hyland, 2009) and they are expected to participate in class, discuss scholarly issues, and be assessed in the target language(s) designated by the university. These requirements and expectations often present difficulties, particularly for international students who need to demonstrate their learning and competence to the gatekeepers of university (Hyland, 2018). Previous studies on academic language tended to focus more on exploring written aspects compared to oral events (Flowerdew & Wang, 2015). However, this is in contrast to the finding that international students regard speaking as more demanding than writing (Freeman, 2003; Huang, 2010). This multiple case study (Yin, 2018) focuses on four graduate- level seminar classes and works with eight international students speaking English as an additional language (EAL) to explore their spoken participation experiences. This research also investigates four seminar instructors’ expectations for EAL international student participation. Drawing on genre theory (Swales, 1990) and community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991), it was found that seminar participation is not a uniform notion as each seminar course had a unique structure and participation practices. This diversity of the seminar genre within the discipline of education provides insight into the types of difficulties that EAL international students may encounter in the process of participating in class discussions and possible reasons that they might appear reticent compared to their “native speaker” classmates. Through a close examination of seminar classes, this study contributes to taking a step away from the traditional conception of the native speaker ideal and towards informing effective pedagogical practices that can aid educators, policy makers and researchers whose interest lies in creating positive and diverse learning environments.

Wednesday, May 26, 1:30-3:00pm

Jonathon Chio (Human Biology)

Drug re-purposing: Intravenous Human Immunoglobulin G to treat Traumatic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes motor and sensory impairments that lead to considerable patient suffering. There are approximately 1.3 million North Americans with SCI, with 4,300 new cases annually. Physical trauma in the spinal cord leads to immediate spinal tissue cell death and triggers cellular and molecular cascades. Neuroinflammation is a major contributor and is describes infiltration of immune cells into the injured tissue. The immune cells are beneficial and harmful after SCI; secreting growth factors to enhance tissue regeneration, but can make the initial injury more severe when removing dying cells. Immuno-suppressive strategies are the primary pharmacological treatment to complement surgical and rehabilitation measures. However, as the immune response has beneficial and harmful attributes, immunomodulatory (rather than immunosuppressive) strategies may be more efficacious.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration, intravenous human Immunoglobulin G (IVIg) is an immunomodulatory used to treat various disorders of the nervous and immune systems. A proven clinical track record can significantly reduce the cost and time associated with clinical translation of IVIg for treating SCI. To facilitate clinical translation, Jonathon’s PhD research uses a clinically-relevant rat model of SCI to identify the optimal dose, time window of administration and explore how IVIg mediates immunomodulation. Jonathon’s work has identified IVIg (2 g/kg) as the best dose. Short and long-term benefits of IVIg (2 g/kg) treatment are maintained when administered up to four hours post-SCI. The immunomodulatory effects include hindering immune cell infiltration into the spinal cord and re-directing immune cells to the spleen.

Next steps are to use this data towards preparing for clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of IVIg as SCI treatment. His research is published in peer-reviewed journals (Chio et al., J Neuroinflammation. 2019 Jul 9;16(1):141, Neurobiol Dis. 2021 Jan;148:105187 and Exp Neurol. 2021 Mar 19;341:113704).

Huda Hassan (African Studies)

Ciyaal Baraf: Fictions Empires Tell and Counter-Narratives of Somali Artists in Diaspora

My doctoral project explores the ways in which Canada’s Somali diaspora has been framed in mass media as the new national criminal subject. Ciyaal Baraaf (meaning “children of the snow” in Somali) is a Black Diaspora Cultural studies project, drawing from Black Transnational Feminisms, Somali studies, and Media studies. Ciyaal Baraaf examines the framing and reproduction of a particular Other in service of colonial attitudes and fictions of the empire (Brand, 2001). It involves two structuring parts: an intervention on the criminalization of Somalis in settler-state media; and, an analysis of the responses and counter-narratives of Somali artists through artistic place-making and self-creation through cultural production. My paper focuses on a section of this project, tracing the criminalization of Somalis in Canadian news media from 2010 to 2016. This paper argues that the Somalization of crime reveals ongoing reproductions of race, gender, belonging, and Canadian nationalisms. Through this optic, I also urge a questioning of the function and ethics of identification in journalistic practices and examine the ethics of the contemporary journalist.

Kunga Sherab (Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health)

Identifying the Enlightened Minds of Children in 13th-15th Century Tibet

Beginning in the 13th century, Tibetan Buddhist communities began to identify the incarnations of their dead masters in the bodies of newborn children. Generation by generation, new practices of interpretation were developed for this purpose. These included careful examination of the infant and toddler behavior, the careful analysis of dreams and natural signs, and the experiences of parents and close family members. In time, these local traditions of interpreting the minds of children became a dominant, trans-regional form of reproducing religious, social, and economic power and authority in Tibet and a unique feature of its Buddhism. The institution of the Dalai Lamas is only the best known of thousands of such incarnation lineages who spread over the last eight centuries not only in Tibetan societies, but also across the Himalaya and Inner Asia, in Sikkim, Bhutan, Mongolia, China, and beyond. The remarkable success of Tibetan Buddhism across large parts of Asia and, in the 20th century, around the world is in many ways due to this tradition of identifying children as the incarnation of previous Buddhist masters. Drawing from my larger dissertation project on the cultural history of practices to identify such incarnations, this presentation will focus on the earliest period, from c. 1200-1500. In these centuries, local interpretations of unusual children were the dominant kind of identification. This presentation looks at ways of understanding and exploring childhood consciousness and experience, as well as the nature of Buddhahood, through these ancient practices.