Blog Closed for the Fall 2015 Session

Thanks for all of your interesting discussion!




Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 10.52.15 PM

Erika had asked me a question about my choice of doing a case study that happened fifteen years ago. I think this is a very important question and I would like to elaborate on it more for the purpose of clarification and informativity. The impact of SARS on Canada played a huge role in setting the tone for disease racialization in Canada. Discourse surrounding disease continues to be mobilized by race. The immense saturation of news media and the development of discourses that put race as a representation of an invisible microbe laid the groundwork for the future of viruses to come, such as African’s association with Ebola, Chinese’s association with HINI, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, amongst others.

This particular case study was important because of the interconnectedness of race, media, postmodern anxieties, and global political and economic issues. SARS brought Canadians’anxieties to the forefront and their reaction to the Chinese diaspora in Toronto is a reaction that is still evident today. For example, after the recent terrorist attack in Paris, Canadians’ reaction to Muslims living in Canada was rooted in the same types of anxieties that came to the forefront in the case of SARS. It is important to address how publics react to global issues, and is interesting to note patterns and consistencies among similar cases. Although much research has been done in the case of SARS, addressing how the media articulated this disease and how it treated and contributed to the racialization of disease is salient, especially as a communication studies scholar. This type of research works to address how media plays a role in addressing global issues and contributing to racist discourse.

The Human Ship

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 10.43.24 PMWhere do refugees fit within the scope of Canadian nationalism? As Justin Trudeau puts it they legally have “Canadian immigrant status,” but this stamp does not free them from the pre-existing ideologies and perceptions that they encompass. They have lost their homeland identity, and come to Canada with a pre-existing identity attached to them that has been developed through political and mediated ideologies.

M.I.A., a refugee and pop artists speaks to the current discourse of refugees. Her song, “Borders” questions the barriers and issues associated with refugee mobility. Though the song itself may not be the best, the meaning behind the lyrics and the visual representations in the music video are a rather compelling illustration of the current refugee crisis. The most salient visual representation in her music video is a depiction of a ship made of refugees. Similar to how Gilroy viewed the ship as a place where Africans developed an identity different from that in their homeland, and also different from the identity that would be imposed on them once they reached their new home, refugees are in the flux of identities in their transition phase. This flux however is an identity in and of itself, developed alongside the community they migrate with. The depiction of the ‘refugee ship’ allows for a clear understanding of the togetherness and identity that these refugees create in their transition.

The ship simultaneously represents the community of refugees and the place of transition between two points. This refugee ship stands in to represent the “mobile elements that stood for the shifting spaces in between the fixed places that they connected” (Gilroy, 16). That is, using refugees as the fragments of the ship speaks to the idea that modern views of refugees automatically links them to their homeland, just as a ship would link them to their homeland. Together on the ship they share an identity in flux, once they reach their new home they hold an identity that represents the perception of their homeland. This song brings to light the misunderstanding of refugees’ identity and raises questions about rethinking general perceptions of refugees.


Gilroy, Paul. “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity” in The Black Atlantic Modernity and Double Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. 1-40

Response to Symposium Questions.


“We officially joined the cult of the possessionless. And we were hooked” (Thrifty nomads).

Since the symposium presentations this afternoon I have been reflecting upon Rachelle’s question regarding the positives of individuals stepping out of the realm of materialism and working towards a more “possessionless” way of life. I felt as though this question was an excellent one, which neatly encompassed the tensions inherent without the discourse of the “hipster nomad”.

As Rachelle’s question reveals, there is in fact something inherently reflexive and positive within the “hipster nomad” identity that speaks to an alternative way of life. The “hipster nomad” does, to a certain extent, resist and seek to debunk common understandings of life and happiness associated with modernity and empire. For that reason, it is important to acknowledge the positive aspects of the “hipster nomad’s” perspective of travel, something I neglected to do in my presentation and will take into consideration when finalizing my paper.

That being said, the resistance of the “hipster nomad” against structures of modernity becomes problematized. Jen & Ted, Jodi, and Matt all fail to acknowledge the inherent privilege they possess as white, middle class, north americans. All three blogs generalize the nomadic lifestyle as something glamorous that everyone has equal opportunity to obtain. There is no acknowledgement of the unequal flows of cultural, economic, and social capital that ultimately impact mobility. We see this in the quote below:

“No one handed us an inheritance, a cheque, or a dime to fund our lives. The one and only thing that made travel happen, was us.”

Jen & Ted suggest that they are ordinary, representative of the masses, and if they can do it “you can too”. Their idea of privilege involves inheritances and handouts, yet they neglect the immaterial factors that play a role in their ability to be mobile by choice. Possessionless is glorified with no reflection of those who are not possessionless by choice.

As D’Andrea (2006) discusses, these types of nomadic travelers appear to have flipped Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs upside down, focusing on a pursuit for self-actualization. Yet, the reason that they are able to do this is because they have already reached the apex of the hierarchy of needs. They are privileged enough to have secured the basic necessities of life and are now able to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of self-actualization. Yet not everyone has this privilege.

The blogs are created from a very particular western gaze, which constructs a dream-like imaginary of the nomadic lifestyle without attempting to understand the complexities of those with less; less privilege, less education, less mobility. Mobility and movement is framed as distinctly positive without recognition of those who are forced to move and don’t have the choice or the ability to stay put. So, although the “hipster nomad” may, debatedly, present a more progressive thinking traveler than traditional tourists, the uncritical acceptance of this perspective fails to address the unequal flows of capital, people, and culture that plague the global tourist industry.


iCommunity: Click Activism


David Barry in The Vanishing Table, or Community in a World that is No World, speaks about digital technology and community. While I am not aligned with the entirety of his argument, in particular his nothing that community is now comprised of ‘individuals who are dislocated in a world that is no world’ (p.64), there are topics he discusses that segue into areas I believe are worthy of discussion. For instance, click activism.

While Barry eludes to the fact that being digitally connected creates an erosion of community, I would argue that it has facilitated a bridging of the time and space gap which has facilitated increased awareness and communication of various social justice issues.

Barry speaks of the social impact of digital media and postulates that ‘In the digital age social, political and economic attention and activity are increasingly concentrated upon, and mediated by flows of data that race across vast distances in an instant. Under these conditions the human experience of space and time is annihilated.’ Such a construction, I argue has facilitated what has come to be known as click activism. The ability for people to share their personal experiences and content via social media with those who are far away. Regardless of whether the movement, demonstration, dialogue or discussion is in proximity or not. An imagined community exists over the internet, what I would call an i-community. One which defies the barriers of space of time to facilitate a process of resistance greater than that which may have existed without this digital technology.

I am not saying this cannot be done, clearly it already has been. There have been many riot, rallies, vigils and demonstrations that have emerged without the use of digital technology. Rather, I am suggesting the existence of a digital world does not mean individuals are dislocated in no world at all.

Although Barry does reference the work of two author who says that frequent Internet use and a strong sense of online community and suggesting that increased online activity ‘neither turns people on nor turns them off from an overall sense of community.’

The only thing we have to worry about is ensuring people do not mistake knowing for a problem, through their connection of digital media as doing something about it.


Short attention spans and media relevan…oh look, a squirrel!

On any given day, the news is filled with crisis. It seems there is always a humanitarian issue coming to the forefront quicker than we can digest the issue and the cause. Simultaneously, there is always an organization trying to raise funds or awareness for a cause. It becomes increasingly difficult to know not only what cause to pay attention to, but also to know which news outlets to consume news from. This is especially concerning as headlines change quickly, leaving many wondering what the outcome of an issue was and why it isn’t still newsworthy.

With many competing causes and competing news stories, there is a very short amount of time for a person to connect with a cause in the media. As quickly as the general public’s attention is gained it can be lost just as quickly. This creates a need to create more compelling visuals and stories to increase the chances of staying relevant.

According to Harold Innis as referenced by Barney, “modern western society has failed to reach a balance between time and space. Appetite for size and speed overwhelms genuine attention to continuity of location.” The short attention span partially caused by the advancements in technology and digital media is dangerous. The concern becomes glossing over issues for the purpose of gaining viewer attention. When this occurs, there is a lack of true understanding of the root causes of an issue. How can real change take place if the underlying issues are never addressed? If an issue never stays in the media for long and the issues are oversimplified, I wonder what the future holds for those who rely on the assistance of humanitarian aid. Once relevance, public attention, and shock value is lost, what happens to the aid?


Barney, Darin. “The Vanishing Table, Or Community in a World that is No World” in Community in the Digital Age: Philosophy and Practice, Andrew Feenberg and Darin Barney (eds) N.Y.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. 31-52


Teaching the Lion to Write.

Writing from a position of bias is often times, unavoidable. Faye V. Harrison denotes that leading scholars of globalization have tended to write from the vantage of a ‘privileged airspace above the world they theorize’. I do not find this is specific to scholars who write about globalization, I find such an observation may be made by any other discipline.

Harrison’s take on feminist methodology is an important one. Where she asserts that feminist ideology  ‘should represent an alternative approach that emphasizes the experiential, takes a contextual and interpersonal approach to knowledge, is attentive to the concrete realm of everyday life and human agency, and is conducted with empathy, connectedness, dialogue and mutual consciousness raising.’

The feminist-methodology in this capacity is one that is aligned with the feminist ideology. It is a framework that encompasses what feminist theory seeks to attain and it goes behind the data to do so.

While methods are the specific procedures, operations or techniques for identifying and collecting the evidence necessary to answer research questions.  Feminist-methodologies articulate conceptual, theoretical, and ethical perspectives on the whats, whys and hows of research and the production of knowledge. This is an inclusive and responsible way to conduct research that is in directly alignment with the theory itself. . 

Engaging in feminist ethnography with a broad range of methodologies, including meaningful dialogue and active solidarity with potentially allied projects, with particular emphasis upon those of critical ethnography, the methodology of the oppressed and the decolonizing methodologies of individual, subaltern, minoritized and anti-racist researches there is not only a better assurance of the data collected. There is also a increased level of accountability and integrity with the data.

Rather than hovering above the subject, the theory is contextualized through the lens of the subject itself. The lion learns how to write.

the lion and hunter (2)

I’m not Indigena- I’m normal



Cuauhtemoc and I are cheap. One day I will be buried in the same socks that I’ve worn since grade 12 because I was too cheap to buy a new pair. This cheapness is what placed us on that hill that day. We could have taken a taxi, or a bus, but we decided that we should walk to Sacsahuaman. We had arrived in Cusco that morning after an 18 hour bus ride from the coast. We took the night bus in order to save 1 night’s stay at a hostel. Cuauhtemoc was feeling sick from the elevation and everything in Cusco was really expensive. We decided that a walk and fresh air would do us both good. We also liked the name Sacsahuaman because we thought it sounded like “Sexy Woman” – and after an 18 hour bus ride, it seemed like nothing in the world could possibly be funnier than that.

So we were resting on the hill halfway between the Inca ruins and Cusco; the city of access to the world famous Machu Pichu. Cuauh was munching on coca leaves since they help with elevation sickness. A taxi driver pulled over and asked if we needed a ride. We said no thanks and he stayed to chat and share in the coca leaves.

I don’t remember exactly what the conversation was about, but the taxi driver said something that has stayed with me forever and I have thought about often. This man, who worked in the gateway city to the Inca ruins of MachuPichu, an international travel destination where people from all over the world arrive to admire this great indigenous structure, this man whose indigenous traits were written all over his kind, smiling face, said to us: “No soy indigena, soy gente normal” – “I am not indigenous, I’m normal people.”

I was silent, and confused, and then angry. I could not respond. My husband nodded. We finished up our coca leaves, shook hands, hugged and parted from our new friend.

But what did this man’s comment mean? My first inclination was outrage at the colonial legacy which I viewed as still playing out before my very eyes. Was this an indigenous man denying his ancestry because of the shame and negative connotations still associated with being indigenous? Was this a case of commodified culture where the culture of indigenous and MachuPichu were appreciated, but the act of being indigenous was viewed as negative? How is being indigenous not normal? Is white normal? Was this an expression of what Comaroff and Comaroff described in Ethnicity Inc?

OR – was this man explaining that the indigenous of the past, the Inca that people travel to MachuPichu to see, the Inca who lived and breathed prior to the conquest, was no longer his lived reality. Was this a case of a man explaining that the Indigenous construct that the promotion of Machu Pichu had fixed in time to be consumed by tourists no longer existed in his lived experience. Was this an expression of what Mimi Scheller had described in Consuming the Carribean?

Was it neither of these things; was it both? Was it just a man on the side of a hill, speaking to a sick and cheap couple without putting much thought into replicating narratives, or was it a thoughtful man defying the popular narratives?

I will never know and I can never do more than speculate. But CS615 has given me an opportunity to think about it, and then challenged me to think about it again. And I’m sure, I will continue to contemplate these thoughts as I check my same old socks to see if I can get away with wearing them one more time before they completely disintegrate.



some postmodern ramblings

After engaging in our Final Symposium today, I am struck by a few different things. All of our work is so vastly different, but arranged in a critical fashion — our research is very engaged in a larger praxis of cultural critique that is open to questioning, criticizing, collaborating, and the consideration of hegemonic discourses, and how these discourses affect our experiences and shape our identities.


For myself, it is difficult to answer the question: Why? Why do I do the research I do? How did I chose my topic? I am a white academic of a semi-privileged economic class. I have no choice in this respect: I cannot ‘shake off’ or ignore this part of my identity when doing research that involves historically marginalized and oppressed persons. Nor do I want to. I am acutely aware of my presence — I have the privilege to be an outside observer to social injustice if I choose to. But I don’t. And I don’t think anyone else in this class ignores their unique positionality. I appreciate this very much!

Concepts of identity and experiences are an undercurrent in our 615 course, and I have found a lot of our research to focus — overtly or subvertly — on the different articulations of identity and how these articulations form into assemblages. What I like most about our discussions in this course was the reoccurring theme of identity — the self, the other, the group. We spent a lot of time deconstructing these ideas. I am not sure if any of us ever came up with a solid answer to questions of identity, privilege, and resistance, but for me, the important part is that we had an open dialogue.


Intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, mobility, ethnicity, nationality (insert postmodern identity category here) are complex and ever-changing. The fluid nature of identity makes it ephemeral and fleeting — it is difficult, I think, for any scholar (a grad student or a professor) to get a proper ‘handle’ on identity. There is never one answer. But I think all of our research presented today attempts to form a micro-level response to the ‘big questions’. It is not an easy task to continually problematize — I find we can talk ourselves out of our own opinions — but what I liked most about this class is that we tried to make sense of the complexities and confoundedness of postmodern life.






Symposium Comments for Everyone!

Hi 615 — Below I have typed out my comments/responses to everyone’s presentation. I hope they are helpful. Great job today everyone, one of the best parts of being in a small cohort is becoming familiar with everyone’s research.

Jo-Dee: I think the work you are doing is super current and on trend. I like how you draw comparisons between the two Trudeau’s, but I think the most interesting facet of your research lies in your research on the politics of representation – connecting the new cabinet with the ‘real’ politics of representation. You will have a lot of content to work with in the coming months, as you are trying to capture a moving picture.

Haley: I like your premise of narrowing down your discourse analysis to three blogs. For a bigger project, I wonder what would come about if you found popular bloggers from other parts of the world, and see if the hipster nomad is only unique to a western privileged group.

Erika: Great ideas and you worked hard at narrowing down your theoretical scope! I think if you chose a case study – i.e. a specific country, a specific migrant group, one facet of advertisements – you would be able to draw out a lot of interesting examples and analyses.

Cheryl: I think Doctors Without Borders is a great case study and you were right in choosing Appadurai. You may need some cultural theorists to help contextualize your discourse analysis. If I may suggest the theory of Orientalism and postcolonial analysis to help ground your work in specific positionalities, especially because DWB is very western? I am sure there are lots of others as well!!

Sarah: In class I made the connection to formal and substantive equality feminist debate that arouse during the time multiculturalism was ‘on the rise’. It is not only limited to feminism – I wonder if substantive equality fits into the need for a radical contextualization of legal discourses. Another question I had was – are there any emerging ideas that counter multiculturalist discourse? There exist a wealth of critiques, and I wonder if there is an alternative concept or praxis that could take the place of multiculturalism.

Rachelle: I think your research is really unique and you have the chance to insert your ideas into an important argument. Keep deconstructing “victim” and “hero” in a discursive way. Define what these concepts are and where they fit in with the context of your paper/research. Are you working from a particular theoretical standpoint to inform and frame your CDA?

Maria: I LOVED your topic! Your analysis was super detailed and your theoretical connections were very clean and tight. I think you could uses SARS as a historical example and connect it to a recent health crisis!

Amara: What can I say, the real is on the rise…….     Cool topic. Loved how you used different authors and different theorists to connect to a popular culture example. Your analysis was not superficial, but detailed and very intellectual.

Aynin: Your topic is so unique and it is clear you are passionate about it! I think there is a lot of potential in your discussion on ‘backdoors’ and also censorship. You are very aware of your own bias, a very important place to position your paper in.

Sami: Poststructuralism is a rabbit hole of information, but you managed to give a fantastic overview of some of its key facets. Great theoretical work, I think applying a gendered or feminist slant on the theory is beneficial to your overall research purpose.

Santiago: You are doing some complex theoretical work – don’t get yourself lost in it. Keep circling back to your unique argument, or stay focused on your analysis. Your theory can emerge through it as you go along. My question was similar to Haley’s: what other societal spaces could you see this form of resistance extend to?