The Intersections Conference Series
VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1 2014
Volume 1 Issue 1
inDiscipline The Intersections Conference Series
Concordia University Montreal
Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Studentsâ€™ Association
Erin Lynch Walter Goettlieb Alixes Black
Associate Editors Hicham El Alaoui Pamela Pillon Tiffany Hall Ravi Jilwah Leanne Letourneau Chantale Potié
Cheryl McDonald Alannah McGinn Kris Murray Sabrina Smofsky Amanda Weightman
Sarah Breitkrutz, Charles Gray, Elisabeth White
©2014 Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Students’ Association Concordia University 1108-1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 Cover image courtesy of Denise Buisman Pilger “Montreal” ©2013 denisebuismanpilger.com
About inDiscipline inDiscipline is an interdisciplinary graduate student journal published annually by the Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Studentsâ€™ Association at Concordia University. This first publication showcases the work of some of the participants from the 2014 Graduate Student Conference, which is organized by SAGSA annually. The theme of the 2014 conference was Intersections: Multidisciplinarity, Method, and Medium in Social Science Research.
inDiscipline Would like to Thank: We, the staff of inDiscipline, were truly grateful to have received support from numerous individuals throughout the process of preparing and publishing our first academic journal. We would like to thank, in particular, Dr. David Howes for taking on the role of faculty supervisor for the journal, Dr. Maximilian Forte and Dr. Meir Amor, who also lent their wisdom and support to the project. We are grateful, as well, for having received encouragement and assistance from the numerous other faculty and staff members of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Concordia University. Lastly, we would like to thank the Graduate Studentsâ€™ Association at Concordia University for providing the funding to ensure the completion of the project.
Contents Facilitated Impunity or a Necessary Evil?: Questioning Assumptions about Amnesty in Sierra Leone.....................................................................................1 by Randy Pinsky The Untethered Researcher: Navigating Mind-body Wisdom Amidst External Expectations..................................................................................21 by Karen Messer Disaster as Simulation: Heroism and Hyperrealism during Times of Catastrophe...................................................................................33 by Sara Rodriguez What is Post-Anthropological Anthropology?.....................42 by Charles Grey Navigating Identities in Created Spaces: How Concordia’s Muslim Youth Negotiate Identity Politics in Response to the Quebec Charter of Values............................................................................................52 by Adriana Sgambetterra The Importance of ‘Passing’ for Queer Transgender Men: Masculinity and Safety..................................................................62 by Chase Ross
Facilitated Impunity or a Necessary Evil?
Questioning Assumptions about Amnesty in Sierra Leone by Randy Pinsky
After several failed attempts at resolving the Sierra Leone civil war, the LomĂŠ Peace Accord was viewed with much hope for facilitating the transition towards stability. Optimism was soon dampened, however, when it became apparent that alongside provisions for establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission the Accord also granted combatants a blanket amnesty in order to entice them to disarm. Non-governmental groups and the United Nations condemned this act, contending that amnesty for crimes against humanity transgressed international humanitarian law. In spite of such opposition, and the fact that the state had been devastated by a brutal rebel group, the Sierra Leone government insisted that amnesty was imperative. Was this decision avoidable? Is it possible that, contrary to common understandings of conflict resolution, amnesties may not only be justifiable in certain cases, but even the only possible route to peace? Considering the likelihood that without amnesty hostilities in Sierra Leone would have continued, the argument should be situated within the debate of â€˜peace versus justiceâ€™ where assumptions are contested and realities assessed. Far from solely facilitating impunity, amnesty has the strategic potential of bringing about peace where it would otherwise be unfeasible. As a result, it may bear value as a post-conflict policy option. What emerges here is an understanding that circumstances must be considered in order to facilitate meaningful transitions, and to temper the clash between idealistic humanitarians and political realists. This debate bears much strategic utility for policymakers invested in post-conflict scenarios as, in certain situations, amnesty may be the best of the worst possible options.
fter several failed attempts at resolving the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), the Lomé Peace Accord of 1999 was viewed with much hope in enabling a transition to stability in a country devastated by conflict. Optimism would soon be dampened, however, when it became apparent that alongside provisions for establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission1 and reintegrating the former combatants, a blanket amnesty would also be offered in order to entice the actors to disarm. This realization sparked much international controversy. The United Nations condemned this act, contending that amnesty for crimes against humanity transgressed international humanitarian law. Non-government groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concurred, cautioning that such “peace without accountability” would dangerously promote impunity (Gallagher 2000, 164-5). In spite of opposition, and the fact that Sierra Leone had experienced devastation at the hands of a brutal rebel group, the government was persistent that amnesty was imperative. This reality raises the question, is it possible that in certain cases amnesty may not only be justifiable but, at times, the only possible route to peace? Theorists in the field of transitional justice2 (Kritz 1997; Gallagher 2000; Nielson 2001) argue that offering amnesty to the perpetrators of a conflict merely serves to facilitate unaccountability for action and inhibit victim healing. Yet, can granting amnesty not only enable post-conflict transitions but also coexist with, rather than preclude, accountability measures? Indeed, conventional approaches to post-conflict justice often involve trials and prosecution, however, this can result in retributive violence developing, and progress being impeded due to solely focusing on the past. It will be argued that when parties have fought themselves to a stalemate and peace attempts have failed, granting amnesty can often be a clincher for facilitating reconciliation and enabling post-conflict rebuilding. The case of Sierra Leone is instrumental for not only illustrating how amnesty Truth Commissions have been used in multiple post-conflict cases such as South Africa, Argentina, and Chile as a means for discovering past government or non-state wrongdoings, to provide a record of what had occurred, and to facilitate healing; all in the objective of resolving and moving past the conflict (Kritz 1997; Hayner 2002). 2 The term ‘transitional justice’ refers to judicial and non-judicial approaches for addressing past human rights abuses of dictatorships or civil conflicts and moving on towards a new, and often democratic, future (Kritz 1997). 1
can be central for transitioning post-conflict but also how it can, in fact, coexist with accountability. Accusations leveled against the use of amnesty have resulted in a number of policy makers discounting it entirely; a discussion which will be followed by an exploration of its potential utility as a post-conflict strategy. This examination is tempered by the argument that not all forms of amnesty can be deemed as ‘legitimate’, but must comply with certain criteria to be construed as ‘justified’. The case of Sierra Leone will then be situated within this debate through addressing three concerns about amnesties being granted in cases of conflict in order to demonstrate how amnesty may at times, be the best of the worst possible options.
Amnesty: Instinctive Reactions, Common Accusations
The concept of ‘amnesty’ is one which provokes immediate reactions, ranging from being perceived as ‘justice denied’, to ‘rewarding crimes against humanity’. When confronted with the possibility of granting amnesty to perpetrators of atrocity, members of the international and humanitarian community will often instinctively protest that this is simply morally unjustified. Not only does this serve to discredit the battle against impunity (Nielson 2001) and enable ‘peace without accountability’, it can also set a dangerous precedent (Gallagher 2000) whereby perpetrators may become emboldened with the belief that they will not be charged for crimes committed. In addition to contravening international law, moreover, amnesty can also be the “ultimate in hypocrisy for victims” (Scharf 1999, 513-4). At its very essence, what is meant by ‘amnesty’? What provokes such visceral reactions against it? Amnesty is “an act of sovereign power immunizing persons from criminal prosecution for past offenses” (Scharf 1999, 508). It is precisely this sort of ‘forgetting’ or absolving perpetrators from acts committed that is most problematized by critics. Until recently, amnesty was considered to be a legitimate means for promoting transitional justice for states attempting to address systematic past abuses. This was particularly witnessed with the third wave of democratization in Latin America where amnesty was viewed as a ‘bargaining chip’ for
transitioning beyond repression (Laplante 2009, 923). It soon became apparent that amnesty could be easily abused, particularly in cases where dictators implemented ‘self-amnesties’ to shield themselves from prosecution. However, some authors also contend that the United Nations and international community “are often too willing to push for amnesties as a quick fix in areas where they are reluctant to get involved” (Gallagher 2000, 186). The disconcerting tendency to over-use amnesties in cases of conflict would be addressed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), established by the Organization of American States (OAS) to monitor and report on the human rights situations of its member states. Questioning the legitimacy of granting amnesty in transitioning societies, the Commission contended that states that failed to hold perpetrators to account were subsequently implicating themselves (Laplante 2009, 938). The IACHR would become one of the first international human rights bodies to expose amnesty’s incongruity with human rights principles and provoke necessary changes. Indeed, the Commission exposed that amnesties granted in Uruguay, Chile, and Peru contravened the American Convention on Human Rights, resulting in the states being obligated to prosecute such crimes. As an example, the Argentinean and Chilean courts have recently invalidated or ‘read down’ amnesty laws that had granted immunity to perpetrators of atrocities committed during the countries’ military dictatorships (Majzub 2002, 254-5). With this in mind, what are the accusations commonly wielded by opponents of amnesty in post-conflict cases? Among such well-documented contentions (see Dugard 1999; Orentlicher 1997; Reiter 2011) are three important accusations against amnesty being offered in any situation of conflict. First is the concern that amnesty focuses solely on the past and offers little for the future of a war-ravaged country. Secondly, amnesty is condemned as merely facilitating impunity and thereby precluding accountability; a claim with implications for both deterring future crimes and accruing justice for victims. Lastly, ‘blanket’ or unconditional
amnesties are perceived as being simply unjustified in any situation.3 An evaluation of these accusations through the lens of the Sierra Leone case reveals the complexities of amnesty in cases of conflict. What is critical to reinforce is that these claims all bear an aspect of validity and evoke compassion with the victims as well as concern of ‘compromising one’s values’ in ‘rewarding perpetrators’. However, what also must be acknowledged is that they fail to perceive the actual variability of amnesties that exist. Taking such a narrow view may, in fact, obscure what could potentially be a powerful means for transitioning beyond conflict. Indeed, momentarily setting aside the moral concerns with amnesty, it can be a means by which violence can be quelled, and societies to be able to begin healing and addressing the past. As a result, the idea that amnesty may yield more potential than commonly assumed warrants exploration.
Can Amnesty Be Strategically Useful, Even ‘Legitimate’ in PostConflict Contexts?
It must first be reinforced that not all amnesties are created alike; rather than the ‘blanket’ version commonly assumed, there are in fact numerous types of amnesties. Reiter (2011) denotes that amnesties can take a variety of forms including self-amnesties and ‘backwards-looking’ ones, and can serve both as symbolic gestures as well as contribute as an incentive to peace processes (6). Each manifestation of amnesty differs in its coverage and varies in its implications. The case of amnesty in Sierra Leone is particularly illustrative of this nuanced complexity that belies simplistic condemnation. While amnesty is usually condemned as deterring or hindering peace and making “justice elusive, if not impossible” (Gibson 2002, 541), in certain circumstances this post-conflict strategy can actually make such desired goals realizable. Indeed, while ‘accountability at all costs’ appears to be the mantra chanted by the Western world, amnesty may be the necessary compromise for enticing rebels to lay down arms and dictators to cede 3
‘Blanket amnesties’ are those which are uniformly granted to all parties involved in the conflict
as opposed to being conditional. A prime example is that of South Africa where amnesty was conditional upon participating in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Former perpetrators could apply for amnesty only upon testifying, and could have the amnesty revoked if found to have provided misleading or incomplete information (Mallinder 2007 and 2009).
power to democratically elected governments (Mallinder 2007, 228). In the absence of such incentives, there runs the risk of being little motivation for perpetrators to cease the hostilities. Amnesties can thus be the sole means for enabling peace and post-conflict transitions when it would otherwise be unfeasible. With transitional amnesties bearing the ability to represent “act[s] of reconciliation” (Mallinder 2009, 5), amnesties can serve to condition environments for disarmament and, thereby, facilitate societal progress (Reiter 2011). Still, while amnesties can bear potential strategic utility in cases of conflict, they can only be deemed as ‘legitimate’ if the amnesty granted complies with certain criteria. Such a caveat serves to address the concerns of those who wish to completely remove amnesty as a post-conflict option. What can result is for the inherent (but perhaps unavoidable) ‘injustice’ of amnesty to be tempered by its potential benefits. Mallinder (2009), creator of the Amnesty Law Database,4 details the criteria that must be complied with in order for amnesties to be considered ‘legitimate’ by the international community. Amnesties must enable progression to post-conflict; be introduced with democratic approval; be used to promote peace and reconciliation; be limited; and be accompanied by reparations for victims. These criteria address many of the accusations leveled against amnesty, and intentionally so. Thus, while amnesty can enable beneficial outcomes, it must first comply with these qualifications in order to preclude as much abuse as possible. The amnesty granted in Sierra Leone will be evaluated against such criteria in order to assess if it was, indeed, ‘legitimate’.
“One of The Most Brutal Rebel Wars the World Has Ever Seen”5
How does the case of Sierra Leone fit within the debate about amnesty? A decade-long civil war (1991-2001) raged in this West African country between the government and a powerful rebel force (although other secondary actors would also play a part). Thousands were killed or left A database which covers all internationally granted amnesties since the end of the Second World War “relating to societies enduring international or internal conflict or authoritarian government, or making a transition to democracy” (Mallinder 2009, 7). 5 Mallan 2003, 139. 4
wounded, and more than a million were displaced. When the fighting cut off areas from humanitarian reach, malnutrition rates rose to an alarming 30% (Gallagher 2000). But what led to this outbreak? Since its independence in 1961, Sierra Leone was ruled relatively unchallenged by the All People’s Congress party until an opposition started to developed. A tiny group of dissatisfied citizens soon swelled into the Revolutionary United Front (RUF); a formidable armed force of 50,000-75,000 and one of the largest recruiters of child soldiers since the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (Peters and Richards 1998 in Pinsky 2012). There is much debate in the literature as to the RUF’s mandate and whether one in fact existed. Some (see Richards 1996; Thusis 2004 in Pinsky 2012) believed the RUF were akin to the Peruvian Shining Path which espoused millenarian appeals for change. Such claims would be discounted, however, when concessions for addressing corruption and bad governance would be to no avail (Hayner 2007). Many others believed that the rebels craved power and sought to control the lucrative diamond resources, reinforced through the fact that the RUF was financed by the notorious Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, as well as the diamond trade. Regardless of the lack of consensus on the RUF’s modus operandi, the rebel group was extremely aggressive and acted as “sobels”—soldiers by day, rebels by night—engaging in sweeps of intimidation and terror (Richards 1996 in Pinsky 2012). Villages were terrorized if they refused to support the forces, and institutions were regularly targeted. In 1997, the rebel group overthrew the government and joined the new military government, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), to form a very aggressive combined force. Efforts at stemming the violence were with minimal success. Indeed, in response to the Abidjan Peace Accord of 1996—one of the first attempts at securing peace—the RUF “literally st[u]ck to their guns” and refused to disarm (Bright 2000). Advancements would only become possible with the Lomé Peace Accord of 1999; viewed as “the most tangible source of hope in Sierra Leone since the civil war began” (Gallagher 2000, 149). As mentioned, tensions ensued when it became apparent that alongside
provisions for a Truth Commission, the Lomé Accord also included amnesty for the combatants.
“No Official Or Judicial Action”6 Will be Taken
According to the Lomé Accord, the parties to the conflict would be granted an “absolute and free pardon” where “no official or judicial action” would be taken against them (Sierra Leone Web - Lomé Peace Accord 1999). They would also be provided full civil and political rights to facilitate their reintegration. Given the contentious nature of such an action, how was this news received by the various actors involved? The United Nations condemned such concessions as being “outside the bounds of international law and acceptable practice” as amnesty cannot be granted for the four core international offenses: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, or torture (Hayner 2007, 6; Bassiouni 1997, 20). International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concurred that in order to have any hope of restoring peace to Sierra Leone the cycle of impunity had to be broken (Hayner 2007; Human Rights Watch 1999). In addition to being viewed as a “betrayal of our human solidarity with the victims of conflict” (Bassiouni 1997, 27, 19), there is also the legitimate concern that failing to prosecute past offenders can serve to “embolden instigators…elsewhere” (Kritz 1997, 129). It has often been claimed that Hitler was emboldened in his genocidal aims7 in light of the international amnesty granted to Turkish officials following the Armenian massacres. The worry is that granting amnesty can send a signal to other rogue regimes that they have “nothing to lose by instituting repressive measures” (Scharf 1999, 514).8 While such arguments are valuable, how was the amnesty perceived by the Sierra Leoneans? Indeed, it is comparably easy to be an ‘armchair critic’ Sierra Leone Web- Lomé Peace Accord. With the chilling, “Who after all is today speaking about the destruction of the Armenians?” (Scharf 1999, 513-4). 8 Scharf (1999) details how the failure to prosecute Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein “encouraged the Serbs to launch their policy of ethnic cleansing…with the expectation that they would not be held accountable” (514). 6 7
(Britton 1999 in Gallagher 2000, 187) and prescribe certain ‘solutions’ while condemning others when one is not actually living the consequences that will ensue. As a result, it is critical to examine how the people themselves viewed such a concession. In fact, among the Sierra Leoneans there was little outcry against the amnesty as it had originally been proposed, due to immense communal pressure “for the war to be brought to an end by whatever means necessary” (Hayner 2002, 7, emphasis added). 9 For this reason, Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister implored the international community to not take measures or ‘principled’ stances regarding amnesty that might jeopardize the cessation of violence (ReliefWeb 1999). By extension, the people of Sierra Leone condemned human rights organizations for being ‘sanctimonious’ or too idealistic and failing to acknowledge the reality that the war would have continued without the amnesty. This intriguing disjuncture between idealist humanitarians and political realists will be discussed in more detail.
Contesting Accusations: More Than Meets the Eye?
Notwithstanding the validity of accusations leveled against amnesty as a post-conflict strategy, there is fact more to the story. Critics who promote banning amnesty as a conflict strategy (Bassiouni 1997; Gibson 2002) may be dangerously serving to deny “the reality of violent conflict” (Schabas 2004, 50). As noted by Mallinder (2007), international courts will eventually be left without a choice but to accept amnesty as a potential tool. The case of Sierra Leone effectively illustrates how amnesty may not only be justified in certain cases, but can also serve as a pivotal variable in enabling post-conflict transitions. With the case now situated within the debate, how does it fare in terms of the accusations mentioned against amnesty; focusing only on the past; precluding accountability; and blanket amnesties being unjustified?
The uproar of criticism by the international community did not faze the government, with Sierra Leone’s Attorney-General politely, but firmly, stating “what we wanted most …was peace, for the war to come to an end. Whatever the view of the international community was, [it was] not our business” (Hayner 2007,15). 9
Accusation 1: Amnesties Focus Solely on the Past
A common claim is that amnesty absolves perpetrators of responsibility and fails to provide much guidance for moving beyond the traumatic past. In fact, the potential benefit of amnesty can be best evidenced in this very tension of ‘peace vs. justice’. When countries emerge from hostilities, debate often ensues as to the route to be adopted in order to foster stability and, eventually, negotiate peace settlements. The assumption is that one might accrue either peace or justice, due to the contention that one must be sacrificed for the other. But is this truly the case? Advocates of the justice side note that ethical, moral, and policy reasons abound for prosecuting human rights abusers. Not only are governments believed to have a duty to investigate and prosecute offenders, this is viewed as a means of “bringing about a definitive end to the acceptance and practice of impunity” (du Plessis 2005 in Nielsen 2010, 34). It is hoped that in doing so grievances can be properly addressed and “hopefully put to rest, rather than smoldering in anticipation for the next round of conflict” (Kritz 1996 in Majzub 2002, 251). The problem with this scenario is that it promotes a very retroactive focus and provides little guidance for transitioning to the future. While trials resonate with what the Western world views as ‘justice’, retributive violence as opposed to rehabilitation can often develop. Moreover, the short-term catharsis that may accompany trials can clash with healing which is a long-term process. Lastly, focusing on individual perpetrators can detract from collective guilt and, subsequently, lead to outcomes which can bear little resonance for the victims. Proponents of the peace camp have attempted to address several of these shortcomings, particularly in regards to bringing about meaningful closure and reconciliation. As an alternative to what has been viewed as a retroactive and divisive prosecutorial approach, these advocates propose more forward-focusing strategies such as truth telling and communal healing practices (Teil 2003 in Nielsen 2010). Such an approach does have its limitations, however. For instance, while it is future-oriented it does not directly provide justice for what had occurred.
As a result of the difficulties on both sides, the questions that plague transitional justice scholars are: can peace and justice coexist, or must one be relinquished in favor of the other? The field of transitional justice has been increasingly recognized as being both a political and a legal process, where a complement of both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms are needed to bring about the best possible outcome (Kritz 1997; van Zyl 2005 in Nielsen 2010; Mnookin 2012, 5). Such objectives can, in fact, be made possible through the facilitator of amnesty as a viable post-conflict strategy. At its essence, amnesty provides combating groups with the necessary incentive for disarming. As opposed to ‘sacrificing justice’, amnesty can be a ‘necessary concession’ for acting as political leverage and attracting parties to negotiate (Gallagher 2000, 151; Mallinder 2007; Memari and Ganji 2011). In circumstances where violence appears unending, amnesty may be the only viable option for enabling a transition to peace. It is also worth noting that while the Western world perceives trials to be one of the best possible means for procuring justice, very few international atrocities have actually been resolved in courts, in spite of the unfortunate abundance.10 Moreover, in spite of the belief that trials serve a critical deterrence function, this is actually more assumption than empirically demonstrated (Fletcher and Weinstein 2002). As a result, trials can often simply be a “politically motivated showcase to satisfy demands from th[e] ‘Western’ human rights regime that completely ignores local attempts to…create peace” (Nielson 2010, 41). While this may grant the illusion that justice has been achieved, the actual substance is questionable. Given the limitations of Western retributive approaches, such as trials, amnesty can, in some cases, be more effective in bringing about disarmament and quelling potential relapses (Jeffery 2012). As “acts of reconciliation”, transitional amnesties can facilitate moving ‘past the
The only international mechanisms for accountability for crimes have been the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, and the ad hoc criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (Fletcher and Weinstein 2002, 577).
past’ (Mallinder 2009, 5).11 Amnesties can thus be crucial for conditioning environments to become more amenable to advancement; a reality viewed in the case of Sierra Leone. Still, while amnesty appears to be a means for enabling peaceful progression, how does it address issues of justice? This question is best explored through examining the second accusation.
Accusation 2: Amnesty is Facilitated Impunity and Precludes Accountability
In light of arguments that contend that amnesty is merely a synonym for guised impunity, does it necessarily mean a lack of accountability? In the case of Sierra Leone, amnesty coexisted with not one but two types of accountability: a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a Special Court. As a result, Sierra Leone is a particularly illustrative case of the complexities of amnesty that belie the simplified condemnation frequently exerted against it. Indeed, in contrast to assumptions, amnesties are increasingly being “designed to coexist with retributive and restorative forms of justice” (Mallinder 2009, 15, emphasis added). Instituted in 1999, Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was designed to “address impunity, …break the cycle of violence… [and] get a clear picture of the past in order to facilitate genuine healing” by providing a forum for both victims and perpetrators (Sierra Leone Web- Lomé Peace Accord). Importantly, rather than implemented as an afterthought, the Commission was one of the ‘pillars’ of the Lomé agreement (Malan 2003, 146). The TRC would be unique, as it would have special provisions regarding sexual violence and juvenile offenders; critical features due to the high number of child soldiers involved in the conflict (Peters and Richards 1998 in Pinsky 2012). The second kind of accountability would be the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Although hostilities were quelled with the Lomé Accord, rumbles of discontent were still felt in the country. In contrast to the TRC, the court was not an initial component of the peace accord but rather developed in response to a renewed outbreak of violence in 2000. Not only did the RUF Indeed, Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States and chief of staff to General George Washington, stated, “in seasons of insurrection,…there are often critical moments when a well-timed offer of pardon…may restore tranquility” (in Mnookin 2012, 4-5).
obstruct the workings of the UN mission, rebels also took five hundred UN workers hostage (“Witness to Truth” 2004, 366). As a result of the RUF’s reneging on its commitment to the peace agreement, the government was obliged to ‘reassess’ its position regarding the amnesty and appealed to the UN for assistance (Schabas 2004a, 15). With the country in political and economic shambles following the conflict, the Sierra Leone government had little means for trying offenders but neither did the UN wish to create another tribunal as it had done in the cases of Yugoslavia (1993) and Rwanda (1994). What developed would be a “hybrid national institution with UN oversight” that innovatively applied both Sierra Leone penal law and international law in charging those bearing the greatest responsibility (Schabas 2004a, 25). The burning question, however, is how could a court exist when amnesty had been granted? This very valid question can, in fact, be best answered through examining the last accusation leveled against proponents of amnesty.
Accusation 3: Blanket Amnesties Are Unjustified
The United Nations realized that for any sort of peaceful outcome to develop in Sierra Leone, it would be necessary to engage in a delicate balancing of strategies and tactics (Hayner 2002, 144). It was determined that the best means of reconciling amnesty with the crimes committed was through drafting a disclaimer. While the amnesty was recognized as a means for reconciliation, it could “not be granted in respect of international crimes…or…violations of international humanitarian law” (Majzub 2002, 247, emphasis added). As a result, the amnesty would only cover offenses deemed in violation of Sierra Leone law. Meisenberg (2004), who worked at the court, confirmed that, “any amnesty granted to any person falling within the jurisdiction of the Special Court in respect of [such] crimes… [would] not be a bar to prosecution” (839, emphasis added). In this way, the Lomé Accord would be revolutionary in being the first International Criminal Court to affirm that amnesties did not prevent prosecution for international crimes, and thereby made a ground-breaking step in abolishing blanket amnesties (Macalusa 2001, 343, 351). As a result, both justice and peace could be maintained.
Now that Sierra Leone’s experience with amnesty has been discussed within the debate and in regards to the accusations charged against amnesty as a strategy, how did it fare in terms of Mallinder’s (2009) legitimacy criteria discussed earlier? To start, the amnesty proposed was critical for enabling a transition post-violence; the first qualification. As the parties were at a stalemate and peace attempts had thus proved futile, amnesty appeared to have been a considerable factor in stabilizing the situation. Secondly, amnesty was ‘democratically granted’, fulfilling the next criterion. Rather than being demanded by the rebels as is often assumed, it was in fact offered by the government acting in response to popular demands for an end to the violence.12 Third, the proposal had a pronounced focus on reintegration, and the amnesty was made ‘limited’ due to the UN reservation and the Court which charged those bearing the greatest responsibility. Lastly, the amnesty granted did not preclude accountability, but rather coexisted with two measures of accountability for victims: a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Special Court.
Concluding Thoughts: ‘Facilitated Impunity’ Or a ‘Necessary Evil’?
What can be concluded about amnesty? Is it facilitated impunity or a necessary evil? Either assertion crucially depends on the context, attempts made at peace and, especially, the manner in which it is granted and implemented. In essence, I argue that while external observers may maintain that amnesty is never a legitimate option, such a principled approach fails to acknowledge the reality of conflict. As such, it is not very constructive. In the case of Sierra Leone, there is wide consensus among those witness to the conflict that without amnesty, the violence would have continued (Hayner 2007; Morris 1997; Schabas 2004). To outside actors who wished for more punitive proceedings this was simply “outside the bounds of reality”, considering the RUF’s strength and clear warning that hostilities could easily resume (Hayner 2007, 12). As a result, while the “legality of the Sierra Leone amnesty can be debated…the reality is equally important to consider” (Gallagher 2000, 186, emphasis added). The government offered amnesty due to being “moved by the imperative need to meet the desire of the people of Sierra Leone for a definitive settlement of the fratricidal war…and for genuine national unity and reconciliation” (Sierra Leone Web- Lomé Accord preamble). 12
It is thus critical to realize that while not disputing the real moral dilemmas of amnesty, it can often be the best of the worst options and the sole means for transitioning beyond conflict. While idealistic humanitarians and international human rights law theorists unequivocally condemn amnesty, political realists understand that circumstances must always be taken into account (Gallagher 2000). Due to the extremely complex and volatile nature of conflict, all options must be considered. This contention is well expressed by Majzub (2002) in stating, “while it may be considered an injustice to grant amnesties to murderers and torturers, it would be an even greater injustice for [the international community] to insist on prosecutions in situations which would result in further loss of life” (262, emphasis added).13 As such, it is simply unfeasible and, in fact, dangerous to try to remove amnesty as a potential option in the ‘tool box’ of political negotiations as proposed by authors such as Bassiouni (1997). As noted by Schabas (2004a), “disallowing amnesty in all cases is to deny the reality of violent conflict and the urgent need to bring such strife and suffering to an end” (50, emphasis added). The potential value of amnesty can, perhaps, be best construed through noting the difference between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ peace (Reiter 2011; Memari and Ganji 2011). While essentially a hollow form of stability, ‘negative peace’ consists of the cessation of overt violence. In order to have meaningful societal progress, however, there must also be a means by which ‘human security’ or freedom from want14 and fear can be addressed (Conteh-Morgan 2010, 133-4). While socioeconomic opportunities and social rebuilding are what makes, ‘positive peace’ truly sustainable, it can be argued that without amnesty ‘negative peace’ —the critical condition for ‘positive peace’ —may not be realizable. Even when full accountability would be the ideal, this is often simply unfeasible due to chronic obstacles of political constraints, resource limitations, and a lack of national or international will (Morris 1997, 30). Mallinder (2007) contends that rather than unconditionally rejecting The clash between idealism and realism was explored by Britton (1999) in “Unrealistic Humanitarians”, arguing that while it was easy to condemn amnesty, “what the armchair critics of the peace ignore is that there [was] only one alternative to it: more indescribable suffering” (in Gallagher 2000, 187, emphasis added). 14 Freedom from ‘want’ refers to basic psychosocial, socioeconomic, and political needs. 13
amnesty, it is perhaps more strategic to consider its potential strategic usage and focus energies on prosecuting the most egregious of crimes. The case of Sierra Leone thus reveals that rather than condemn amnesty outright, it is critical to evaluate its utility as a realistic and potentially vital concession for securing peace. While the Lomé Accord’s amnesty clause may not have “immediately return[ed] the country to peacetime…it provided the framework for a process that pacified the [country]” (Schabas 2004b 164). This allowed for the start of the healing process and the ability to address the past. Far from precluding accountability then, amnesty can truly be a ‘necess ary evil’. Thus, rather than “justice [being] all too frequently bartered away for political settlement”, amnesty can be a strategic political tool for post-conflict societies (Bassiouni 1997, 27, 11). The peace and conflict field would benefit from remaining cognizant of this reality; when approaching conflict resolution, idealism should be tempered with consideration for the realities on the ground. In order to have a hope of making meaningful progress, the resolution of future conflicts should seek to “facilitate the greatest degree of accountability and redress that is realistically possible… [while]…avoid[ing] courting failure by demanding the impossible” (Morris 1997, 39, emphasis added).
Bassiouni, M. Cherif. 1997. “Searching for Peace and Achieving Justice: The Need for Accountability”. Law and Contemporary Problems 59(4): 9-28. Bright, Dennis. 2000. “Implementing the Lomé Peace Agreement”. Accord 9: 36-41. Conteh-Morgan, Earl. 2010. “Peacebuilding and Human Security in Postwar Sierra Leone: A Critical Analysis”. In Sierra Leone Beyond the Lomé Peace Accord, edited by Marda Mustapha and Joseph J. Banaura, 133- 144. New York, NY: Palgrave, Macmillan. Dugard, John. 1999. “Dealing with Crimes of a Past Regime. Is Amnesty Still an Option?” Leiden Journal of International Law 12(4): 10011015. Fletcher, Larel E. and Harvey M. Weinstein. 2002. “Violence and Social Repair: Rethinking the Contribution of Justice to Reconciliation”. Human Rights Quarterly 24: 573-639. Gallagher, Karen. 2000. “No Justice, No Peace: The Legalities and Realities of Amnesty in Sierra Leone”. Thomas Jefferson Law Review 23: 149198. Hayner, Priscilla B. 2002. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York, NY: Routledge. Hayner, Priscilla. 2007. Negotiating Peace in Sierra Leone: Confronting the Justice Challenge (December 2007 Report). Geneva, Switzerland: International Center for Transitional Justice. Human Rights Watch. 1999. “Sierra Leone- Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation, Rape: New Testimony from Sierra Leone” (July), Vol.11 No 3(A). Accessed March 20, 2013. http://www.hrw.org/legacy/ reports/1999/sierra/SIERLE99-01.htm. Jeffery, Renée. 2012. “Amnesty and Accountability: The Price of Peace in Aceh, Indonesia”. The International Journal of Transitional Justice 6(1): 60-82.
Kritz, Neil J. 1997. “Coming to Terms with Atrocities: A Review of Accountability Mechanisms for Mass Violations of Human Rights”. Law and Contemporary Problems 59(4): 127-152. Laplante, Lisa J. 2009. “Outlawing Amnesty: The Return of Criminal Justice in Transitional Justice Schemes”. Virginia Journal of International Law 49(4): 915-984. Macalusa, Daniel J. 2001. “Absolute and Free Pardon: The Effect of the Amnesty Provision in the Lomé Peace Agreement on the Jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone”. Brook Journal of International Law 27(1): 347-380. Majzub, Diba. 2002. “Peace or Justice? Amnesties and the International Criminal Court”. Melbourne Journal of International Law 3: 248-279. Malan, Mark. 2003. “The Challenge of Justice and Reconciliation”. In Sierra Leone: Building the Road to Recovery, edited by Mark Malan et al., (Monograph No. 80) 139-159. Pretoria, South Africa: Institute for Security Studies. Mallinder, Louise. 2007. “Can Amnesties and International Justice be Reconciled?” The International Journal of Transitional Justice 1: 208-230. Mallinder, Louise. 2009. “The Role of Amnesties in Conflict Transformation”. In The Effectiveness of International Criminal Justice, edited by Cedric Ryngaert, 195- 235. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia. Meisenberg, Simon M. 2004. “Legality of Amnesties in International Humanitarian Law: The Lomé Amnesty Decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone”. IRRC, Current Issues and Comments 86(856): 837851. Memari, Roza and Seyed Javad Seyed Alizadeh Ganji. 2011. “The Impact of Amnesty as a Tool for Peace and Reconciliation in the Protection of Human Rights”, 2nd International Conference on Humanities, Historical and Social Sciences, IPEDR 17:314-317.
Mnookin, Robert H. 2012. “Rethinking the Tension Between Peace and Justice: The International Criminal Prosecutor as Diplomat”. Harvard Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Working Paper Series, No. 12-21. Morris, Madeline H. 1997. “International Guidelines Against Impunity: Facilitating Accountability”. Law and Contemporary Problems 59(4): 29-39. Nielsen, Magnus Rynning. 2010. “Transcending the ‘Peace vs Justice’ Debate: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Transitional Justice (Sustainable Peace) in Northern Uganda After the International Criminal Court’s Involvement in 2004”. MA Thesis, Stellenbosch University. Omotola, J. Shola. 2007. “The Sierra Leone Lomé Peace Accord”. Conflict Trends: African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes 10(3): 38-43. Orentlicher, Diane F. 1997. “Swapping Amnesty for Peace and the Duty to Prosecute Human Rights Crimes”. ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law 3: 713-717. Pinsky, Randy. 2012. “Stolen Childhoods, Partial Promises: Disarming, Demobilizing, and Reintegrating Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leona”. Policy inAction Journal 1:130-158. Reiter, Andrew G. 2011. “Amnesty for Peace? Analyzing the Impact of Amnesties in Civil Wars”, paper prepared for The Potential Role of Transitional Justice in Active Conflicts Conference. The Minerva Center for Human Rights, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel, November 13- 15. Relief Web Report. 1999. “Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone Urges Human Rights Advocates Not to Jeapordise[sic] Peace Accord”. Accessed March 20, 2013. http://reliefweb.int/report/sierra-leone-urges-human-rightsadvocates-not-to-jeapordise-peace-accord. Schabas, William A. 2004a. “A Synergistic Relationship: The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone”. Criminal Law Forum 3: 3-54.
Schabas, William A. 2004b. “Amnesty, the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone”. Journal of International Law & Policy 11(145): 145-169. Scharf, Michael P. 1999. “The Amnesty Exception to the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court”. Cornell International Law Journal 32: 507-527. “Sierra Leone Web – Lomé Peace Accord.7 July 1999”. Accessed March 20, 2013. http://www.sierra-leone.org/lomeaccord.html. “The TRC and the Special Court for Sierra Leone”, Chapter Six in Witness to Truth: Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission: 363430. Accessed April 16, 2013. http://www.sierraleonetrc.org, accessed April 16, 2013. Zartman, William I. and Victor Kremenyuk, eds. 2005. Peace Versus Justice: Negotiating Forward- and Backward- Looking Outcomes. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
The Untethered Researcher
Impacts of Interdisciplinary and Participatory Research on the Research[er] by Karen Messer
This paper introduces an investigation into the researcher experience within the practice of participatory and interdisciplinary forms of inquiry in the social sciences, from the perspective of a PhD student drawing from personal experience. It highlights the effect of less structured and relational processes, which accompany these collaborative research trends, on the researcher. Drawing from the work of Francisco Varela, a Chilean cognitive scientist, philosopher and biologist who explores the nature of one’s immediate impulses in comparison to more deliberate action, this paper questions the impact of external rules and regulations on a researcher’s work and navigation in the field.
raditional qualitative research methodology often fails to fully recognize and incorporate the entwined, co-productive (Maturana and Varela 1980) and messy nature of research (Leavy 2011). With the rise of arts-informed, participative and interdisciplinary research, a greater importance is placed on presence and on being-in-relationship (Senge et al. 2005). This corresponds to the ideological shift to research with rather than on people, which introduced more collaborative, iterative, interventionbased inquiry (Heron and Reason 2001). These qualities draw attention to the researcher’s role as intervener and the use of themselves as an instrument of change (Schein 1999). Operating within this embedded state requires a different type of researcher, one who draws from embodied knowledge and ultimately becomes implicated in co-creating results beyond a participant/observer model. Rather than following procedure, a greater importance is placed on one’s ability to navigate relationships and respond to unforeseen events. Ultimately this decreased reliance on external guidelines increases self-reliance and personal accountability
(Hilsen 2006). How decisions are made and justified becomes even more important. But what happens when the justification lies in the body? Notions of a rational mind often remain in contrast to the sensual body, especially in formal research. There is a lingering distrust of intuitive and somatic knowledge. Even within sensory data collection, sight and hearing—senses of the mind—are considered more valuable than bodily functions of touch, taste and smell (Howes and Classen 2014). This persisting separation of mind and body does a disservice to their interconnected relationship. The value of embodied knowledge held by researchers is integral to the research process and decision-making. However relying on this relational and physical practice also requires training and awareness. In a society that relies foremost on external rules and guidelines, what happens when research leaves the confines of verbal and written methods into more tacitly-driven techniques? If the body becomes research data, how do we use it? Thinking of the self as an intervention tool highlights the importance of its use, aptitude, condition, and care. Research can be shaped by increased awareness, development and trust in one’s internal response systems (Varela 1999; Varela 1991), which I will explore later, over the reliance of externally imposed guidelines, which re-enforce distance and objectivity (McLaughlin 2003). Interpersonal relationships can be challenging and messy, so one’s inner ability to negotiate the onslaught of personal feelings, senses and judgments, and make decisions in the field, is necessary as both academia and society face an increasingly complex and unpredictable future existing outside established practice (Monturori 2003; Wheatly 1994). Sara Pink (2009), a sensory ethnographer, writes of the inherent challenges in analyzing the “experiential, imaginative, sensorial and emotional dimensions of ethnography”, which can become an “intuitive, messy and sometimes serendipitous task” (119). This description stands in contrast to a view of scientific data that is definitive or explicit by emphasizing an immersive creativity within the inquiry process. Being in the chaos and sitting in the unknown are more than metaphors; they support one’s ability to remain open. Interdisciplinary researchers are embracing messiness to “re/imagine, communicate and creatively, ethically, and thoughtfully cross/blur disciplinary (and theoretical) boundaries” (Avner et al. 2013, 2). What both of these examples provide, are moments of
suspension from proscribed ways of thinking and doing. The un-clarity of mess forces alternative and unfamiliar ways of exploring, which tap into a relational and embodied way of perceiving, and can literally open new neural pathways in the brain (Siegel 2012). The more one learns new ways of being, the more open they are to alternative perspectives. That said, forging new pathways in academic research is not easy or unproblematic.
The Paralyzed Researcher
The following experience took place during my Masters degree in Human Systems Intervention in the department of Applied Human Sciences of Concordia University. Throughout the second year of the program, students are required to develop and conduct an intervention-based research project. I partnered with a community organization to investigate the impact of their team dynamics on the future of the organization. The philosophy behind the project was a Process-Consulting model (Schein 1999) with ties to Participatory Action Research. My role as the researcher consultant was to work with the organization to gather data and facilitate a process for change based on themes that emerged from the research. Rather than see information gathered as mine (the researcher) the data belonged to the project, which included the staff, and myself to analyze and draw from as we moved forward. I had already been in contact with the staff of the youth-run not-for-profit community organization to determine if our goals were a match, but I needed endorsement from the Applied Human Science Departmental Ethics Committee to officially begin the project. I spent two months negotiating with the Committee, who had concerns regarding the depth of my relationship with the organization, pausing the work. I had consulted and volunteered for them before, so I was not an outsider. In the end I revised my proposal and consequently my project into a language and format that fit within the departmental ethics standards, which was also required to conform to the Tri Council Policy on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2, 2010). I downplayed my previous relationship with the staff, which I had previously considered a strength. The staff and organization had to sign formal ethics forms, containing strong language regarding their safety in the project, which simultaneously
freed the university of any possible litigation. The precautionary process, though vigilant, seemed unrelated to the landscape I was navigating (Leavy 2011; van den Hoonaard 2011). In fact, the introduction of such stringent language in the ethics forms, which stipulated the destruction of any data I collected, specifically went against policies of openness and collective inquiry held by the organization. In the moment I believed the procedure to be nothing more than an administrative hassle and risk assessment. However, the insertion of this institutional authority as a participant, through the formalized procedures, precautionary language and as an external presence, had a substantial impact. All of a sudden I was caught between the organization, the university and myself. The more responsible I felt to uphold principles of the TCPS 2 standards and follow the step-by-step guidelines of process consulting, the more disconnected I became from my own internal compass. Rather than negotiate choices based upon my actions in relationship, I was operating from a proscribed way of being. Each action and interaction was held up in comparison to a formal model of intervention. I began to doubt my role and the relationship I had with the staff and shifted from a creative partner to a participant observer. However, this shift did not improve my ability; rather than raise awareness through a thoughtful and reflexive practice, the constant questioning and scrutiny decreased my capacity. The anxiety and self-doubt rooted in this way of working reduced my ability to connect with the group and to think and feel as myself. Ultimately, my diminished presence and connection with the group affected our collective research and my engagement with the staff, who also retreated. The formal conditions restricted the collaborative and emergent nature of the project. The shift I felt in my relationship, working with the organization, was subtle but very significant. The energy had changed between us. Lost was a sense of flow in our collaboration and, more profoundly, a depth of connection we felt as a group. In participative research, trust and safety are extremely important and difficult to achieve, which is why the diminishment of these qualities was so devastating. Equally so was my inability to overcome or fully understand the tension I felt between my lived experience and the formal
requirements of the project as a deliverable for my degree. Marilys Guillemin and Lynn Gillam (2004), professors in research ethics, characterize this type of experience as the gap between procedural ethics and ethics in practice referring to the “often subtle, and usually unpredictable” (262) moments a researcher may face. These less defined occurrences, often requiring immediate response, lack frameworks to guide researchers through them. Formalized ethics codes often serve as no more then a simulacrum of protection (van den Hoonaard 2011). What is interesting in how Guillemin and Gillam frame ethics in practice, is that for many these salient moments may not be considered dilemmas at all. They bring ethical behaviour into virtually all conscious and unconscious actions—areas that cannot be covered in even the most expansive procedural ethics policies. So how do researchers transparently navigate unmapped territory?
The Reflective Researcher
Charting the subjective experience of the researcher, their impact on the research and how it is portrayed, is a common and important reflexive research practice. However, reflexivity is often overly focused on cognitive perception and therefore disembodies the reflective process (Varela, Depraz, and Vermersch 2003; Burns 2006). Excessive reflexivity has been problematized for being “disastrously inward-looking and self-indulgent” (Bondi 2009, 328); blamed for personal essays amounting to little more than “an infinite regress of reflections upon reflections” (Lynch 2000, 28); and described as masking a “continued reliance upon traditional notions of validity, truth, and essence in qualitative research” (Pillow 2003, 180). Among these criticisms, which stem from a larger “crisis of representation” in the social sciences, is that reflexivity can also “paralyze” the researcher (Cunliffe 2003, 984). Despite the thoughtful consideration that often accompanies reflexivity, there is also a constant scrutiny inherent in a right and wrong way of thinking with many asking: “What should we be reflexive about? The other? Ourselves? The place? Who gets to be reflexive? How does one write reflexively?” (Pillow 2003, 177). These questions illuminate elements of confusion and tension within qualitative research practices. Is there a right answer?
Schön (1930–1997), a pioneering thinker in reflective practice through his model on reflection-in-action, explored the balance of learned knowledge with continual inquiry; doctors are a good example. Success depended on an ability to maintain openness through “a reflective conversation with [each] unique and uncertain situation” (Schön 1983, 130). This inquiry, which he compared to an artistic performance, reinforces the value of knowledge production as a co-creation by those involved and which is “inherently connected to the situation at hand” (Bradbury and Lichtenstein 2000, 553). Expertise is valuable, but it is always contingent upon data gathered in the moment. This is perhaps what John Mason (2002), a professor of math education, is suggesting when he says that we need to push beyond experiential learning with a goal of knowledge formation. While much is gained from getting our hands dirty in the process, “after a while the learning is supplanted by ingrained habits ‘learned’ from experience” (8). To keep fresh, free from habituated ways of acting and thinking, Mason suggests that we reverse the process by continually keeping possibility and potential open (8). The practice of seeing with a beginner’s eye often yields perspectives to which the trained is blind. However, continuously putting aside conclusions “for the opportunity of perceptual novelty” (Margulies 1989, 14) is not easy when faced with professional expectations to the contrary.
The Untethered Researcher
Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, which has grown rapidly over the past few decades across the social sciences, medical sciences, humanities and arts, is tapping into this uncharted landscape (Leavy 2011). Emerging through collaborative partnerships among researchers from different disciplines or through a fusion of intersecting vantage points, interdisciplinary research is often used to achieve a more holistic approach. The co-creative and co-productive process increases the unpredictability of results. As researchers traverse the boundaries of established disciplines, they become less weighed down by defined ways of being and knowing. This increased autonomy cultivates a level of responsiveness to the environment over more proscribed actions. The more untethered, the more responsive one needs to be. Perceptive and relational capacities such as listening, empathy, interpersonal communication and self-awareness, as
well as coping mechanisms like flexibility and improvisation, are valued and cultivated. Fransisco Varela, a Chilean cognitive scientist and biologist, advocates a process of ‘letting go’ to achieve a greater connection, which he refers to as unlearning (1991, 29). For example, in those conscious moments of determination to learn a new skill or ability one needs to abandon the desire for, or goal of, success to, in fact, achieve success. Seemingly it is a paradox. The reason, says Varela, is that “body and mind are bound to be naturally coordinated and embodied” (29) when we let go. Essentially the mind (or body) gets in the way of a unified relationship. Dependency on, or motivation from, external rules and our expectations can further disconnect the body and mind. Whereas situations that encourage letting go of habits, similar to the chaotic and unknown, increase the mind’s chances of, perhaps not escaping social conditioning, but opening the doors.
The Suspended Researcher
These notions of responsiveness highlight how the researcher acts and interacts. Varela (1999) explores the way we do things at the exact moment we are confronted. He argues that our automatic impulses provide an authentic picture of our individual moral framework. In those split-second decisions we access our immediate coping, which he says represent “the most common kind of ethical behaviour” (5). These actions contrast with deliberate, willed action, which can be explained based on preconceived and arguable goals. This is not to say that making reactionary decisions in a heightened emotional state is the best course of action. Varela is looking specifically at moments in which our mind and body are acting in union. Emotional decision-making is often laden with conscious or unconscious motivations that are directing the behaviour. Merleau-Ponty (1962) explored a similar optimal or unified moment, which he refers to as the ‘maximum grip’. This state is described most easily with the image of an athlete who, in a moment of complete flow, no longer looks directly at the ball or thinks about the proper angle to strike; the athlete abandons directed awareness to become immersed and a part of the environment (H. L. Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1999). The underlying concept is that the body is always trying to be in this state of equilibrium if one lets it, because
“such skillful coping does not require a mental representation of its goal” (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1999, 111). Contemplating this notion within sports or other forms of tacitly driven work seems appropriate, but what about work that is not as physical or that requires more cognitive processing? Returning to my Process Consulting project described earlier, operating from an external framework disrupted my efforts to draw on my internal responses—to trust my ability to negotiate the system. The wisdom that informs our actions, says Varela (1999), needs to be “in harmony with the texture of the situation at hand” (31). This requires a greater awareness and sensitivity to the co-productive relationship between bodymind, environment and others. What is continuously being repeated in these theories is letting go—an abandonment of oneself into the process. However, when so much emphasis is placed on gathering data, is it possible to let go? Varela (1999) suggests that one must eliminate habits before “wisdom and compassion can arise directly and spontaneously” (72) from embodied action. Openly drawing from Buddhist traditions, he suggests that through careful observation of our mind-body one is able to become more aware of their reactions and triggers, which may reduce habitual and ego-centred ways of acting. Whether it is possible to increase altruism within academia, which is laden with external pressures and achievable goals, is hard to say. How does the need to publish one’s work unconsciously influence the researcher?
The importance of ethical policies and methodological guidelines for researchers in the social sciences, especially new researchers, cannot be understated. This paper does not aim to criticize current ethical policy, but to draw attention to the influence of external forces within research relationships. With the rise of participative and interdisciplinary research comes a unique opportunity; these collaborative and often messy relationships can provide learning within an unpredictable landscape, which shift the focus from results to the relational process. Embracing more spontaneous action, similar to improvisation, cultivates presence, openness and uncertainty (Monturori 2003). Research practice can manifest as a co-creation between those involved, rather than exist as a predetermined set of objectives. That said, attempting to practice these
concepts, in all their complexity, is not easy, especially when notions of success require clear arguments and succinct concussions. As a doctoral student in an interdisciplinary program I have continually felt lost and ungrounded. With each new discipline came unfamiliar language, frameworks, core authors, theories, codes of conduct and etiquette. The experience has been humbling. However, this ongoing exploration reinforces the importance of working with openness, and being mindful of my body and the unconscious factors motivating my actions. While I do not expect to be released from external expectations, I believe these guidelines need to be continually questioned and tied to embodied practice and the environment in which they are being applied.
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Disaster as Simulation
Heroism and Hyperrealism during Times of Catastrophe by Sara Rodriguez
This paper investigates the relationship between new media and existing theoretical debates surrounding popular media coverage of catastrophe. In particular, new media provides the opportunity to record and disseminate information at an alarming rate. A plethora of ‘facts’ often surpasses the ability of consumers to digest and filter content effectively. What results is two-fold: a psychosocial response known as ‘compassion fatigue’ and an increasingly dubious medium whose content comes to represent itself, rather than the ‘outside world’. This paper proposes a continuation of Susan Moeller’s research on ‘compassion fatigue’ through an exploration of disaster images in online news media. I posit that the melodrama and violence of such images have replaced paper counterparts as the new source of desensitization in the Western world. This medium sustains, with greater intensity and efficacy, the simulated quality of presented images in a manner as aptly mundane as the expression ‘one can’t believe everything one sees online’. Instead of disbelief, another option is presented, one that considers online media as real in its own right. As testament to Baudrillard’s simulacrum, the disaster image comes to represent yet another example of simulated reality, in dialogue more with a series of online representations than absolute external reality (an original). As internet use intensifies, the realm of our everyday lives is increasingly encapsulated by the virtual world. For this reason, the distinction between the real online and offline has blurred. Online images have a very real effect on viewers. It is this final point that imparts the resounding question: should a distinction be made between simulation and reality?
hat can disaster tell us about fear and desire? Can it symbolise our relationship to local and global communities? What potential is there in new media as a site to challenge and contest dominant cultural norms? These and related questions position identity and identification, representation and signification at the forefront of critical analysis in order to understand key features of social and cultural formation. In keeping with these curiosities, this paper considers the use of new media technologies to construct simulated versions of reality following disastrous events. I posit that mass media agencies appropriate new media in order to reference dominant cultural narratives rather than lived or material reality. Whereas, in the context of disastrous events, such narratives are a shift away from the inclusion of lived experience, towards the construction of a simulated reality—what Jean Baudrillard (1994) terms the ‘hyperreal.’ For Baudrillard (1995), movement from traditional to modern to postmodern societies is accompanied by corresponding changes in social structures. In traditional societies culture is directly tied to social practices in what he terms ‘grounded culture’, while the normative practices and values in modern and postmodern societies are no longer borne out of the values and beliefs of any one group. Instead, cultural signs and symbols are free-floating; meaning, signs are extracted from their original reference locations rather than bound to a particular time or place. Integral to new forms of representation and consumption are mass media technologies. At the forefront of this investigation is the changing role of media technologies in societies across the world. Ubiquitous and taken-forgranted, media technologies infiltrate our everyday lives and transform our lived experiences shaping perceptions and representations (Hall 1997). Adoption of new media facilitates technological embeddedness in daily routine. Increased reliance on alternative media sources, in particular mobile phone technologies, suggests that the use of new media affords greater legitimacy and representative inclusivity to mass communication systems than traditional mass media otherwise could. As such, the role of media as a manifestation as well as a purveyor of myth will be considered. Concepts such as simulation and mythologies will be explored, as will the role of semiotics in the deconstruction of in-text mythologies. This
paper will conclude with remarks about the benefits and challenges for new media as it exists today.
The Symbolic and Mythological Narratives in Media
Roland Barthes (1972) describes myths in media, particularly in visual texts, in terms of first and second order significations. The former depict a common social or cultural identity, the latter those unchallenged takenfor-granted truths that are to remain uncontested if the former are to be considered legitimate. Second-order significations address the assumptions and codes that allow a dominant cultural identity to exist. These myths form narratives that help a society make sense of how and why things happen, of the expectations of, and possibilities for, its members and of itself in relation to other groups. These myths are the stories told to describe and explain the world and our place within it. They are a primary means of sustaining dominant cultural norms, identities and attitudes. One method of communicating mythologies relates to the manner through which social events are depicted. The focus of Barthesâ€™ analysis was the photographic images employed by magazine and news agencies. The capacity to present common world-views and the human condition contributes to Barthesâ€™ view that news media are widely consumed cultural products, built upon express standards of reputability and institutionalization. The ability to capture vast audience attention suggests the ubiquity of the medium. Additionally, public acceptance of media presence affords news agencies the opportunity to symbolically represent the most significant events in a normative and culturally meaningful manner (Ploughman 1995). The interplay between taken-for-granted positionality and mass social and cultural comprehension is the key to making media meaningful (Silverstone 1993). In order for a message to capture and retain audience attention, media agencies utilize sign systems organized around dominant codes (Hall 1980). Deciphering a given cultureâ€™s framework of understanding (codes) is imperative to making sense of media messages. Indeed, there exists the expectation that signs will not need to be explained to individuals conscious of the normative cultural landscape. Codifying messages
means that readers can share a common cultural perception, such that meaning might be made from the interplay between material objects and abstract concepts. Mass media is not merely dependant upon signs being deciphered according to dominant codes, but also on the perpetuation of particular codes in the public sphere. Though dominant readings are but one type available to the reader, convention itself is a valuable avenue of inquiry. Additionally, it is intriguing to consider what proportion of surplus information slips by under the critical eye of the reader. The degree of awareness assumed by agents is dependent upon the ability to exercise agency and autonomy within everyday manoeuvrings, whether ontological or self-reflective in character. As such, the potential to see outside oneself and gain critical insight into one’s positionality is at the core of agency-structure debates. Immersion within a socio-cultural landscape further confounds investigations into everyday self-awareness. Information technologies require particular consumer and producer subjectivities, both in how a message is presented and received, but also in the effects that changes in technological stimuli have on public sentiments (McLuhan 1967). Despite the myriad motivations underscoring individual consumption habits, for some, reading and watching the news provides an important opportunity to become versed in the day’s events. However, certain cultural theorists, such as McLuhan (1967), argue that in lieu of content the medium is the means through which meaning is transmitted. During the second half of the twentieth century, attention began to shift from ‘old’ to ‘new’ media technologies and the effects these new media forms themselves would have on public perception and understanding. Indeed, in the twenty-first century the ‘massaging’ of the senses by new media has reached a critical apex, as inextricable interconnections between humans and technological instruments reach levels unparalleled in human history. The dominant codes are not merely external intrusions, but the mechanisms through which individuals engage the world. If new media are further challenging the distinction between technology and the self, have we become the message? If so, are humans the walking, talking codes of the new millennium? Considering that internet and hand-held devices are reshaping the form, content, and consumption of news information, ‘the medium is the message/massage’ remains a valid approach to media
studies. As a testament to the complexities of this new relationship, the following section will explore the application of Baudrillard’s statement “only the medium can make an event” in the context of new media and disaster mythologies (1994, 82; 1995).
Myths and New Media in the Era of Catastrophe
Current disaster studies address the accuracy of media representations of disaster in order to address the efficacy of contingency plans, disaster perception and awareness, and typecasting and inequalities in media portrayals of catastrophe and its survivors (Fischer 2008). Additionally, war, famine, disease, destruction, or extreme geophysical phenomena are presented in media through particular mythological frameworks (Moeller 1999). These mythological references sensationalize in order to evoke an affective response. Emotional manipulation is beneficial when it serves a purpose, including aligning public sentiments with moral or political crusades, extracting charitable donations, or wooing intended audiences and continued viewership. Ultimately, one must not lose sight of the imperative: news agencies exist for profit, rather than altruism (ibid.). The give-and-take between public actors and private news media is centered on this guiding principle. ‘Disaster porn’, or the overrepresentation of human suffering in media meant to provoke engagement, oversimplifies complex events and risks alienating viewers from the experiences of those depicted as disastervictims. Reliance on emotionally-charged typologies contributes to saturation and disengagement, yet also perpetuates the intensification of catastrophic narratives and images (ibid.). The whittling away of content in favour of sensationalistic versions of reality is the focus of Baudrillard’s seminal text, Simulacra and Simulation (1994). The salience of such significations is two-fold: first, codes are more easily communicated when coupled with emotional triggers; second, signs that elicit emotional responses have potentially greater impact on consumers, which in turn leads to greater intensity or worth value for the producing agency. It is in the latter instance that new media assumes an invaluable role. Hence, if one wishes to consider the manner through which new media has permeated most facets of everyday life, one need
not look further than the mobile phone. Occupying a privileged position amongst current technological devices, the mobile phone is invited into even the most intimate of social settings (recall recent ‘sexting’ scandals, wherein leaked mobile messages of an intimate nature implicated several well-known public figures). How, then, to better capture the essence of the everyday experience than through the technology closest to our daily lives? It comes as little surprise that capturing disaster images on mobile phones has become normalized, but it is even less surprising that such images are co-opted by media agencies in an effort to represent unencumbered (and minimally mediated) reality. Mobile phone wielders are the mythic eye-witnesses of an event, generating the elusive first-hand accounts of how disaster truly unfolds (O’Hagan 2014). Critiquing the ways online videos and images mediate representations of catastrophe, and how these media are co-opted and represented by major news agencies has been the focus of recent scholarship (Ploughman 1995). Who is represented, how an actor or event is presented, and what or whom benefit tend to be lost in the appropriation and recontexualization of online videos or images. For instance, recent depictions of Venezuelan anti-government protests accentuate the gross injustices of the current socialist government. Yet, this portrayal creates generalizations regarding which parties are relevant to the conflict as it allows select images to be drawn from mobile phone media, and a specific narrative to be constructed (O’Hagan). If the myth of the medium collides with the myth of the message, how does this affect the depiction of reality in media? Further, how would Baudrillard respond to this confounding relationship? One possibility is that new media is given greater authority over the construction of the real. Yet, it is possible this reality intensifies particular and limited references to existing signs rather than to an existing material reality. If the illusion of lived experience is transmitted uncritically and en masse then both the reader and the author are complicit in the creation of mediated, and ultimately simulated, realities. The auspice of which is predicated not only on the myth of content, but also on the legitimacy of authorship. Neither component of this mystification should go unchallenged. However, the difficulty associated with determining the origins of internet content
hinders efforts to this effect. Conversely, new media does present the potential for contestation and negotiation. Even though mobile phones are an extravagance for many, they place news generation in the hands of a far larger population than those employed formally by mass media agencies. Rather than conform to the goals of any one agency, mobile phones may offer agency to neglected or ignored individuals. In such cases, dominant disaster narratives might be challenged through the depiction of viable alternatives. Yet, the role of new media in the formation of the real and the hyperreal must first be addressed. Simply, it is not enough to resign ourselves to adaptation, to cooptation and to quiet acceptance of technologyâ€™s growing presence in our social and cultural lives. Yes, new media present unrealized opportunities for broadening scope and awareness. However, Baudrillard claims the presumed legitimacy of such texts also facilitates the deployment of empty signifiers (signs without fixed referents), and subsequently leads to the formulation of signification loops, signs that signify other signs, or the hyperreal. With its extensive global reach, mass media agencies re-write diverse scripts in ways that conform to technological demands and existing discourse. To this end, news agencies select the content that conforms to existing mythologies but also re-present media in particular ways. Whether new media act as a challenge to this tendency or merely perpetuates existing discourse remains to be seen.
While certain connections have been made between human and technological integration, as well as sensationalism in media, more questions have been raised than answers provided. The purpose of this paper, then, is to promote interest in new media studies that adopt a critical cultural lens. In keeping with these efforts, the demystification of disaster mythologies must include making the author-reader relationship explicit. Through this, the validity claims of existing narratives might be better understood. If the media is experiencing an ongoing maturation, their role in our everyday lives is becoming increasingly more nuanced and complex. While pragmatic adoption is fortuitous, it is inevitable that slippage will occur. Rapidly advancing technologies will invariably outpace individual
adaptations; new media have the effect of universalizing the neophyte, making novices of all but the savviest consumers. For the moment it is possible to step back from Baudrillardâ€™s totalizing postmodern society, wherein fragmented and ungrounded individuals rely upon fleeting and omnipresent sign systems lacking any semblance of depth or meaning. Instead, this friction between expert and casual user presents us with the opportunity to actualize all three of his proposed alternatives to the pull of hyperreality: play, spectacle, and passivity/rejection (Allan 2011). The latter two of these three tactics can be employed in relation to technology in order to maximize the grounded cultural relevance of mass media. Both spectacle and passivity create the opportunity for media to be a tool of subversion. However, neither the creation of boundary-pushing alternatives to mass media nor the rejection of mass media products replaces the search for local, culturally grounded, alternatives. Through directly connecting with these local realities one is able to negate the totalizing effect of mass media homogeneity. Ultimately, our shared responsibility resides in assessing the legitimacy of the status quo. This task includes establishing (often new) social boundaries so that new media might become a tool of empowerment within Baudrillardâ€™s post-Orwellian autocracy. Indeed, this fundamental step prompts consumers of new media to look critically at these emergent products/ productions and ask three important questions: who is the author, what is the intended or ideal reading, and is it possible to locate the material referent outside of new mediaâ€™s depictions of proposed reality? Within the world of disaster media and beyond, such an approach is dedicated to exploring the effects of medium on message, and to providing a preliminary framework from which to explore the interaction between media and our lived experiences. It is an important first step in the delineation of the hyperreal, disentangling floating mythological narratives, values and ideals from catastrophic events. By breaking the endless signification it might be possible to again situate events wholly in a particular time and place, such that the responses iconic representations evoke might fail to manipulate to the same degree. If new spectacle and passivity sidestep a collapse into irony, identification and awareness might prove effective strategies against the tyranny of the hyperreal.
Allan, Kenneth. 2011. “The End of Everything: Jean Baudrillard (19292007)”. In Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds, second edition, 299-320. Greensboro, NC: Sage. Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies. London, UK: Jonathan Cape. Baudrillard, Jean. 1994. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Baudrillard, Jean. 1995. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Bennett, Pete and Julian McDougall, eds. 2013. Barthes’ “Mythologies” Today: Readings of Contemporary Culture. New York, NY: Routledge. Chandler, Daniel. 2002. Semiotics for Beginners: The Basics. New York, NY: Routledge. Fischer, Henry W. 2008. Response to Disaster: Fact versus Fiction and its Perpetuation. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Ploughman, Penelope. 1995. “The American Print News Media ‘Construction’ of Five Natural Hazards.” Disasters 19(4): 308-326. Hall, Stuart. 1980. Culture, Media, Language. London: Hutchinson. Hall, Stuart. 1997. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London, UK: Sage. McLuhan, Marshall. 1967. The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects. New York, NY: Random House. Moeller, Susan D. 1999. Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sells Disease, Famine, War and Death. New York, NY: Routledge. O’Hagan, Ellie Mae. 2014. “Does Social Media Really Bring Us Closer to the Reality of Conflict?” The Guardian, March 10. Silverstone, Roger. 1993. “Television, Ontological Security and the Transitional Object.” Media, Culture and Society 15: 573-598.
What is Post-Anthropological Anthropology? by Charles Grey
With this paper I propose to view post-disciplinarity through an anthropological lens in order to more closely examine the implications of moving away from rigid concept of discipline. Drawing from the works of a variety of scholarsâ€”such as, Levi Strauss and Clifford Geertz to Archie Mafeje and Michel-Rolf Trouillotâ€”I aim to briefly explore the history of Anthropology as an academic discipline. Whether or not one believes that the academic discipline is obsolete, it is clear to me that discipline is becoming less and less important in academia. To my mind, we as scholars need to consider the implications of this move and we need to consider what is at stake. The seemingly inevitable shift away from discipline to topic brings with it many opportunities for learning and discovery but it also promises to change the face of academia in ways that we cannot afford to ignore. In this paper I draw from scholarly works as well as my own experiences in academia in order to answer the question: what are the stakes behind the shift away from discipline in academia today?
ost-disciplinarity, a perspective which states that the boundaries between academic disciplines are both arbitrary and obsolete, can be directly linked to the rise of post-modernist and deconstructionist thought in academia in general and, more specifically, in the social sciences and the humanities. The rise of discourse theory led to the view that academic disciplines were formed during the establishment of the modern university system. From this perspective the disciplines were seen as a product of modernity and thus obsolete in the post-modern era. This led to the blurring of boundaries within academia with notions of multi-, or inter-disciplinarity. The nihilist streak underpinning post-modernism in general and deconstructionism in particular meant that eventually the notion of discipline itself would come under fire.
Of all the disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, anthropology was the one that most readily embraced the movement and thus remains to this day the one most affected by it. Anthropologists were among the first to talk about post-disciplinarity. Furthermore, anthropology’s emphasis on fieldwork has meant that anthropologists are among the scholars who have explored and discussed the practical implications of postmodernist thought on qualitative research in the most depth. It is for this reason that discussions of post-disciplinary approaches in anthropology are, or should be, of particular interest to anybody contemplating post-disciplinary approaches. The question I will tackle here is: what is post-anthropological anthropology? In order to answer this I will draw from the work of anthropologist Archie Mafeje in order to situate and present his arguments for a postanthropological anthropology. I will then draw from the works of proponents for alternative epistemologies in anthropology. More specifically, I will employ Indigenous and Islamic anthropologies which touch upon the ways in which other anthropologists have not. Finally, I will end the discussion with a mediation on the implications of post-discplinarity. Anthropology was in crisis prior to the rise of postmodern thought, when it began to reflect on its former role in relation to colonization. As colonies strove to free themselves, the nature of the relationship between anthropology, as a discipline, and colonial governments became an issue. Anthropology was seen as having served the colonial powers, which meant that anthropologists lost much of their prestige in, and access to, the postcolonized world which they had previously benefitted from. Hooker (1963) depicted the anthropologist as a ‘reluctant colonialist’ but argued that the anthropologist needed the cooperation of subjugated peoples to conduct anthropological work. Levi Strauss (1966) similarly argued that without colonialismanthropology was untenable as a discipline. For anthropology to ever become relevant again, Levi Strauss argued, it would have to distance itself from the colonial system and undergo some radical transformations in order to be accepted by native cultures again. British anthropologists in the 1970’s went so far as to charge that anthropology was the ‘handmaid of colonialism’. The riddle of the day
was how to overcome the burden of anthropologyâ€™s colonial past. It is in this context that anthropologist Bob Scholte (1974) began speaking of reflexive and critical anthropology as being possible solutions to the perceived ills of the discipline. In this and other writings of the time we can see glimpses of the works of the French authors who would eventually come to reshape anthropology and the other social sciences during the postmodernist revolution. Perhaps it is because ethnographic fieldwork had given anthropologists insight into the cultural nature of knowledge that they were ready to embrace the concept of reflexivity; or, perhaps because they felt they had nothing to lose. Whatever the reason, reflexivity caught on. Anthropologists began questioning the epistemological foundations of their work while examining theoretical frameworks they felt could be used to overcome the burden of their past. The rise of postmodern theorists only made this questioning more acute among anthropologists. At a time when social scientists from other disciplines were just beginning to feel the impacts of deconstructionism and discourse theory, anthropologists were in the midst of an epistemological crisis. European and North American anthropologistsâ€”including Fabien (1983), Markus and Clifford (1986), Keesing (1987), Clifford (1988), Trouillot (1991), Harris (1991), and the Comaroffs (1992)1â€” wrote about the epistemological and methodological challenges of practicing anthropology in the post-colonial and postmodern world. To that end they discussed a variety of solutions to these problems including different writing styles, a Foucauldian archaeology of the discipline, new ethnographic practices, inter-disciplinarity, and different ways of thinking about the production of knowledge. The best indicator of the nature of the challenges to the discipline, however, are not the reflections of North American and European anthropologists on the state of the discipline but those of anthropologists from the colonized world. It is from African anthropologist Archie Mafeje2 that we get postThis is not meant to be an exhaustive list, my intention here is to point to some of rich body of scholarly work on the topic. 2 This paper in no way, shape, or form means to suggest that African anthropology or African culture for that matter can be understood as homogeneous, rather it views Mafeje as one voice in a rich body of scholarly work and seeks to present this controversial work in the context in which it was produced. 1
anthropological anthropology; Mafeje (1998) argued that the future anthropology was best reflected in the state of the discipline in Africa. During the Colonial period anthropology had been the most prominent of all social sciences in Africa and yet after decolonization it was virtually abandoned. African intellectuals and politicians rejected the discipline as an instrument of colonialism. Not only was anthropology a relic of the past, but its emphasis on cultures was seen as disruptive to the nationalist projects of the time. Furthermore, its focus on so called â€˜primitiveâ€™ cultures meant it did not fit into dominant economic development paradigms. In lieu of anthropology, African universities favoured sociology and African studies. It was only twenty years later in 1989 that African anthropologists gathered again to reflect on the state of the discipline with the hopes of reviving it (Mafeje 1998). This meant that colonialism and its relationship with anthropology had already, at least in part, been partly addressed by European and North American scholars by the time African scholars began discussing the discipline again. They were determined not to repeat the mistakes of their colonial era predecessors but did not have a clear idea about the kind of anthropology they would practice (Mafeje 1998). In all fairness, European and North American anthropologists had not had more success defining non-colonial anthropology than their African counterparts in those 20 years. What was remarkable about these African anthropologists was that they had survived as intellectuals for a whole generation without practicing conventional Anthropology (Mafeje 1998, 25). African anthropologists, Mafeje argued, had advocated for multidisciplinary approaches without thinking about the consequences of doing so. After all, by working in other disciplines had not their work already become multidisciplinary? At this point it was almost impossible to tell whether African anthropologists wanted to resurrect or transform the discipline and even if they would be able to do so. In crossing disciplinary boundaries with ease African anthropologists had inadvertently brought into question the purpose and value of discipline boundaries.3 They had also brought the whole concept of epistemology into question by integrating theories from a broad variety of 3
At least in the social sciences.
disciplines. Additionally, by importing and adopting methodologies to suit their needs they showed how the processes of constructing social science knowledge did, or could, cross disciplinary boundaries. The only reason they remained anthropologists was due to the fact that they continued to call themselves anthropologists. The summit itself ended on a positive note but, as one of the few African scholars who did not abandon the discipline after independence, Mafeje (1998) came to the conclusion that anthropology as a discipline was becoming irrelevant. He embraced deconstructionism long before his European and North American colleagues, abandoning the epistemologies and methodological assumptions of classical anthropology through blurring disciplinary boundaries in his own work (Mafeje 1998). Mafejeâ€™s approach could not be thought of as interdisciplinary because he wanted to avoid having to deal with the epistemological demands of every discipline he borrowed from in order to protect himself from methodological dogma. However, this approach could be described as post-disciplinary because it ignores the conventions of discipline in the creation of knowledge. Though he could not completely forgo methodology or epistemology in his research, he found that crossing disciplinary boundaries in the way he did afforded him a space for new â€˜styles of thinkingâ€™ (Mafeje 1998). Properly husbanded and made aware of each other as well as being more established, these new epistemologies and their associated methodologies could be the future of anthropology. For Mafeje (1998) this meant getting away from concepts like culture and society to find new units of analysis. It also meant redefining ethnography and rethinking ethnology. Ethnology implies a taxonomy of human societies which ultimately depicts cultures as static entities and presents cultural differences as rooted in an essential nature. To counter the ontological categories that are created only by the observing ethnologist he proposes historical categories which are interpreted, but not created exclusively by the observer. This does not mean that the ethnography loses all of its rhetorical strength, but rather that we need to rethink the authorship of ethnographic texts (Mafeje 1998). Mafeje (1998) views ethnography as being an ensemble of social texts, authored by the people that are studied and interpreted by the
anthropologist.4 The native is no longer a partner in the creation of ethnographic knowledge, but rather the source and author of that knowledge. However one would go about recognizing this in practice, it is the principle that Mafeje feels should underpin ethnographic writing and research. While Mafeje embraces deconstructionist approaches, he argues that deconstruction should imply reconstruction. For Mafeje the problems facing anthropology as a discipline stem from the fact that while European and North American anthropologists have more or less managed to deconstruct their discipline nobody has managed to reconstruct it. Post-anthropological anthropology is Mafeje’s attempt to reconstruct anthropology in the face of dissolving disciplinary boundaries. More than just a reconstruction Mafeje also attempted to discuss issues not addressed in the ‘Western’ deconstruction of Anthropology. While his Western counterparts discussed the power dynamics of the ethnographerinformant relationship they did not address the power dynamics between anthropologists from different parts of the world. Moreover, the critique of classical anthropology did not radically question the epistemological foundations of the discipline. In other words, they questioned whether there could be another way of thinking about, or conceiving of, the world but did not explore the possibilities this line of thought offered. While the possibilities of alternative epistemologies were taken up by anthropologists, they were not discussed in the mainstream. Instead, it was fringe anthropologists, largely from the colonized world, who attempted to find alternative epistemological frameworks for the anthropology with mixed results, leading to an increased interest in indigenous epistemologies, national anthropologies, and Islamic anthropology. Islamic anthropology was an attempt to establish a discipline which was both anthropological and grounded in an Islamic epistemology. Muslim scholars, including Ahmed (1986), Wyn Davies (1985), and Ma’ruf (1986), argued that as a secular discipline, classical anthropology would never be able to arrive at an understanding of Islamic culture because they were based on fundamentally different epistemological assumptions. An anthropology Mafeje is not the first or last anthropologist to write about collaborative research, what is of particular interest is the ways in which he not only conceptualizes but has put his notions of collaborative research into practice. 4
grounded in the principles of Islam, they argued, would not only be better equipped to understand the Muslim world but would also be better able to assist it. Some of the proponents of an Islamic anthropology also argued that an Islamic anthropology was a viable moral alternative to classical anthropology, which they called a colonialist and ethnocentric discipline. For their part, the proponents of Indigenous epistemologies were more interested in establishing, or re-establishing, particular epistemologies than in condemning anthropology. Unlike the proponents of Islamic anthropology, the proponents of Indigenous epistemologies were uninterested in universalizing their discourses. Instead, their goal was to revitalize traditional thought among their peoples. For scholars like Gageos (2001), Meyer (2001), Smith (2000), and Foley (2003), the problem was not as much about whether or not ‘Western’ epistemologies were unable to understand indigenous cultures as it was that they had supplanted Indigenous epistemologies. Like Islamic anthropology, however, Indigenous epistemologies were revived for the benefit of the communities they originated from. Unlike Islamic anthropology, Indigenous epistemologies were never intended to be used outside of the communities they originated from. The idea was that indigenous people had their own ways of thinking and their own ways of making knowledge. In making them the objects of their studies anthropologists took from indigenous peoples their voice, their ability to speak for themselves and their ability to create their own knowledge. Ultimately, the purpose of Indigenous epistemologies was, and is, to permit indigenous peoples to find a voice that they could identify as their own in order to create their own discourses; to restore their ability to represent themselves and determine their own fates.5 Whether we are talking about Islamic or Indigenous epistemologies, alternative epistemologies invite us to question our own knowledge by showing us in very practical ways that there is more than one way of thinking about things. Much like Mafeje, these authors realized that in order to meaningfully deconstruct an epistemology it wasn’t enough to simply question its validity, one had to provide tangible proof of other possibilities. The ancient Greeks used the verb ποιέω which meant both to make and to compose, to represent and to bring to pass, to describe these processes. 5
Mafeje’s post-anthropological anthropology, however, has implications that reach far beyond the establishment of alternative epistemologies or the critique of power relationships within the discipline. Post-anthropological anthropology is the end of anthropology as a discipline. It means accepting, or perhaps adopting, the position that disciplines cannot, or do not, create knowledge, they reify it. Creating knowledge then requires one to ignore, to violate, to overlook disciplinary boundaries. For Mafeje, postanthropological anthropologists should have a working knowledge of social science theories and concepts, a willingness to use them consciously and consistently, a willingness to learn from others, and an ability to think critically about what one is taught. In a context where more and more scholars are beginning to talk about the need for post-disciplinary approaches, Mafeje’s work is increasingly relevant. It provides hints at how one might go about establishing such approaches, while also raising important questions. In arguing for the necessity of post-anthropological anthropology, Mafeje points to the historical and cultural reasons scholars might find post-disciplinarity interesting. However, we must be cautious in accepting his arguments. After all, if the disciplines were and are the reason for academia’s continued existence, what could the consequences of post-disciplinarity be? What would stop the new epistemologies and methodologies from replacing the old ones and, in so doing, become disciplines? Can academia even survive without the discipline? While it is easy to sympathize with Mafeje’s arguments about the de-professionalization of knowledge, as academics we need to think about the consequences of doing so before we head down that road.
Ahmed, Akbar S. 1986. Toward Islamic Anthropology: Definition, Dogma and Directions (Part II). Herndon,VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought. Clifford, James. 1988. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Comaroff, J. and J. Comaroff. 1992. Ethnography and Historical Imagination. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Davies, Merryl Wyn. 1985. “Towards an Islamic Alternative to Western Anthropology.” Afkar Inquiry 2(June): 45-51. Fabian, J. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Foley, Dennis. 2003. “Indigenous Epistemology and Indigenous Standpoint Theory.” Social Alternatives 22(1): 44-52. Gegeo, David Welchman and Karen Ann Watson-Gegeo. 2001. “‘How We Know’:Kwara‘ae Rural Villagers Doing Indigenous Epistemology.” Contemporary Pacific 13(1): 55-88. Harris, Olivia. 1991. “Time and Difference in Anthropological Writing. In Constructing Knowledge: Authority and Critique in Social Science, edited by Lorraine Nencel and Peter Pels, 143-161. London, UK: Sage. Hooker, J. 1963. “The Anthropologist’s Frontier: The Last Phase of African Exploitation.” Journal of Modern African Studies 1: 455-459 Keesing, Roger. 1987. “Anthropology as Interpretive Quest.” Current Anthropology 28(2): 161-176. Levi-Strauss, C. 1966. “Anthropology: Its Achievements and Future.” Current Anthropology 7: 124-127. Mafeje, Archie. 1998. “Anthropology and Independent Africans: Suicide or End of an Era?” African Sociological Review 2(1): 1-43. Marcus,G. E.E. and Clifford, J. 1986. Writing Culture: The Poetics and
Politics of Ethnography. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Ma’ruf, A. Muhammad. 1987. “The Rescuing of Muslim Anthropological Thought.” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 4(2): 305-320. Meyer, Manulani Aluli. 2001. “Our Own Liberation: Reflections on Hawaiian Epistemology.” Contemporary Pacific 13(1): 124-148. Scholte, B. 1974. “Toward a Reflexive and Critical Anthropology.” In Reinventing Anthropology, edited by Dell H. Hymes, 430-457. New York, NY: Vintage Books. Smith, Cherryl Waerea-I-te-Rangi. 2000. “Straying Beyond the Boundaries of Belief: Maori epistemologies inside the curriculum.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 32(1):43-51. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1991. “Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness. ” In Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, edited by R. G. Fox, 16-44. Sante Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.
Navigating Identities in Created Spaces How Concordiaâ€™s Muslim Youth Negotiate Identity Politics in Response to the Quebec Charter of Values by Adriana Sgambetterra Undergraduate Honours
My project holds a two-fold purpose; first, it examines the construction and negotiation of the identities of Muslim youth in Montreal in the temporal and designated organized spaces they have created. Secondly, this thesis is intended to provide a platform (space) upon which these Muslim youth can express their uncensored opinions and reactions to the Charter of Quebec Values, and how this piece of proposed legislation challenges their Muslim identities as well as their Quebec identities. My interview participants were members of the Muslim Student Association, and my fieldwork was conducted primarily in the MSA Library on MacKay Street. I also focused on the 7th floor Hall Building prayer space, halaqas, and other such temporal spaces formed by the association. Currently, after analyzing and assembling my data, I have chosen to present my analysis using a narrative methodology.
or a significant period of time I have taken an interest in the implications of being young and Muslim in secular societies. My specific interest in youth stems from a desire to understand the process of developing an identity as an individual moves into adulthood. Being a Muslim youth in a secular society implies specific, and different, challenges which confront that particular process. In order to keep these interests local, current and feasible for the size and scope of my project, where such parameters were determined by practical constraints (such as time, resources, etc.), I designed my study to focus on a collective of young Muslims between the ages of 18 â€“ 30. I was interested in examining how they organized and reacted to the uproar surrounding Bill 60; also colloquially referred to as the Quebec Charter of Values (The Charter). The Charter was sponsored by Parti Quebecois cabinet member Bernard Drainville in 2013, and was
intended to address the provincial controversies provoked by reasonable accommodation debates regarding conspicuous religious observance and practices (Bill 60, 2013). Among its several provisions, the Charter prohibits wearing conspicuous religious attire. Public sector employees who fit this description stand to lose their jobs, or are forced to adhere to this provision. This was specifically seen as a political attack on Muslims in Quebec, primarily because The Charter made a clear division between acceptable, (inconspicuous) and unacceptable (conspicuous) articles of religious attire. This divisive line was exemplified on posters found in public spaces, which depicted articles of religious attire, such as the hijab, as being on the unacceptable side. My working collective was the Muslim Studentâ€™s Association (MSA) on Concordia Universityâ€™s campus in Montreal, and my goal was to provide a platform upon which they could express their discontent in an academic forum. Firstly, my research aimed to understand how these young Muslims negotiated their identities in the spaces they created on campus; such as, the MSA library and the temporary use of the seventh floor of the Hall building for Friday prayer, and for facilitating religious activities. Secondly, it sought to understand how the Charter challenged that negotiation and, further, how they responded to that challenge. This article will focus primarily on findings regarding aspects of created spaces, and their importance in shaping narratives and negotiation of the identities of the participants.
Methodology and Research Design
My research design was constructed as a combination of semi-structured interviews and participant observation. I participated in weekly discussion circles held at the MSA library on MacKay Street that took place on Wednesdays. These discussion circles were attended by female members of the MSA and focused on topics such as happiness, success, and grief. I conducted four semi-structured interviews with four female members, ranging from the ages of 21 to 26. Three of the participants were undergraduates, and one was a doctoral candidate. The interviews were designed around a short series of simple yet open-ended questions. My aim in undertaking this particular process was simply to engage in
conversation in order for the participant to feel more comfortable talking about themselves. The interviews were recorded with the use of an audio recording application and were then later transcribed.
The Created Space: Temporal, Designated, and Transitional
My research design was constructed on literature that pertained predominantly to identity and its creation, maintenance and perception. What I had not accounted for originally, and what I intend to address now, was the importance of space; more specifically, what I will refer to as created space. Throughout the interview and the participant observation process, space was something that could not be ignored; even more so when considering the context in which Muslim identities are understood and expressed. I call these spaces created spaces simply because they are designed by the MSA for facilitating their religious practices on campus grounds, such as for prayer and access to Islamic literature. Nasir and Al-Amin (2006) emphasized the importance of these particular spaces as being conduits for the expression of young Muslim identities and the safety thereof. They are instrumental in understanding the experience “of being Muslim in academic spaces” of the students I interviewed, and “the need to actively negotiate others’ perceptions of [them] in these spaces” (Nasir & Al-Amin 2006, 24). This created space, which I will explore below, will be referred to often during the analysis of my interviews. I will address the narrative of space in my interpretation of what it means to the four young women I interviewed, and the body of the MSA as a whole, under three umbrella headings: temporal, designated, and transitional. Temporal spaces refers to spaces set up in a specific time and place for specific purposes, which are dismantled upon completion of that time and purpose until the next occasion. Designated spaces are spaces which are occupied by a group at a permanent location. This term refers to spaces such as the MSA Library on MacKay Street, the seventh floor Hall building prayer space, other events held within and outside of Concordia, and halaqas.11 These spaces may also be understood as safe spaces, a term which I will later explore in relation to my findings. Transitional spaces A halaqa is a religious gathering or meeting intended for the purpose of learning/ studying theology; particularly Islam.
represent buffer zones between public life and private life that allow for religious practice in between these two areas of life. The MSA Library is such a space as it recognizes and accommodates appropriate prayer times while members are studying on campus.
I encountered the importance of, and reliance on, the utilization of Concordia’s common space for weekly and other occasional activities. Although I had the opportunity to attend very few of these activities, their importance was brought to my attention either during interviews or the casual discussions which occurred between interviews. One of the weekly activities conducted by the MSA is the Friday prayer on the seventh floor of Concordia’s Hall Building. Concordia’s seventh floor prayer space comes together seamlessly with all the necessities required to conduct as adequate a traditional prayer as is possible; including the separation of men and women. The Concordia Student Union (CSU) lounge disassembles its couch groupings in a large open section of the floor and the patrons of the People’s Potato (the daily lunch-time soup kitchen that is held and conducted by the CSU) respect the transformation and crowd themselves elsewhere. Another example of temporal space I encountered were the halaqas— Islamic educational sessions—which were held Friday evenings in room 565 of the Hall Building. These halaqas are usually led by a speaker who lectures on a particular aspect of Islam, be it a story about the Prophet or a section in the Qu’ran. Much like the private religious lessons offered in response to high demand in Dushanbe, Tajikistan—as demonstrated by anthropologist Manja Stephan’s (2010) article about such lessons—these halaqas are designed to familiarize “young Muslims with social principles, social habits and behavioral standards of the Muslim community”. For the AlMaghrib initiative in New York, these halaqas offer lectures on “more traditional topics such as theology, ethics, hadith...Islamic history” and the like (Bayoumi 2010, 167). This is significant because it demonstrates a plurality in the need to provide Islamic awareness and education in secular urban societies.
Other manifestations of what I have come to understand and classify as temporal spaces are one-time events that serve as expressions of Muslim tradition, recreation and as areas for critiquing the Quebec Charter of Values. One such critique-based event, organized by the MSA, took place at Dawson College and was entitled “Keeping it Halal”. This particular event served as an Islamic awareness event, and a space of critique and discussion regarding the Charter. While I was unable to attend the event myself, one of my interviewees provided me with a retrospective itinerary of the events. One particular activity that struck me from her recollection was a sketch performance piece providing a satirical critique of the Charter’s attempt at homogenization, ridiculing the notion that a piece of legislation would even attempt such an assimilative strategy.
Designated Space (or Safety Space)
The bulk of my fieldwork—interviews and participant observation— was conducted in the MSA Library on MacKay Street. There I attended a few study groups which often centered on a topic pertaining to life improvement strategies, psychology, and/or social conduct; such topics were contextualized within an Islamic framework of discussion and understanding. From my vantage point, the library appeared to act as a home base for where MSA members, where they can study, access religious texts, or meet with one another, either serendipitously or by way of organized discussions. Another reason why I have elected to refer to the MSA Library as a safety space is because of the shelter it provided for members to express their Muslim identities without public interference. Such interference was exemplified by the vigilante reactions undertaken in the name of the Charter. This phenomenon was expressed by one of my participants as she echoed the concerns of the female members who, as a result, “don’t wanna go out too much”. Additionally, it struck me as important that three out of the four interviews were conducted in the MSA library, as per the choice of the interviewee. The only one that was not held in the library was held in the interviewee’s office, as she is a PhD student. My research findings suggest that not only is the MSA Library a safe space from public interjection regarding displaying conspicuous religious attire (i.e. hijab),
it is also a safe space for expressing opinions about such interjection and the policy-making framework behind the Charter. Similar to the social phenomena of young Muslims actively seeking appropriate spaces for collective religious organization pointed out by Mandaville (2009, 497)—regarding the Muslim Diaspora in Europe— the young Muslims in Quebec have “sought to build a presence and infrastructure...that allows their identities...to circulate” within public spaces. Immediately upon beginning my fieldwork, I likened the MSA Library to the Al-Bustan Arab-American youth collective community organization in Chicago, whose goal is to “create a space for Arab and Arab-American children to develop a strong, positive relationship with their Arab identity, and to teach people from other communities about the Arabic language and Arab culture” (Abu El-Haj 2009, 4). This reflects the mandate of the MSA, as asserted by my participants, which is to allow for members to feel like a part of a community that celebrates and recognizes their religion and its practices, and to educate non-Muslims about Islam. As one participant asserted, “the biggest problem is ignorance...we want to destroy these prejudices. That’s why I got involved with the MSA and to be part of this initiative.”
Transitional Spaces: Buffers between Public and Private Spaces
The MSA library is also akin to the “mosque that...students unassumingly attend...located in a small village annexed to the campus” described by Saktanber (2009, 259); referring to METU’s Turkish Muslim student population. The MSA library can be found across the street from the Hall building nestled in the brownstone houses that merge Concordia’s modern campus with the surrounding urban space. Its location represents the literal and figurative transition between public space and private space, representing a buffer zone between the two. Transitional spaces act as a conduit for daily Muslim expression in a public space. A tool which is increasingly necessitated by the encroaching presence of the ideological imposition of the Charter, and by the young Muslims who must negotiate and navigate their identities within and around this imposition.
Reactions and Responses to the Charter
All of my participants reported that the MSA has been involved within the broader community of those that stand to be affected by the Charter. They had been talking about it frequently amongst each other within the association, but the mandate of the MSA still remains based in the interest of maintaining regular religious activities and providing accessible Islamic education. The themes of the round table talks that I sat in on pertained to day-to-day activities and struggles, melding secular studies with Muslim values. For instance, the first discussion I attended which was a sisters’ only discussion, was about happiness and how that could be attained through changing one’s perspective and maintaining gratitude and charity, which are key principles in Islam. Despite the Charter, “daily life continues”, as one of my participants explained during her interview. Each of the participants I interviewed were adamant about continuing to wear hijab, some of who were also considering looking for job prospects outside of Quebec upon graduation assuming the legislation were to pass, resulting in what they anticipated to be ahostile work environment. One of my participants, Mona, admitted to having questioned her choice to wear hijab, due to the possibility of this imminent hostility or necessity to conform, but assured me that such doubt only lasted momentarily. I found it very telling where my interviews ended up taking place. This could very well be due to convenience, as they all take turns working shifts at the Library, but they did make it a point to schedule the interview at a time when they would be at the Library anyway. I also found, through my interviews, that each of the girls chose to practice their particular adherence to Islam, including wearing hijab, on their own accord. They asserted that their parents, while religious, did not enforce veiling, regular prayer, mosque attendance, Qu’ranic study and the like. Another aspect I encountered was the possession of multiple identities. I began each of my interviews with the initial question, “tell me a bit about yourself and background?” The girls immediately opened up about their cultural background and their religiosity, alluding to the
multiple identities they had attached to their home country, or country of origin, their religion, and their host context, which is here. Three of the four girls described themselves as “full Canadian” or “more Canadian” or “Montrealer” (i.e. more local), than their country of origin. The one who did not, which was the PhD student, came here initially to conduct her fieldwork for her masters and stayed for her doctorate. Out of all of my participants, she experienced the most discomfort negotiating her multiple identities and she always felt “othered” regardless of her country of residence for being openly Muslim. She explained to me that in her home country, in Europe, she felt more capable of participating in the discourse of secularization because she felt that her citizenship in her country of birth, characterized by fluency in the national language and being three generations removed from her Yemeni heritage, outweighed her being Muslim. Upon her arrival in Montreal, in the midst of provincial debates surrounding secularization, including the Charter, she is truly put in the position of the ‘other.’ Conversely, while in Europe, she was inadvertently participating in the ‘othering’ discourse. There was a unanimous disdain for the Charter of Values expressed in all my interviews. One participant expressed a fear of going out late at night because she was worried that people on public transportation would harass her verbally about her veil, threatening to remove it; something which had happened to her previously, after the Charter was announced. Two other participants expressed disappointment in the Charter as it had soured their impression of the multicultural tolerance and vibrancy that comprises Quebec, and Montreal in particular, which is also the place they call home and the place with which they most identify.
The negotiation of one’s Muslim identity as a Quebec youth has seen challenges presented by the Charter of Values; not only politically, but also socially and personally. While the theories I had assembled for my literary framework were based on constructing and negotiating identities, the use of space emerged as an important concept during the process of my field work. Here I have chosen to utilize the term ‘created spaces’ to refer to the spaces in which the members of the MSA carry out their religious
practices, traditions and daily affairs. The MSA Library, the prayer space on the seventh floor of the Hall building, and the awareness events were created because they carved out spaces within a secular context and were put in place out of a necessity for maintaining the practices which allow for the expression of their religious identities. These spaces act as transitional buffers between public space, such as the school campus or the downtown core, and private space, such as the home or mosque, where young Muslims can comfortably navigate their piety and adherence in between the two. One participant asserted that these young Muslims will continue to maintain their activities and their prayer in spite of the looming Charter. While one might expect more protest and politically demonstrative action on the part of the MSA against the Charter of Values, perhaps such displays are not necessary. In my view, the continuation of Friday prayer, regular Wednesday round table discussions, and Qu’ranic studies demonstrate a stronger affront to the Charter than the interruption of the aforementioned more radical activities. One participant explained that the cessation of the day-to-day is precisely what the authors of this piece of legislation hope to achieve. So long as “daily life continues”, that achievement will be continually delayed, and possibly even prevented in becoming fully realized.
Bayoumi, Moustafa. 2010. “Being Young, Muslim and American in Brooklyn.” In Being Young and Muslim, edited by Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera, 161-76. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, Inc. Journal des Débats (Hansard) of the National Assembly. 2013. “Bill 60: Charter Affirming the Values of State Secularism and Religious Neutrality and of Equality between Women and Men, and Providing a Framework for Accommodation Requests.” 40th Legislature, 1st Session 43(89). November 7. Mandaville, P. 2009. “Muslim Transnational Identity and State Responses in Europe and the UK after 9/11: Political Community, Ideology and Authority.” Journal Of Ethnic & Migration Studies 35(3): 491-506. Nasir, Na’ilah Suad, and Jasiyah Al-Amin. 2006. “Creating Identity-Safe Spaces on College Campuses for Muslim Students.” Change 38(2): 22-27. Saktanber, Ayse. 2010. “Performance, Politics, and Visceral Transformation: Post-Islamist Youth.” In Being Young and Muslim, edited by Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera, 259-72. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, Inc. Stephan, Manja. 2010. “Education, Youth and Islam: The Growing Popularity of Private Religious Lessons in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.” Central Asian Survey 29(4): 469-483.
The Importance of ‘Passing’ for Queer Transgender Men Masculinity and Safety by Chase Ross Undergraduate Honours
Although much research has been conducted on female-tomale (FTM) transgender individuals and their embodiment of masculinity (Rubin 2003; Prosser 1998; Koenig 2002; Ward 2010), no research has directly focused on the important stage of ‘passing’ from female to male, and how this specific aspect helps shape their masculine identities and body image. In order to understand the importance of this stage and its effect on the individual, the question this research intends to answer is: how do queer transgender men, who have just begun to pass as ‘men’ in society, experience their body image and masculinity? This paper will discuss four major themes associated with this topic: the different definitions and representations of the word ‘passing’; the importance of passing as it relates to fear, survival and necessity; how transgender individuals and those around them help in building their identity during the transition period; and the importance of maleness and masculinity within their lives and transition. In order to explore these questions further, interviews were conducted with queer transgender men in order to get their personal perspectives on this topic and to gain real accounts from their lives and experiences. This research aims to demonstrate how important the stage of passing is for these men and why it is significant for academia to include it in their analysis of their lives.
his paper will discuss how transgender men respond to the following research question: “How do queer transgender men, who have just begun to pass as men in society, experience their body image and masculinity?” The majority of the literature on transgender men focuses on masculinity and embodiment (Rubin 2003; Prosser 1998; Koenig 2002;
Ward 2010). Currently, there is no research which directly focuses on the important process of ‘passing’ from female-to-male, and how this specific aspect helps to shape their masculine identities and body image. This paper demonstrates a research process which attempts to answer this question and understand this important stage in a transgender man’s life. The terms queer, transgender, transition and passing will be defined according to my research participants’ personal definitions. The literature review conducted for this research did not find a single, consistent working definition of any of these terms. Therefore I asked my research participants for their personal definitions. ‘Queer’ carries various meanings, from one who does not identify as heterosexual, to one who feels that their sexual orientation is not normative. Examples given include people who are gay, bisexual or pansexual (someone who is attracted to all genders). Participants defined transgender as anyone whose sex at birth does not match their gender. The most difficult term to define was the concept of ‘passing’. Participants in my research had a difficult time with this definition as they knew how it felt but did not know how to explain it. Most were able to define it as being recognized in society as the gender to which you are and have transitioned to, rather than being read as transgender or female. As a transgender academic myself, it is crucial for these terms to be defined properly by people who have experiences with them. The reason these concepts are so difficult to define in academic terms is owing to the lack of engagement with trans discourse by transgender authors. Nontransgender authors include: Garfinkel 1967, Schrock 2009, Roen 2002, Elliot 2009 and Koening 2002. There is nothing wrong with non-trans academics writing about and researching transgender individuals. The issue is when non-trans people speak in the place of transgender peoples’ experiences and lives. Many authors cited in my research are not transgender (or if they are, they do not openly identify themselves as transgender), which can lead one to question the validity of their arguments. When non-transgender authors write about a transgender experience without asking the transgender individual what the proper way to speak about the experience is, their research and ideas are seen as
weak from within the transgender community. Hale (2009) enumerates the fifteen rules for non-trans people writing about trans people. These rules proscribe describe that the non-trans individual needs to take into account that they are not experts on everything trans related and, specifically, as number fourteen explains: “don’t imagine that there is only one trope of transsexuality, only one figure of “the” transsexual, or only one transsexual discourse at any one temporal and cultural location” (Hale 2009). These steps are rarely followed by non-trans authors, including the aforementioned. In my research I use both non-trans and trans authors to complement each other and to discuss their arguments together. I recognize the importance of discussing both points of view, but also to view non-trans academic research about trans individuals through a critical lens. To answer the research question I conducted eight semi-structured interviews with individuals who: identify themselves as queer, are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, live in Canada or the United States, are on hormones and have been passing less than six months. Individuals in my research were all transitioning from female to male with the help of hormones and had the potential for top surgery (removal of the breasts) in the future. With these specific requirements in mind, I set out to find my participants online. I placed a poster-like image (Figure 1) on the blogging website Tumblr and tagged the image with ‘ftm’(female-to-male transgender individual) so that individuals who would look through that tag would find my post. I have a very large following online through this website but I was still nervous that I would not be able to get at least eight participants. After a few days had passed since I had posted the image I decided to check my research specific in disbelief. I had received forty-two emails from trans men all over the United States and Canada wanting to participate in this research. This is the moment when I realized how important my research was, and would be in the future.
Participate in Sociolgical Research about Queer Trangender/ Transsexual Men, Passing and Masculinity
I am conducting research for the Honours program in Sociology at Concordia University and I am in search of research participants. Please take a look at these requirements in order to be involved: • Are you between the ages of 18 and 25? • Do you live in USA or Canada?
• Are you Female-to-Male transgender/transsexual individual?
• Are you on hormones (testosterone) and have begun to pass in the last 6 months only?
• Do you identify your sexuality as ‘Queer’?
If you answered yes to all five questions, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Figure 1 This response demonstrates the interests from transgender men to see research on and about them done by someone within their own community. After going through all forty-two emails, I was able to disqualify some people who had not read the post correctly and picked eight individuals from Canada and the United States who were from different ethnic backgrounds and ages. I made this distinction clear because much of the research done on transgender individuals does not mention ethnicity, race or culture; such as, Rubin 2003, Halberstam 1998/2005, Schrock 2009, amongst others. These distinctions are important when understanding the lives of transgender people as it allows for individuals to understand that transgender people are just like everyone else, but each is a unique individual, as well. Once these individuals were chosen, consent forms were sent and interviews were scheduled over the video-conferencing program Skype. I have done Skype interviews in the past with transgender men discussing
different conflicts within the community and I believe the experience I gained from them gave me the confidence to continue my Honours’ thesis. Although Skype interviews do not re-create an in-person connection, in my experience I have found that they provide the interviewee with the opportunity to discuss sensitive topics in the comfort of their own home. When talking to transgender individuals who I had never met and with whom I was discussing extremely sensitive topics like masculinity, body image, self-esteem and violence, Skype interviews were ideal. Participants remained in a space where they felt comfortable and where they had more control over how the interaction would go. If they felt like they needed a minute to calm down, they could simply turn the camera off and stay in their safe space without risk of embarrassment by the interviewer or individuals around them. I also believe Skype interviews were better in this situation because I was able to be professional while, at the same time, remaining friendly enough with them that it was seen as a regular conversation. I feel that with this method, I was able to delve deep into the participants’ thoughts and understand their lives and how they view themselves in society. There are different reasons as to why the concept of passing is so important for some transgender men, and exploring these reasons is a key point of interest for my research. The themes that arose from my interviews revealed difficult experiences. Many individuals in my research experienced violence and abuse, whether emotional or physical, before they started passing. They felt as though they were targets of people’s discrimination because they looked female or androgynous but presented themselves as male (by wearing men’s clothing, for example). I was surprised by many of the stories I heard during these interviews. One participant was sent to a mental institution by his parents where they practiced ‘reparative therapy’ in order to ‘cure’ him of being transgender. For him, this was the most traumatic emotional and physical violence he had ever experienced. Passing is important for some of these transgender men because it is connected to their personal identity as a person and as a man. When asked “now that you pass 100% in society, if you were to not pass right now, what would you think of the situation?” Every participant cringed and took a few extra seconds to respond to this question. Most were in disbelief that
someone would ask them this question, as it was not something they had ever thought about (they expressed this to me during the interview). They all said they would feel as though they have failed somehow and that they were doing something wrong. They expressed a deep inclination anxiety and dread when this question was posed. This was a very interesting reaction to see from all eight participants as it was something I personally related with as well. During this portion of the interview I reaffirmed with all participants that if they needed a few of minutes to take a break that we could; they all reassured me they were fine. There were other aspects of this research which surprised me as well. The first came up in all but one interview. This was the concept of ‘the bathroom issue’ which is the idea that all transgender men have at least one horrific bathroom story; which was true for seven out of eight participants. Halberstam (1998) explains: “the men’s room represents the most severe test of his ability to pass” (25). Examples such as being punched, having anxiety attacks, being coerced by their partner to use the men’s bathroom even though they were not ready, being verbally abused, being stared down, and so on. These experiences all happened to transgender men before they started passing and, as one can understand, the anxiety and fear that individuals feel when using bathrooms is not to be pushed aside. Two participants landed in the hospital with bladder infections because they refused to use any gendered bathrooms for fear of being abused again. They would go hours without using public restrooms (at school, at the mall, etc.) which consequently resulted in a bladder infection. The second theme which emerged from these interviews was the concept of living life as a theatrical performance. Six out of eight participants believed that before they were passing as male in society they had to act in a certain masculine way in order to pass as male in society. Some even described it as ‘acting on a stage’. Since they did not pass, they needed to act in a different way in order for society to view them as men. Four participants described it as putting on layers of what people wanted them to be instead of being themselves. A very popular example amongst the participants was in their attitude. Almost all felt as though they had to act more masculine than they were, instead of being their true feminine selves. Once they started passing, they were able to drop all these changes and be
themselves. This was an interesting theme that emerged, in particular, as it related directly to Goffmanâ€™s (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Goffman (1959) discusses life as being a performance and individuals as acting in a theatrical performance; which is known as the dramaturgical self (22). This is what the participants in my research were doing. As discussed in the beginning of this paper, research on transgender individuals done by someone transgender is sometimes crucial in understanding and accessing information that a non-transgender person might not be able to obtain. The research participants brought up two important themes which I had not foreseen: the issue of anxiety and fear related to bathrooms, as well as, carrying on a theatrical performance in order to pass in society. In this specific research I out myself as a transgender academic without hesitation. I disclose my transgender status in hopes that this research will continue to bring light to the importance of transgender researchers doing research on trans people. In the past, transgender individuals have only been seen as an object of research and inquiry, but now it is time for transgender individuals to write about and relate to this research. In the future I hope to expand on this topic and many others. I believe that being an open transgender academic may have its challenges in many other departments, however, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology has accepted the type of that I do and this gives me great hope in continuing this type of research and, perhaps, in changing the way transgender individuals are discussed in academia.
Detloff, Madelyn. 2006. “Gender Please, Without the Gender Police: Rethinking Pain in Archetypal Narratives of Butch, Transgender, and FTM Masculinity.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 10(1/2): 87-105. Elliot, Patricia. 2009. “Engaging Trans Debates on Gender Variance: A Feminist Analysis.” Sexualities 12(1): 5-32. Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Goffman, E. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Anchor Press. Halberstam, J. 1998. Female Masculinity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Halberstam, J. 2005. In a Queer Time & Place. New York, NY: New York University. Hale, Jacob. 2009. Suggested Rules for Non-Transsexuals Writing about Transsexuals, Transsexuality, Transsexualism, or Trans ____. Accessed April 6, 2014. http://sandystone.com/hale.rules.html. Koenig, Sheila. 2002. “Walk Like a Man: Enactment and Embodiments of Masculinity and the Potential for Multiple Genders.” Journal of Homosexuality 43(3/4): 145-159. Rubin, Henry. 2003. Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment Among Transsexual Men. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press. Roen, Katrina. 2002. “Either/Or” and “Both/Neither”: Discursive Tensions in Transgender Politics.” Journal of Women in Culture & Society 27(2): 501-522. Schrock, Douglas P., et al. 2009. “Emotion Work in the Public Performances of Male-to-FemaleTranssexuals.” Archives of Sexual Behaviour 38(5): 702-712.
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