Mary Bryson

Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
Cancer's margins : sexual and gender marginality and the biopolitics of knowledge (2019)

Research in Canada and the United States indicates consistent health inequities among sexual and gender minority populations, including cancer health disparities. The Cancer's Margins project (www.lgbtcancer.ca) is likely the first nationally-funded project to investigate the complex intersections of sexual and gender marginality and experiences of cancer-related health, treatment, support networks, and decision-making. The Cancer's Margins database includes 121 interviews with sexual and/or gender minority breast and/or gynecologic cancer patients and members of their support networks across Canada, including pilot interviews in the San Francisco Bay area. As part of Cancer's Margins, this dissertation research examines sexual and/or gender minority breast and/or gynecologic cancer patients’ experiences, access to knowledge, knowledge mobilization, and the organization of cancer care. Where approaches to “LGBT health”/“SGM health” have subsumed transgender and other gender diverse people into a general LGBT umbrella or less helpfully, as an aspect of minority sexuality, this dissertation—by contrast—examines sexual marginality and gender marginality intersectionally. The analysis takes into account the biopolitical production of identity, knowledge regimes, and sexuality and gender. The qualitative analysis in this dissertation documents and analyzes how different bodies of knowledge shape complex relationships between marginalization, gender and sexuality, and experiences of cancer health and decision-making. The findings reported here provide evidence that assemblages of cancer care systems are informed by and reinforce heteronormative, cisnormative, homonormative, and repronormative modes of sexuality, gender, and embodiment. Findings also point to the importance of population-specific cancer knowledge for minority cancer patients and the key role of communitarian and experiential knowledge in treatment decision-making by marginalized patients. Additionally, these findings suggest that understanding illness narratives of sexual and/or gender minority cancer patients requires an analysis that takes into account distinct generational cohorts of knowledge related to sexuality, gender, and the production of identity and marginalization. To ameliorate population health disparities, cancer care environments need to account for diverse intersectional models of identity and embodiment. By analyzing the systems of biomedical and biographical knowledge informing cancer patients, providers, and regimes, this dissertation contributes new evidence to undergird culturally-specific and culturally-effective cancer care and practice with sexual and/or gender minority cancer patients.

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No arrivals : the cultural politics of mobilities in queer Asian diasporas in Canada (2015)

This dissertation project examines the cultural politics of mobilities for the organization of counterpublics and oral histories in and across marginalized communities within a transnational migration frame. I conducted a three-year, interview-based and media-centered ethnography in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia with fourteen queer migrant men and a transgender migrant woman with a wide range of intersectional identifications and residence statuses, who were originally from multiple countries and regions across Pacific Asia. The purpose of this fieldwork was to trace the translocal movements of queer Asian migrants with a critical attention to how their encounters with national discourses, histories and knowledges of race and sexuality shaped the trajectories of their life narratives. Drawing on these embodied accounts, my analyses illustrate how these migrant, racial strangers and sexual others manage to negotiate multiple displacing forces through tactical practices of representation, space-making, and diasporic networks of kinship and care with and through media. This interdisciplinary project significantly contributes to several areas of theorizing. First, this study revises theories of agency in mobilities research by introducing the concept of mobility as problematic to highlight the cultural dynamics between displacement and movement, and foregrounds the everyday, mediated practices of mobility as various forms of survival that often remain invisible to structural analysis and theory. Second, this project advances queer critiques of race by analyzing how queer Asian migrants do and perform racialized identity. This research theorizes how transnational subjects actively participate in global processes of racialization, which departs significantly from traditional scholarship that underscores national frames and histories of race and sexuality. Finally, this project contributes to postcolonial feminist methodologies by introducing a queer historiography method I call enigma as evidence. This innovative framework argues for elusive meanings, identities and silences as a productive site for ethically charged research practices that evidence the experiences of oppression, survival and everyday intimacies of cultural others.

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Global networks, local reels : youth media and civic engagement in transnational settings (2014)

Scholarship concerning youth, participation and media tends to celebrate the liberatory potential of both local and global youth engagement with networked technologies produced by the exponential rise in access to participatory media (Lesko & Talburt, 2012; MacIntosh, Poyntz, & Bryson, 2012). However, celebratory accounts of youth and media foreclose on the possibilities that research practices might document the multiple actualities and outcomes pertinent to an assessment of both: a) how young people navigate social justice and social media and b) what is produced in these landscapes of mediatic labour and relationality.This multi-sited qualitative research addresses this analytical gap by documenting the transnational relationships that shape youth engagements with media technology and by carrying out an analysis of the conditions of possibility for international youth who produce media in the context of an international youth media program in Nicaragua. The youth media program, jointly facilitated by Amigos de las Américas and a major international development agency, works at the intersection of youth leadership, civic engagement, and media production.Analysis of ethnographic data suggests that liberation discourses surrounding media technology, civic engagement, and youth are linked to the modernist belief that the amplification of public voice will facilitate political justice. The assumed foundation where capacity is defined as agency, empowerment, or voice actually functions to further marginalize populations who have been historically silenced, and facilitates the expansion of neoliberal relationality. Modernist development norms and post-feminist sensibilities contribute to the assemblage of complex pedagogical spaces that animate and inform my cautionary analysis regarding marginalization, power, and the limits of pedagogical interventions and liberation discourses. This research advances knowledge concerning youth media production as it has typically been imagined within modernist discourses about education, development, and “change,” by means of its re-conceptualization of agency through a “critical mobilities” framework that more fully attends to the complex and affective relationalities produced, sustained, and interrupted in youth media production.

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Michigan Womyn's Music Festival : place making and the queer persistence of feminism (2014)

This dissertation research is designed to advance knowledge concerning contemporary conceptions of sexual citizenship, queer history and the context and performative nature of feminism during a time of “post-feminism” (Faludi, 1991; Fraser, 2009; McRobbie, 2004). I investigate feminism as it is enacted at the Michigan Womyn‘s Music Festival (hereafter referred to as the Festival). The Festival is an event that grew out of the second wave feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s. It has survived decades of liberation movements, identity politics and related political struggles, threats from the religious right, transsexual inclusion/exclusion debates and so on. Unlike many of the feminist events that closed their doors in the 80s and 90s (Case, 1996) over the last 35 years this festival has grown into one of the oldest and largest lesbian feminist gatherings in the world (Cvetkovich and Wahng, 2001; Morris, 1999; Ryan, 1992; Taylor and Rupp, 1993). Since the mid-1980s, discussion about the “end of feminism” and what post-feminism means has increased (Faludi, 1991; Fraser, 2009; Jones, 1994; McRobbie, 2009; Modleski, 1991). Post-feminism sometimes refers to a new kind of anti-feminist sentiment, one that differs from the backlash faced by feminists in the 1970s and 1980s. Post-feminist discourse can imply that equality has been achieved and that feminists can now focus on something else. Within the pages of this dissertation, the avenue of study I engage in investigates the convergence of second-wave feminism (Daly, 1978; Dworkin, 2002; MacKinnon, 1989; Millet, 1970) in a post-feminist time. What does it mean to engage in various feminist identity practices whose time is past? How do the lived embodiments of race, gender difference, sexual alterity, and variations of bodily capacity structure the time and timing of particular collectivities? This project’s major animating question asks, then: How does feminism persist in a time of post-feminism?

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Disruptive breast cancer narratives: shaping cultural politics, informing feminist bioethics and performing repair (2013)

This project explores the narration of experiential knowledge about breast cancer arguing that personal narratives, in the form of “disruptive breast cancer narratives,” have the potential to shift public perceptions, breast cancer culture and biomedical understandings of the disease. In Chapter 2, I explore the potential of narrative enquiry in qualitative health research and establish my interdisciplinary framework which turns to patient-centred knowledge creation, affective illness histories and archiving feelings as well as cultural studies of the body, critical gender and sexuality studies. Chapter 3 outlines my theoretical approach to disruptive breast cancer narratives and involves an exploration of the scholarly potential and limitations of illness narrative study and turns to narrative approaches to feminist bioethics. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 explore disruptive breast cancer narratives through close readings of narrative texts. In Chapter 4, I examine feminist anger through Barbara Ehrenreich’s (2001) “Welcome to Cancerland,” Audre Lorde’s (1981) The Cancer Journals and Kathlyn Conway’s (1997) Ordinary Life. In Chapter 5, I read Wendy Mesley’s (2006) Chasing the Cancer Answer and Kris Karr’s (2007) Crazy Sexy Cancer as documentary films that purport to disrupt the dominant discourses of breast cancer by exploring them in relation to discourses of personal responsibility and a figure I call the “cancer killjoy.” In Chapter 6, I begin with an examination of Eve Sedgwick’s (1993) “White Glasses” which provides a powerful critique of how gender and sexuality are constituted through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatments and advance this critique through readings of Catherine Lord’s (2004) The Summer of Her Baldness and the television drama The L Word (2006); this chapter is guided by S. Lochlann Jain’s (2007a, 2007b) conception of “elegiac politics.” My project concludes in Chapter 7, by exploring the potential of counternarratives of illness and of performing resistance, patienthood and narrative repair; here, I necessarily reflect on my own experience of chronic illness.

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