I am an artist-writer-scholar who has taught a range of trans-disciplinary courses focused on environmental studies, studio art, visual culture, science and technology studies, and queer studies.
I enjoy working collaboratively and engaging in community building scholarship and DIY activism. For example, in the above photo I am leading a session of Toronto's Technoscience Salon, discussing the use of air bucket brigades in Aamjiwnaang and Louisiana's Cancer Alley as a combined form of citizen science and environmental activism.
I recently completed my Ph.D. in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University (2016).
My dissertation, Chemical Intimacies and Toxic Publics, draws from an assortment of archival and everyday material (government reports, tourist guides, newspaper clippings, postcards, and children drawings) to delineate some of the situated politics of ambient toxins: detailing the diffracted pathways of poisonous chemicals emitted from specific industries and imposed on specific people and ecologies. It focuses on two ethnographic sites and two polluting industries: half of the dissertation examines the politics of lead in Toronto (tracing its lingering effects in two working class neighbourhoods), while the other half focuses on a massive petrochemical corridor that is located in and around the small city of Sarnia (in southwestern Ontario) and immediately adjacent to the First Nation of Aamjiwnaang.
Chemical Intimacies and Toxic Publics, was written as a chimera – a swamp thing – that traces the messy politics of ambient toxins, showing some of the ways people are always already entangled in the manufacturing and distribution of pollution. The text is a mixture of methods, concerns, and voices, and is meant to be read as part manifesto, part ethnography, part autobiography, and part art object.
At some point in the dissertation process I came to realize that if I wanted to retain some of the working contradictions that allow well-known poisons to traffic in the public sphere as manageable risks, I would have to allow the dissertation to do two overlapping things: to drift from one subsection, anecdote, and image to the next; and to pull me into the text so that my vulnerability – as an academic, a son, a citizen, and a breather – would be revealed. If some of my statements seem abrupt – in both the conventional and in the comic book chapters – then I ask the reader to consider that the uncomfortable fissures such statements create are part of both my relationship to the work and the larger toxic publics about which I write in this dissertation.
The comic book drawings worked on me in two primary ways: (1) they allowed me to insert myself into my critique of industrial emissions; and (2) they forced me to become less wordy and more assertive. For example, I didn’t completely formulate the dissertation’s anti-capitalist argument until I drew it out as comic book panels. So not only did the comics allow me an emotional shorthand, a way of invoking and mapping a shared archive of toxic public feelings, but they also forced me to recognize and declare my dissertation as a manifesto of dissent. This tension between subtle, personal imagery and abrupt declarations can be found throughout the dissertation and constitutes one of its defining characteristics. So alongside a situated discussion of how humans make toxins and how in turn these toxins remake humans, Chemical Intimacies and Toxic Publics is very much about my entangled process: how I worked and drew my dissertation and how, in turn, my dissertation thoroughly worked and drew me.
Chemical Intimacies and Toxic Publics has been nominated for a York University Dissertation Prize.