Art as Activism: Pop Culture, Speculative Fiction, and Social Justice

How can art be used to think through social justice? In what ways can speculative fiction inspire and inform activism? Can the writing of speculative fiction itself be considered a form of activism? This panel examines speculative fiction as space which negotiates social change. Looking at the dynamic relationship between fiction and activism, it will touch on questions related to pop culture, representation, race, gender, and justice.

Christine H. Tran – Fantasizing Activism: Hijacking the Hashtags of Social Change in Speculative Fiction & Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim

Can science-fiction and fantasy instruct activists? With the rise of social media and “hashtag activism,” internet activists increasingly share spaces of communication with online fans of these popular cultures. Accordingly, this presentation examines “speculative fiction” as a space which negotiates social change. Mounting a case study on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, we take seriously how fiction and activism exchange representations of race, globalization, and justice.

Christine H. Tran is a prospective PhD applicant, who completed her SSHRC-funded MA in English at York University. She holds her BA from the University of Toronto, and her research interests include the digital humanities, popular culture, and early modern historiography. She assists at Toronto’s Brick: A Literary Journal.

Sharrae Lyon – Futuring Our Collective Existence

The words in which we speak and write carry influence and impact. Together we share a collective consciousness, a collective reality, yet we also live diverse unique lives shaped by our own perspectives. How can we enact the practice of creating speculative fiction that allows us not only to discuss dystopian possibilities, but how we truly desire to shape the undetermined future waiting to be birthed.

Sharrae Lyon is a time-traveler, quantum healer, spiritual-bio nerd who happens to write short stories, make films, dance and theatrical performance. Sharrae has always been driven by the questions of how true liberation can be attained through individual and collective efforts that support harmony with the Earth and environment. Her most recent written work can be found in The Peak Mag. She is an alumni of Black Women Film! and is gearing up to release her short film Delayed Echoes in 2018. She has performed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and in the play ‘Daughters of Lilith’ written by Dainty Smith. Presently she is gearing up to facilitate a workshop series entitled ‘Quantum Healing: Changing the Stories We Tell Ourselves” at the Multifaith Centre at the University of Toronto.

Jiaqing Wilson-Yang  – Collaging with the dead

I use writing as a way to reconcile diaspora, mixed race identities and transsexuality. Fiction allows for the imagination to draw from fragmented memory, experience, fable, and ritual to create a mirror in which one can conceptualize and envision the self. For those of us who’s selves are seen as impossible or unreconcilable, fiction provides a space in which to not only name and understand who we are, but to see ourselves flourish. The creation of fiction allows for the existence of possibility and shows both ourselves and those who we confound, our futures and pasts.

Jiaqing Wilson-Yang is a writer and transsexual living in Toronto. Her writing has been featured in Room Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Ricepaper Magazine, Carte Blanche, and the Toronto Star. Her first novel, Small Beauty, won the 2016 Lambda Award for Transgender Fiction. In her day job, she is a sexual violence support worker at Ryerson University.

Gentrification, LGBTQ2SI+ Communities and Modes of Resistance

In this workshop, participants will explore dominant discourses about neighbourhoods and gentrification, and how processes of gentrification and displacement relate to LGBTQ2SI+ communities. Together we will examine colonial discourses of neighbourhood “development/progress” and explore how LGBTQ2SI+ communities have been both complicit in supporting gentrification and victims of displacement ourselves. We will look at local and global examples of queer and trans resistance to gentrification and, as a group, generate ideas and discuss other tangible strategies for intervention in gentrification and associated displacement, with a focus on avoiding complicity/cooptation of LGBTQ2SI+ communities.

Mela Pothier is a queer educator and researcher based in Hamilton, Ontario. Her work explores gentrification, class, race and neighbourhood politics, and she is the co-editor of a queer media outlet called Bent Q.

Whose Media? Our Media: The Nuts and Bolts of Independent Media Production

What does it mean to engage in media activism? How do grassroots media projects work? How can independent media be used as tool to further our struggles? This panel brings together a collection of speakers who are involved in producing, distributing, and promoting radical media. It will discuss the politics and goals of radical media, engage with questions of representation and the centering of marginalized voices, provide an overview of some of the practical skills and knowledge needed to start a media project of your own, and more!

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji – The Politics of Publishing in the Peak Magazine

Shabina is a collective member at the Peak Magazine which is a publication that focuses publishing under reported voices and perspectives within and beyond Southern Ontario. The Peak stands behind an anti-oppression analysis that values social justice and liberation
for all people.

Bill Hulet – Filling the Gap in the News: “The Guelph Back-Grounder

Bill Hulet has a long history in Guelph. He has organized rent strikes, municipal election campaigns, organized OPIRG’s “Public Interest College”, participated in the planning of the Grand River Watershed Congress, sued Walmart on behalf of the St. Ignatius Jesuit Centre, wrote a weekly column for three years for “the Guelph Mercury”, and much more. He currently devotes most of his time to “The Guelph Back-Grounder”, which is an on-line news magazine devoted to in-depth stories about on-going local issues.  

Frank Lopez – SubMedia: On Two Decades of Anarchist Media Production

Frank Lopez aka “The Stimulator” has been making explosive anarchist videos since the early 2000s. Together with his collective subMedia.TV, he recently launched the new documentary show Trouble.

Exploring Intersections Between Feminism, Poverty, the Environment, and Animal Rights

How does the exploitation of animals relate to other struggles and systems of oppression?  Where do animal rights fit in within feminism, anti-poverty activism, and environmental justice?  This panel is hosted by Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights based student club on campus. It explores commonalities and the complexities in these intersecting activisms, from the objectification of bodies and exploitation of workers in animal agriculture, to the negative impact it has on land and water; from social, class and environmental factors determining dietary options, to opportunities to both contribute to food sovereignty and protect the environment and those we share it with.

Lisa Le – Food and Feminism

Lisa Le is a passionate feminist, marvellous photographer & makes wonders in her plant-based kitchen. She runs the successful blog and YouTube channel “The Viet Vegan” sharing recipes from both her Vietnamese roots and her Canadian favourites, all veganized. Be sure to give her a follow and check out her delicious eats!

Bella Harris – Health, Culture, and Poverty: How veganism impacts marginalized people

Bella Harris is a queer POC vegan who spends a majority of her time in volunteer positions on campus. She is currently a CSA board member, a coordinator at Guelph Queer Equality, a Multi-Faith Resource Team Faith Ambassador, Events Coordinator for Guelph Secular Humanists, and sitter on many committees. Her passion lies with mental health support, social justice through equity, and puppies (pictures may be provided upon request of her dog; it’s named Science.)

Lauren Sirrs – The Link Between Diet and Environmental Impact

Lauren Sirrs is a student at the University of Guelph studying Environmental Economics & Policy. She is extremely passionate about sustainability & veganism, advocating for the health of our planet and all the individuals who share it.  Through her Co-op placements, she has been able to be involved with many environmental initiatives across Ontario.

This panel is organized by Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – an animal rights based student club on campus. They work to acknowledge the exploitation of non-human animals used for food, clothing, entertainment, research, and companionship, while also considering the broader social context.

Combatting the Right: The Politics and Practices of Anti-Fascism Across Cities

Both locally and abroad, the Right has been on the rise. (Neo)fascist organizing has been spreading with the growth of established nationalist organizations and the formation of new groups, while forces of the so-called “alt-right” have been popularizing ideas of white supremacist misogyny. In response, anti-racists throughout the region have been fighting back. How can we understand our current moment? In what ways are people resisting? What does anti-fascism look like in different places? This panel will discuss the practicalities and possibilities for building anti-fascist resistance in, across, and between diverse cities.

Wendy Goldsmith – Organizing Against the Rise of Fascism in London, Ontario

Wendy is a mom of three amazing kids, a social worker and a social activist. With People for Peace London she has been organizing against the rise of fascism in London, known to be a hotbed for right wing extremist activity, racism and Neo-Nazism.

Scott Thorn – Anarchist Engagements with Anti-Fascism in Hamilton, Ontario

Scott is a longtime anarchist and anti-fascist organizer based in Hamilton, Ontario. He has been involved in a variety of different formal and informal projects aimed at challenging right wing politics, including cultural events, educational initiatives, demonstrations, and community organizing.

C – Anti-Fascist Organizing in Toronto, Ontario

C started organizing actions after hate crimes increased following the last US election. They are a long-time resident of Toronto and a member of both IWW-GDC 28 and SAFE [Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere]. In addition to confronting fascists directly, they do community work, including serving hot meals at a safe injection site and distributing donated food to community members.

Complicating Diagnosis: An Introduction to Disability and Mental Health Justice that Challenges the Narratives of Diagnosis

Everything from the language we use, to the way we view others, to whose voices are prioritized, are dictated by who we do and do not see as productive and desirable. Participants will discuss the different models of disability and summarize how histories around disability diagnosis and mental health both perpetuate and challenge the current ways we understand and engage disability. This workshop not only introduces these topics, but gives space to discuss and deconstruct some of the ways in which ableism is prevalent in all spaces today.

Hannah Monroe is a Master’s student at Brock University. For her thesis she interviewed people on the autism spectrum about their identities and autism in culture. Her work is being published in the upcoming Emerging Eco-ability Voices: The Personal to the Political of the Entanglement of Animals, Disability, and Nature.

Kerry Duncan is a community-educated queer family caregiver and activist, with an academic-leaning mind. She has worked with uOttawa students’ union, OPIRG-Ottawa, and CUPE Local 4943. Based in St. Catharines, Kerry divides her time between supporting her brother, working with OPIRG Brock, pursuing freelance political consulting, workshop facilitation, and writing.

Framing Climate Change: Working Towards Climate Justice in Uncertain Times

How do we think about climate change? How do we conceptualize climate justice? What are the frameworks that inform our actions and guide our engagements in ecological struggle? This panel will introduce different theoretical approaches to thinking about climate change and discuss their practical implications. It will present examples of on-the-ground struggles, discuss the connections between environmental struggle and other social justice issues, and look at both the challenges and potentialities facing the climate justice movement today.

Sam Popowich – What can Marx tell us about Climate Change?

Marxism provides a theory of interlocking struggles which I hope to show can help us fight against the exploitation of capitalist economics, the real presence of man-made climate change, and other forms of power and domination. In this talk, I will look at how Marxism can help us connect ecological struggles with other social-justice issues.

Sam Popowich is an academic librarian at University of Alberta, and a Marxist.

Cedar – An Anarchist Approach to Climate Change

The choices we make about how we frame the issue of environmental destruction influence the kinds of responses we consider. Climate change is only one possible way of understanding this, and because it’s based around complex technologies we can’t access and understands the problem on a global scale, it gives the power to a tiny cast of scientists and to the only groups prepared to act globally — governments and big corporations, exactly those who created the problems. If we reclaim our ability to analyze ecological destruction and use this as a starting point for our politics, we can build a response to this destruction that gives us back our agency.

Cedar is an anarchist who lives in Hamilton, Ontario and who was a member of the Knowing the Land is Resistance collective that produced, among other things, the text ‘Towards an Anarchist Ecology’.

Orka – Environmental Justice Means Dismantling Canada

Although there has been a recent push to protect the water and the land, these lands have already faced centuries of exploitation for the benefit of the settler colonial state. As we face disaster in the wake of blatant disregard for the world around us, we must make fundamental shifts to the way we relate to each other and the land. Resource extraction is intricately tied to white supremacy and patriarchy, and the ongoing colonial occupation of this land. This talk will draw on experiences from the front lines of resistance across Europe and Turtle Island about how to dismantle and disrupt the settler-colonial state, while protecting the environment and building resilient communities.

Orka is perpetually a visitor on unceded Indigenous territories, working to do his best to understand and uphold his responsibilities. He is from Kutch through East Africa, and is a gardener, natural builder, DIYer, tree punk, sailor and language holder. He is currently focusing on gaining medical skills to work towards community healing and resiliency in the face of ecological collapse.

Students Against Injustice: Tactics of Boycott and Divestment in Higher Education

How are universities complicit in injustice? In what ways can the realm of higher education be conceptualized as a key site of resistance? How can students organize to put pressure on oppressive industries, institutions, and regimes? This panel considers the tactics of boycott and divestment on university campuses and beyond. Speakers will present on how universities – their research and investments –  further environmentally destructive practices and support human rights abuses, and discuss ways in which this might be challenged.  It will specifically cover questions related to climate change and fossil fuels, and Israeli apartheid and Palestinian liberation.

Ossian MacEachern – Against the Military-Industrial Complex: Research and Divestment at the University of Waterloo

Ossian MacEachern is is a student and poet currently residing on the traditional territory of the Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Neutral peoples (Kitchener-Waterloo). They attend Wilfrid Laurier University, in pursuit of a Master’s in history. The academic side of their life focuses on the medieval and Renaissance history of gender and sexuality. At the moment, the rest of their life is wrapped up in spoken word, yarncraft, building connections within their local trans community, and being woken up unnecessarily by their cat. In the summer of 2016, Ossian was the Peace Advancement Researcher for WPIRG. The role involved investigating the links between the University of Waterloo and the military-industrial complex, with the intention that it would be the foundation for a potential demilitarization campaign. Over the course of their time at WPIRG, they found particular links in the realms of information security and defence. These interests were primarily industrial, though there were also definite Canadian and US military ties to the university. Funding, research projects, and co-op opportunities were all found to be implicated in the system. Though there has not yet been a full-fledged campaign, Ossian will be speaking to the nature of their research and the role that work plays in divestment.

Hamman Farrah – Students Against Israeli Apartheid: The BDS Struggle at York University

Hammam Farah is a Palestinian Canadian activist, psychoanalytic therapist in training, York alumnus, and co-founder of Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA York). In 2013, SAIA York’s BDS victories at the student union level and the protests that accompanied them culminated in the revocation of SAIA’s club status and a year-long trespass notice issued to Hammam by the York administration. A year later the popular YU Divest campaign was launched and SAIA was back in the campus headlines. Hammam will speak about these events, their historical background in relation to the anti-war and free-speech movements, and the lessons applied in the aftermath of what the campus newspaper was too quick to call “The End of SAIA” https://excal.on.ca/the-end-of-saia/

Fossil Free Guelph – Challenging Fossil Fuel Investment at the University of Guelph

Elizabeth Cyr and Megan Peres are University of Guelph undergraduate students and members of OPIRG’s Fossil Free Guelph. Fossil Free Guelph believes that “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage” and the group has for years been demanding that the University freeze any further investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest from fossil fuel companies completely in five years. Their campaign resulted in the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Special Action Requests, who submitted a recommendation not to divest. In a very rare move the Board of Governors did not accept the recommendation, instead asking for more time to consider Fossil Free Guelph’s position. Megan and Elizabeth will speak about the companies U of G is invested in, the different arguments and organizing methods Fossil Free Guelph has used in their campaign as well as the responses to them, and their thoughts on the successes they’ve achieved and the challenges they’ve faced.

Co-opting Struggle: Non-Profits as Impediments to Radical Resistance

This workshop considers how the non-profit industrial complex, the social services industry, and academia all act to hinder rather than help radical struggles. It looks at how these institutions consolidate power over and work to depoliticize grassroots queer, trans, BIPOC, and homeless activism. Mapping out the current terrain, it will touch on the role of neo-liberalism, discuss the “professionalization” of resistance, and present strategies to resist co-optation and rebuild politicized communities.

Abuzar is an informally educated trans woman of color who has been homeless and a sex worker. She has organized protests and events against the corporatization of Shelters, Homeless “Services”, Queer and Trans spaces, Pride/Dyke March/Trans March, the Trans Flag-Raising at Toronto City Hall, Police and Military presence in queer and trans spaces, and deradicalization by conservative/right/white-centric queer, trans, and racialized people. She has also organized community-building events, nudist events, and events to prioritize creating restorative/transformative justice spaces, accessible spaces, and social spaces for trans and homeless people. She’s currently living in toronto in stable housing, and would like to meet and connect with people to explore new ways of building inclusive, caring, and revolutionary communities.

Acknowledging the Land While Doing Climate Change/ Environmental Justice Work: How & Why We Do It

Join Guelph Anti Pipeline ( GAP) for a facilitated workshop on the importance of land acknowledgements specific to environmental justice work. Advocating for the land and water is an anti-colonial struggle, not simply an environmental one. Our anti fossil fuel and climate change organizing here on Turtle Island must always be grounded in the recognition of a legacy of settler land theft and colonization, but how do we do that in a meaningful way? Land acknowledgements – the practice of verbally recognizing the historical and current territories of Indigenous nations – is one tool in many. This workshop will teach you why we read land acknowledgements at the beginning of meetings/events/ spaces, how to write one for your own group/events, and how to move beyond these valuable statements in order to ground our anti-colonial solidarity in real action. While open to everyone, we will specifically be speaking to the responsibility of settlers in better understanding and acknowledging the land we occupy in our organizing work. This workshop will be facilitated by Michif-Cree presenter, Jaydene Lavallie, and GAP organizer, Sarah Scanlon.

Jaydene Lavallie is a Two-Spirit Michif-Cree woman with mixed French, Scottish, and Swedish heritage. She currently lives in Dish with One Spoon Territory (Hamilton, ON). She maintains the importance of grassroots organizing and supporting a diversity of tactics which include direct action as a way to bring about collective liberation.

Sarah Scanlon is a white, queer, gender non confirming, feminist/anarchist settler. She currently lives in, and is participating in the ongoing occupation of, Attawandaron Territory ( Guelph, ON). She is a long time organizer whose work is focused on Anti Fossil Fuels, Indigenous Solidarity, and challenging Gender Based Violence, and the intersections between these struggles.

Sexism Armed: Gender Violence and the Barriers to Justice

How does sexual and gendered violence operate across different spaces? How is it experienced by those who are impacted? What are barriers to addressing gender violence and getting justice? This panel looks at the lived experiences of those who are survivors of gender violence, and discusses the various ways in which sexism is institutionalized and violence perpetuated. Drawing on diverse case studies, it will cover topics such as: violence on post-secondary campuses and rape culture; intimate partner violence, self-defence, race, and police discrimination; and intersectional and anti-carceral approaches to addressing sexual violence

Magdalena Martinez – Reinventing Gender in Engineering: Rape Culture and the University Party at the University of São Paulo in São Carlos, Brazil

As part of my Master’s Thesis, I conducted a four-month ethnographic study at the University of São Paulo in São Carlos (Brazil) with female engineering students. I attempt to show, on the one hand, the ritualization of gender roles on campus, and, on the other hand, female students’ negotiations of gender roles. In this presentation, I look at the dynamics of university parties in relation to rape culture.

Magdalena is a PhD student in Higher Education at OISE. She holds a Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Concordia University and an Honours Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. Currently, Magdalena is a research assistant for Dr. Sá on a SSHRC-funded project on academic collaboration between Canada and Brazil.

Priyanka Patel – A Look at the Policing of Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

With growing reliance upon police intervention to curb intimate partner violence, there has been an increase in the number of abused women arrested both alone and with their partners for their use of self-defence or retaliatory violence. This research explores how abused women understand and contextualize their use of violence within intimate partner relationships and how police officers comprehend and respond to women’s use of violence within intimate relationships.

Priyanka Patel is a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa. Her current research explores law enforcement interactions with abused women from marginalized communities. Her research interests include: critical race studies, gender and women’s issues, and systems of law and social control in regulating criminal behaviour.

Ellie Adekur Carlson – Silence is Violence

This presentation will speak about Silence Is Violence​, an experientially led​ ​collective addressing sexual assault on college and university campuses through peer support, social and political advocacy and direct action at the University of Toronto.

Ellie Adekur Carlson​ is a Geography PhD student, labour activist, co-founder of Silence Is Violence, and published author in several major platforms and the recent book​ ​’Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up?’

The Political Ecology of Food Security: Towards Sustainable and Just Food Systems

What are the environmental and social impacts of our food systems? How do particular food industries operate in unsustainable and otherwise destructive ways? What are some strategies for promoting sustainability and furthering food justice? This panel will look at the issue of food security through a broad lens that considers its ecological, political, and social dimensions. It will outline problems associated with specific industries in relation to environmental destruction and human rights, and discuss alternative food systems, sustainability, and other future possibilities.

Emily De Sousa – The Food Security Problem that No one is Talking About

This presentation will look at the issue of food security through the lens of the seafood industry. It will explore the unsustainable fishing practices occurring around the world that are depleting ocean fish stocks and threatening the livelihoods of coastal communities. This presentation will focus on the environmental and ecosystem level repercussions of unsustainable seafood, as well as the associated human rights violations, and provide solutions for sustainable seafood consumption.

Emily is a third year environmental governance student at the University of Guelph, an environmental activist, a passionate ocean lover, an entrepreneur, freelance writer, and public speaker. She is the founder of the sustainable travel blog “Airplanes and Avocados” which discusses sustainable travel options and marine conservation issues. Emily has paired her academic focus in environmental policy with her love for the oceans to travel the world as a digital storyteller, documenting climate change in real time in order to translate environmental issues into digital media projects such as photos, videos, and short blog posts. In addition, Emily does a lot of work on campus. She is a member of the Sustainability Week planning team and the campaign coordinator for the “Tap In” campaign at the University of Guelph which is fighting to end the sale of water bottles on campus.

Kelly Hodgins – “We are a business, not a social service agency”: Exploring alternative food businesses and food access for low-income consumers

This presentation looks at the shortcomings of the “alternative” food system (farmers’ markets, health/specialty foods, local food hype), and its role in perpetuating inequality in Canadians’ access to healthy, fresh foods. A major issue with this food system is that participation is contingent on consumers’ budgets. In this light, the popular notion of voting with your dollar to support an earth-friendly, healthy, alternative food system can be seen as a rather undemocratic process. Applying a food justice lens, this research explores the unethical aspects inherent in the rise of this new, purportedly “ethical” food system.

Kelly Hodgins was born in agriculture and raised on farms around the world.  Her understanding of community food security incorporates a deep understanding of farmer livelihood (in)security, but also environmental and political issues, social justice, and inequality.  These topics were woven together for her masters research into food insecurity in low-income communities in Canada. Kelly is committed to extending university research into community, and through her role at Arrell Food Institute, works with undergraduate and graduate students to create food/ag projects that have positive impact in community.

Danielle Boissoneau  – Food Sovereignty on Stolen Land

Interrogate your connections to the food you eat and the land you live on. Begin to question your ability to sustain yourself outside of colonial capitalism and the work that happens when the systems crash and burn.Food sovereignty can be many things, including a strategy in which Indigenous peoples reclaim space, in which structures of settler colonialism are diminished and where we can rebuild relationships with ourselves and the land. We’ll learn more about negotiating the spaces and the power dynamics in which we find ourselves, while also taking the time to understand why caring for seeds can be one of the most revolutionary things that we do.

Danielle Boissoneau is Anishnaabekwe from the shorelines of the Great Lakes. She likes to write poetry and enjoys developing strategy. You can find her in her garden, on the front lines to tar sands expansion projects or at home with her children. She’s a seedkeeper who upholds her responsibility to protect the land and water. Danielle is from the Old Turtle Clan.