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Sheryl Hamilton

Canada Research Professor in Communications, Law and Governance

I have three major projects currently underway:

  1. Living in Pandemic Culture
  2. Emotional Publics: Exploring the Cultural Life of Law in Canada
  3. Sensing Law

Living in Pandemic Culture is a project that I am undertaking with Co-Investigator, Dr. Neil Gerlach (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University), which explores the popular narratives through which we understand and navigate our contemporary environment of diseaseability. We postulate that there are important consequences to living in an environment where we are constantly being advised that we are under threat from pandemic (Ebola, West Nile Virus, SARS, Avian Flu, H1N1, H5N1, the Corona Virus, H7N5, etc.). We think that an important and under-studied site in which to examine how we are making sense of living in pandemic culture is popular culture. From the U.S. Centre for Disease Control’s zombie graphic novel designed to encourage pandemic preparedness, to the incredible popularity of pandemic apps for mobile phones where one takes on the role of devastating the human population, to the human and social devastation imagined by Hollywood films with A-list stars such as Contagion and World War Z, we are positing that a common pandemic narrative is emerging which is challenging the more familiar outbreak narrative through which we have previously understood our relationship with communicable disease. We are fortunate to have funding from Carleton University to undertake this project.

Emotional Publics: Exploring the Cultural Life of Law in Canada is a SSHRC-funded project which considers the important social, political and ethical role that certain high profile Supreme Court of Canada cases play in Canadian public life. The impact of cases like those of Omar Khadr, Henry Morgentaler, Robert Latimer, John Robin Sharpe, Sue Rodriguez, or Bill Whatcott do not stop at the doors of the courthouse.  Rather, these cases and, more importantly, their significant cultural life (in press coverage, docu-dramas, radio call-in shows, neighbourhood protests, advocacy websites, cultural ephemera such as t-shirts and posters, and so on) serve as a space for articulating moral positions, marking the boundaries of polity, and determining the inclusion and exclusion of different subjects.  I am currently working on a book manuscript which has been solicited by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Sensing Law is an edited collection project (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) which I am undertaking with four colleagues in the Department of Law and Legal Studies (Diana Majury, Dawn Moore, Neil Sargent and Christiane Wilke). The book will bring together fifteen authors, from three countries and eight disciplines to explore the ways in which law and the senses collide in interesting, troubling, and provocative ways. With topics ranging from the ways in which forensic nurses use all of their senses in the deployment of “rape kits,” to the changing nature of courtroom spaces and the presentation of evidence in the era of video-simulation evidence; to the emergence of forms of expertise in music plagiarism cases, to the mobilization of “sniffer brigades” in First Nations communities in order to collect evidence against transnational chemical corporations poisoning their environments, the collection promises to be a landmark text in the emergent area of law and the senses.

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