AFP Research Hub

What is your passion?  AFP faculty share their projects, interests, and passions. 

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Arthur Bakx (Adult Academic and Career Preparation)
What's in an Okanagan Wetland for large Wildlife? "80 percent of wildlife are either directly dependent on riparian ecosystems or use them more frequently than other habitats" (www.env.gov.bc.ca). This study features a wetland on a mountain ridge above Peachland. Over a period of eight months the visits of large mammals, including Black Bears and White-tailed Deer, were monitored. Methods include: (i) analysis of photographs taken by remote-sensing cameras, and (ii) interpretation of tracks and sign around the wetland. Results indicate that White-tailed Deer use the wetland in summer to cool off and play! In fall and winter, deer feed on shrubs, and find resting sites and shelter. Black Bears visit the wetland in late summer and early fall, and feed on insect larvae in logs. The wetland area may be an important stage for breeding and territorial behaviours. 

Rob Bittner (Interdisciplinary Studies)

Rob Bittner imageI am a researcher of literature for youth that features queer and transgender characters, and my doctoral research focused specifically on trans and genderqueer teen reading habits. The young adult (YA) genre of literature is rapidly expanding, and queer and trans protagonists and secondary characters are becoming more prevalent with each passing year. As YA literature is so incredibly responsive to sociopolitical events and activism there is a need for more scholarship that pushes for stronger and more varied representation of trans and queer teens.

Why makes my work rewarding? People who aren’t involved in children’s and youth literature sometimes see my work as unnecessary, but we learn a lot about the complexities of life through stories, and much of my research reminds me (and hopefully others) that stories change how we see the world. Teaching introductory courses in gender and women’s studies is incredibly rewarding, and including literature within my classes gives me the opportunity to see people realize that books can serve as an introduction to entirely new ways of thinking and being.

In my other research, with youth, I hear from teen readers that books have affected them and changed their lives. For my dissertation, for instance, I interviewed teen readers; one teen spoke about how he was able to come out as trans because of reading one of the novels featured in my literary analysis. It was incredibly moving. Hearing these accounts reminds me that stories have the ability to make us think outside of our own experiences.

I also blog, and currently work with, among others, the Association for Library Services to Children, the Young Adult Library Services Association, and the International Board on Books for Young People.  When I served on the Newbery Medal jury, I had the opportunity to have dinner with the incredibly prolific Kate DiCamillo (author of Flora & Ulysses, The Tale of Despereaux, and Because of Winn-Dixie), and it was amazing. That being said, perhaps one of the most memorable meetings (for other reasons) was when I met, and then sneezed on, Judy Blume. I’ll never forget that. I hope she has.

Norah Bowman (Interdisciplinary Studies and English) 

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In September 2017, I was an invited speaker at “World of Entanglement,” a conference at VUB, the Free University of Brussels, organized by the Centre Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA). I presented my paper “Resisting Settler-Colonial Extractivism: Indigenous Women’s Alternative Epistemologies in Canada.” In this paper I introduced my current project in which I intervene in the settler-state onto-epistemology. I propose that the Canadian settler-colonial state operates under a positivist framework in which Indigenous onto-epistemologies are dismissed. In April of 2018, I will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to work with a group of interdisciplinary scholars at the Mershon Centre for International Security Studies at Ohio State University.

Through this work I aim to produce a study of the onto-epistemology of the Canadian Settler State. I believe that, as Canada works through the Calls to Action for the Truth and Reconciliaton Commission, the methodology through which the state appraises knowledge - that is the way in which Canada decides what is true and valid about settler-colonialism and Indigenous existence – must change. I propose that quantum onto-epistemologies, as modelled by Wendt, by feminist consciousness theorist Karen Barad, and by other contemporary theorists, offers a way for settler-colonial thinking to shift in a meaningful way. As a settler-colonial academic, I am entangled in the power structure I am analyzing. I choose to study the colonial state, as I believe it is a responsibility to change. 

Amy Cohen (Anthropology)

I began building relationships with Mexican farmworkers in the Okanagan when I moved back to the area in 2009. In 2013, Elise Hjalmarson and I founded Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (or RAMA), an anti-co

Amy cohenlonial migrant justice collective which supports migrant farm workers in their struggles for dignity, community, and justice (www.ramaokanagan.org). In 2014, with the support of an Okanagan College Grant in Aid, I began work on an ethnographic research project that involved interviewing migrant men and women about their lives in Canada. The goal of this project was to highlight stories of the ways that migrant men and women resist their structural vulnerability and legislated inequality. I co-authored several papers with Elise Hjalmarson which present these stories and posit that despite finding themselves in situations of considerable constraint (due to federal immigration laws, their restrictive employment contracts, as well as arbitrary rules impose

d by employers), migrant farmworkers in the Okanagan Valley are resisting their oppression in subtle, yet powerful ways. We presented our preliminary findings in 2015 at the Latin American Studies Association Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I recently gave a paper, also based on this research, at the Precarious Work: Domination and Resistance conference in Seattle, organized by UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labour and Employment. 

I am currently embarking on a SSHRC-funded project that builds on my previous research as well as the previous research of my co-applicant Dr. Susana Caxaj who teaches in the School of Nursing at UBC Okanagan. The aim of this project is to better understand the social supports and barriers that affect the ability of migrant agricultural workers to participate fully in public or community life. This will be a multi-year project that will involve in-depth analyses of written texts and government policy, as well as interviews with migrant workers and individuals from organizations that 

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provide services and support to migrants. As both academics and activists, we hope that this research results in real improvements in the lives of migrant farmworkers in BC.  We envision that the results of this research could be of benefit to multiple sectors (health, social, economic) and levels of government because it will reveal gaps in services and opportunities to improve relevance and access for the migrant men and women who come to work in our fields and orchards each year.

Hannah Calder (English)

My name is Hannah Calder and I am a professor of English and Creative Writing at the college.  I am also the mother of a five year old daughter, a published novelist and poet, a literacy tutor, and an expressive writing facilitator. 

My current passion is offering writing workshops at Community Futures in Vernon.  I speak to groups of 16-30 year old at-risk job seekers in the Employ Program about the benefits of using writing to process thoughts and feelings during (and after) the job search period.  

Piranesi's Figures

As a creative writer and professor, I am interested in the many ways that we use writing to process and document our emotions. Writing down our thoughts and feelings gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we're going through, and hopefully figure out what we need to do to improve our lives.  Writing doesn't even have to be focused on the self to be therapeutic.  In my personal experience, writing fiction is just as helpful psychologically and emotionally as writing a journal entry.  

Writing helps us to see how far we've come or how lost we are or where we need to go next.   It's empowering to looore we speak".  It slows us down, makes us more mindful, and allows us to release our feelings in a safe, non-judgmental environment.   k back at an old journal and see that something that was once a dream has now become a reality. Having a regular writing practice is also a way to ensure that we "write before we speak". It slows us down, makes us more mindful and allows us to release our feelings in a safe, non-judgemental environment.

What I love most about writing therapy is that it can be done anywhere, anytime, with nothing more than a scrap of paper and a pencil.  Many of us can't afford the luxury of spending an hour on the therapist's couch, but what excuses can we make for not picking up a pen and writing in a journal?  Through my workshops, I hope to help others in my community to discover the benefits of using writing for self-improvement. Read the glowing review from the Vancouver Sun of Hannah's work here.

Corinna Chong

Corinna Chong (English)

As a professor for the Writing and Publishing program at Okanagan College, I dabble in a variety of creative disciplines, including graphic design, creative writing, and academic writing. I work with fellow English professor Sean Johnston to co-edit Ryga: A Journal of Provocations, a publication that showcases the creative work of poets, fiction writers, and playwrights from around the world. I also design the journal and manage the website: rygajournal.ca. We recently released a new chapbook of poems by Ellen Kombiyil, and are working on our ninth issue, which will be published this summer.

I am also in the process of writing my second novel, Bad Land. The novel is set in Drumheller, Alberta, and follows the story of a very cloistered and solitary woman who is confronted with the mysterious return of her estranged brother and his peculiar seven-year-old daughter. This summer, I plan to take a research trip to the badlands to gain a stronger understanding of the landscape and culture.

Visit my website for more information and updates: corinnachong.com

Howard Hisdal (History)

l gave a paper titled “An Okanagan Regiment takes the Centre of Vimy Ridge” at the “Vimy at 100: 28th Canadian Military History Colloquium” at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, on 6 May 2017.  The regiment from the Okanagan was the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles which is now perpetuated by the British Columbia Dragoons. I was an officer in the BC Dragoons for 18 years and retired from it in 2014 with the rank of captain. The regiment took La Folie Farm, the sHoward on a Tanktrongest part of the German position in the centre of Vimy Ridge, in 90 minutes on 9 April 1917 with the lowest casualties in the 3rd Canadian Division. I examined the British Columbian character of the regiment and asked the question: “What sort of person immigrates to British Columbia?” The answer is adventurous and innovative: qualities that lead to success in battle. Far too often we focus on bloody defeats in Canadian military history and the units that did well are given only a few lines in the official histories. It was refreshing and fun to do research in my field of history and to go to a national conference with fellow historians even if I was the only British Columbian presenting a paper. When I pointed out that the innovative and victorious Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie was best thought of as a British Columbian, the province that he had immigrated to before the First World War, rather than as an Ontarian, merely the province he was born in, the room was silent. I was deep in Ontario. I have included a photograph of me giving a thumbs up from a Cougar armoured vehicle.

Matt Kavanagh (English)

In February, I traveled to Paris to deliver a paper at “Fiction Rescues History”, a conference dedicated to the work of American novelist and playwright Don DeLillo (http://delilloparisconf.byethost12.com/). Of the approximately 30 scholars who presented their work, I was the only one from a Canadian institution. My talk focused on an intriguing archival find: while digging through DeLillo’s papers (which are on deposit at the University of Texas) I discovered a film treatment developed by the author of the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald. DeLillo would later go on to write about the assassination in Rolling Stone and dramatize the life of Oswald in the award-winning novel Libra. The film treatment, which was previously unknown to scholars, marks an early attempt to work through some of these themes in a different medium. I’m currently revising the paper for publication. This was the second international conference of DeLillo scholars where I’ve presented my work—the last one took place in New York in 2012.

In addition to my work on DeLillo, I have also recently conducted substantial interviews in Seattle with American novelist Peter Mountford (A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism and The Dismal Science) and in London with British novelist and editor at the London Review of Books John Lanchester Capital, The Debt to Pleasure, etc.). Both conversations touched on the challenges that neoliberalism poses to literary representation, particularly the ways in which novelists have taken up the challenge of representing finance in their fiction. This topic is of great interest to me—it is the subject of an ongoing, multifaceted project. A small part of it includes an omnibus review that I’m currently working on which examines recent criticism on the idea of “capitalist realism” in literary studies.

Xiaoping Li (Sociology)

In May 2017, I presented a paper at an international conference in Athens, Greece. The paper is based on a critical analysis of the Canadian news discourse produced by four commercial Chinese language media outlets in the fall, 2013.  Because of their size and corporate affiliation, these outlets, three dailies and one television station, are prominent players in the ethnic media sector in Canada. They serve primarily first-generation Chinese immigrants as a main source of information about Canadian current affairs.

In the field of ethnic media studies, ethnic media are seen as playing an important integrative role in Canadian society by informing their audience about the “host society” and enabling newcomers’ participation in the Canadian public sphere.  In some instances, they are conceptualized as alternative or even oppositional media because of their minority status and their marginal position in the national mediascape.  My analysis of the Chinese language news media discourse debunks the assertion that ethnic media inevitably offer alternative representations or counter-hegemonic discourses.  

Xiaoping pictureAfter combing through hundreds of news stories and commentaries published over a period of two months, I drew the conclusion that in terms of their general ideological disposition these media outlets are no alternative to mainstream Canadian media. This was reflected in their coverage of Canadian current affairs.  In fact, it can be argued that compared to mainstream media, Chinese language media outlets are more on the right of the political spectrum in Canada.  Clearly they are, some more than others, enthusiastic supporters of neoliberal economic policies and of the oil and gas industry.  Meanwhile, they gave little attention to environmental issues such as climate change and others associated with fossil fuel-based growth. Their coverage of protests against pipelines and fracking was rare and usually decontextualized. Some of my other interesting findings revealed that these media outlets have a tendency to make use of material fed to them by the Harper government, the Liberal Party and the BC Liberal government, rendering themselves, in effect, to serving these respective political institutions.

What should be noted is that in the past decade, the federal government and political parties as well as the provincial government in both Ontario and BC came to recognize that ethnic media outlets are effective conduits to reaching and influencing voters in ethnic minority communities with a large first-generation immigrant population.  Channels of communications were established to feed “information” on a daily basis to many ethnic media outlets, whether they are big and small.  Considering that to many citizens these media outlets do constitute a primary source of information about current Canadian affairs, I have great concerns about the implications of their reportage.

My plan to turn the presentation into a publication was derailed by a community project.  Last summer and fall I committed myself to the task of producing a new signage to commemorate  Chinese pioneers in Kelowna.  Utilizing a variety of sources, including old photos, newspaper clippings, reports authored by other researchers, original family letters for Chinatown residents dated between the late 1920s and early 1960s, and first-hand accounts of Chinatown life given by a former Chinatown resident, I wrote a background paper which allowed the staff in the Kelowna Heritage Museum to produce the sign text.  Then I worked with a local graphic designer, a computer engineering and former Chinatown resident Tun Wong on the design of the sign. The new sign was unveiled on October 21st.  It stands near the site of the historic Chinatown (attached is a photo of the sign). 

I aim at getting the paper out as soon as possible. I continually feel excited about the Chinese language media project and cannot wait to start my next paper, which will be an analysis of two media outlets’ coverage of the 2015 federal election. I have a lot of data. The challenge is to find time to write.    

Amy Modahl (Communications, Fine Arts and Linguistic Anthropology)

As an instructor in Communications at OC, I focus my research on visual and verbal communication.  In the fall of 2017, I turned my Kelowna office (A148) into a research hub called Art as Language Lab (ALL) online at (https://artlanguagelab.wordpress.com/ ).  My goal is to gather and contemplate relationships between visual and verbal language. Much of my own research output is visual because I’m also an artist working primarily in drawing, printmaking, and oil.  I currently show my artwork  under two identities.  As Officer Aj Dahl, I represent the fictional company AmCor Inc Deception Detection Services together with my collaborator Officer Idia (artist Corinne Thiessen).  We create humorous drawings and do interactive performances to uncover participant lies as a critique of state surveillance and discourse about deceit and “fake news.”  This project has exhibited at galleries in Calgary, Lethbridge, and Minneapolis and will be included in the 2018 performance festival Living Things in Kelowna (https://livingthingsfestival.com/artists/).  As Amy Modahl (www.amymodahl.net) I have a more varied practice.  In 2017 I exhibited at the Alternator Centre in Kelowna and at the Kelowna Art Gallery in solo shows and a group exhibition about artists who use drawing as a creative practice  (http://kelownaartgallery.com/drawing-from-life/). In all of these projects, I contemplate with materials, considering not just how form and design communicate, but I ponder the relationship between hand and materials, mind and medium.  My next exhibition, titled “Fold and Unfold” will be at the SAGA Public Art Gallery in Salmon Arm, BC, opening in April 2018.

 

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