Supriya Ryan is Graduate student in Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, at Simon Fraser University located on unceded Coast Salish territories. She is currently enrolled in SA 875: Graduate Seminar in Ethnographic Methodologies, taught by Prof. Dara Culhane. In the following three pieces, Supriya explores various writing styles and techniques inspired by assignments from ‘A Different Kind Of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies’, edited by Denielle Elliott and Dara Culhane.
[From CIE blog moderator: Supriya sent us beautifully formatted experiments but our platform is limited in formatting.]
Assignment 5: Interview/Conversation Project Poem
The civil rights movement, women’s movement, trans movement, queer movement, Indigenous sovereignty movements and working class and labour movements, all contributed something new to a changing socio-political landscape and the upheaval of American society during the 60’s and 70’s.
My focus is the women’s movement. More specifically, when I began working in the non-profit sector in my early twenties, I learned that Women Centres (distinct from women’s shelters) operated from a feminist perspective and maintained that women have the right to equal access of society’s resources, fairness in the administration of justice and safety and security of their person. One of the first women’s centres – Vancouver Status of Women – was established in 1972 with an aim to improve the social, economic and political status of women, to advocate self-determination in all aspects of their lives and freedom from all forms of discrimination. By 2003, there were 37 women’s centres across BC supporting women with issues ranging from financial independence, health, housing, navigating legal systems and intimate partner violence. As this network grew, so too did the fast-burning wildfires of neoliberalism. Spreading across the welfare state, neoliberal policies eventually turned the radical endeavors of 60’s and 70’s movements, to ashes. Finally, in 2004 the provincial government cut 100% core funding to all 37 women centres in BC, saving the government $1.2M annually. This poem is a fictional account of the struggle to establish and legitimize the presence of women’s centres, their subsequent mass closure and the vacancy of left behind.
Battle of the Big Guns: The Campaign Toward Building Safe Spaces
Taking down the Master’s House using the Master’s Words
She was drop-dead gorgeous with a killer smile and dynamite legs, but never learned to take a hit. He told her to roll with the punches, until finally, knocked-up and broken-hearted, she left the son of a gun and hit the road in the dead of night.
Weary, at the end of her rope, a thousand sisters appeared, fired-up and ready to rally the troops. We were ‘vanguards of peace’, we told ourselves, and came to the table, guns blazing, armed with bullet-point facts, cutting-edge tactics and ruthless cutthroat competitiveness. We would tear down stereotypes and myths, demand all-women’s spaces – many spaces. Our argument packed a punch and we nailed it and women’s spaces across the province sprung up like weeds.
We spent the next three decades biting the bullet, working tirelessly under the gun, with backbreaking hoursto meet arbitrary deadlines, we spent more time surviving funding crises than supporting her. What kind of workforce labours just to keep its head above water? We are drowning in paperwork. What did we think was going to happen? That we could ride shotgun down the beaten path to freedom?
Then they came back screaming bloody murder. They said we were just ‘shootin’ the breeze’, killing time and that we were loose cannons, shooting off our mouths, not being pushovers but picking our battles carefully and they wanted it under control. Push came to shove and the dollar won. Even though they were already making a killing and getting away with murder – cheating the system with financial loopholes and tax cuts. They were still not getting enough bang for their buck. Unless our bodies (or spaces) were exceptionally exploitable, we were deadweight.
So – what now? What do we shoot for now? What’s our next big break? No joke – because there’s no punchline – we are smack in the middle of incorporation or erasure and much of our initiatives are dead in the water. Did we shoot ourselves in the foot by demanding in the first place? Maybe we should have funded it all ourselves, this could have softened the blow. But how do we talk about safe spaces …now that we are homeless?
Assignment 3: Ethnographic Haiku
ethnography of an escalator
we are assigned one
platform to travel only
an awkward human
means of adjusting
sharp steel teeth
glide us fluidly along
cycling folding stairs
assorted scents of
cold metal flesh and human
brief glances exchanged,
itself and parts ways
a glass escalator
will indeed distort the course
of your brief journey
do not let the last
step throw you, anticipate
Assignment 2: ‘Noticing’ Photo Journal
“Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary “.
– Anzaldua, Borderlands
I took these photos with my iPhone 6 and edited, cropped and added filters to them using the Camera+ app on my phone. I chose to focus on capturing images of fences and gates—the arbitrary borders of separating and dividing spaces. I used black and white compositions to represent the dichotomy between open/public spaces and closed/private spaces.
I went for walks, drove around and explored new neighbourhoods, and on occasion, took a couple pictures when something stood out to me on my routine journeys around the city. I am struck by how much city space is relegated for private use. I found myself taking pictures quickly even in “public” spaces as to not look suspicious. I am not sure what would be suspicious, but I felt noticed as I snapped random photos of locked gates and unwelcoming fences.
Places I captured images from include Gastown; my high school baseball field in North Burnaby; a field near Ashcroft, BC which was spared by the recent wildfire; the Main Street overpass; a Ferry to Bowen Island; and a lookout at Lonsdale Quay park.
The questions that riddled my mind include a curiosity about how we separate our spaces and who gets to decide these divisions? It is hard to say whether any of these gates/fences are to keep certain people in or to keep others out. Perhaps a combination of both. My mind also considers whose hands made these stairs, dug up the soil, poured the concrete, secured the rails, or carefully positioned the stones or bricks? Who built the borders cutting through these otherwise open spaces? And what is the relationship between those who built the structures and those who access the private/public spaces?
I think of the land – and what it says about being poked and prodded into human order. I think of the concrete poured over breathing soil, and spikes stabbed into landskin, choking and scraping the surfaces of a presumed inert earth
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
After reading the article, ‘Culture on the Ground’, (Ingold, 2004), I reflected over the photos I had taken, and one photo is distinctively different than the others. For it is through feet I allow the energy of the earth to rise through my body. The only place I could be barefoot and thus, it is my favorite of these images. I suppose it may be because the rest of the photos are all in urban spaces. Instead, this image is the only one that captures a wide, open country and includes a thin prickly band of metal and wood as a reminder that someone, somewhere is still calculating the ownership of vast landscapes.
Still, I felt soft earth below my feet and the soft tickle of fresh grass between my toes. Plus, this image is beautiful to me, except for the subtle threat of violence is more visceral than in the other photographs I captured. No one seems to be around for miles, yet the barbwire here looks sharp and hostile. If I did hop this fence for whatever reason, would it really be necessary to physically harm me? It did not even look like it was protecting anything, no buildings or animals, just a thin line of metal threatening violence should I choose to enter a section of grassy land on a small hill in the Chilcotin valley. I leave confused and curious but with the vibrant feel of earth under my self. I drove home barefoot that evening.