Yesterday at the 2016 CAP Conference, I was amazed and inspired by the work my fellow peers displayed and presented. They highlighted a variety of topic and issues, from palm tree deforestation and a questioning of the theory of modernisation, to working with the issue of who can, and should be able to speak for whom, in regards to minority groups in the United States.

In particular, I wanted to comment on and discuss Isabelle Semmelhack’s spoken word piece, “More Than Just a Story,” in which she spoke of the life of a past acquaintance, who suffered from and experienced the presence of systematic and institutionalised racism within the United States. I think her approach to the issue, and presentation were amazing, and think that her work links well into some discussion we had during our year in CAP, especially regarding representation and ethics, of which we discussed in our ASTU class recently.

I think the ideas of representation, misrepresentation, and ethics are important ideas to deal with and take notice to when speaking about issues regarding the presence of racism and marginalization, especially when speaking for and with a minority group, such as the black community as Isabelle spoke about. It seems that so frequently we are quick to combat any time an individual that is not part of a minority group speaks for a minority group; but I think an issue lies in this. If an individual is part of a minority group, and suffers from the silence and marginalization society places on them, then what are the chances they are going to be heard? It seems that at times, as Isabelle did, it is important to speak about, with, and for marginalized groups, because in many cases they do not get to speak out themselves, due to an oppressed state of being and the presence of a media system still containing racist undertones. Only a select few from these groups ever receive the ability to speak about issues regarding the racism still present in America, so it seems that in some cases, individuals not from that group should in turn be allowed to speak too, as any speaking out about these issues seem to be vastly better than not. Though the issues of representation and ethics arise, it seems that when speaking for and with a minority group, when done in a positive way, is influential for the better.

It has been interesting writing my final paper for ASTU, which works to analyze and take a look into the presence of autobiography in rap music produced by Joey BADA$$, Kendrick Lamar, and 2pac, as this medium seems to be very well suited to the speaking out about issues of institutionalized racism in the United States. It was great watching Isabelle’s spoken word piece, as it had strong ties to and correlations with the rap music produced today about similar issues. I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which Isabelle presented her project, as it highlighted a controversy that requires attention, while also providing a passionate and strong way of doing so.

This year has been fantastic, and I’ve had such an amazing time. Thanks everyone for making it so incredibly great, and thank you for the amazing class Professor McNeill!


Persepolis, Flamenco, and America

Today in class, we discussed the relations and correlations that can be drawn between the images and texts present within a graphic novel, with particular reference to Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Prior to our study of the images and texts present in this graphic novel, I questioned how much information and relations could exactly could be drawn from and between the two, but upon analysis of the text, we were able to discover a multitude of these relations.

One group in our class decided to do an analysis of the illustration and text done on page 77 of the text. This particular illustration displays the protagonist of the story, Marjane, or “Marji”, the author of the text, riding on a flying carpet with her parents through a black night, where swirls of white lines display what looks like wind, and buildings exhibit main attractions of Europe, such as the leaning tower of Pisa, the Coliseum, and the exterior of a building with clothes hanging on lines out the window. The group that analyzed this brought attention to a hidden figure within the swirls, that of a flamenco dancer. I wanted to take a closer look at this flamenco dancer. After doing some research online, I came across a few findings that displayed the relations and historical ties between flamenco and its Islamic roots. From an etymological approach, some scholars believe that the roots of Flamenco stem from the Arabic words felag mangu, which, in english, translates to “fugitive peasant”, and in turn is derived from a root meaning “to flee” (“Flamenco and its Muslim Connection”).This is interesting to me, as in this point in the book, Marji and her family are on vacation after having been attacked during a demonstration by Islamic revolutionaries. From another source, I found that Blas Infante, an Andalusian historian, argued that the term flamenco pertained to Moriscos, who are ethnic Andulasions of the Islamic faith (Infante), who joined the Roma newcomers in order to avoid being forced into exile, or suffering from religious persecution. During this period in time, extremist Islamic thought was being implemented within Iran, so, Satrapi may be drawing a correlation between this and her younger self fleeing the extremist thought present at the time.

Another series of graphics I found interesting were the ones on page 91, where Marji is spending time with the children of Mali, a childhood friend of Marji’s mom. In the illustrations they are heading to bed while discussing star wars. The interesting thing about this series of illustrations is the bed covers, which are designed like the American flag. On the prior page, the father of the children is discussing how much certain items he has purchased have costed for him, and is complaining about how they are all gone now, because of a bombing that destroyed their possessions. Marji’s dad is said to not have liked the materialistic ways of this man. Then, on the following page, with the discussion of Star Wars, I believe the idea of Western influence is being hinted at. Upon doing some research, I found that the US backed the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (“US-Iran Relations”) during the Islamic Revolution. This leads me to think that Satrapi included the American flag bedsheets to display US influence during the revolution, of which would have been viewed in a negative way by most who were participating in the revolution. Behind the beds is also an image of a bird, of which can be found throughout the book, such as on page 70, in the illustration of the newspaper displaying the death of her uncle. This bird could represent its traditional correlation, the idea of freedom, or could pertain to an element of the Islamic faith.

Both of these series of illustrations provide examples of how Satrapi correlates her illustrations and texts with deeper meanings and underlying abstractions/thought within the time period. I find the relations between illustrations and culture to be very intriguing, and I think there is much more room for study in this area.

Works Cited

“Flamenco and the (surprising) Muslim Connection.” A History Teacher in Andalusia. 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Infante, Blas, and Manuel Barrios. Orígenes De Lo Flamenco Y Secreto Del Cante Jondo. Sevilla: Junta De Andalucía, 1980. Junta De Andalucia. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. Paris: L’Association, 2003. Print.

“US-Iran Relations: A Brief Guide – BBC News.” BBC News. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

Life Narratives in Music

Looking at life narratives, and all the different forms they may take, whether it be counter-narrative, memoir, autobiogrpahy, or biography, similar elements and abstractions seem to be influential across the board. When Professor McNeill, our professor in ASTU, gave us the idea of writing this blog post about musicians, and the life narratives they produce, I thought it would be interesting to think about and look into not just the actual books and stories they write themselves, but songs they produce that in turn have a life narrative aspect to them, and relate to the abstractions we have studies in class.

When looking at songs produced by many of the popular artists of today, I see similar ideas to what we have been studying in class arise. Some examples of these are mis/representation, community, and silence. To see how these abstractions fit into the music scene, and in particular, the rap scene, I inspected two specific artists: Joey BADA$$, Kendrick Lamar.

Looking at the subjects and focal points of songs by Joey BADA$$ and Kendrick Lamar, talk about misrepresentation of African-American individuals and their mistreatment is uncovered. Here are some lyrics from the song “Like Me” by Joey BADA$$ that serve to illustrate these issues,

Cause every time I make a move they be sweating me
They want another black man in penitentiary

It’s even hard for that man standing next to me
Cause he could catch a bullet that was really meant for me

It’s like every step bring me close to destiny
And every breath I get closer to the death of me

I’m just tryna carry out my own legacy
But the place I call home ain’t letting me

Here, Joey attempts to uncover silences and display misrepresentations of black people in America, by bringing light to police brutality within his own life and community. Watching the music video (WARNING, explicit, clean version here), a part displays Joey being shot and killed by police officers, but then coming back to life. When he rises, he begins to walk the streets of New York City and sees all those that have been killed due to police shootings, bringing them back to life as he passes by. This song shares similarities to what Kendrick Lamar does in the first few lines of his hit song “Alright” (WARNING, explicit, clean version here),

Uh, and when I wake up
I recognize you’re lookin’ at me for the pay cut

But homicide be lookin’ at you from the face down

What Mac-11 even boom with the bass down

Here, Lamar references people looking at him for the “pay cut”, referencing the industry and its obsession with cash but not care, only caring about Lamar because of the money he returns to them due to what Schaffer and Smith would arguably describe as the commodification of his life (11). In the second two lines, he references police brutality and killings in America, speaking for the black community who is at more risk than any other racial group to be a victim of gun violence. Here, Lamar attempts to uncover what Carter would describe as a “forced silence” (Carter 218), which is created due to the presence of institutional racism in the US, or what Jennifer García and Mienah Sharif would describe in their article, ““Black Lives Matter: A Commentary on Racism and Public Health”, as “salient structural racism” (1). This forced silence is also a direct relation to the pressing issue of media representations and their dominant frames of focus (Jiwani & Young 902), which seem to still exclude, or portray black people in worse ways then white people, as seen in this article. What I find extremely interesting is Lamar’s acknowledgement of this silence, as he makes a reference to a Mac-11, a type of firearm, which is silenced. I believe the silence of the gun serves to reference the fact that black people in the states are in a state of silence.

These two songs serve as examples of the ability of artists to use music, lyrics, and film as a forms of life narrative, describing their own lives, while also those of a more general community. Other examples lie in an abundance of works, including more personal ones, such as King Krule’s Rock Bottom, Ceiling, and Cementality, which describe a multitude of internal struggles with his own mind (worth a listen), or in Bob Marley’s Crazy Baldhead, where he speaks more generally of his family’s history in America, and the slave trade.


Works Cited:

García, Jennifer Jee-Lyn, and Mienah Zulfacar Sharif. “Black Lives Matter: A Commentary on Racism and Public Health.” American Journal of Public Health 105.8 (2015): E27-30. ProQuest. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Jiwani, Yasmin, and Mary Lynn Young. “Missing and Murdered Women: Reproducing Marginality in News Discourse.” Canadian Journal of Communication 31.4 (2006): 895-917. ProQuest. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Schaffer, Kay and Sidonie Smith. “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights.” Biography 27.1 (2004): 1-24. JSTOR. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.


Following the presentations our classes produced, I was very impressed. I think the mediums in which the groups created their projects were very effective, each format gave me a great insight into the finished project. I found a particular interest in the infographic produced by Emily, Anna, Mishal, and Emma. It seemed that every element of the project was symbolic of, and greatly connected to the topic of which they studied, The Chung Collection. The Chung Collection was created to provide a background for Canadians into Chinese immigration, so they can better understand the “struggles and joys of those who have come before them” (The Chung Collection). I think that the infographic, displaying a railroad linked to a series of important events related to Chinese immigration, was extremely effective. Along with their work, I think the rest of the projects did a great job of displaying a gap they had uncovered within the archives.

For this week, I have decided to look at the skewed frame of focus of which media outlets consistently harness in order to place stories of marginalized peoples further in the margins, and evaluate how these frames seem to further isolate these groups from joining into a mainstream thought. After looking at the article, “When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims”, I was astounded by the ways in which media seems to portray white people who have committed, or are suspects of committing horrible atrocities, as better than black victims. I found that the prevalence of this phenomena relates into Jennifer England’s ideas of hyper-visibility and invisibility of which are discussed in Yasmin Jiwani and Mary Lynn Young’s article, “Missing and Murdered Women: Reproducing Marginality in News Discourse”. In this article, the idea of hyper-visibility is correlated with “deviant bodies” and invisibility is correlated with “victims of violence” (899). As seen in “When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims”, the ideas of hyper-visibility and invisibility can be taken to a new level, with invisibility being able to be linked to white suspects and killers, and hyper-visibility being able to be linked to black victims. In the cases seen in the article, even though black individuals were being displayed in the media not because of a crime they committed, but rather because they were victims, deviance was still in some way tied into the situation, making faults from their past hyper-visible. At the same time, the individual who was at fault for the crime, or murder in most cases, was often seen as invisible. In the case of the article about the shooting of Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr., the thoughts of the police officer who shot him were displayed, but only in positive light. Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr. received little acknowledgement, and what he did receive in the article was mostly thoughts from the police officer who thought he was going to steal two young girls, who were actually his daughters. Just the thoughts of the officer display how prejudice is present in our society, as prejudgment of Loggins was obviously present. Rather than any negative light being shed on the officer, he was swiftly moved past, as if invisible. If the officer were black, and the suspect were white, how would the situation have been displayed? Another example lies in the article about Julius B. Vaughn, who was found slain in his car at the age of 19. The article makes his past hyper-visible, displaying him as a deviant body, while investigations into who killed him are totally left out, invisible.

In these cases, even past acts by victims of violent crimes are displayed as hyper-visible, leading into their further marginalization, while white suspects and killers are in a way viewed as invisible, further leading to the marginalization of the black victims of many of these crimes, due to the medias negative focus on them. The presence of this issue in the media causes me to wonder how and in what way we will be able to make a change to the way marginalized groups are displayed in media. It seems that institutionalized racism is very much present and a real threat, but I’m hopeful that soon, hopefully with our generation, many of the issues of racism can be settled fixed.

Jiwani, Yasmin, and Mary Lynn Young. “Missing and Murdered Women: Reproducing Marginality in News Discourse.” Canadian Journal of Communication 31.4 (2006): 895-917. ProQuest. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.

“The Chung Collection.” The Chung Collection. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <>.

Wing, Nick. “When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims.” The Huffington Post., 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.


Upon my reading of Diamond Grill by Fred Wah, and looking at the website High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, created by Wah as well, I found some interesting correlations and connections. The one I found to be most interesting, whether it was intentional or not, was the similar conjuring of emotions both the book and website bring about, and the relation to a main point I think Wah attempts to get across in both.

Throughout Diamond Grill, Wah takes us as readers through a journey of what it means to be a “ChineseHYPHENCanadian” (Wah 178) in British Columbia. Writing about his experiences at his families restaurant, The Diamond Grill, Wah provides an insight into what it feels like to be in a position where he is consistently questioning his racial identity, as he receives reactions from others who question his being both Canadian, and Chinese. In his writing, which uses the technique of “prose poem” (Fitzgerald), Wah frequently switches the perspective of the speaker, contributing to an overall feeling of questioning, and what I would consider confusion at parts. Upon analysis of the book, this confusion seems to simmer down as scattered thoughts are aligned, but at first, I found that it really seemed to put me as a reader into the state of mind that he must possess with his questioning of self.
When looking at High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, the website he produced, similar feelings arise. The lack of “linearness”, as the viewer clicks randomly through an interactive poem, seems to really provoke feelings of displacement or confusion that seem to be similar to what Wah may be feeling in his own life. All of these sensations seem to tie into his analysis of the use of the hyphen, which he describes in the afterword of Diamond Grill. This analysis is interesting because through it he brings light to the “hybridity” (178) he possesses, and questioning of his racial identity. He highlights and argues that the hyphen creates a major problem for multiculturalism, due to its common correlation with “impurity” (178).

Wah’s ability to create and conjure these feelings of confusion and questioning in his readers and viewers within Diamond Grill and High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese makes me think of John Couser’s “rhetoric of emancipation” (44) which he discusses in his article “Rhetoric and Self-Representation in Disability Memoir”, and attributes to disability narratives. I have found that this rhetoric of emancipation can also be found in genres other than that of the disability narrative, like in, for example, Dany Lafferière’s The World is Moving Around Me, a postcolonial trauma narrative, and, as I will argue here, Wah’s Diamond Grill. From the afterword of Diamond Grill, it seems that Wah makes an attempt to free those possessing the “impure” hyphen of their stigma, by giving his readers a new perspective and position to look at the situation from. In a sense, he is attempting to emancipate mixed race individuals of the stigma, or unfair treatment they may receive. By presenting this idea to his readers, he is placing upon them a new role, that of the witness. This act of creating witnesses is similar to what Gillian Whitlock discusses in “Protection”, where she describes testimony, an alternate form of narrative, that “mobilizes painful emotions in its witness: shame, guilt, and responsibility” (84). In Diamond Grill, Wah seems to seek to create an audience who will become witnesses, by creating the feelings of questioning and confusion that I described earlier, in the hope that they will realize how he feels and stop themselves from stigmatizing individuals who are of mixed race.




Works Cited:


Couser, G. T. Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

Fitzgerald, Judith. “Fred Wah: A portrait in his own words (and a few others’).” The Globe and Mail. The Global and Mail, 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.

Laferrière, Dany. The World is Moving Around Me: A Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013. Print

Wah, Fred. Diamond Grill. Edmonton: NeWest, 1996. Print.

Whitlock, Gillian. “Protection.” We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights. Ed. Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 2014. Project Muse. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

Facebook: The Newspaper of the 21st Century, and its Role in Displaying Trauma Narratives

In a globalized world where stories are increasingly being sent through “global circuits” (Schaffer & Smith 7) such as the publishing market, and news sources such as BBC, and CNN, a new competitor has joined the scene: Facebook. As seen within recent major events, such as the shootings and bombings in Paris and Beirut, Facebook seems to be at the top of the game in delivering news to its audience, instantly. Though Facebook itself is not the  creating articles in regards to these traumatic happenings, it acts as a blank canvas for individuals looking to speak out about their own experiences in regards to these traumatic events. It is interesting to examine the role of this new form of media delivery, which in part acts as an orchestrator of voices, and also acts as a tool for individuals to share their version of the story.

Facebook is what I like to think of as the newspaper of the 21st century. It acts as an orchestrator of many voices, just as newspapers provide articles written by a variety of storytellers. The big difference is these storytellers no longer need to be professional journalists, but rather are the general public, serving to produce material that aids in the forming of their own personal life narrative. Individually, they use the format of Facebook to format what could be thought of as their own individual newspaper, sharing articles and photos related to their life, interests, political views, etc. As traumatic happenings occur throughout the world, these events hop to the top of the newsfeed, serving to be cases of front page articles sharing what the biggest events are in news right now.

While looking at the composition of the material I most commonly see on Facebook, I have noticed an increase in the amount of trauma narratives filling my newsfeed. For example, as I write this blog post, I decided to check what was happening on Facebook. Within a minute of scrolling through my newsfeed, I found a video displaying military attacks on ISIS, a picture of an ambulance rescuing individuals in the midst of a massive blizzard, and this article by BBC, bringing news to millions about anti-Islam rallies going on in Australia. Another example lies in the attacks that occurred in Paris that on November 13th, which instantly filled my Facebook newsfeed with images, videos, and stories displaying the horrible atrocities that had taken place. Here is an interesting article regarding how and which items arrive at the top of each persons newsfeed. These stories seem to both come in the form of narratives by individuals, and in the form of professionally produced works by major news sources. From seeing all of these trauma narratives, it seems to be that Facebook is no longer just a site for the developing of ones own life narrative, but instead has become a leading source in delivering narratives of trauma to world audiences.

In “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights”, by Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith, they bring light to Kirby Farrell’s “post-traumatic ‘wound’ cultures of postmodernity” (13), and the idea that Western culture has become desensitized to suffering. It would be interesting to investigate the role of this “desensitizing” to trauma in relation to Facebook, and trauma narratives being presented on the social media platform.


Works Cited

Schaffer, Kay and Sidonie Smith. “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights.” Biography 27.1 (2004): 1-24. JSTOR. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.

Eliminating Stigma Through Disability Memoirs

In contemporary Western society, the stigma surrounding people with disabilities produces false representations of disabled people than what they would like to portray. Focusing in on a type of life narrative, disability memoirs, G.T. Couser argues that these writings have the “considerable potential to [be] counter stigmatizing” (Couser 31). Through disability memoirs, individuals write with the goal of eliminating this stigmatization in a hope that they will remove the marginalization disabled people are subject to.

One form of disability memoir is described by John Couser as being a “rhetoric of emancipation”, which serves to “contest received attitudes about disability” (Couser 33). An example lies in Cockeyed, a memoir by Ryan Knighton, who works to provide a counter narrative using a humorist approach to his blindness, that works to eliminate stigma by giving readers of the book a look into the life of a blind man. Throughout Cockeyed, we see Knighton making his experiences with blindness accessible and relatable to everyone. Initially in his writing, he accepts the stigma surrounding blindness and disabilities, wanting nothing to do with it, and ignoring it as long as possible. This acceptance of stigma can make him seem more relatable to his audience, who, whether they realize it or not, may subconsciously accept the stigma surrounding people with disabilities (PWD’s) as well. But after having to adopt a cane, Knighton comes to begin accepting his blindness, while at the same time still accepting some of the stigma society has placed on disabled people. In his acceptance of the cane, it urges the audience to also accept the use of a cane, and accept blindness, eliminating the marginalization of individuals with disabilities in society. Another example lies in the works of Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and has proceeded to produce multiple short films describing his experiences. In DaSilva’s work, he produces short films outlining and describing his experiences living as a disabled person, in a world mostly designed for the non-disabled. His works provide his audiences with insight into the life of someone who struggles with everyday tasks, like walking up stairs. These works by DaSilva work to eliminate stigma by outlining the problems he encounters in everyday life, but showing that he is a completely normal and relatable guy, not someone to be marginalized.

Ryan Knighton and Jason DaSilva’s works don’t directly appeal to their non-disabled audience in a confrontational way, but rather seem to attempt to eliminate stigma by creating a relatable character. This relatable character works to stop non-disabled people from looking at disabled people so differently, simply urging them to view PWD’s as a peer and complete equal. Both Knighton and DaSilva were born with no idea they would develop these disabilities, again producing an element of relatability in their works. Having lived both the non-disabled, and disabled life, their audience has the ability to directly relate and make the transition with them.

As new disability memoirs are produced, it will be interesting to investigate the ways in which they make appeals to their audience, eliminating stigma surrounding people with disabilities.


Jason DaSilva

Jason DaSilva

Ryan Knighton

Ryan Knighton



Works Cited: Couser, G. Thomas. Signifying Bodies : Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. University of Michigan Press, 2009. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Life Narrative in the Political Scene

As an international student that came to Canada and UBC with no prior knowledge of Canadian politics, I feel a bit lost, not being too sure of which party I stand with. This is odd to me, because back home in the United States, I never really doubted where I stood politically, but now that I’m in a new country, I find myself with more political options, and therefore am unsure of where I stand. I thought it would be interesting to investigate the New Democratic Party, as they do not exist in the US, and are therefore a group I am unfamiliar with.

As I explored the NDP website, I clicked the link, “About Tom”, that would proceed to take me to a page containing the life story of the leading candidate of the NDP, Tom Mulcair. Mulcair presents himself as a family man, someone who grew up just as every other Canadian did, and who knows the struggles of the middle class. His story is similar to that of many, and it is his goal to get this message across. The life narrative he produces works to create a connection between himself and potential voters, swaying undecided, or other left-side voters to vote for someone they can relate to. Alongside the writing sit images of Mulcair, both in his personal life, and in professional life. Personally, I found this tactic to be very effective in making me feel good about Mulcair and what he stands for. Upon further investigation of the NDP website, I found a link labeled, “Tom’s Plan”. This link took me to a page where Mulcair provides insights into what changes he would make if elected to be prime minister. But inserted into this page are more small pieces of life narrative, where he describes the origin of his values, and talks more about his family. Mulcair’s tactic here seems to be, again, to make himself seem relatable.

When his use of life narrative is analyzed, I began to see connections to readings we have done in our ASTU 100 class by Gillian Whitlock and Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith. In Whitlock’s “Protection” and Schaffer and Smith’s “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights”, they work to create connections between the production of life narrative, and human rights discourse. Rather than writing to urge humanitarian movements though, Mulcair’s story works to inspire a movement in Canadian voters, hoping to get them to vote for him and the NDP. In Schaffer and Smith’s work, they study the commodification of life narrative, which they ultimately argue has become a form of “international currency” (Schaffer & Smith 11). But Mulcair uses life narrative as what I would describe to be a “political currency”, with his story working to get voters to feel as though they can strongly relate to him, ultimately leading to them voting for him. As I read through the website, I could feel his use of life narrative working on me, as I began to feel a connection to him and consider him more highly as someone I would vote for.

Overall, the use of life narrative in this political setting seems very effective, judging by the fact that I immediately developed a positive feeling for Tom Mulcair, and what he stands for.


Works Cited:

Schaffer, Kay and Sidonie Smith. “Conjunctions: Life Narratives in the Field of Human Rights.” Biography 27.1 (winter 2004) pp. 10-15. JSTOR. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.

Published by: University of Hawai’i Press.

Whitlock, Gillian. “Protection.” We Shall Bear Witness: Life Narratives and Human Rights. Ed. Meg Jensen and Margaretta Jolly. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 2014. 86-88. Scholarly e-book. 22 Sept. 2015.

Field Work

As I stand in the bookstore, all these faces look down upon me. Their wrinkles and restless eyes showing signs of the incredible tales they have to tell. Others have stood in this very same position, developing a sense of inspiration from all the amazing things these people have done, but instead,  I question; Why is it that their faces and stories make it on the bookshelves, while some others are forgotten? As Gillian Whitlock questions in Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit, “Who is getting to speak autobiographically, how, and why? To what effect? What becomes a best-seller, and what is remaindered or republished?” (Whitlock 14) When looking at all these faces on the shelves, I begin to see patterns lying in them. War survivors, refugee seekers, world changers, all of these people have something in common: they have overcome a challenge, and through it, impacted the lives of those around them.

One particular book that caught my eye was called Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan. Brain on Fire is a memoir following Cahalan’s struggle to recapture her identity after an autoimmune disease took control of her body and mind, wiping her memory and landing her in a hospital for a month. The cover contains a close up of the author, and a black title contrasted to a bright yellow background, which really works to catch the eye. Along with the title, there is a quote from NPR, praising the author for her incredible work, a subtitle reading, “My Month of Madness”, and a recognition stating that the book is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. The description of the book seems to be written in a rather vague way, as to make a prospective buyer more curious of what is inside. But when it comes to answering the questions Whitlock urges to analyze, observations arise. By looking at Brain on Fire and other life narratives, I found that most people who have the ability to get their work published are bringing something new to the table, while also, as I said above, overcoming a challenge, and impacting those around them. In the case of Brain on Fire, the author struggled with an illness called anti-NMDA encephalitis, a relatively new disease in the sense that it has not been studied in-depth in the past. This means the narrative could appeal to those in the medical field, along with those just looking for a thrilling read. But what really seems to draw the line between a popular piece, and one that doesn’t receive recognition, is the degree to which the content matters to those in modern society. A life narrative could simply be about discovering ones self through traveling, like in the case of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and make it big, because many people in modern society are on quests for self discovery as well, and this is what they and the rest of the market are interested in. A life narrative could be an incredible work of art, but it requires an audience that is interested in the topic in order to sell well in today’s competitive market.


Who am I, you may ask? The truth is, I am still unsure. My name is Blakely Ian Majella Browne, and I’m on a pursuit of self-discovery. I am a lover of adventure, experiences, and knowledge, for I feel that these things help shape who we are as people, allowing us to grow and in some way give back to the world and global community we are so blessed to be a part of. I have a desire to live the most full life I can, and that is why I have come to UBC; to begin a journey that will prepare me for anything I encounter in life.

The journey so far has been wildly different from what I imagined it would be. Growing up in a small town of only 2000 people meant I knew everybody. But when I moved here to study at UBC, in Vancouver, British Columbia, I didn’t know a single soul. The transition was a bit difficult. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds to develop a new sense of community. But as the weeks pass, I have begun to feel more and more that I am becoming part of a group of like-minded people, who all share a passion for living life.

As a student at UBC, I have come bearing questions. Haven’t we all? I mean, that is the core reason of why we are here. To expand our knowledge base, finding the answers we so desperately seek. Each discipline has its own questions, but, what I truly seek and hope to gain insight into is how do they relate? It seems that so frequently we get caught up in a single aspect of our studies that we forget to question how it relates to the real world, and to other disciplines.

When it comes to our Arts Studies course, and the Global Citizens stream of the Coordinated Arts Program as a whole, I see an opportunity to reveal answers to which I have always had questions about. Through our study of life narrative, I seek to discover, for example, why some people’s stories and life experiences get heard, while others do not. Who are the unsung heroes that never make the big leagues? An example of one of these people is Norman Borlaug (, a highly respected environmentalist and agriculturist. But unlike many other famous people in the sciences, Borlaug was someone who never quite got the fame he deserved. Borlaug effectively saved a billion lives between 1966 and 1967 when newly independent India was on the brink of collapse after the death of Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, by teaching sustainable farming techniques that aided in the feeding of the population. ( I find it interesting that such an influential person is an unknown entity to most of the world, and I am sure that there are much more like him.

Coming to the end of this first post, I can’t help but be excited for the amazing journey ahead.


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