Senior Instructor, Undergraduate Chair, Chair, Critical Studies in Sexuality
Faculty of Arts | Social Justice Institute (GRSJ)
The University of British Columbia | University of British Columbia Musqueam Territories / Vancouver
In the last 30 years, a powerful set of narratives consolidated around a set of beliefs and norms that stipulate that spaces could and should be safe. The “Safe Space” meme is organized on a narrative bedrock where affective comfort and belonging are treated as necessary outcomes for interaction in institutional spaces. Safe Space language is anchored to ideologies wherein the prime directive appears to tilt towards a corollary that institutional spaces could and should be safe spaces—safe spaces for free speech and a sense of belonging. The “safe space” meme brings with it a lot of unhelpful baggage including a failure to appreciate intersectionality as well as the likely importance of discomfort in social change projects. More recently, the rapid deployment of the “triggering” meme has intensified a set of “Safe Space” expectations hinged on remaining unaffected by difficult conversations.
This Workshop seeks to refashion the “safety” project in such a way as to build on diverse and often multiply marginalized social actors’ actual participation in networked institutional spaces and to recognize and leverage participants’ agency as producers of knowledge and practices, rather than to design and deliver ideological narratives that depoliticize engagement and that discipline desire and behavior.
We will review this terrain, explore these discourses and review queer pedagogical alternatives to the “safe space” meme that might provide an architecture of safer practices, an ethics of discomfort and a tolerance of being affected by the challenges of anti-oppressive work.