(Re)Telling Sexual Stories – A Postdoc Project, Ryerson University (Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation, 2012-2014)
(Re)Telling Sexual Stories was an activist-scholarship and public engagement project to communicate, translate and disseminate new knowledges from my doctoral research outside of the academy to disabled people, their organisations, and communities. Carried out within my postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada (2012-2014), the project conceptualised (and theorised) the communication of knowledge as a form of social, political, and economic justice. Thus, I worked to communicate research findings within multiple public spaces: disabled people’s own communities; specialist and mainstream media (print, podcast and national radio); online and social media spaces; and wider communities, including practitioner and professional contexts.
This project was situated within the realm of public sociology; a sociology of and for the people: a form of social inquiry which values a reciprocal relationship with its public audience. It positions publics not only as the impetus for inquiry, but is ultimately accountable to publics to transfer ownership of scholarly-produced knowledges to public arenas, spaces and politics (Burawoy 2013). Part of this work involved a more direct community engagement – a form of ‘organic public sociology’ (Burawoy 2013). Burawoy (2013) defines this (without any hint of his own elitist irony!!) as ‘taking sociology to the trenches’. I view it, however, more along the lines of Goldberg and Berg (2009) who suggest that is really just applied sociology: sociologists using their expertise to participate more actively in public and community life.
Thus, I worked on two related projects within local Toronto-based disability communities. The first was as Director of Education and Awareness for The Rose Centre for Love, Sex and Disability, an organization which strives to create user-led safe spaces for young disabled people in the City of Toronto to talk about sex/uality, parenting, intimacy and pleasure, and sexual health. The second was as a lead on the (continuing) Discovering Disability Project, a community-based collaboration designed to offer disabled young people opportunities to re-frame and rethink disability through film. Centred on the vivacity and value of disabled lives, the project invites young disabled people to contribute what they love and desire about disability in order to disrupt dis/ableist narratives of youth/disability which render disabled young people as lacking vitality and future; as mere ‘environmentally vulnerable travellers on a biologically determined road to adult status’ (Priestly 1998: 208). I am currently still working on this project from the UK.