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Transforming safety

Transforming safety

Jin Haritaworn

Thanks to the Movement for Black Lives and other anti-racist organizations in the city, we know that safety does not come from policing. But what really keeps us safe, from COVID and other crises? ​​And what do the alternative strategies of safety that are being innovated in queer and trans Black, Indigenous and people of colour (QTBIPOC) communities have to teach us, at a moment where many are willing to explore new models of safety, transformation, and relating to other humans and the more-than-human world? These are some questions that Jin Haritaworn, Associate Professor of Gender, Race and Environment, explores in their research, including their latest project on COVID-19 called Subversive Performances of Quarantine: Organizing Across Differences at the Conjuncture of Protest and Pandemic.

With ancestries in Thailand and Germany, Prof. Haritaworn has lived and taught in Europe, Asia and North America and has written extensively on issues such as urban space, racial capitalism, intersectionality, queer and trans activism, and transformative justice. Their research has received two SSHRCs (Canada), an Early Researcher Award (Canada), an ESRC fellowship (UK) and a University of California HRI co-coordinatorship and fellowship (US). It has led to 24 keynotes, two books, numerous articles and book chapters, six edited and co-edited books and special issues, and a blog. 

Image Credit: A still from the short film Marvellous Grounds directed by Min Sook Lee, featuring ILL NANA/DiverCity Dance Company

This also goes for the blog which, after two issues on queer spacemaking and performance, is now launching a third series this fall, of new pieces on abolition, transformative justice, criminalization, and incarceration. This special focus includes articles, videos, roundtable discussions, interviews, podcasts, multimedia pieces and sound art from local and international organizers and artists, including from EUC and York. Topics span mutual aid, activist art, radical collective care, safety outside of the system, migrant justice and queer Muslim organizing. Some of the pieces on the blog stem from coursework, so if you are interested in contributing, consider taking Prof. Haritaworn’s classes! ENVS 5106 Critical Perspectives in Race, Gender, Sexuality is happening in summer ‘22 and ENVS 4800 Queer of Colour Art and Activism this fall - both are open to grad students.

Queering Urban Justice
Marvellous Grounds: Queer of Colour Histories of Toronto

For the purposes of our EUC community, it is worth highlighting their two latest books, Marvellous Grounds: Queer of Colour Histories of Toronto (short-listed by the Ontario Legislative Assembly) and Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto (short-listed for the Toronto Heritage Heritage), which each assemble ways in which QTBIPOC create communities, innovate methods of transformation and foster connections within Toronto as well as the Three Fires Territories and beyond. Both books were co-edited with former York students and feature community members from Toronto/Tkaronto and beyond.

Prof. Haritaworn’s latest project on COVID-19 follows the premise that at the conjuncture of pandemic and protest, a transformation of safety is taking place that has the potential to generate a positive impact for the whole of society. Specifically, the study highlights the subversive performances of quarantine that support well-being within marginalized communities and society as a whole. It aims to do so through an intersectional lens grounded in the experiences and perspectives of individuals who frequently fall out of single-issue movements and policies. Despite their challenging context, marginalized voices have produced some of the most interesting responses at the conjuncture of protest and the pandemic. For a taste of these questions, you can check out Prof. Haritaworn’s article “#NoGoingBack: Queer leaps at the intersection of protest and COVID-19” in Journal of Environmental Media Studies.