The University of Winnipeg



‘Articulating the pandemic’ inspires alumnae collaboration

Clockwise: Devon Kerslake. Mika Castro, Amanda Carvalho. Photo provided.

Amanda Carvalho was inspired to write Between Boxes after seeing a call for submissions from the Centre for Research in Cultural Studies (CRiCS) inviting reflections on the pandemic through the lens of cultural studies.

The story gives insight into her experience “as a migrant woman of colour living in complete isolation, away from family and friends during COVID-19.”

It is one of 16 stories published in COVID-19 and Cultural Studies: Articulating the Pandemic, edited by Dr. Angela Failler, director of CRiCS and Canada Research Chair in Culture and Public Memory, and Dr. Jane Barter, a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture.

Between Boxes… is an innovative example of timely research creation that is rich in meaning, thought-provoking, and visually affective

Dr. Jaime cidro

“It is so intimate and specific, and yet she also manages to situate her own experience within broader social structures of (both) marginalization and privilege that have become all the more visible as the pandemic unfolds,” said Failler.

Multi-stage, collaborative project

From its place in this initial series, Between Boxes grew into a multi-stage, collaborative project that includes a graphic recording directed and illustrated by Devon Kerslake and edited by Lauren Bosc, both Master of Arts in Cultural Studies alumnae.

“It was exciting to connect former students now working in their own professional capacities with current student researchers-in-training,” said Failler. “It’s student research-creation gold, if I do say so myself.”

Failler is proud of the way CRiCS supports and connects researchers on multiple levels and in dynamic ways, something that has become especially evident over the past year. 

“Right now, doing the work of feeling and thinking our way through the pandemic together makes both research and life a bit less isolated,” she said. “There’s a hopefulness in that.”

Devon Kerslake’s visual interpretation of Between Boxes by Amanda Carvalho.

Carvalho says writing Between Boxes provided a way to reflect on her pandemic experience as an auto-ethnographic process. She was thrilled when it evolved into a creative, collaborative research project.

“Devon visually reinterpreted the written, audio, and photography pieces into graphics and motion, which was a complete delight and a surprisingly smooth process,” said Carvalho. “Seeing my piece through her lens gave more depth, nuance, and a whole other level of meaning and ways of knowing.”

Full-circle moment

Though Kerslake moved away from Winnipeg in 2015, she remains connected and had been looking for a way to get involved.

“I found the entire process so validating and positive,” said Kerslake. “It was a full-circle moment for me to collaborate with the incredible students and to be in dialogue with Lauren Bosc and Angela Failler again.”

Bringing all the pieces of the project together, Mika Castro (a current Women’s and Gender Studies major), hosted a Zoom interview with Carvalho and Kerslake to discuss the process. The conversation showcases the rich, collaborative research that takes place when faculty, alumnae, graduate students, and undergraduate students are brought together in a creative space.

Between Boxes, with its creative take on autoethnography, is an innovative example of timely research creation that is rich in meaning, thought-provoking, and visually affective,” said Dr. Jaime Cidro, Associate VP, Research and Innovation. “This project engages with important questions of positionality, interpretation, process, and reflexivity while showcasing the exceptional work of University of Winnipeg students and alumnae and the Centre for Research in Cultural Studies.”

This project is part of the Covid-19 and Cultural Studies: Articulating the Pandemic series which is supported by funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and The University of Winnipeg.