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Sarah Marie Wiebe

Background

Dr. Sarah Marie Wiebe (Eastern European/Scottish) is a Canadian citizen raised on Coast Salish territory in British Columbia, BC, and now lives in Honolulu, Hawai‘i where she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa with a scholarly focus on environmental sustainability and decolonial, sustainable futures. She has published in journals including Citizenship Studies and Studies in Social Justice. Her book Everyday Exposure: Indigenous Mobilization and Environmental Justice in Canada's Chemical Valley (2016) with UBC Press won the Charles Taylor Book Award (2017) and examines policy responses to the impact of pollution on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation's environmental health. Alongside Dr. Jennifer Lawrence (Virginia Tech), she is the Co-Editor of Biopolitical DisasterAt the intersections of environmental justice and citizen engagement, her teaching and research interests emphasize political ecology, participatory policy making and deliberative dialogue. As a collaborative researcher and filmmaker, she worked with Indigenous communities on sustainability-themed films including Indian Givers and To Fish as Formerly. She is currently collaborating with artists from Attawapiskat on a project entitled Reimagining Attawapiskat funded through a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. Sarah is also a Project Co-Director for the Seascape Indigenous Storytelling Studio, funded through a SSHRC Insight Grant with research partners from the University of Victoria, University of British Columbia and coastal Indigenous communities. For more see: www.sarahmariewiebe.com


Research

My past, present and future scholarly interests include climate migration, denaturalizing disaster, resistance to the politics of extraction, treaty dialogue, Indigenous marine sovereignty, seascapes, mixed media storytelling, Indigenous perspectives on environmental health and justice, youth leadership and human-whale relations. I welcome the opportunity to supervise undergraduate and graduate students conducting focused research on any of these selected areas. Informed by a political ecology lens, my research explores the entanglements between citizens, policies and ecosystems. In broad terms, my research interests are oriented around four areas of inquiry.

First, from the prism of an interpretive lens, I examine how public policies affect situated communities and citizens, and how these citizens encounter, resist, respond to political forces in their everyday lives. My current work examines how environmental justice public policies - or the lack of such policies - affect coastal communities and Indigenous peoples in Canada, Hawai‘i and across Oceania. To address apparent gaps in policy-making, I am interested in the politics of citizen engagement and creative deliberative dialogue through mixed-methodologies including narrative and storytelling. 

Second, to evaluate these policies, entanglements, engagements and encounters, I employ a critical policy studies approach. From a sensing policy framework, I suggest that policy-makers will be better-equipped to explore alternative forms of communication and reflect diverse voices through creative public engagement. Sensing policy entails recognition that policy-making is a multi-dimensional process, which necessarily involves recognition of: citizens’ lived-experiences, situated bodies of knowledge, multi-layered analysis and geopolitical location. 

Third, to connect this sensing policy framework to practice, I draw from tools of arts-based participatory action research to document, visualize and give presence to embodied encounters between citizens and politics through a multi-layered analysis, scaled from the global to the intimate. This approach engages with tools of participatory governance and deliberative dialogue, including photography, mapping and filmmaking. 

Fourth, contributing both to the theory and practice of environmental justice scholarship, I am particularly interested in interrogating political encounters at the biopolitical and geopolitical nexus, to explore human/more-than-human relations in order to expand debates in environmental political theory, ecofeminist thought and deliberative democracy.

In all the work that I do, I attempt to bring forward an embodied approach to research, teaching and engagement. I tend to ask political questions such as: what vital and geopolitical forces are at stake in the citizen’s everyday experiences living in compromised environments? How do officials represent the experiences of those most directly affected by environment, health and natural resource policies? In what ways might these relationships be thought of and felt otherwise to enable healthy, vibrant and environmentally sustainable, decolonial futures?


Teaching

My approach to teaching includes the following core components:

  1. Creating community, inside and outside the classroom

  2. Connecting theories, practices, political processes and places

  3. The classroom as a generative atmosphere for engaged and experiential learning

  4. Respect for multiple literacies and diverse ways of knowing

  5. Cultivating conditions for student leadership


Course Taught

Decolonial Futures (POLS 777)

To challenge past and present articulations of (neo)colonial relationships, this course invites students to creatively critique, interrogate and (re)imagine alternative futures. “Decolonial futures” is a term that incites engagement with multiple possibilities and is not limited to formal institutional processes. This course looks at diverse academic and artistic perspectives to imagine alternatives to the capitalist state. The process of envisioning alternative futures necessarily requires co-creation and collaboration beyond the academy. This course thus bridges literature with visual media and community action to imagine a better world. To expand our imaginations and give us guidance in futures-creation, we learn from Kanaka Maoli community-based resurgence work and discuss how “decolonial” aims further than existing legal structures as we envision transformation beyond the capitalist colonial state.

Scope and Methods of Political Science (POLS 600)

An interrogation of what constitutes “the political” in political science requires more than the testing of hypotheses, measuring of variables and collecting and analyzing data: it necessarily entails an interpretive mode of inquiry. What this means for the purposes of this course is that we will both discuss the assumptions that motivate various lines of political investigation and open up space for different ways of seeing the worlds in which we live. We will ask critical questions about not simply “why” the political conditions have emerged such as they are, but crucially “how” do we come to understand current ways of being, living and knowing; what kinds of discursive, intellectual and material forces produce the political conditions of our lives; how are human/more-than-human entanglements, forces and conditions dis/abled, classed, racialized and gendered; and how can we envision alternatives? 

Special Topics in Methodology – Storytelling as Political Research (POLS 605)

Our lives and the lives of those we study are full of stories. How do we do justice to these stories? What are the ethics of engagement involved in telling stories about those who share their knowledges and lived-experiences with us? Does storytelling bridge positivist and post-positivist research methods? What can political science as a discipline learn from Indigenous storytelling methodologies to envision decolonial, sustainable futures? To respond to these critical questions, this graduate seminar course draws from literature in community-engaged research, critical policy studies, interpretive research methods, Indigenous methodologies, political ethnography, visual methodologies and social justice research to support graduate students with their research praxis. During the semester, students will engage with diverse perspectives on storytelling as research and also apply storytelling techniques including photovoice and digital storytelling. Assignments include reviewing relevant literature, conducting interviews, developing an ethnographic practice, creating ethical proposals and applying mixed media storytelling techniques to students’ research methodology toolkits. 

Environmental Law and Politics (POLS 380)

As extreme weather events ranging from hurricanes to fires and floods reveal, our world is in distress. Indeed, our current environmental crisis is a political one, and responses to it vary widely. Some environmentalists may see the earth as a living system where humans are a part of it while others view the earth as human property that can be owned. Throughout the course, we discuss ethical and theoretical approaches and orientations to environmentalism including anarchist, ecofeminist, Marxist, neoliberal and Indigenous epistemologies. Such perspectives appear in a range of laws and policies across levels of government. With an emphasis on environmental justice, in theory, policy and practice, by design this course aims to provide students with an overview of the key environmental issues and concerns in a multilayered context while connecting global problems to local responses. This course will introduce important contexts and tools for analyzing and responding to environmental problems. This includes systems-level thinking as well as a consideration of ethics, principles and values of aloha ‘āina. Solutions to the pressing environmental issues of our time requires collaboration among diverse parties and includes local associations organizing for change at all levels of government.

Politics of the Ocean (POLS 387)

The ways in which humans relate to the ocean is fundamentally political. This course offers a political ecology lens to the study of human-ocean relations. Students will engage with theories that inform how humans conceptualize, envision, encounter, manage, treat and live with the ocean. This includes an examination of diverse ontological and epistemological approaches to water generally and the ocean specifically. Course content weaves together theoretical perspectives such as neoliberalism, ecofeminism, ecosystems-based management, environmental justice, Indigenous political thought, intersectionality, interpretivism, multi-level governance, post-colonialism and Marxism. Students will engage in experiential and community-engaged learning to deepen their thinking about the sustainable stewardship of local resources. They will also have opportunities to enhance critical thinking and their creative abilities to imagine sustainable futures. Students will learn from the voices of those enacting efforts towards the sustainable stewardship of coastal resources while finding their own voices as they develop solutions for sustainable futures, grounded in social and environmental justice.

Introduction to Social Sciences Principles of Sustainability (SOSC 250)

Rooted in social science approaches to environmental sustainability, this course focuses on the role of the state as well as the interplay between public and private interests. We will explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals while critically examining the roles and functions of the state in shaping environmental conditions. From the lens of political ecology, this course examines the dynamics of politics and power in relation to environmental issues. Environmental topics covered in the course include: land use and development, food in/security, water quality, infrastructure, energy, and the distribution of resources. Course frameworks emphasize environmental justice, intersectionality, political economy and Indigenous perspectives. Content includes readings and class discussions and focuses on the lived experiences and situated voices and knowledges in relation to livelihoods, environmental sustainability, and social justice. This course also examines the organization of government agencies in the formation and implementation of public policy on environmental issues, assessment questions, and laws and regulations. Students are tasked with critical examiniation and creative imagination of processes and practices of public engagement and participation.