Ph.D Columbia University, 2021
Leslie Sabiston (Red River Métis) is from Aswahonanihk (Selkirk), Manitoba.
Working at the intersections of political, legal, and medical anthropologies, as well as Indigenous Studies, Les’ work brings together critical social theories of colonialism, race, class, gender and sexuality with the political commitments of decolonization and aspirations of realizing alternative liberatory worlds informed by Indigenous futurities. A guiding principle to his academic work has been to develop a more robust understanding of the ongoing process of encounter with Indigenous peoples in Canada, that is, how the state and its populous interact with and understand themselves in relation to the original peoples of this land.
Les’ dissertation research examined the entangled complex of encounter with Indigenous peoples that exists between the criminal justice, medical, and social welfare systems in Canada. Specifically, this research focused on the ways that the neurodevelopmental disorder known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has come to coordinate a massive logistical and epistemological infrastructure for defining Indigenous difference and apprehending, confining, and managing Indigenous lives at these intersecting realms of law and order, public health, and social welfare. Ethnographically grounded in court rooms and the bureaucratic paper trails of policy makers, the offices of social workers and probation officers, medical research conferences, diagnostic clinical settings, as well as the everyday operations of not-for-profit support work programs for individuals with FASD, the primary aspiration of this research was to shed light on how FASD has come to achieve the level of common sense amongst everyday Canadians and why, particularly, it is most often associated, erroneously, with Indigenous bodies?
Departing from the disciplinary focus on the worlds of Indigenous peoples that informed the impetus of anthropology and continues to shape ongoing research projects across the globe, Les’ work instead utilizes the methodologies and theories proffered by anthropology and related social science, humanistic, and spiritual disciplines to analyze the ways that colonial projects and other dominant structures of violence take root in everyday settler life through reasoning, emotions and affects, dreams and desires, differentially limiting the capacities of both Settlers and Indigenous peoples to flourish. He remains stubbornly committed to the belief that a deeper interrogation and understanding of these engrained processes of thinking, feeling, and being, in ourselves as well as in society at large, can lead to change, and perhaps a better world.
Les looks forward to working with students who are curious about our small place in the universe and who are passionate about making positive changes in themselves and the world. He brings a commitment to his teaching that seeks to cultivate new capacities, for himself and students, to be: courageous and determined in our pursuits to understanding more about the world and ourselves; vulnerable and open to new and challenging understandings and experiences, as well as to the inevitable fact that we will often be wrong, but that we can learn a great deal from our mistakes; and humble in the face of the world, accepting that we cannot know all, while embracing our inevitable inter-dependence with other humans, species, and beings. He believes that the study of anthropology and the method of ethnography offer a small but powerful set of tools for approaching the mysteries and unresolvable uncertainties of life with humility and wonder.
Les will begin teaching in the anthropology department in the Fall of 2021.
Some of Leslie’s representative publications will appear here soon.