Driving curiosity and applied research in Newfoundland and Labrador the School of Arts and Social Science offers numerous programs in humanities, social/cultural studies, historical studies, English, business, and psychology.
Dr. Stephanie McKenzie, from the English programme, tells us about her research on the gusle, a musical instrument that traditionally accompanied, and continues to accompany, epic poetry in Southeastern Europe. Dr. McKenzie's doctoral years at the University of Toronto were spent studying Indigenous literature of the 1960s-70s in Canada, produced after a long period of silence in written, published Indigenous literature in Canada (a period that coincided with residential schools). To understand better how oral traditions work (as they define a significant amount of Indigenous Canadian writings), Dr. McKenzie lived for three months in Serbia in 2017, joined a gusle association, and took gusle lessons. She was influenced by the earlier scholarship of Milman Parry (1902-35) and Albert Lord (1912-91) who proposed groundbreaking theories about the characteristics of oral compositions. Based on this research, her fourth book of poetry, Bow's Haunt: The Gusle's Lessons, was published by Meridian Editions, the imprint of Smederevo's Poet Autumn, an international poetry festival which has taken place in Smederevo, Serbia for thirty-seven years.
Dr. Rie Croll, Associate Professor in Social Cultural Studies, is a social activist with a research interest focused in the interrelationship between violence and marginalized identities. Her most recent book, Shaped by Silence: Stories from Inmates of the Good Shepherd Laundries and Reformatories, brings together the powerful stories of five women from Ireland, Canada, and Australia whose lives were shaped by forced confinement in Magdalene laundries and other institutions operated by the Roman Catholic Order of Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Their narratives include one teenager's experience in a Good Shepherd training school in Canada; another story of a child who was born in a Canadian Good Shepherd laundry; and three accounts of adolescent girls held in Good Shepherd Magdalene laundries in Ireland and Australia. In these institutions, women and girls became a coerced workforce. Through her research and writings, Dr. Croll emphasizes the need for citizens to learn about and acknowledge the wrongs committed by church and state in the ongoing quest for justice. As with residential schools for First Nations children, the Magdalene laundries deserve broad exposure for the heartless shams they were and the intergenerational trauma they caused.
Dr. Kelly Warren, a professor of Psychology at Grenfell Campus studies the connections between psychology and law; particularly best practices police can use when interviewing children and seniors who may have witnessed or are themselves victims of crimes. We also discuss the ethics around such research, connections to the new Aging Research Centre-Newfoundland and Labrador on campus, and effective research methodology. Her study focuses on the style of the interview because she states that the manner in which is done largely influences what children may say, and if the information given by children is incorrect, it is very hard to correct true memories once they become opaque. The use of parents or guardians by police officers may also be flawed due to the potential of parents being panicked during questioning. Parents or guardians may influence children's responses by their attitude. Dr. Warren is also studying interview approaches for seniors because, although they are not in the same category as children, there is a unique set of challenges that come with age, such as problems with recall, sensory delays, and even covering up for an adult child. By working with the ARC-NL, Dr. Warren continues to investigate approaches for interviewing that encourages seniors to report crimes.
Dr. John Bodner, a Professor of Folklore at Grenfell Campus, has a research interested in marginal communities, people who have been left behind by neo-liberalism, and the survival of rural people and communities. Recently, that interest led him to study more in depth about the labour, lives, and livelihoods of those who illegally produce marijuana. To do so he travelled to rural British Columbia (BC) where the production of illegal marijuana serves as a major part of the underground economies of many small communities. One of the prevalent issues Dr. Bodner found in his research was the social and geographical isolation of growers, who usually work by themselves or with up to two others, and they don't have the freedom to speak about their work like others. Unlike other farmer, they don't have a support community, nor they get a shared identity. Due to the nature of this study, and because the interviews were done before legalization of marijuana in Canada, Dr. Bodner found it common that farmers were unwilling to give information. He said his focus wasn't in the words, but the silence of participants.