Amber Dean became an Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies (cross-appointed to the Graduate Program in Gender Studies and Feminist Research) in 2011. The bulk of her recent research develops a feminist, interdisciplinary approach to exploring the social and political implications of representations of murdered or missing Indigenous women in Canada. Her manuscript, Inheriting What Lives On From Vancouver’s Disappeared Women (currently under contract with the University of Toronto Press) is the first book-length scholarly examination of the representational practices and cultural productions that bring the story of the disappearances or murders of women from the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver to a wider public. The book examines a diverse array of cultural productions, including police posters, documentary film and photography on the Downtown Eastside, media representations and artists’ renderings of some of the missing women, memorials (both permanent and performance-based), selected media coverage of the Pickton trial, social justice activism, and self-representations by some of the women who have been disappeared (including poetry, journal entries and participation in activist work). The book explores the potential that these various cultural productions hold for provoking a much wider sense of implication in the disappearances or murders of the women in question, and in doing so it provides provocations for reconsidering how and why these events were possible in the first place.
As a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster from 2009-2011, Amber analyzed the connections between public mourning and the (re)production of an idealized “Canadian-ness” that privileges whiteness and conventional expressions of gender and sexuality. By focusing on examples of public mourning and memorialization occurring in the wake of the 2005 Mayerthorpe RCMP murders, the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, and the disappearance or murder of 520 or more Indigenous women across Canada over the last forty years, she argues that some violent deaths are quite clearly represented in a national discourse as mattering more than others, which challenges popular understandings of Canada as a multicultural mosaic premised on equality. An essay on this topic is forthcoming in the edited collection Reconciling Canada: Historical Injustices and the Contemporary Culture of Redress (also under contract with University of Toronto Press).
Amber’s secondary areas of research interest include deployment of the figure of the street sex worker in contemporary efforts to gentrify inner-city neighbourhoods in Canada; debates and tensions in feminist theorizing on rape; and connections between identity, appearance and social recognition among queer women, particularly femmes partnered with trans men.
Amber welcomes graduate students interested in working in the areas of public mourning, memorialization and memorial cultures; representations of disappeared or murdered women; gentrification, “Creative Class” rhetoric, and their effects on representations of marginalized residents in inner-city neighbourhoods; identity and difference, especially as they pertain to social justice activism or social movements; gender and sexuality studies; cultural studies; poststructural feminist theorizing; and critical race studies. She has taught undergraduate courses in Women’s Studies, Cultural Studies and Media Studies at several postsecondary institutions in Canada, including a recent fourth-year seminar at McMaster on gender, Indigeneity, and the politics of representation.