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2020 J.I. Staley Prize Awarded to a Powerful Examination of Life, Death, and Care, among Inuit Communities.

Mar 9, 2020

Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic


The School for Advanced Research is pleased to announce that the 2020 J. I. Staley Prize book award prize will go to Lisa Stevenson for her 2014 book, Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic (University of California Press).

Book Cover, Life Beside Itself. Courtesy of the publisher.

This courageous humanistic work is well worth a close and critical read, for the simple reason that its author, Lisa Stevenson, addresses one of the most important contemporary healthcare issues in the Canadian North—that of suicide—and along the way challenges the reader through what has been termed welfare colonialism and the continued struggles with a bureaucratic legacy determined by historical state structure and policy.“—American Anthropologist.

Lisa Stevenson’s Life Beside Itself examines two historical moments among the Inuit of northern Canada: a tuberculosis epidemic in the mid-twentieth century and an epidemic of suicides among Inuit youth today. Stevenson demonstrates how the Canadian state’s approach to care is in both cases shaped by a biomedical model inattentive to the realities of Inuit life in a settler colonial context. Although well-meaning and carried out by dedicated professionals, conventional biomedical care that seeks to extend life at all costs ignores the kind of life being preserved.Through richly textured analysis, Stevenson shows how suicide prevention programs disregard what makes life worthwhile to Inuit people. Her evocative prose takes risks, asking readers to dwell alongside the author as she slowly reveals how to listen differently to her interlocutors. Life Beside Itself deftly weaves together ethnography, archival voice recordings, and images to raise new questions about life, death, and care.

Lisa Stevenson is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University, where she teaches courses on medical and psychological anthropology, narrative and anthropology, violence and subjectivity, social and political theory, ethnographic film, the Inuit, and the Canadian Arctic. She received a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley (2005).

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