Leslie A. Robertson
Ph.D., University of British Columbia, 2001.
MA., University of Calgary, 1994.
BA, Simon Fraser University, 1991.
I have conducted a variety of academic and applied, ethnographic projects with First Nations and settler communities in Western Canada. I’m interested in methodological approaches to difficult knowledge production (silenced pasts, colonial impasses, contested representations). Research and community collaborations include work on intergenerational histories; Indigenous activism; historical and contemporary colonial processes; street drug use, violence and homelessness; place-making and memory; difference; stigmatization and health. Work with personal narratives includes life stories, dream narratives, ethnographic witnessing, archival and oral histories.
My recent research focuses on the existential afterlife of historical colonialism, how people from diverse cultural and social locations inhabit their histories, the imaginative resources they draw upon to speak about them, and the role of anthropology in translating and interpreting them. This includes attention to social projects linked to histories and territories and realized through community-generated and collaborative methodologies.
Broadly, my research examines the circulation of forms of social knowledge (public histories, anthropological theories and representations, colonial legends, medical discourses), in sensitive political and cultural contexts (settler colonialism, historical immigration, labour conflict, medical crises, resource extraction).
2016- 2018 Editor: BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly.
2018 -2019 Co-Editor: BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly.
Primary Research Projects:
(2020- present) Ecologies of Harm: Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19. A digital commons witness atlas. (SSHRC Explore RA Grant). Project website: https://blogs.ubc.ca/ecologiesofharmproject/
(2019 – ) Re-Inhabiting History: Making the Past in Nak’azdli Territory- Re-Animating Customary Memory Genres. With Nak’azdli Natural Resources. (SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant).
(2013-2016) Reasserting ‘Namgis Food Sovereignty in an Era of Climate Change. With ‘Namgis Nation, Terre Satterfield PI. (Peter Wall Solutions Initiative). What would it take (time, labour, cost, etc.), for the ‘Namgis Nation to be food sovereign?
(2011) Cultural impact assessment of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. With the Gitga’at First Nation, Hartley Bay, British Columbia. (Team: Terre Satterfield PI, Nancy Turner and Anton Pitts).
(2002 -2011) Collaboration with Kwaguł Gixsam, Yalis (Alert Bay). Invited to join members of the Gixsam clan to research and write a collaborative, intergenerational history about their ancestor, Ga’ax̱sta’las / Jane Constance Cook (1870-1951), a Kwakwaka’wakw leader and activist who testified at the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission, worked with Franz Boas, was the only woman on the executive of the Allied Indian Tribes of BC, and was a fierce advocate for the material needs of women and children. Ga’ax̱sta’las’s descendants introduce a gendered history of the potlatch. Research included attention to diverse methodologies, memory practices and processes of cultural renewal.
Robertson, Leslie with the Kwaguł Gixsam. 2012. Standing Up with Ga’axsta’las: Jane Constance Cook and the Politics of Memory, Church and Custom. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. https://www.ubcpress.ca/standing-up-with-gaaxstalas
Robertson, Leslie and Dara Culhane, eds. 2005. In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Vancouver: Talonbooks.
Journals, Chapters and Research Reports
2021 Robertson, Leslie, Maya Durio, Stephen Chignell, Anita Lacey, Sally Babidge. Mapping Contexts of Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19. Society for Applied Anthropology News, November, 32 (4): 1-8. (https://www.appliedanthro.org/publications/news/november-2021/mapping-contexts-vulnerability-time-covid-19).
2021 Making Sense: Reflections on Event-Based Memoir in an Existential Mode. Multimodality and Society, 1 (3): 322-349. Special Issue, Sensate Memory. ( https://doi.org/10.1177/26349795211042761)
2018 / 2019 Robertson, Leslie and Paige Raibmon (Co-editors) Special Issue 50th Anniversary, BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly 200: 1-186.
2017 Satterfield, Terre, Leslie Robertson, Nathan Vadeboncoeur and Anton Pitts. Implications of a Changing Climate for Food Sovereignty in Coastal British Columbia. In, Conservation in the Anthropocene Ocean: Interdisciplinary Science in Support of Nature and People. Phillip Levin and Melissa Poe eds., pp. 399-421. London: Elsevier.
2016 Cultural Anthropology: Methodological Possibilities, in Ethnology, Ethnography and Cultural Anthropology. [26,000 words]. Edited by Paolo Barbaro, in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, EOLSS Publishers, Paris, France, [http://www.eolss.net]. Includes: glossary of terms and annotated bibliography (with Lindsay Moore).
2015 Satterfield, Terre, Leslie Robertson, Anton Pitts, Diane Jacobsen and the ‘Namgis First Nation. Re-asserting ‘Namgis Food Sovereignty in an Era of Climate Change, OR Three Boats and a Pick-up Truck. (109pp. + appendices). Peter Wall Solutions Grant. https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/facultyresearchandpublications/52383/items/1.0307423
2013 (Reprint): Taming Space: Drug Use, HIV and Homemaking in Downtown Eastside Vancouver, (314-320), in Chiara Briganti and Kathy Mezei eds. The Domestic Space Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
2012 Terre Satterfield, Leslie Robertson, Nancy Turner, and Anton Pitts. ‘Being Gitka’a’ata: A Baseline Report on Gitka’a’ata Way of Life, a Statement of Cultural Impacts Posed by the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and a Critique of the ENGP Assessment Regarding Cultural Impacts.’ (125pp). Submitted to the National Energy Board, Joint Review Panel.
2007 Taming Space: Drug Use, HIV and Homemaking in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Gender, Place and Culture 14(5):527-549.
2006 Risk, Citizenship and Public Discourse: Coeval Dialogues on War and Health in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Medical Anthropology 25(4):297-330.
1998 A Penny for Your Thoughts: (Cultural) Properties of Anthropology in a Transnational Present, Anthropologica, XL (2): 97–214.
Robertson, Leslie A. with the Kwagu’ł Gixsam Clan, Standing Up with Ga’axsta’las: Jane Constance Cook and the Politics of Memory, Church, and Custom. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012.
2015 Finalist (1 of 5), François-Xavier Garneau Medal, Canadian Historical Association, (shortlist March).
2014 Canadian Committee on Women’s History Book Prize. Women’s and Gender History. Canadian Historical Association, (May).
2013 Wheeler-Voegelen Prize, American Society for Ethnohistory, (September).
2013 Canadian Aboriginal History Book Prize, Canadian Historical Association, (June).
2013 Clio Book Prize – British Columbia, Canadian Historical Association, (June).
2013 Finalist, Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize, Province of British Columbia, (May).
2013 K.D. Srivastava Prize (1 of 2), Office of the Vice-President Research and UBC Press, University of British Columbia (March).
Robertson, Leslie and Dara Culhane, In Plain Sight:Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005.
2006 Winner, George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature and Publishing, George Ryga Society, BC Bookworld, and CBC Radio.
2005 Finalist, City of Vancouver Book Award, In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. City of Vancouver.
Associate Professor, Sociocultural Anthropology
Memory & colonialism; indigenous and settler historiography; ethnography & oral history; history of anthropology; constructions of difference; personal narratives.