Dr. Aaron Franks

Research Associate I joined the CEHE community on Jan 3, 2013, and might be an atypical Research Associate for the field of environmental health and equity! But if I feel this when reflecting on my past work and education, the truth is that health (in all its dimensions), the environment, equity and social justice belong to no one set of disciplinary guidelines or practices.

After finishing high school in Edmonton, I studied theatre at the University of Alberta and worked as a performer – from children’s theatre in school gyms to the Stratford Festival and all in between – for a decade. Increasingly dissatisfied with the apolitical culture of mainstream theatre (and I blame myself for not being more adventurous in this regard!), I fostered my interests and abilities as an activist and eventually returned to university, receiving degrees in Social Justice and Equity Studies (MA, Brock, 2008) and Human Geography (PhD, Glasgow, 2012).

My MA dissertation investigated how farmers and activists in the Via Campesina and the National Farmers Union of Canada use seed as a political figure in their organizing and communications; my PhD involved much more extensive participation with members of So We Stand, a collective of UK social and environmental justice activists who organized in Central Scotland, pursuing a regional vision of climate justice that spanned both human and ecological exploitation under fossil-fuelled capitalism. What joins these rather different projects is a commitment to both public interest research and critical investigation (including critical theory), and a belief that our bodily, social and ecological integrity are woven together.

Health is both a right and a signal that relationships – social, economic and ecological – are fundamentally working well. For this reason I think it’s important that relationships and expressivity are central to our work, and I am delighted that CEHE has taken a growing long term interest in both participatory and creative arts-based research methods and knowledge sharing practices. I am equally delighted and honoured to participate in how we build upon and improve this practice.

Contact: aaron.franks(at)queensu.ca

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