stephecv


Christianne V Stephens

Photo of Christianne V Stephens

Assistant Professor

Office: Vari Hall, 2048
Phone: (416)736-2100 Ext: 77786
Email: stephecv@yorku.ca

Media Requests Welcome


Dr. Christianne Stephens is trained as a medical anthropologist and health geographer. Broadly defined, her research explores health, healing, and well-being in cross-cultural perspective. She seeks to obtain a holistic, multi-perspectival, and nuanced understanding of her subject matter through the application of diverse theoretical frameworks including critical medical anthropology, intersectionality, embodiment, cultural epidemiology, structural violence and syndemics. Her research focuses on various aspects of Indigenous community health and well-being, including mental health (historical and intergenerational trauma). Other areas of interest include innovative health research methodologies and research ethics.

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For the past sixteen years, Christianne has engaged in collaborative ethnographic research in a First Nations community located in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Situated at the mouth of the St. Clair River, Walpole Island First Nation (WIFN) holds stewardship over a rich mosaic of natural areas that include world-renowned wetlands and some of North America’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. Despite being Canada’s southernmost reserve and in close proximity to densely populated urban centers, WIFN residents continue to live off the land, relying on fishing and hunting for their subsistence and livelihood. Decades of accidental chemical spills and legal discharges from industries on both sides of the Canada-US border have impaired water quality in the region, threatening the integrity and survival of Walpole Island’s natural resources, traditional economies and cultural practices. Suspicion over the safety of the local drinking water and food sources has contributed to high levels of community stress and concerns over ecosystem health and the health and well-being of WIFN residents. Her doctoral dissertation "Toxic Talk at Walpole Island First Nation: Narratives of Pollution, Loss and Resistance (2010)" critically examined how the spectre of chemical contamination has shaped Walpole Island perspectives on community health and incited local forms of environmental activism. By examining perceptions of risk through semi-structured interviews, participatory observation and interaction with a diverse cross-section of community members conducted over the course of seven years of ethnographic fieldwork, she was able to reveal striking differences between published scientific and media accounts about contaminants and community understandings of environmental threats and concerns. In contrast to conventional Western interpretations of health risk perceptions as solely the result of chemophobia (a biomedical term used to describe the ‘irrational’ fear of chemicals), WIFN understandings are based on local environmental history, traditional ecological knowledge and nuanced personal observations of cumulative ecological change through time. The community’s distinct genre of discourses (which she has labelled “toxic talk”) situates environmental degradation within larger historical and political processes of colonialism and institutionalized social injustice to powerfully communicate and contextualize the devastating political, economic, social, and cultural impacts of pollution and environmental crises on Indigenous communities. The interpretive model developed from this research makes important contributions to knowledge and best practices in the fields of risk communication, preventative health education and environmental health impact assessment by laying the theoretical groundwork for a more culturally appropriate, community-specific qualitative research tool for documenting and assessing the psychosocial effects of toxic exposure on the health of Indigenous peoples. Christianne was awarded the Canadian Anthropology Society’s (CASCA) Richard F. Salisbury Award (2005) in recognition of her doctoral research in applied anthropology. Her dissertation was also recognized by McMaster University (selected as the best doctoral dissertation in the Faculty of Social Sciences for 2010) and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (Distinguished Dissertation Award nominee 2010). Christianne's current research “Letting the Body Tell Its Story:” Using Life History Research and Body Mapping as Tools to Depict Embodied Inequities in Indigenous People’s Health” builds on her doctoral and postdoctoral research while moving it new directions. This research project utilizes a visual medium for documenting community-level health outcomes and highlighting the multifactorial historical and contemporary determinants which shape them. The findings will provide important baseline health data for the community which will be used to better inform community health policy and strategic planning.

Degrees

PhD, McMaster University

Research Interests

Anthropology , Indigenous Peoples, health geography, risk perception & risk communication cultural epidemiology, historical trauma & trauma narratives, participatory action research, health, health inequalities, syndemics, embodiment, decolonizing methodologies, environmental health social determinants of health, structural violence, grounded theory

Dr. Christianne Stephens is trained as a medical anthropologist and health geographer. Broadly defined, her research explores health, healing, and well-being in cross-cultural perspective. She seeks to obtain a holistic, multi-perspectival, and nuanced understanding of her subject matter through the application of diverse theoretical frameworks including critical medical anthropology, intersectionality, embodiment, cultural epidemiology, structural violence and syndemics. Her research focuses on various aspects of Indigenous community health and well-being, including mental health (historical and intergenerational trauma). Other areas of interest include innovative health research methodologies and research ethics.

For the past sixteen years, Christianne has engaged in collaborative ethnographic research in a First Nations community located in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Situated at the mouth of the St. Clair River, Walpole Island First Nation (WIFN) holds stewardship over a rich mosaic of natural areas that include world-renowned wetlands and some of North America’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. Despite being Canada’s southernmost reserve and in close proximity to densely populated urban centers, WIFN residents continue to live off the land, relying on fishing and hunting for their subsistence and livelihood. Decades of accidental chemical spills and legal discharges from industries on both sides of the Canada-US border have impaired water quality in the region, threatening the integrity and survival of Walpole Island’s natural resources, traditional economies and cultural practices. Suspicion over the safety of the local drinking water and food sources has contributed to high levels of community stress and concerns over ecosystem health and the health and well-being of WIFN residents. Her doctoral dissertation "Toxic Talk at Walpole Island First Nation: Narratives of Pollution, Loss and Resistance (2010)" critically examined how the spectre of chemical contamination has shaped Walpole Island perspectives on community health and incited local forms of environmental activism. By examining perceptions of risk through semi-structured interviews, participatory observation and interaction with a diverse cross-section of community members conducted over the course of seven years of ethnographic fieldwork, she was able to reveal striking differences between published scientific and media accounts about contaminants and community understandings of environmental threats and concerns. In contrast to conventional Western interpretations of health risk perceptions as solely the result of chemophobia (a biomedical term used to describe the ‘irrational’ fear of chemicals), WIFN understandings are based on local environmental history, traditional ecological knowledge and nuanced personal observations of cumulative ecological change through time. The community’s distinct genre of discourses (which she has labelled “toxic talk”) situates environmental degradation within larger historical and political processes of colonialism and institutionalized social injustice to powerfully communicate and contextualize the devastating political, economic, social, and cultural impacts of pollution and environmental crises on Indigenous communities. The interpretive model developed from this research makes important contributions to knowledge and best practices in the fields of risk communication, preventative health education and environmental health impact assessment by laying the theoretical groundwork for a more culturally appropriate, community-specific qualitative research tool for documenting and assessing the psychosocial effects of toxic exposure on the health of Indigenous peoples. Christianne was awarded the Canadian Anthropology Society’s (CASCA) Richard F. Salisbury Award (2005) in recognition of her doctoral research in applied anthropology. Her dissertation was also recognized by McMaster University (selected as the best doctoral dissertation in the Faculty of Social Sciences for 2010) and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (Distinguished Dissertation Award nominee 2010). Christianne's current research “Letting the Body Tell Its Story:” Using Life History Research and Body Mapping as Tools to Depict Embodied Inequities in Indigenous People’s Health” builds on her doctoral and postdoctoral research while moving it new directions. This research project utilizes a visual medium for documenting community-level health outcomes and highlighting the multifactorial historical and contemporary determinants which shape them. The findings will provide important baseline health data for the community which will be used to better inform community health policy and strategic planning.

Degrees

PhD, McMaster University

Research Interests

Anthropology , Indigenous Peoples, health geography, risk perception & risk communication cultural epidemiology, historical trauma & trauma narratives, participatory action research, health, health inequalities, syndemics, embodiment, decolonizing methodologies, environmental health social determinants of health, structural violence, grounded theory