SHIFT-ing the conversation: An interview with Amber Brown

SHIFT 2021 aims to explore and uncover the wide-ranging social impacts of COVID-19. Panels and community dialogue sessions will feature stories, lived experiences, arts, and culture. This event series will zero in on sexual and gender-based violence, mental health and well-being, anti-racism and decolonization, and what we as individuals and a society can – and should – do in these novel times.

Amber Brown, a fourth-year student in the Honours Applied Psychology program at Douglas College, will be moderating the Student Research Showcase (Wednesday, March 03, at 1:30 PM).

Amber provided us with some insight into her work with SHIFT and the impact of COVID-19 on communities and research.   

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in SHIFT

I am currently an Honours student in Psychology pursuing explorative multicultural research towards Indigenous peoples at Douglas College. Learning about SHIFT from passionate faculty members is how I got involved, and I stay on with the project because I want to support student-led research. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to the DC research community and contribute to what I hope to be an empowering experience for other student researchers.

  1. SHIFT is about tracing the social impacts of COVID-19 and places a focus on dialogue and conversation. Can you share a social issue (or two or three) you feel needs to be brought to light and why? 

The ability to self-isolate in a safe place is a privilege in a pandemic world, as many who live in unstable or violent households are unable to do so. This dynamic is evident from the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. At the same time, many shelters and temporary housing options have had to decrease their occupancy due to COVID regulations. Overall, we are failing people who face housing security and domestic violence and much more government support is needed.  

  1. How do you think researchers have had to adjust their focus and methods in light of the urgency of the pandemic and its devastating impact on communities?   

I’ve noticed that, with a seemingly universal sense of loss and uncertainty, people can forget to consider the systems that were failing beforethe pandemic. Despite all of us going through it together, the pandemic has intensified existing stratifications of class, leaving vulnerable groups further behind. Many researchers have had to turn to a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” approach, highlighting ‘loud’ or palatable social issues in hopes of securing needed attention and support for vulnerable communities.

While I understand the rationale behind this, I am afraid it will take us on a dangerous path. Often, research focused on marginalized communities can lead members of those groups to feel like they are another statistic with the odds against them. I want to avoid these groups feeling ‘researched to death’ but rather research them back to life.

I would like to see research that promotes what is currently working for these communities, what success looks like for them, and to show the public and policymakers that these groups are more than capable when supported.

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