Dr. Professor - University of Toronto
Anthropology, Law, Science and technology studies, Geography, Sociology
Medications, Mobilities and Memories: Ethnographic Inquiries at the Medico-Legal Borderlands-- Inadmissible because of health, ability or genetic status? If the late Stephen Hawking had wanted to settle in Canada, he would likely have been denied because he was disabled. Federal immigration law excludes people with chronic illness and disability from permanently settling in Canada on health grounds. This is referred to as medical inadmissibility. What does being made medically inadmissible look and feel like across time, space and place for individuals and their families with or affected by illness, disability or particular types of genetic make-up? In revealing what people who have been made medically inadmissible must do before, during, and after their failed Canadian immigration process, we learn about what lives look and feel like when people are prevented from residing, remaining or reuniting with family. This is a new line of scholarly inquiry. This project extends my work within the medico-legal borderlands and social organization of knowledge veins of scholarship in sociology (Bisaillon, 2012; Bisaillon, forthcoming; Bisaillon & Sanders, 2019). I am a leading social scientist of Canadian immigration medical policy and HIV/AIDS. -- What is contradictory and problematic? Since the logic of health-based exclusion is not self-evident, and because its underlying assumptions are problematic in theory and give rise to contradictions in practice—in addition to placing Canada at odds with the immigration medical practices of the lion’s share of countries around the world—this logic must be investigated, unpacked and reported on. This research produces counter narratives that re-imagine so-called vulnerability relating to health, ability, or migration statuses. This is socio-legal research that interrogates Canada's historical record, sets Canada in productive tension and comparative contrast with other jurisdictions, and takes stock of contemporary medical inadmissibility related practices of lawyers, legal reformers, and applicants themselves. Different subject positions, such as those included in this project, can also lead to under-explored, imaginative responses to broader social issues. -- What will get done? I will finalize scholarly articles drawing on results from prior institutional ethnographic fieldwork. The goal of the latter was to investigate and systematically document—from the standpoint of people with illness and disability and their families rejected from the possibility of becoming Canadian permanent residents—the barriers that these prospective immigrants experience as a result of the state’s decision-making about them. The objective is to create new understandings and an empirically robust knowledge base about how medical inadmissibility practices enable or constrain people’s lives. -- Who cares? Lawyers in private and public practice, scholars and their students, legal scholars, and federal functionaries and politicians in Canada are interested in these issues and will use scholarly articles.
Disease, Disability and Decision-making: HIV and Unexplored Intersections Between Medicine and the Law in the Canadian Immigration SystemI look forward to working towards completing a solo-authored monograph to be submitted to the Law and Society series of the University of British Columbia Press. Theoretically and discursively, this project fits within the social organization and production of knowledge approach within sociology. I am concerned about power relations grounded in the deference accorded to ‘expert’ knowledge, and in parallel, the eliding and subjugation of other ways of knowing, including embodied and experiential knowledge. The imperative for scholarship is to demystify social institutions so that we can explore, critique and understand how things happen. And so, I am producing the first social science exploration and critique of the medico-legal and administrative context governing the immigration to Canada for people with HIV. I argue that the state’s ideological work related to HIV ushers in a set of institutional practices that are highly problematic. To give a human face to this argument, I draw on my ethnographic work and offer “views from below” based on the conviction that “there is good reason to believe that vision is better from below the brilliant space platforms of the powerful,” to cite Donna Harraway. The opportunity of this residency is stellar; affording a valuable chance to practice ‘slow scholarship’ and to form intellectual communities of practice as we commune to exchange ideas and imagine new projects.
I am a sociologist of health and illness specializing in qualitative methods and the social studies of HIV-related policy and Canadian immigration law. I use the social organization of knowledge approach and institutional ethnography as forms of inquiry. The bulk of my work to date has explored immigration medical inadmissibility decision-making and its consequences. “Screening and Screaming in Exile: Medical Examination and the Immigration Health Work of People with HIV” is the name of my monograph, currently under review with the University of British Columbia Press. Since 2013, I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran and Romania. I supervise and teach students in English and French.