Graduate Student Summer Research Fellows

We are pleased to announce the 2023 Graduate Student Summer Research Fellows, Tania Ruiz-Chapman and Walter Rafael Villanueva! Learn more about our Summer Research Fellowship here, and read on for a description of this year’s projects. 

2023 Graduate Student Summer Research Fellows

Tania Ruiz-Chapman


Tania Ruiz-Chapman is a PhD student in the Social Justice Education program at OISE, University of Toronto. Her work is rooted in critical disability studies, critical race theory, migration studies and Marxist theory. She examines the boundaries of citizenship through an analysis of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and Canadian Immigration policies.  Ultimately, her work seeks to understand how the mode of production (colonial capitalism) is the umbrella and hegemonic mechanism of all human socio-political life and identity formation, specifically as it relates to immigration and border fortification. She has done community work with undocumented detainees in various capacities as well as with temporary foreign migrant workers in Ontario, Canada. 

Photo of Summer Research Fellow Tania Ruiz-Chapman
Image Description: Photo of Summer Fellowship awardee Tania Ruiz-Chapman

Project Description

My project seeks to explore and advance Ian Hacking’s looping effect as a methodology for analyzing the ways in which ‘Cartesian subjectivity’, ‘formal citizenship’ and ‘humanness’, loop in and out of each other. The looping effect moves forward through time looping bodies in and out of humanness, Cartesian subjectivity and citizenship. The boundaries of these categories shift throughout time. The ‘subject’, the ‘citizen’, and the ‘human’ are the conceptual entities in terms of which my work discusses how temporary and undocumented migrants are denied access to citizenship in order to maintain the dominance of settler colonial rule and order in Canada. I use immigration policy and the management of migrant labour, as an example wherein the looping effect is exemplified. To do this, I make an analysis of print material (applications, government documents and guidelines, media reports), procedural requirements, and citizenship restrictions. 

The overall theoretical foundation informing my work is Marxian dialectical materialism. My work demonstrates how Canadian immigration policies relating to temporary foreign workers programs, and Canada’s commitment to indefinite detention and/or deportation of undocumented migrants, all perpetually dehumanize some ‘kinds of people’ through the denial of citizenship. These processes are inherently disabling insofar as they safeguard the ‘pure body’ of the normative legitimized citizen within Canada’s borders, which is a border making project in itself. I show how the programs, policies and procedures in question disable already vulnerable populations in the name of economic profit, national security and bio-political legitimacy. At the same time, disability is approached by the state as a ‘useless difference’ (Titchkosky) and as grounds to loop some out of subjectivity, citizenship and humanness. I specifically address how some of the movements and contradictions that have occurred produce, reproduce, morph and fortify the border as it exists in the context of this study.  

Walter Rafael Villanueva


Walter Rafael Villanueva is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and holds research positions at the Centre for Global Disability Studies and the Department of Health & Society at the University of Toronto. Using a critical disability studies and mad studies framework, his work explores the metaphorization of madness in contemporary Canadian memoirs and novels written by racialized authors.

Photo of Summer Fellowship awardee Walter Rafael Villanueva
Image Description: Photo of Summer Fellowship awardee Walter Rafael Villanueva

Project Description

Despite mental illness often being considered the domain of modern medicine, our
understandings of madness are more likely to be shaped by portrayals of these experiences in
literature. However, although Canada is considered a hub for critical disability and mad studies, scholarship on depictions of disability in Canadian literature is rare, with work focusing particularly on madness being especially scarce. Consequently, my dissertation engages in a deeper examination of mental illness in Canadian prose works to discover what these depictions reveal about our (mis)understandings of mental illness. My project traces the narrative patterns that emerge in recent Canadian literary depictions of madness. In particular, the texts I study demonstrate and complicate the “overcoming narrative” that has dominated Canadian representations of madness since at least the 1970s. Despite privileging the experience of being mad over its clinical symptoms, literary narratives still tend to mirror psychiatric discourse by requiring their protagonists to overcome their madness. In Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing (1972), for instance, the unnamed protagonist experiences a psychotic break that critics have long interpreted as a revolt against the patriarchy. In Atwood’s novel, as in many other literary and psychiatric narratives, overcoming madness represents resilience and empowerment, whereas succumbing to madness is seen as a personal or moral failing. Such “overcoming narratives” risk turning madness into a metaphor that enables the text to comment on society writ large, while forfeiting the ability to comment on the etiology of mental illness. Analyzing novels and memoirs mainly by racialized authors, I expose how these metaphors operate and explore new readings by putting these interpretations in conversation with the more literal sociomedical narrative. Canada, as “ground zero” for mad studies (Reville 2013; Ingram 2022), is uniquely positioned influence global understandings of madness. My dissertation, which intersects with critical disability studies, mad studies, and the health and medical humanities, has the potential to contribute a Canadian approach to many fields.

Previous Graduate Student Summer Research Fellows

2022 Inaugural Fellows

Elaine Cagulada – Deafness, Race, and Policing: A Critical Analysis of Police Accessibility Education in Community

Vanessa Maloney – The politics of ‘looking after’: Disability and economies of care in the Cook Islands