Sept. 26, 2023Print | PDF
Three world-class researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University are celebrating the release of new books. In their recent publications, Edmund Pries, associate professor of Global Studies and Religion and Culture, explores social change through an early religious movement; Assistant Professor of Criminology Katrin Roots examines the complexities of law and human trafficking; and English Professor Eleanor Ty shares how comics can reshape our understanding of the Asian American experience.
During the early modern period, the oath served as a social adhesive, ensuring the obedience of every subject or citizen to authority and laws. In his book, Pries examines what happens when a segment of society rejects the social contract sealed within their oath and redefines their own social structures by declaring alternative loyalties. Anabaptists formed a fringe movement of Christianity, leading to modern-day Amish and Mennonite communities.
“This study of 16th century Anabaptism provides a window into the social conflict and societal changes brought by the Reformation and the power of performative rhetoric,” says Pries. “These issues help us understand the codependent relationship of the legal, socio-political and religious realms and, hopefully, comprehend current societal conflict over social change.”
Roots has published two books in recent months. The Domestication of Human Trafficking was written in response to the simplistic narratives of human trafficking that pervade society, largely focused on the urgent need to help victims and punish traffickers. Root explains how current criminal legal approaches are driven by political and moral motivations that conflate trafficking with sexual labour and intimate relationships, encouraging imprisonment as a solution and diverting attention from underlying structural causes.
“I hope readers will take away a more nuanced perspective on human trafficking that enables them to critically assess pervasive public campaigns and often oversimplified media coverage,” says Roots. “I want them to understand the harms that come from individualizing deeply rooted structural problems and framing them as criminal legal issues, which is then used to target marginalized communities, including racialized people, migrants and sex workers.”
Violence, Imagination and Resistance, co-edited by Mariful Alam and Patrick Dwyer, discusses the relationship between law and violence, documenting the ways violence is built into the very core of law. Roots and her fellow contributors demonstrate the myriad of ways law can be employed to oppress, marginalize, discriminate, divert responsibility and even commit genocide.
“Law is often thought of as an objective and neutral tool, yet so many harmful practices are approved and justified by it,” says Roots. “We hope our book complicates understandings of the law and draws attention to the sometimes subtle ways it can be used to achieve harmful outcomes.”
In popular culture and Hollywood films during the first half of the 20th century, Asians were often caricatured as sinister villains, exotic temptress figures, foreigners and asexual servants. Beyond the Icon illustrates how comics help depict Asian Americans as nuanced individuals in ways that words alone may not, positioning the comics genre as a powerful tool for countering misrepresentations and myths about Asians in North America. Ty was awarded the 2022 Prize for Edited Book Collection by the Comics Studies Society.
“I hope that readers will better appreciate the richness of graphic narratives by contemporary Asian Americans and their full, complex depictions of Asian diasporic subjects,” says Ty. “These comics are retelling our forgotten or silenced histories, presenting strong and positive examples, and explaining the structures of inequality that shape our lives.”