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Community, art and eating disorders

Banting fellow funded $140,000 to bridge academic-community divide

By Danielle Devereaux

Part of an ongoing series of Gazette stories celebrating researchers who received support as part of a major investment by the federal government in science and research on Aug. 29.

Dr. Nicole Schott plans to connect with the eating disorder community in Newfoundland and Labrador through her project, “Eating Disorder” Treatment, Recovery and Survival: Sharing, Gathering and Co-creating Research-informed Mad Art.

“I want to share with, learn from and build community with eating disorder, and what I’m referring to in my research as, eating-order stakeholders in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said about her post-doctoral research.

As one of Memorial University’s newest Banting fellows, and the first for Memorial’s School of Social Work, Dr. Schott has been funded $140,000 over two years by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for her research.

She is being supervised by School of Social Work faculty members Drs. Bren LeFrançois and Julia Janes.

Performance, poetry and academic research

Since the pandemic, eating disorder treatment admissions and referrals have surged across Canada, including in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recovery program wait times are long.

“Nicole’s research and scholarship is cutting edge in the area of eating orders and is forging a groundbreaking path for the ways that eating disorders are understood,” said Drs. LeFrançois and Janes. “Our province will benefit from the work Nicole does here over the next two years. We are fortunate as professors to be a part of this exciting research program and fortunate as a school for this work to be emanating from under our roof.”

Dr. Schott’s Banting project builds upon her PhD research, which was completed at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Nicole Schott, a white woman in her late 30s, sitting in office
Dr. Nicole Schott is one of three new Banting scholars at Memorial University.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

A performance ethnography course that she did as part of her program inspired her to stage her doctoral research as a means of centering silenced perspectives from within the eating disorder community.

The play was performed for audiences made up of eating disorder service users and professionals.

She then conducted post-performance interviews with audience participants, who responded by sharing their intimate stories of eating disorder treatment, recovery and survival.

Theatrical performance

Dr. Schott transformed these interviews into a research-informed poem titled, Under the Psychiatric Treatment Regime: The Impossibility Paradoxes of Eating Dis/Order Recovery.

As part of her Banting project, she will produce and share this poem as a multi-sensorial theatrical performance for people who relate to eating disorders and/or eating orders, in addition to other stakeholders.

Focus groups and one-on-one interviews will follow each performance.

Dr. Schott plans to transform this post-performance research into academic publications, plain-text documents for eating dis/order communities, policy-makers, and an artistic exhibition.

“Being awarded this fellowship communicates that change is happening in the academy and more social justice change is possible.” — Dr. Nicole Schott

This mash-up of scholarly research with performance art is part of Dr. Schott’s prerogative to engage in social action research that bridges the academic-community divide.

She says she is excited to be doing her Banting postdoctoral project at Memorial University, both for the opportunity to connect with a wider eating disorder community and the calibre and expertise of the supervisors she’ll be working with.

Ethics of care

“Both Drs. LeFrançois and Janes are committed to fostering my scholarly and community-based networks in ways that are accelerating my potential to do “artivism” that matters to eating dis/order communities,” she said. “To do this type of social action work I need to be in connection with people who truly care about those whom they engage in research with, who move with an ethics of care and love, and Bren and Julia are that kind of people.”

Being awarded a Banting fellowship is cause for celebration for Dr. Schott as an individual scholar, but also, she notes, for the diverse and multi-faceted eating disorder community within which her research is grounded.

“Scholarship done with mad and other marginalized perspectives, among other innovative arts-based approaches that I will be engaging with, goes against the traditional academic grain. However, being awarded this fellowship communicates that change is happening in the academy and more social justice change is possible, which is energizing and hopeful.”

In addition to the Banting Post-doctoral Fellowship, Dr. Schott will receive $30,000 in internal research grants from Memorial University, which includes $10,000 from the School of Social Work and $10,000 per year over the two-year term of the fellowship, jointly funded by Memorial’s Office of the Vice-President (Research) and the School of Graduate Studies.

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