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Erin Soros

SSHRC William E. Taylor Fellowship

"When a victim on the witness stand relays private details, civil or criminal law bears the responsibility of interpreting the significance of those experiences while also setting boundaries between the private and the public domain. My dissertation will influence the contemporary study of law and inform a general audience about the threat of violence and the ethical and political dilemmas involved in protecting the right to free speech, as well as our right not to be threatened by it."

Blending research and narrative elements, Erin Soros’s doctoral work is a compelling culmination of her diverse experiences working with marginalized communities.

After more than a decade as a rape crisis counsellor for victims of sexual violence, and as a literacy co-ordinator for immigrants, refugees, and Aboriginal communities, Soros developed an interest in how individuals experience and react to trauma.

Using a framework drawn from human rights law, philosophy and autobiography, Soros is investigating a series of legal cases that involve threats, as well as discussing her own experiences as one of nine women who testified in court against a convicted stalker and serial sex offender. Focusing on the language used by victims and perpetrators, she is using her SSHRC doctoral award to explore the link between words and subsequent actions, how the law responds to a victim’s interpretation of a threat, and the impacts of this response.

"For a witness to testify effectively in court, she must make private events public, and her terror understandable to a general audience. She must link seemingly disparate gestures, innuendoes and statements into a narrative of cause and effect, act and response, and crime and punishment,"says Soros, who is currently teaching and pursuing her doctorate at England’s University of East Anglia. "It’s not as cut and dry as simply ‘What is the truth?’" she says. "We want the law attending to victims’ stories while also respecting that the meanings and intentions of language depend on the relationship history, institutional context, and individual understanding."

A former Fulbright scholar at New York’s Columbia University, Soros’s talent and capacity for academia have resulted in a long list of prestigious scholarships and teaching awards. For her University of British Columbia master’s thesis on trauma, Soros received the Carol Coates Literary Award and the Governor General’s Gold medal. She subsequently presented and published her work at several professional conferences and in a number of international journals.

Her fiction has been produced for radio by the CBC and BBC, and has earned her a CBC Literary Award, first prize in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, and a spot on the list of finalists for the BBC National Short Story Award. A play based on her short story "The Moon, The Cat and The Donkey" is being produced in Edinburgh, while a collection of  her prose and photographs, titled Morning is Vertical, is forthcoming from Rufus Books.

The William E. Taylor Fellowship is awarded each year to the most outstanding SSHRC doctoral award recipient.