Sonya de Laat (PhD Media Studies, MA Anthropology) is currently the Academic Advisor and Curriculum Coordinator in the Global Health graduate program at McMaster University. She previously held a position as Postdoctoral Fellow in Humanitarian Health Ethics with the HHERG. Her research interests span visual theory, cultural history and medical anthropology. Her current research interests include the moral, political and historical dimensions of humanitarian visual culture. She co-led on a case study part of the project “Aid when there is nothing left to offer” exploring moral and practical experiences of palliative care in protracted refugee/conflict settings.
For nearly 15 years she has worked as a research coordinator on genetic and cardiovascular health services, end-of-life decision-making, and humanitarian healthcare ethics research projects. Her areas of interest include the political, moral and cultural aspects of photography as they relate to humanitarianism, suffering, difficult knowledge, healthcare and end-of-life care. She brings her multi-disciplinary and multi-practice interests together to reach a broad range of audiences and potential audiences. Her work is focused on drawing attention to photography’s ability to ignite imagination and to spark engagement through its ability to reference the past for contemplation about the future. For Sonya, photography is not just about making snapshots in time or for rhetorical statements, rather it is a medium that quotes from all the continuums that radiate from the events it sets in motion or is implicated in. As such, it is an inherently political and social medium that implicates everyone through unequal power relations and with varying degrees of responsibilities. As an active member of the Canadian Network on Humanitarian History, she is engaged in exploring the visual histories of the Canadian International Development Agency and of Canadian aid to refugees and displaced people abroad.
Website & Blog:
de Laat, S., Wahoush, O., Jaber, R. Khater W, Musoni E, Abu Siam I, Schwartz L and the Humanitarian Health Ethics Research Group (2021) A case analysis of partnered research on palliative care for refugees in Jordan and Rwanda. Confl Health 15, 2.https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-020-00333-6
Hunt, M., Nouvet, E., Chénier, A., Krishnaraj, G., Bernard, C., Bezanson, K., de Laat, S., Shcwartz, L. (2020). Addressing obstacles to the inclusion of palliative care in humanitarian health projects: a qualitative study of humanitarian health professionals’ and policy makers’ perceptions. Confl Health 14, 70. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-020-00314-9
de Laat S. (2019).“Pictures in Development: The Canadian International Development Agency’s Photo Library.” In A Samaritan State Revisited: Historical Perspectives on Canadian Foreign Aid, Gregory Donaghy and David Webster, eds. Chapter 9. Calgary University Press. 978-1-77385-040-5
Hunt M, Chénier A, Bezanson K, Nouvet E, Bernard C, de Laat S, Krishnaraj G, L Schwartz L. Moral experiences of humanitarian health professionals caring for patients who are dying or likely to die in a humanitarian crisis. Journal of International Humanitarian Action. 2018. 3: 12.
Tijerina, S. and de Laat, S. (2018).Constructing Modernity and Progress: The Imperializing Lens of an American Engineer in the Early Twentieth Century. Ipersotria, No. XI, Spring/Summer, 24-39. http://www.iperstoria.it/joomla/images/PDF/Numero_11/monografica_11/Tijerina%20and%20de%20Laat.pdf
de Laat, S.(2018). Pictures of migration: The invisible shock of misery photographs. Journal of Applied Journalism & Media Studies, 7(1): 15-36. DOI: 10.1386/ajms.7.1.15_1
Nouvet E., de Laat S, Wang C., Abu-Sada C, and Schwartz L. “Opportunities and challenges of perceptions studies for humanitarian contexts.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies. Published online 17 March 2016 DOI: 10.1080/02255189.2015.1120659.
de Laat S, Schwartz L, Williams-Jones B, Hunt MR, Rochon C, Okhowat A. (2012). “Combat Hospitals’ deployment of ethics and entertainment.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 184(6): 680-681.