Sonya de Laat

Sonya de Laat (PhD Media Studies, MA Anthropology) is the 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 is co-lead on a case study part of the project “Aid when there is nothing left to offer“, a case study on moral and practical experiences of palliative care in protracted refugee/conflict settingsFor the past 10 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:

Social Media:


Select Publications:

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 (2015) “Aïm Deüelle Lüski and horizontal photography.” Visual Studies, 31(2). June 2016, pages: 156-157. Published online 20 March 2015. DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2015.1020084

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.

de Laat, S (2002) “First Son: Portraits of C. D. Hoy”.  Nexus: The Canadian Student Journal of Anthropology. Volume 15.

%d bloggers like this: