Feminist philosopher and political theorist Cressida Heyes named Henry Marshall Tory Chair

    Heyes’ interdisciplinary research explores gender, sexuality and the cultural role of sleep

    By Donna McKinnon on December 19, 2018

    On December 5, political scientist and philosopher Cressida J. Heyes was appointed Henry Marshall Tory Chair on the recommendation of the University of Alberta President David Turpin, the Board of Governors, and the Henry Marshall Tory Chair Selection Committee. 

    Named after Henry Marshall Tory, the first president of the University of Alberta, the five-year renewable appointment recognizes Heyes’ outstanding record of scholarly research, teaching, educational leadership, as well as service to the University of Alberta and community.

    “It’s a great honour,” says Heyes, who previously held the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality. “It will make a big difference to my professional life, and give me a bit of research funding to boost a project on the regulation of sexual violence that has been languishing.”

    The Tory Chair program focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and fine arts. Heyes joins previous Henry Marshall Tory Chair recipients: Sarah Carter (History and Classics); Rob Shields (Sociology); Mark Nuttall (Anthropology); and Beverly Lemire (History and Classics).

    As a feminist philosopher and political theorist, Heyes’ research seeks to provide leadership and expertise in discourses around gender, sexuality and bodies, and how these shape our relationships, social practices and political institutions. She has explored privilege and marginalization within feminist politics; how and why people change their bodies in order to express something about who they are – touching on trans politics, weight loss and the politics of cosmetic surgery.

    Heyes says her work has always reached a wide range of people, but her current SSHRC Insight Grant funded project—Sleep is the New Sex—promises to be even more accessible.

    “As the title implies, I’ve found that a lot of people are very interested in talking about sleep—especially how they aren’t getting enough or it’s not good enough!” she explains. “By this I mean two things: first, recent research suggests that more people (especially more women) crave sleep than sex, and sleep has taken over from sex in the popular imagination as a topic for cultural anxiety and thwarted need. The book is intended as a series of reflections on the cultural role of sleep, especially as it relates to gender and sexuality. Put simply, I hope to write the first feminist philosophy of sleep.”

    As part of the research, Heyes, along with “terrific” doctoral student Jeanique Tucker, will be conducting an interview-based study of sleep coaches and the parents who use their services. She will also be designing a seminar called “The Politics of Sleep”, which she will teach in the winter semester, 2019.

    “Working with the students in that class will be very generative for the project—and I hope valuable for them not only to learn some new ideas, but also to get a look at the backstage of academic research processes.”

    This research builds on Heyes’ earlier SSHRC funded project, now coming to completion – Anaesthetics of Existence: Essays on Experience at the Edge, which will be published by Duke University Press in 2019.

    “It’s about the politics of experience and how things that happen to us sometimes seem to evade that category,” she says. “[Such as] the time of being drunk or high; being sexually assaulted while unconscious; and giving birth. What happens when we step out of our usual frames of time, space, and embodiment and our self-narrative is ruptured—in terrible and wonderful ways.”

    Born and raised in England, Heyes is the past recipient of both the Faculty of Arts’ Research Excellence Award and the Undergraduate Teaching Award. In 2008, she received the Rutherford Award for Excellence in Teaching, the University of Alberta's highest teaching honour.

    Read more about Cressida Heyes’ sleep research in this UAlberta Folio article.