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Nancy Van Styvendale, PhD, MA, BAH

Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Research)

Native Studies

About Me

Nancy Van Styvendale (B.A. Hon, Winnipeg; M.A, Simon Fraser; Ph.D., Alberta) is a white settler scholar who researches and teaches in the field of Indigenous literatures, with particular commitments to Indigenous prison writing; penal abolition; arts-based programs in prison; discourses of recovery and healing; and community-engaged/community-based education. Nancy is involved in a number of collaborative, community-driven teaching and research projects, including Inspired Minds, a creative writing program offered to incarcerated people in Alberta and Saskatchewan jails/prisons. She is a founding moderator, along with Vicki Chartrand, of the Abolition Network, an online community of activists and scholars dedicated to imagining a world beyond prisons and carceral culture more broadly. When not facilitating classes at the university or in prison, Nancy can be found reading at the beach (weather permitting) or lounging at home with her three cats: Lucy, Olive, and Eddard.


Currently, Nancy is working on a number of related research projects: the first looks to understand the material and discursive possibilities and constraints of Indigenous prison writing, and the second interrogates the place of penal abolition in the settler colonial context of Canada, particularly from within Indigenous Studies methodological and theoretical frameworks. Building on previous work like Education to Heal, a collaboratively authored manifesto on the right to education in prison, Nancy is interested in working with incarcerated people on research creation projects as a community-driven mode of producing and disseminating knowledge about anti-colonial resistance in carceral space.

Nancy has published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Justice Studies, Engaged Scholar Journal, Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, and Studies in the Novel, as well as co-editing two collections: Global Indigenous Health: Reconciling the Past, Engaging the Present, Animating the Future (with R. Henry, A. Lavallee, and R. Innes) and Narratives of Citizenship (with A. Fleischmann and C. McCarroll). A further collection, The Arts of Indigenous Health and Wellbeing (with J. McDougall, R. Henry, and R. Innes) is under review with the U of Manitoba Press. Nancy has also co-edited a special issue of Engaged Scholar Journal on community service-learning in Canada with S. Buhler and J. McDonald.


In the Faculty of Native Studies, Nancy has taught NS 111 (Contemporary Perspectives in Native Studies), NS 476 (Perspectives on Aboriginal Heath and Wellbeing), NS 590 (Community-Based Research), and NS 690 (Advanced Indigenous Research Methodologies). She also taught NS 360, a special topics class on Indigenous prison writing, which will be offered again in Spring 2020. In all of her classes, Nancy brings the strength of her training as a literary scholar, which means that students have the opportunity to learn close reading analytical skills and discourse analysis, as well as getting to explore literary and artistic texts in classes where they might not otherwise encounter such texts. 

Nancy's teaching philosophy is decidedly student-centered and participatory. She loves to learn from and with her students, and she is always encouraging them to share and build their views together in a thoughtful and collaborative manner. Whenever possible, Nancy incorporates community-based educational activities into her courses--whether that be asking students to attend a community event and write a reflection as a component of their class work, or asking them to engage more deeply in a term-long community-engaged individual or group project. Nancy believes that our collective learning is richer when we engage with each other and with the topics at hand in both academic and community spaces. 

If you are a graduate student with research interests in Indigenous prison writing, penal abolition, the criminalization of Indigenous peoples, carceral cultures, arts programs in prisons, and/or community-engaged or community-based education, please contact me to discuss how I might be able to support your research.