events, projects

Sleep Salons – Fall 2021

Salon no. 1 : The Social Lives of Sleep

How might we begin to think the sociability of sleep?


✦ Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Anthropology, Binghamton University)
✦ Carmela Alcántara (Social Work, Columbia University)

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How and why should we conceive of sleep in social terms? Sleep appears to be a way that the body leaves behind the social world for an inner and highly individualized landscape. Yet much sleep research has also attended to the ways sleep reinforces the social, political, and environmental forces that govern our waking lives.

Here we invite two distinguished researchers to share how their research approaches the social and collective dimensions of a seemingly singular experience.

✦ Matthew Wolf-Meyer is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University. His book The Slumbering Masses: Sleep Medicine, and Modern American Life uses ethnographic and archival materials to explore the history of sleep and sleeplessness in 20th century American life against the backdrops of modern medicine and industrial capitalism.

✦ Carmela Alcántara is Associate Professor of Social Work and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, where she also directs the Sleep, Mind and Health Research Program. Her work, which integrates psychology, social work, public health and medicine, seeks to advance health equity by understanding how discrimination and other stressors affect sleep and mental health.

Moderated by Alanna Thain, Associate Professor of English at McGill University, director of the Moving Image Research Lab and the research team CORERISC (Epistemologies of Embodied Risk) and former director of the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. As a co-applicant for the Sociability of Sleep project, she is interested in exploring sleep’s intimate opacities, when we become other to ourselves. Her work explores sleep’s relation to radical forms of care and relationality in queer and feminist cinema and performance and in relation to urban ecologies.

The Sleep Salons are curated by Josh Dittrich (Postdoctoral Fellow, Université de Montréal), Aleksandra Kaminska (Associate Professor, Université de Montréal), and Alanna Thain (Associate Professor, McGill University). They are part of a year-long series:

The Sociability of Sleep is two-year research program that explores both everyday and exceptional experiences of sleep and its disturbances. Launching our programming this Fall are the Sleep Salons, monthly public sessions featuring scholars, artists, and researchers on sleep, showcasing innovative research though conversations that examine how we learn and know about sleep, and that question and expand the methodologies, epistemologies, and equities of sleep knowledge. Exploring the value of sleep research in art and design, humanities, and social sciences, and taking experiential, experimental, critical, and sociable approaches to sleep, each monthly Salon pairs short talks (ca. 25 minutes) from two featured speakers to generate interdisciplinary insights in the ensuing discussion about the sociability of sleep.

The Sociability of Sleep and its Sleep Salons are supported by funding from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF).