Presenting the lives of hipsters or the homeless 

Anthropology students present their reflections on multiple populations in Stories from Montreal 5

By Karen Herland

“There’s so much going on in Montreal, it’s impossible to put everything in one collection,” says anthropology MA student Maike Storks.

As the editor in chief of the fifth volume of Stories from Montreal, she knew better than to even try. Each of the book’s 10 chapters derives from the research paper of a different student in ANTH 315. Students are encouraged to identify one community or subculture, from the dozens in Montreal, and study it through the lens of an ethnographer. But what the book necessarily lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, “It is not about studying everything in a superficial manner but to gain an in-depth understanding of something.”

Over two semesters, students find their research subjects, conduct interviews and research and compile their observations into a final paper. When Storks took that class in 2008-09 as an undergrad, she’d heard about the book project from previous years, “I liked the idea of a student run endeavour, and knew I wanted to be part of it,” she said. She didn’t know at the beginning that by the time the volume was published, she would be its editor in chief.

“There were 18 people involved in the project, we wanted to give credit to everybody,” she says, to explain the lengthy list of contributors, editors, fundraisers and graphic designers acknowledged in the volume. All of them had a hand in selecting, improving, presenting and producing the final collection.

“It was really interesting being involved in all the stages of the production of a complete book,” says Storks and a great learning experience.”

Laughing, she adds, “the project itself could have been the subject of an anthropological study. We all came from different perspectives and different places.”

The latter was true literally as well as figuratively. Over the course of the year-long production process, some students returned to their homes across Canada, as well as parts of Europe, Africa and Mexico. As well, student author and editor Siena Antsis (who won the province’s Forces Avenir award last year, see Journal Nov. 12, 2009) left for Kenya with her job as communications officer for the Aga Khan Foundation.

The far-flung lives of the students who were involved in publishing Stories from Montreal 5 are reflected in the range of contributions. From prisoners to hipsters, punks to the Royal Canadian Legion, various structural and social groups are analyzed. The cultural practices of different groups (related to food and dress) are also addressed. Students took their own experiences and reframed them. For instance Thomas Prince met, befriended, and worked with Jack, a homeless man, while participating in the 5 Days for the Homeless fundraising campaign.

The students raised the funds needed for the volume from several student associations, and the Concordia University Alumni Association. They decided to launch it at the welcome reception of the Canadian Sociological Association during Congress. “There were scholars there from all over the country,” according to Storks, who added that at least one professor enthusiastically purchased the book hoping to inspire students at his institution.

Those wishing to get their own copy can find one at the Co-op Bookstore and the university bookstore. Meanwhile, Storks has already talked with the team from this year’s graduates, in anticipation of Stories from Montreal 6.


Concordia University