PROFile: Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land

Assistant professor, criminal justice, University of Winnipeg

Keeley Braunstein-Black

For Dr. Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, member of the Critical Race Network and an assistant professor for the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg, issues of criminal justice are not just black and white, but part of a large and complicated system that must be regarded with nuanced thinking.

She says that “one of my areas of interest is thinking about alternatives to the criminal justice system, so I consider myself to be an abolitionist.”

“A lot of the research I do is trying to understand how the criminal justice system operates, how it doesn’t necessarily work to do the things that it’s saying it’s doing, and how we might imagine other systems that could do that work better.

“My work is about racism and the way that the criminal justice system feeds off of and entrenches racism in larger society.”

Aside from her research, Dr. Dobchuk-Land also teaches a variety of courses ranging from introductory-level to honours seminars.

She notes that “I am teaching a seminar for the first time this term on colonialism in criminal justice, which focuses on understanding how the criminal justice system has been central to the ongoing settler-colonial project.”

When asked about her experiences with this new classroom dynamic, she says that “what I’m finding is that it’s so hard to have in-depth conversations about sensitive and important issues with people that you don’t know very well.”

“One of the struggles that I didn’t anticipate about teaching a seminar is that the academic project of assuming that you can get together in a room and just talk about ideas without having a good sense of where (everyone) is coming from ... I find that it’s still a challenge for people to open up in a lot of ways.”

Dr. Dobchuk-Land is passionate about dismantling colonial, hetero-patriarchic norms both inside and outside of the institutions in which she operates, noting that “we try as much to grapple (with) the questions that are being posed by the people that are having those experiences, rather than imposing a set of questions onto them.”

What is the best thing about your work?

“Getting the time and space to think about important things and have conversations about them with people who are there to learn.” 

What is something that you've learned from your students?

“Because they’re often people who are working in the criminal justice system, they often have a significant amount of insight into how institutions actually work and how policies are actually carried out and practised on the ground ... offering nuance to the critiques that we explore in class.”

What's your most recent favourite book?

“I’ll tell you about the book I have on my bedside table ... my mother-in-law gave me a copy of this book, (it’s called) Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (by Olga Tokarczuk).” 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

"I like to play with my little toddler, my kid ... I love to travel, I like going on long walks and exploring new neighbourhoods in the city. I love watching movies, and I like doing crafts.”

Published in Volume 74, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 7, 2019)

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