For the seventh year in a row, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill and SSMU are collaborating to bring us “Culture Shock.” This weeklong event starts Monday, October 15, offering the public free admission to a series of informative happenings including panels, exhibitions, talks, and screenings. Andrea Figueroa, the external coordinator of QPIRG and Culture Shock, explained that the event aims to explore the myths surrounding “immigrants, refugees, indigenous people, and communities of colour” in a way that would enable them to directly share their stories and experiences with the public.
According to Figueroa, the event was initially organized by QPIRG as “Culture Fest” and approached the idea of cultural exploration in a tokenizing fashion, where the exploration of different cultures was relegated to a booth-to-booth visitation style that did nothing to address the complex and often oppressive situations of ethnic minorities. The desire to push past this tokenization prompted a reworking of the event to reflect and include their personal anecdotes. As Figueroa stresses, Culture Shock succeeded in becoming an avenue for members of these communities to relay their stories of hardship.
This year, Culture Shock includes panels, interactive workshops, and film screenings, in addition to an art exhibition by JustC, an art collective whose work espouses a strong ethic of social justice. Their featured exhibition, Migration Now, explores migrants’ anxiety in relation to national borders. JustC advocates for the rights of migrants because they see population transfer as an inevitable process.
This year’s Culture Shock is structured around a main panel entitled “Migration, Prisons, and Art,” led by Favianna Rodriguez, a printmaker and digital artist based in Oakland, California. As illustrated by Rodriguez’s participation, Culture Shock refuses to take a passive stance in portraying minority experience. It aims not only to inform but also to mobilize the public to take a stance against problems that reach beyond minority groups, such as flaws within our prison system.
Groups such as The Termite Collective will be featured to advocate for the abolition of the prison system in Canada, while No One is Illegal will discuss the practice of “double punishment” for refugees and immigrants. This process involves punishing prisoners twice over by stripping them of certain fundamental rights once they are in prison. In their upcoming panel at Culture Shock, No One is Illegal will specifically contest the application of double punishment to immigrant prisoners, who are subject to immediate deportation if they serve a minimum term of five years.
Following its weeklong series of socially and politically conscious panels, workshops, and screenings, Culture Shock will end on a lighter note by hosting a fundraising party on October 19 at Il Motore. The party will include local DJs and is intended to raise funds for Solidarity Across Borders and the Immigrant Workers Center.
For further information, check out the full schedule of events at qpirgmcgill.org/culture-shock.