Vanessa Watts, Academic Director of the Indigenous Studies Program, is Mohawk (Bear Clan, Six Nations) and Anishinaabe. Her research focuses on Indigenous material knowledge production sites amongst the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe. She examines the roles of gender, sexuality, spirit, and other-than-humans in how material knowledge is produced and inherited within Indigenous communities amidst colonialism. Her research is framed within broader discussions of how epistemology and ontology are oriented to Indigenous cosmologies.

Vanessa currently holds an Arts Research Board grant entitled, “Working Colonial Sexualities: Indigenous Sex Workers and the Colonial Desire”, which will interrogate feminist approaches to agency in the sex trade industry in an effort to make space for the voices of Indigenous sex workers. This research will document how power and agency are particularly inaccessible to Indigenous women in the sex trade as well as contextualize discussions of prostitution, colonization and Indigenous women in Canada’s efforts towards decriminalization of sex work, and the discourse of empowerment embedded within it.

Research Interests: Indigenous Knowledge, Indigenous Sexualities, Indigenous Cosmologies