Photo of Stuart J. Murray

Stuart J. Murray

Canada Research Chair in Rhetoric & Ethics

Degrees:B.A. Hons. (University of Toronto), M.A. (University of London), M.Phil. (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), M.A., Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2314
Office:1820 Dunton Tower

Research Interests

  • rhetoric
  • ethical studies
  • biopolitics and bioethics
  • critical theory and media
  • medical humanities
  • phenomenology


My research contributes to an understanding of ethics in light of the ethical challenges raised by burgeoning biotechnologies and biopolitical forms of governance. The increasing “biologization” of bodies and political identities renders obsolete traditional forms of ethics, based on the principles of human reason and autonomy. This program of research addresses the constitution of subjectivity through biotechnology, biopolitics, and global media networks. More specifically, it interrogates the ways in which the concept of “life” is constituted and deployed as an ethical good, from human rights to biophysiology, and from civil society to bioethics.

By drawing on and incorporating the lessons of rhetorical theory and criticism, textuality studies, and poststructuralism, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of ethical life, relationality, and sociality. This perspective is better able to address subjectivities constituted in the wake of advanced biotechnologies, healthcare systems, and communications networks and practices. The objective is to reorient ethical discourse and practice away from the tradition of liberal humanism, and instead to look at the ways that ethics is a rhetorical practice located in and through bodies, political identities, and communicative networks and their effects.

CIHR-Funded Research

“Developing a Research Agenda to Examine Sociocultural and Ethical Issues in the Era of HIV Treatment-as-Prevention”

This planning grant brings HIV care providers, community members, and researchers from across Canada into dialogue concerning the sociocultural and ethical impact of new HIV treatment and prevention approaches.  Recently, treatment and prevention have merged to become what is being called treatment-as-prevention.  Called “TasP” for short, this approach promotes increasing individual HIV testing, and early initiation of HIV drug treatment, to reduce the spread of HIV at the population level.  This planning grant comprises a critical interpretive synthesis (CIS) of TasP literature, a series of consultations with HIV stakeholders in key areas of the country, and the development of a pan-Canadian research project based on the CIS and consultations.  The goal of this project is to develop a larger program of research that will examine how HIV stakeholders interpret TasP and integrate it into clinical and personal health practices for people living with HIV.

“Solitary Space: Seclusion Rooms and the Ethics of Body and Place”

The purpose of this study is to shift the terms of ethical discourse in a manner that will be commensurable with the lived experience of patients and with nursing staff who care for them. Through a critical ethnography and semi-structured interviews with patients and nursing staff, we employ a phenomenological analysis to gain a better understanding of the seclusion room as a lived and relational space. This is an original project because very little research has addressed the subjective dimensions of body and place in the study of ethical practice. Moreover, the project answers the growing need for an alternative approach to bioethics, one that extends beyond the abstract coordinates of analytic philosophy. Such an examination could help healthcare providers to consider the emotional and bodily impacts of seclusion on patients, and encourage them not only to better understand the experience of patients but also to actively find alternatives to this controversial intervention.

SSHRC-Funded Research

“Ethics and Mental Health Care: An Analysis of Professional Practices in Correctional Institutions”

This research project is situated at the crossroads of two disciplinary fields: health sciences and ethics. From an ethical perspective, it explores the practices of healthcare providers with respect to the care that they offer to a vulnerable population (psychiatric inmates) within specific psychiatric care milieus (forensic psychiatric units). Several authors have described the challenges faced by healthcare providers, such as nurses and social workers, who work in forensic psychiatry. However, few have addressed the ethical stakes of a professional practice that is subordinate to the security measures that govern forensic psychiatric milieus. Healthcare providers are constantly confronted with the opposing imperatives of care and security (including correctional operations). This study addresses the causes and consequences of this ethical dilemma. In doing so, it seeks to represent the ethical tensions experienced by specific healthcare professional groups, including nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

Honours and Awards

  • Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists 2014
  • Research Achievement Award, Carleton University 2014
  • SRC Award, Ryerson University 2009-2010
  • Undergraduate Teaching Award, University of Toronto 2005-2006
  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Toronto 2004-2006
  • Chancellor’s Fellowship, UC Berkeley 2003-2004
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley 2002-2003
  • SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, UC Berkeley 2001-2002
  • ERASMUS Scholarship, Bergische Universität-Gesamthochschule Wuppertal, Germany 1995


  • Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Leadership Opportunity Fund 2013-2018
  • CIHR Planning Grant 2013-2014
  • SSHRC Standard Research Grant 2009-2012
  • CIHR Operating Grant 2011-2013
  • New Faculty SRC Development Grant, Ryerson University 2008-2010
  • SSHRC Institutional Research Grant, Ryerson University 2008-2009


S.J. Murray & D. Holmes (eds.), Critical Interventions in the Ethics of Healthcare: Challenging the Principle of Autonomy in Bioethics (Ashgate Publishing, 2009)

Selected Recent Publications

A. Guta, C. Strike, S. Flicker, S.J. Murray, R. Upshur, & T. Myers, “Governing Through Community-Based Research: Lessons from the Canadian HIV Research Sector,” Social Science & Medicine (e-pub ahead of print: 2014)

S.J. Murray, “Affirming the Human? The Question of Biopolitics,” Law, Culture and the Humanities (e-pub ahead of print: 2014), doi:10.1177/1743872114538908

S.J. Murray & D. Holmes, “A New Form of Homicide in Canada’s Prisons: The Case of Ashley Smith,” (10 March 2014)

S.J. Murray, “Allegories of the Bioethical: Reading J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year,” Journal of Medical Humanities, vol. 35, no. 3 (2014): 321–334

S.J. Murray & S. Burgess, “Delinquent Life: Forensic Psychiatry and Neoliberal Biopolitics,” in Power and the Psychiatric Apparatus: Repression, Transformation and Assistance, eds. D. Holmes, J.-D. Jacob, & A. Perron (Ashgate Publishing, 2014), 135–145

S.J. Murray & D. Holmes, “Toward a Critical Ethical Reflexivity: Phenomenology and Language in Maurice Merleau-Ponty,” Bioethics, vol. 27, no. 6 (2013): 341–347

S.J. Murray, “Rhetorical Insurgents: Biopolitics and the Insurrectionary Rhetoric of McLuhan’s Cool Media,” Canadian Review of American Studies, vol. 42, no. 2 (2012): 123–141 [Honourable Mention, the Ernest Redekop Essay Prize, Canadian Association of American Studies]

A. Guta, S.J. Murray, & A. McClelland, “Global AIDS Governance, Biofascism, and the Difficult Freedom of Expression,” APORIA: The Nursing Journal, vol. 3, no. 4 (2011): 15–29, see <>

Selected Recent Presentations

“Biopolitical Mor(t)alities: Canadian Law, Biomedicine, and Neocolonial Imaginaries in the Case of a Young First Nations Girl,” [primary author] with Tad Lemieux, Critical Legal Theory Conference, University of Sussex, United Kingdom, 4–6 September 2014

“Towards an Etho-Rhetoric Critique of ‘Affirmative Biopolitics’,” “Life, in Theory” conference, European Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, Turin, Italy, 3–6 June 2014

“Pronouncing Death: Biopolitical Affirmations,” Rhetoric Society of America Conference, San Antonio, TX, 22–26 May 2014

“The Body as Machine: Neoliberal Biopolitics and the Performative Rhetorics of HIV Treatment-as-Prevention,” Vitalizing Movements Conference, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, 30 January – 1 February 2014

“Experiencing Seclusion: A Phenomenological Study,” [secondary author] with Dave Holmes and Natasha Knack, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, San Diego, CA, 24–27 October 2013

“Is an ‘Affirmative’ Biopolitics Ethical?” Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 7–9 June 2013

“Bodily Cognition and Recognition: Biopolitics and the Ambiguity of the Flesh,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Birkbeck College, London, UK, 22–23 March 2013

“Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and the Ethics of Seclusion in Mental Health,” [primary author] with Dave Holmes, International Association of Bioethics Conference, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 26–29 June 2012

Recent Graduate Courses

ENGL 5900: Neoliberal Biopolitics, Ethics, and “Community” (fall 2014)

ENGL 5002: Judith Butler and her Interlocutors (fall 2013)

ENGL 5900: Biopolitics (fall 2012)

ENGL 5900: Rhetorical and Textual Ethics (winter 2012)

Recent Graduate Supervisions

Phd (supervisor):

Tad Lemieux (2014 – ongoing), “Sovereign Time: Inuit Sovereignty Claims in the Era of Neoliberalism”; Department of English Language & Literature, Carleton University

Sara Martel (2014; nominated for dissertation prize) (OGS), “Picturing Life-Stories in a Biomedical Setting: A Phenomenological Analysis of Neonatal End-of-Life Photography”; Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, York University

Steven Schnoor (2013) (SSHRC, OGS), “Governmentality and the New Spirit of Exploitation: The Politics of Legitimacy and Resistance Surrounding Democracy and Development Under Neoliberalism”; Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, Ryerson University

Nicholas S. Anderson (2011; nominated for Governor-General’s Award) (SSHRC, OGS), “Creatures of Artifice: Rodney Brooks and the Bioethics of Animated Machines”; Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, Ryerson University

 MA (supervisor):

Kathleen Gorman (2013), “The Biopolitical Novel: Literary Demystification of Systems of Bio-power,” Major Research Paper, MA in English Language & Literature, Carleton University

Valerie Uher (2010 – 2011), “The Significance of Anya’s ‘Grace’: Ethics, Embodiment and Erotic Desire in J.M. Coetzee’sDiary of a Bad Year,” Major Research Paper, MA in Literatures of Modernity, Ryerson University

Andrew Iliadis (2009 – 2010), “Educating the Neoliberal Mind: The Rhetorical Logic of University Networks and the Growth of Urban Capital,” Thesis, Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, Ryerson University

Farzana Bhatty (2008 – 2009), “The Search for bin Laden: Post-9/11 Terrorism and the Representation of the Other,” Major Research Paper, Graduate Programme in Communication & Culture, Ryerson University


  • Cross-appointed to the Department of Health Sciences
  • Associate Member, Unit for Critical Research in Health, University of Ottawa
  • The Digital Rhetoric + Ethics Lab has been funded by a Canadian Foundation for Innovation Infrastructure Grant. Co-directed by Brian Greenspan, and currently under construction, the Lab will capitalize on new technological developments in social networking and multimodal computer interfaces, complement Carleton’s research into multimodal rhetorics and storytelling across media, and allow us to extend that research into the rhetorics of interactive multitouch surfaces. The infrastructure responds to the societal need for research into innovative forms of ethical subjectivity by enabling experiments into relational, non-cognitive communication ethics through a Digital Humanities (DH) and rhetorical studies framework. Email: For updates on the Lab’s activities, ‘Like’ the Digital Rhetoric + Ethics Lab on Facebook.

Visit Stuart’s page.

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