Photo of Stuart J. Murray

Stuart J. Murray


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)
Office:1810 Dunton Tower

Research Interests

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


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.

SSHRC-Funded Research

Communicating, Desiring, Experiencing: The Rhetorics of “Great Sex”

 In the contemporary mediascape, we are witness to a panoply of often contradictory discourses on sexuality. The pathologizing discourses of “professional” practice and research tend to medicalize and psychiatrize sex and sexuality. By contrast, popular mass media exhort us to optimize our sexual performance and pleasure, and yet alongside these injunctions we are warned of diverse “dangers” and “risks,” making sexuality the subject of suspicion, surveillance, and regulation. It has become impossible, thanks in part to the work of the #MeToo movement, to ignore burgeoning institutional and educational programs promoting sexual consent and raising the awareness of sexual violence and abuse. Sympathetic yet critical responses to these discourses, however, demonstrate how, in an effort to stop sexual violence, we have created a climate of suspicion, moral panic, and fear of legal prosecution. In this complex discursive context, most surprising perhaps is the studied silence that reigns: very little research attends to the expression of desire, the pursuit of pleasure, or the experience of sexual pleasure itself. It is precisely this lacuna that this project aims to address.

“Feeling Life: Biopolitics, Literature, and Humanitarian Sentimentality”

What mode of sentimental feeling—what affective force—drives 21st-century biopolitical/humanitarian interventions on the part of Western democratic states? And how does “humanitarian sentimentality” function implicitly as a moral justification for political or even military actions in the name of humanity or human life itself? A literary history, but foremost an unexamined history of the present, this project addresses these questions by turning to “sentimental” literature of the early 19th century—novels and memoirs that emerged, significantly, in the same historical moment as biopolitics. Literary texts cultivated our desires and dispositions to alleviate human suffering and to promote human welfare, and contributed enormously to a discourse on humanitarianism and human rights. We argue that a better understanding of how the literary production of humanitarian sentimentality informed and, indeed, “popularized” biopolitics will provide critical tools for examining how humanitarian sentimentality drives contemporary neoliberal biopolitics today—the power “to make live and let die.”

“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.

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.

Honours and Awards

  • Canada Research Chair in Rhetoric and Ethics 2012-2021
  • Visiting Scholar, Franklin International Faculty Exchange Program, Department of Communication Studies, University of Georgia 2017
  • Fellow, Centre de recherche en éthique, Université de Montréal 2016
  • Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists 2014-2021
  • 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


  • SSHRC Insight Development Grant 2012-2014, 2016-2018, 2019-2020
  • 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, The Living from the Dead: Disaffirming Biopolitics (Penn State University Press, forthcoming 2022)

D. Holmes, S.J. Murray, & T. Foth (eds.), Radical Sex Between Men: Assembling Desiring-Machines (Routledge, 2017)

A. Blum & S.J. Murray (eds.), The Ethics of Care: Moral Knowledge, Communication, and the Art of Caregiving (Routledge, 2016)

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

Selected Publications

S.J. Murray, “The Practice of Everyday Death: On the Paratactical ‘Life’ of Neo-liberal Biopolitics,” Canadian Review of American Studies, vol. 52, no. 3 (in press), doi: 10.3138/cras-2021-017

S. Corneau, D. Beaulieu-Prévost,S.J. Murray,K. Bernatchez, & M. Lecompte, “Gay Male Pornography and the Racialisation of Desire,” Culture, Health & Sexuality, vol. 23, no. 5 (2021): 579–592, doi:10.1080/13691058.2020.1717630

T. Lemieux & S.J. Murray, “The Pandemic as ‘Joke’: Meme Culture, the Alt-Right, and Steve Bannon’s ‘War Room’,” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 41 (2020): 94–103

M. Gagnon, A. Guta, R. Upshur, S.J. Murray, & V. Bungay, “‘It Gets People Through the Door’: A Qualitative Case Study of the Use of Incentives in the Care of People at Risk or Living with HIV in British Columbia,” BMC Medical Ethics, vol. 21, 105 (2020): 1–18,doi: 10.1186/s12910-020-00548-5

S.J. Murray, “The Suicidal State: In Advance of an American Requiem,” Special Issue “In the Midst of COVID-19,” Philosophy & Rhetoric, vol. 52, no. 3 (2020): 299–305

D. Jenkins, D. Holmes, C. Burton, S.J. Murray, “‘This Is Not a Patient, This Is Property of the State’: Nursing, Ethics, and the Immigration Detention Apparatus,” Nursing Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 3 (2020): e12358, doi: 10.1111/nin.12358

S.J. Murray, “COVID-19: Crisis, Critique, and the Limits of What We Can Hear,” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (2020), doi: 10.3138/topia.2020.covid-19.05

S.J. Cooke, V.M. Nguyen, D. Anastakis, … S.J. Murray, et al., “Diverse Perspectives on Interdisciplinarity from Members of the College of The Royal Society of Canada,” FACETS Journal (forthcoming, 2020), doi: 10.1139/facets-2019-0044

S.J. Murray, “Regarder le regard : le racisme biopolitique et les propos haineux numériques,” Canadian Review of American Studies (forthcoming, 2020), advance online, doi: 10.3138/cras.2019.007

S.J. Murray, “A Rhetorical Matter of Life and Law: The Speculative Futures of (Bio)political Reproduction,” Law Text Culture, vol. 23 (2019): 198–222, special issue on “Legal Materiality,” eds. H.Y. Kang & S. Kendall

S.J. Murray, “Thanatopolitics,” Bloomsbury Handbook to Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. J.R. Di Leo (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), 718–719

A. Guta & S.J. Murray, “On the Possibility of Being Governed Otherwise: Exploring Foucault’s Legacy for Critical Social Science Studies in the Field of HIV/AIDS,” in Thinking Differently about HIV/AIDS: Contributions from Critical Social Science, eds. E. Mykhalovskiy & V. Namaste (UBC Press, 2019), 39–71

S.J. Murray, S. Corneau, D. Medico, S. Burgess, “Is #MeToo Casting a Shadow on Sexual Pleasure?,” The Conversation Canada, 1 April 2019

S.J. Murray & T. Lemieux, “Combat—Débat: Parataxis and the Unavowable Community; or, The Joke,” Philosophy & Rhetoric, vol. 52, no. 1 (2019): 78–85

J. Pariseau-Legault, D. Holmes, & S.J. Murray “Understanding Human Enhancement Technologies through Critical Phenomenology,” Nursing Philosophy (2018), doi:10.1111/nup.12229

S.J. Murray, “Canada’s Moral Negligence in Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder,” The Conversation Canada, 28 November 2018

S.J. Murray & D.L. Steinberg, “To Mourn, To Re-imagine without Oneself: Death, Dying, and Social Media/tion,” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, Special Issue on Illness Narratives, vol. 4, no. 1 (2018): 1–31, doi:10.28968/cftt.v4i1.29632

S.J. Murray & S. Kendall, “‘Let Us Eat Cake’: Speaking for the Dead,” Qui Parle, 30th Anniversary Issue, vol. 26, no. 2 (2017): 325–328

S.J. Murray, “On Rhetoric and the School of Philosophy Without Tears” [invited contribution], 50th Anniversary Issue, Philosophy & Rhetoric, vol. 50, no. 4 (2017): 528–551

S.J. Murray, D. Holmes, & S. Burgess, “Mort d’Ashley Smith : entre bio-politique carcérale et souveraineté judiciaire,” Sociétés: Revue des sciences humaines et sociales, no. 136 (2017): 73–90

S.J. Murray & T. Lemieux, “Apprehending the Death of Jamel Dunn,” Los Angeles Review of Books, The Philosophical Salon, 18 September 2017

S. Kendall & S.J. Murray, “Trump’s Law: Toward a Necropolitical Humanitarianism,” Critical Legal Thinking, 10 April 2017

S.J. Murray, “Neoliberal Biopolitics through the Spectacles of the Gene,” Science as Culture, vol. 26, no. 2 (2017): 255–259, doi:10.1080/09505431.2016.1238890

S.J. Murray, “Affirming the Human? The Question of Biopolitics,” Law, Culture and the Humanities, vol. 12, no. 3 (2016), 485–495

S.A. Stevenson & S.J. Murray, “Aboriginal Bioethics as Critical Bioethics: The Virtue of Narrative,” American Journal of Bioethics, vol. 16, no. 5 (2016), 52–54

A. Guta, S.J. Murray, & M. Gagnon, “HIV, Viral Suppression and New Technologies of Surveillance and Control,” Body & Society (2016), doi:10.1177/1357034X15624510

S. Burgess & S.J. Murray, “Cutting Both Ways: On the Ethical Entanglements of Human Rights, Rites, and Genital Mutilation,” American Journal of Bioethics, vol. 15, no. 2 (2015): 50–51

S.J. Murray, “Hegel’s Pathology of Recognition: A Biopolitical Fable,” in The Rhetorical Contours of Recognition [Special Issue], Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 48, no. 4 (2015): 443–472

Selected Presentations

“Care For Death,” Keynote Lecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison Ethics of Care Initiative Conference, Madison, WI, 13–14 May 2021 (via Zoom)

“Hearkening the Dead,” Live Theory podcast, Department of English, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 16 April 2021 (via Zoom),

“Solidarity in the Time of Social Distancing: The Effects of COVID-19 on Knowledge Creation, Exchange, and Dissemination,” Scholars at Risk Network (Canada) Round-Table, McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill University, Montreal, QC, 10 December 2020 (via Zoom)

“Regarder le regard : le racisme biopolitique et les propos haineux numériques,” Keynote Lecture, Departement de sociologie, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, Montpellier, France, 18 September 2019

“Two Irreconcilable Claims to Medico-Legal Sovereignty,” Critical Legal Conference, Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza, Università di Perugia, Italy, 14 September 2019

“Hope: The Opium of the Masses, with a nod to Milan Kundera’s The Joke,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Ottawa, ON, 22 March 2019

“Indigeneity and Indigent Sovereignty: Law, Medicine, Life,” Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Ottawa, ON, 22 March 2019

“The Age of Anxious Anxiety: Risk, Race, Rage,” Keynote Lecture, University of Ottawa Graduate Student Conference, Department of English, Ottawa, ON, 8 March 2019

“Indigeneity and Indigent Sovereignty: Law, Medicine, Life,” Intangible Heritage: Scenes of Urban Innovation Conference, Athens, Greece, 10–13 July 2018

“Necessaries of Life: The Rhetorics of Medico-Legal Time and Indigenous Life-Times,” Rhetoric Society of America Conference, Minneapolis, MN, 31 May 2018

“Care of the Self and Self-knowledge: Rhetoric, Self-reflection, and Ethics in Plato’s Alcibiades I,” [second author] with Twyla Gibson, The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, Fordham University, New York, NY, 21–22 October 2017

Mitwelt: Biopolitical Resolutions and the Remediating Event of Death,” 2017 Conference on Rhetorical Theory, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 13–14 October 2017

“Necessaries of Life: On the Biopolitical ‘Timeliness’ of Medico-Legal Life,” Program in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights, Haverford College, Haverford, PA, 5 October 2016

“Death By Whose Own Hand? Forensic and Legal Sovereignties in Question,” Kent Law School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, 13 June 2016

“Speech Begins After Death: Perlocution, Power, and Posthumous Voice,” Rhetoric Society of America Conference, Atlanta, GA, 27–29 May 2016

“The Time of a Life: Consent and Cancer Care in the Case of a Young First Nations Girl,” Colloquium, Department of Communication Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 23 February 2016

“To Claim the Human Right to Die: Imprisoned Performatives, Speech, Death,” Symposium, Department of Communication Studies, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 18 February 2016

“Fashion Bombs: Wearable Explosives, Weaponized Bodies,” keynote address at Wear Me: Art | Technology | Body, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Oshawa, ON, 24–25 September 2015

Recent Graduate Courses

ENGL 5002 / CLMD 6903: How To Do Things With Words (winter 2020)

 ENGL 5002 / CLMD 6903: The Instant of My Death (winter 2019)

ENGL 5002 / CLMD 6903: The Humanitarian Apparatus: Feeling Good, Between Post-Truth and Other Fictions (fall 2017)

ENGL 5002 / CLMD 6903: Biopolitics, Sentimentality, and Humanitarian Reason (winter 2017)

ENGL 5002 / CLMD 6903: Michel Foucault: Undisciplined (fall 2015)

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

Postdoctoral (supervisor):

Adrian Guta (2013 – 2015) (CIHR postdoctoral fellowship), “Appraising the Social and Ethical Dimensions of HIV Treatment-as-Prevention,” Department of English Language & Literature and Department of Health Sciences, Carleton University

Adrian Guta (2013 – 2015) (HCTP postdoctoral fellowship), “From Clinic to Community: Understanding the Implications of Community Viral Load Mapping,” Health Care, Technology & Place, CIHR Strategic Research and Training Initiative, University of Toronto

PhD (supervisor):

Tad Lemieux (2019) (SSHRC), “Arctic Rhetoric and Inuit Sovereignty”; 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):

Sanita Fejzic (2016 – 2017) (SSHRC), “The Will of Poetry in Rita Wong and Virginia Woolf: A Queer and Feminist Ethic of Care,” MA Thesis, English Language & Literature, Carleton University

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


Visit Stuart’s page.

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