June Awrey lecture features speaker Jessica Dillard-Wright

York University nursing students

The York University School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health will present the 2022 June Awrey Lecture “Locating Nursing’s Radical Imagination: Paradoxes for Our Times” on May 6 at 11 a.m. over Zoom.

Established in 2018, the June Awrey Lecture aspires to engage students, faculty, academic and practice partners, alumni and others in groundbreaking ideas that will stimulate excellence in practice, policy, leadership, education and research. Delivering this year’s lecture is Jessica Dillard-Wright, an innovative thinker in nursing and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Elaine Marieb College of Nursing.

Jessica Dillard-Wright
Jessica Dillard-Wright

Dillard-Wright will explore how health care under the auspices of late-stage capitalism is a total institution, following the recent paper titled “Hospitals as total institutions” in the journal Nursing Philosophy. This total institution mortifies nurses and patients alike, demanding conformity, obedience and perfection. There is evidence of this reality in the entanglement of nurses within the criminal justice system, as clinicians and as defendants. Sucked up into the gears of health care as total institution, nurses either function as intended or are cast aside. The sting of this reality is perhaps sharper, more incredible in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the burden nurses shouldered through it, worldwide. However, awakening to this reality comes with power and agency. Nursing can, under the right circumstances, be a force for liberation in the world but it requires us to see patterns and possibilities.

In this talk, Dillard-Wright will outline the ways in which the health care industrial complex demands nurse conformity and how that, in turn, operationalizes nurses in service to the institution. This foundation leads to the assertion that nursing must foster a radical imagination for itself, unbound by reality as it presently exists, in order that we might conjure more just, equitable futures for caregivers and care receivers alike. To tease out what a radical imagination might look like, Dillard-Wright will dwell in paradox: getting folks the care they need in capitalist health care systems; engaging nursing’s deep history to inspire alternative understandings for the future of the discipline; and how nursing might divest from extractive institutional structures. Ultimately, she/they arrive at abolition as a necessary intervention for nursing and invite folks to engage in radical imaginings of their own.

Dillard-Wright, PhD, MA, RN, CNM (she/they) lives and works in Augusta, Georgia and identifies as a fat, queer, genderqueer, feminist nurse dissident and activist-scholar. She/they completed her/their PhD at Augusta University College of Nursing. Her/their vision for health liberation invites nurses and others to embrace the sociopolitical dimensions of nursing, activating a radical imagination for the profession to secure a more just, equitable future for all people. Dillard-Wright works in collaboration with folks across the U.S. and around the world to first imagine and then build worlds that are just, equitable, sustainable, radical. Examples of this work include Nursing Mutual Aid, Call to Action for Health + Liberation alternate nurses week actions, and an ongoing collaborative project on Nursing Futurities. Her/their scholarship resides in the confluence of healthcare, activism, history and philosophy.

To preview some of the radical imaginings for nursing that Dillard-Wright will be drawing upon, see her/their ORCID space.

To watch the lecture, use this Zoom link.