FIMS Profile

Dr. Sharon Sliwinski

FIMS & Nursing Building Room Suite 2050
Phone: 519-661-2111 x88473

FIMS & Nursing Building Room 4030
Phone: 519-661-2111 x88473

University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7
Fax: 519-661-3506
  • Research

  • Publications

  • Theses Supervised

(MA, PhD, Social & Political Thought, York University) she/they

Professor Sliwinski’s work bridges the fields of visual culture, political theory, and the life of the mind. She has written extensively on photography, human rights, and the social imaginary - often using a psychosocial approach. She also works collaboratively with a wide variety of artists, scholars, and practitioners on a project called The Museum of Dreams. In this project among others, Sliwinski has created a space for exploring dream life as a crucial, if overlooked, way of seeing. 

Current projects include An Alphabet for Dreamers: How to See the World with Eyes Closed (forthcoming MIT Press). Written for the general reader, this book provides a series of lessons about how dreams offer another way to see the world. Each of the short twenty-six chapters revives a dream from the historical record—from both the recent and distant past—to show how these experiences can represent, guide, and transfigure our most profound social conflicts.   

Sliwinski also  hosts a podcast series called The Guardians of Sleep. The first season, which evolved out of a partnership with the Museum of London (UK), explores how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the dream life of people living in the British capital. The second season, now in production, explores both the colonial history of collecting dreams as well as contemporary Indigenous methods for attending the knowledge offered in these experiences. Sliwinski is also working on The Danzig Album, a book about photography, trauma, and transgenerational memory.  

Previously published books include: Dreaming in Dark Times (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) which treats dreaming as a crucial species of political thought. Bringing together political theory and psychoanalysis, each of the chapters works within a specific historical moment to show how dreams serve as a distinctive mode of testimony and an important kind of communicative gesture. 
Photography and the Optical Unconscious (with Shawn Michelle Smith, Duke University Press, 2017). This edited collection focuses on Walter Benjamin's concept of the optical unconscious to investigate how photography has shaped history, modernity, perception, lived experience, politics, race, and human agency.
Mandela's Dark Years (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) offers a political reading of dream life inspired by one of Nelson Mandela’s recurring nightmares. This little chapbook navigates the psychology of apartheid, recasting dreaming as a vital form of resistance to political violence.
Sliwinski’s first book, Human Rights in Camera (University of Chicago Press, 2011) examines the visual images that have accompanied human rights struggles and the passionate responses people have had to them. It was awarded the Charles Taylor Book Award from the American Political Science Association in 2013.
In 2017, Sliwinski was elected to the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. She serves on the editorial boards of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development and Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. She has held research fellowships at Birkbeck University of London (UK) and Saarland University in Germany.


> Dreaming in Dark Times: Six Exercises in Political Thought (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)
Reviewed in the Huffington Post, Contemporary Political Theory, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA), the Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, and the International Journal of Dream Research.

> Photography and the Optical Unconscious, co-edited with Shawn Michelle Smith (Duke University Press, 2017)

> Mandela's Dark Years: A Political Theory of Dreaming (University of Minnesota Press, 2015)
The book is also freely available on Manifold, an open-source online platform. Reviewed in African Studies Quarterly, and Africa is a Country.

> Human Rights In Camera (University of Chicago Press, 2011)
Winner of the Charles Taylor Book Award from the American Political Science Association. Reviewed in Times Higher Education, Journal of Human Rights, Photography and Culture, College Art Association Reviews, and Choice Reviews


> The Guardians of SleepBuilt out of conversations with the public and encompassing work by scientists, artists, and philosophers, this podcast explores how dreaming serves as an integral psychological process that helps us work through the struggles we face in our waking lives.

Research Creation Projects 

> The Museum of Dreams: is a collaborative online hub for exploring the social and political significance of dream-life.

Recent Articles & Chapters

> Archive of Erasures, In Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography, Eds. Azoulay, A. et. al. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2023), 177.

> Das Recht zu träumen [The Right to Dream] Rhinozeros Europa im Übergang, Vol. 3, 2023: 137-151. 

Day and Night, The Hannah Arendt Centre, March 5, 2023 

> The Acoustics of Civil Resistance, Journalism, Special issue on “Prosthetic Witnessing” eds. Lilie Chouliaraki and Mette Mortensen, Vol 23, no. 3 (2022): 614-631   

>The Right to Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Exit: Magazine of Image and Culture, Issue 85 (2022): 6-15 

> A World of Appearances, In For Ever More Images? Ed. Alexander Strecker (Athens: Onassis Stegi, 2020), Pp. 188-190   

> The Woman Who Walks Through Photographs, Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development, Vol. 9, no. 3 (Winter 2018): 469-480

> Sexual Violence in the Field of Vision, In Visual Imagery and Human Rights Practice, Ed. Sandra Ristovska and Monroe Price (Geneva: Springer, 2018)

> The Right to an Image, In Visualizing Human Rights, Ed. Jane Lydon (Perth: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2018)

> An Ode to Reverie, In Lulu Journal, Monthly Journal of the Luleå Biennial Nr. 4 (December 2018) 

> Human Rights, In Visual Global Politics, Ed. Roland Bleiker (London: Routledge, 2018)

> Sexuality in the Time of War, or, How rape became a crime against humanity, In The Flood of Rights, Eds. Thomas Keenan, Suhail Malik, Tirdad Zolghadr, (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017).

> Evocative Objects: A Sexual Violence Primer, Humanity: An International Journal OF Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development,, Vol. 4 no. 3 (2016): 477-480

> Before the Law, In Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine and Israel, Eds. Vered Maimon and Shiraz Grinbaum (London: Pluto Press, 2016), Pp. 206-213

> The Face of Our Wartime, Photography and Culture Vol. 8 no. 2 (November 2015): 233- 241

> Inventing Human Dignity, In The Routledge Companion to Human Rights and Literature, Eds. Alexandra Moore and Sophie McClennan (London: Routledge, 2015), Pp. 174-184

> That Incorrigible Disturber of the Peace, The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice, No. 1, Ed. Carin Kuoni and Chelsea Haines, (New York: Vera List Center for Art and Politics & Duke University Press, 2015), Pp. 14-22

Full list of publications here.

Sukhan, Tiara. Watching and Working Through: Navigating Non-being in Television Storytelling
Phd in Media Studies, April 2019
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
Freier, Amy J.. Exhibiting Human Rights: Making the Means of Dignity Visible
Phd in Media Studies, May 2018
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
de Laat, Sonya. Regarding Aid: The Photographic Situation of Humanitarianism
Phd in Media Studies, October 2017
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
Taschereau Mamers, Danielle. Settler Colonial Ways of Seeing: Documentary Governance of Indigenous Life in Canada and its Disruption
Phd in Media Studies, May 2017
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
Preston, Jeffrey Michael. Fantasizing Disability: Representation of Loss and Limitation in Popular Television and Film
Phd in Media Studies, August 2014
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
McGeagh, Brendan. From Canada For the World: National Myth and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Master of Arts in Media Studies, July 2010
Supervisor: Sharon Sliwinski
Cohen, Dustin. Objet Petit (a)vatar: Psychoanalysis, Posthumanism and the Question of the Self in Second Life Student
Master of Arts in Media Studies, November 2009
Supervisors: Alison Hearn and Sharon Sliwinski