It is with great excitement that I can (unofficially) announce that, as of 1 January 2017, I will be taking up the position of Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
I am honoured to have this opportunity. But I’m also very sad to be leaving the wonderful community of colleagues and students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, which has been my institutional home since 2011.
I’m daunted to be taking up such a position in a time of political terror and rising racist authoritarianism, when it’s unclear how academics ought to contribute to struggles for a better world. My research and teaching agenda at Lakehead will allow me to open a new chapter of my work on the politics of the imagination, which seems more important than ever. But the challenge ahead for all of us is and remains how to make our work socially transformative, in the widest sense. The CRC program seeks to empower scholars to make an impact in Canadian society and around the world. I’m deeply humbled to have been afforded such a responsibility.
And as joyful as I am to have such a posting, and as thankful as I am to my colleagues who have supported me (and to the Canadian people as well, who are funding it), I want to signal my reservations about the CRC program. First, as my union the Canadian Association of University Teachers has illustrated, CRCs tend to be given disproportionately to white men and the program as a whole has, for decades, failed to meet its (modest) equity targets. Unavoidably, my appointment is part of this problem. Second, as grateful as I am for this opportunity, I actually don’t think the CRC approach is the best way to support research: it elevates some of us to an elite status while most others remain precarious and ill-funded. This is not accidental: it’s part of the systemic reorganization of universities along a neoliberal model that echoes and helps reproduce the logic of the corporate world.
I say all this because I think that now, more than ever, those of us who are the beneficiaries of unjust systems have a duty to speak out. Yet I am equally convinced that these and other systemic problems will only be changed through collective movements and common struggles. And it is these movements and struggles that have made me who I am, and to which I remain committed.
A huge thanks to all of you who have supported me.