I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto in 2010 and was awarded the Governor General of Canada's Academic Gold Medal in 2011. I also hold a Master of Arts in Legal Studies and a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (Highest Honours) from Carleton University.
I have taught university-level courses on race and politics, comparative politics, American politics, and Canadian politics for over ten years. I most frequently teach courses on:
Black Lives Matter and American Democracy
The eruption of protests in 2014 and 2015 condemning the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, and far too many other African Americans throughout the United States has raised serious and pressing questions about the nature of American democracy. Amalgamated under the rallying cry, discourse, hashtag, and organizational structure of Black Lives Matter, this movement has been heralded by some as a “new civil rights movement,” and lamented by others as a myopic, outdated, and unnecessary focus on the politics of race in the “post-racial” America of the twenty-first century. All sides, however, can agree that Black Lives Matter has substantially changed the conversation about race and racism in America and elsewhere, so much that Time Magazine shortlisted Black Lives Matter as its “Person of the Year” in 2015. Five years later, Black Lives Matter has clearly changed American discourse around race and racism.
This course explores the ideological origins and contemporary politics of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is divided into three broad themes. First, the Demands of/on Democracy will explore how Black Lives Matter engages questions about the substance, breadth, ethos, and limits of American democracy, including its historical inheritance from nineteenth and twentieth century movements for Black liberation. Second, the Devaluation of Blacks Lives will explore how Black Lives Matter has exposed the ways that American society is characterized by and perpetuates anti-Black racism, in that Black lives are too often subjected to police brutality and violence, mechanisms of state surveillance, a blatantly racist criminal justice system, formidable obstacles to the accumulation of wealth, restricted access to dwindling social services and public goods, environmental hazards, ghettoization and gentrification, deteriorating public schools, and a host of other social ills that tend to systematically target and disadvantage African Americans. Third, Reclaiming Black Life will explore the ideational basis of Black Lives Matter in ideological, fantastical, and emotive terrains that often remain hidden from or ignored by white, middle class society, before turning to the potential for revolutionary change on university campuses and beyond.
As a whole, the course seeks to answer the question of whether contemporary structures and strictures of American democracy can be reformulated to create a future in which African Americans have access to substantive and meaningful forms of social, political, and economic equality. The workload is heavy and the topic is uncomfortable; at times it can even be soul-destroying. This is the price of learning how to see the world differently.
Racial Politics in the United States
This seminar explores historic and contemporary racial politics in the United States. In conceptual terms, we will explore the meaning and manifestations of the idea of race, including the ways that race and racism have and continue to shape the American democratic ethos. In political terms, we will examine the extraordinary but contradictory role of government laws, policies, and regulations in defining and manipulating racial classification schemas, creating and maintaining circumstances of racial oppression, and alleviating and redressing racial inequality through anti-discrimination protections. In cultural terms, we will engage with the ways that race imbues in quotidian circumstances of sports and beauty, abetting the formulation of cultural narratives that engage race alongside other intersections of identity such as class, gender, and sexuality. Ultimately, we will seek to understand the ways that national imaginaries, politics, and everyday interactions actively produce categories of race, class, and gender, transform their meanings, and redefine their relationships to democratic ideals and prevailing models of American politics and citizenship.
Comparative Racial Politics
When W.E.B Du Bois predicted that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line, he was in fact referring to a global color line, “the relations of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” Given how frequently race configures domestic politics – from the disastrous impacts of apartheid in South Africa to the marginalization of First Nations women in Canada, to race riots in Great Britain and on the beaches of Australia, and the creation of an almost unique sub-class in the urban United States, to name just a few examples – it is not a stretch of the imagination to suspect that race there is something fundamentally transnational about race.
In this course we will explore the very concept of race and its many manifestations throughout the world, taking as our starting point that race is a powerful, permeating, and changing phenomenon that exists in excess of national boundaries. We will think about how race was born in the global realm and bred to be central to discourses of modernity, empire, and capitalism. We will strive to examine race as a system of global power relations that has changed over time, manifests differently across space, and exists on multiple planes – but also as a concept that holds ontological value and material consequences. We will compare racialization processes that demarcate specific populations in different countries around the world in an effort to better understand racial politics at home. Finally, we will pay close attention to the operation of racial politics along multiple geographic and temporal scales in order to discover how race can independently affect both domestic policy outcomes and international relations among nation-states.
I occasionally appear as a topic expert or guest lecturer on these subjects in courses taught by my colleagues, e.g. here, talking about the Black Lives Matter movement in Dr. Kelly Gordon's course, Gender in Canadian Politics; and here, talking to Dr. Rahim Mohamed's course at Centre College.