La diversité et la discipline de la science politique Diversity and the Discipline of Political Science


   Workshops : Wrk1 | Wrk2 | Wrk3 | Wrk4 | Wrk5 | Wrk6


Rebuilding the Public Purpose


Image Description

Bryan Evans


Image Description

Peter Graefe


Image Description

Steve McBride


Image Description

Heather Whiteside


Persistent, if not deepening, deregulated market-reliant governance strategies characterize the decade that followed the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Despite their role in producing instability and inequality, these market-reliant strategies remain as pernicious at eroding the public purpose and public capacity as ever.  While right-wing authoritarian and populist ideas have garnered much media attention, left-wing movements and progressive parties have also proposed alternative models for social and economic development. Political and intellectual currents in Europe and the United States are challenging, both in theory and in practice, the erosion of public sector capacity and democratic discretion over markets and other civil society processes. These movements are varied but share an understanding that overcoming social and political fragmentation requires rebuilding the public purpose. This emergent rediscovery of the public purpose has largely bypassed Canadian scholarship and participation in related national/transnational dialogue. 

Thus, the ‘Rebuilding the Public Purpose’ workshop seeks to:

  1. identify Canada-specific concerns and strategies for rediscovering, redefining, and rebuilding the public purpose; and
  2. bring a Canadian perspective into closer relationship with international dialogue.  


Canada’s Relations with China: Towards a New Cold War?


Image Description

Shaun Narine

St. Thomas
Section Head of International Relations Section

Canada and China have long enjoyed amicable relations. Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor, is idolized in China for his work with the Communist forces opposing the Japanese occupation. Canada opened diplomatic relations with China in 1970. China is currently Canada’s number two trading partner. However, over the past few years, Canada’s relations with China have fallen on hard times. Canada’s decision to arrest Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei, to comply with an extradition request from the United States, is widely believed in Canada to have led China to arrest two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – in retaliation. China has imposed sanctions against Canadian products. In the Canadian parliament, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights is holding hearings on Canada’s relations with China in light of China’s oppression of its minority Uyghur population. While this was happening in Canada, the United States launched a trade war with China that has now metamorphosized into an American attempt to undermine China’s economic and technological development. The Trump administration is pressuring traditional American allies around the world to blacklist Huawei and, increasingly, other Chinese technological companies. The Americans’ intentions appear to be to engineer a way to contain China and prevent its rise as the dominant power in the world, displacing the US.

This moment in time is critical to the future of the global system. The US attempt to block China’s rise is not surprising, but it is a gambit that may not succeed and, even if it does, is sure to create enormous tension and ill-will within the international system in the decades to come. The US actions against China are just as likely to split the international community, setting Asia, the most economically dynamic and populous part of the world, at odds with the Western world.  Is this a conflict that Canada wishes to join? Given Canada’s rapidly changing demographic profile, is this a conflict that Canada could engage without creating significant domestic tensions?

The goal of this workshop is to examine Canada’s changing relations with China, especially in light of the transformations that are taking place within the international community. We invite panelists to reflect on the following questions (though questions that go beyond these are also welcome):

  1. Can Canada afford to alienate China, given its emerging international influence?
  2. How does the changing demography of Canada affect its foreign policy choices and interests?
  3. The US appears to be in a precipitous political, social and economic decline. How reliable is the US as a future partner and how does this affect Canada’s relationship with China?
  4. If the US succeeds in creating a new Cold War, there is a good chance that many Asian states will ally with China out of geographic and economic necessity. Can and should Canada risk cutting itself off from Asia?
  5. How far should human rights concerns affect Canadian foreign policy? What does Canada’s highly inconsistent use of human rights as a foreign policy guide say about the country’s priorities and policy-making?
  6. How should Canada have dealt with the Meng Wanzhou situation? How should it deal with this in the future?
  7. Does the “yellow peril” idea affect how Canada perceives/is dealing with China?
  8. What kind of threat, if any, does China present to Canada?


Interrogating Racism and Colonialism in Canadian Cities and Beyond: Toward New Theories, Questions and Methods in the Study of Municipal Politics and Urban Governance


Image Description

Kristin Good

Section Head of Local and Urban Politics

Image Description

Kiera Ladner

Section Head of Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

Image Description

David B. MacDonald

Section Head of Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

Recent events in the United States and Canada have brought into increased focus deep inequalities in these Western democracies and have inspired movements to resist and address them.  In particular, the global outrage at the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis shed new light on similar cases of police brutality against Black and Indigenous people in Canada, raising a country-wide debate about not only race and policing but also about systemic racism in a country that prides itself on its “multiculturalism” and where many have considered “race” to be an American challenge.  

State responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have also highlighted how Black, Indigenous and other minorities experience increased surveillance by not only the police but also bylaw officers and that cities are not equally safe and accessible spaces for all residents.  Indeed, cities are the places where many Indigenous women and girls have gone missing and have been murdered, an urgent problem that has yet to be addressed in a fulsome way. More generally, public debates spurred by current events have shone light on cases where zoning and other planning decisions have removed, erased, excluded or segregated Indigenous, Black and other minority communities in Canadian cities. 

Municipalities are often dismissed as ‘creatures of the provinces’ and the importance of their law-making and service responsibilities is downplayed in Canada’s multilevel state. However, as recent events have made clear, their role in lawmaking and bylaw enforcement, policing, planning, public health, recreation and other areas have enormous implications for racial equity, decolonization and reconciliation. Even in such seemingly parochial acts as naming streets and erecting (or maintaining) monuments honouring city ‘founders’ in parks, they play fundamental roles in perpetuating colonial understandings of cities and Canada’s history.   

Cities, though, are not only places of oppression. They are also sites of resistance and resurgence.  The Black Lives Matter movement is a prominent example of such resistance, but many others exist at the grassroots in Canadian cities.   In other cases, governance relationships at the community level including the role that Indigenous community organizations in cities such as Winnipeg have begun to play in immigrant settlement shows the agency that exists at the grassroots level of politics.  More broadly, Indigenous people are claiming space and land in cities through, for example, the development of a broader range of community organizations and the emergence of urban reserves, particularly in prairie cities. These initiatives challenge the framing of Indigenous political space as “rural” and “on reserve” a discourse that erases Indigenous presence in cities and fails to acknowledge that cities exist on Indigenous land.

Although the fundamental significance of “race” and ongoing colonialism to power in cities is clear in recent events, the field of urban politics and local government in Canada is poorly equipped to address these subjects.  Although some progress has been made in bringing lenses of colonialism and race to the study of institutions and power in Canada, a great deal of intellectual work remains to decolonize and to incorporate anti-racism perspectives in the field of Canadian political science.   Thus, like scholars of Canadian politics generally, urban scholars must ask new questions, develop or explore new theories and employ new methods of explaining and understanding city politics.  To this end, the field can draw upon a rich body of literature on the colonial nature of the Canadian state and on a growing critical literature on “race”.  For scholars of “race”, “colonialism” and Indigenous politics, the city offers a way of examining power relations at the community level bringing to the forefront forms of grassroots politics and ways that the state can oppress and exclude at the street level, subjects that are ignored in political science studies focused on political elites at other governmental scales. 

This workshop aims to open a dialogue between scholars of race, ethnicity, Indigenous peoples and politics on the one hand and local/urban politics on the other to understand how colonialism and racism influence the development of cities.  The workshop will open with a conceptual panel on how “race” and “colonialism” have influenced (or should influence) the study of politics in Canada followed by a series of panels on how these power relations have shaped Canadian cities.  We also hope to attract comparative scholars who engage with these power relations in international cities and could shed light on how to move this research agenda forward in Canada. 

The workshop organizers invite papers that address the following questions:

  1. To what extent and how have the concepts of “race” and “colonialism” shaped the study of politics in Canada?  How do scholars who study these forms of oppression conceptualize them, including forms of resistance and resurgence of individuals and communities suffering from them?
  2. To what extent and how have the concepts of “race” and “colonialism” informed the study of city politics?  What contributes to entrenching these forces in power relations in Canadian cities?  To political action to resist them?
  3. How could work on race and colonialism at other scales be translated to the city level to contribute to enriching urban theory?  What is unique about studying the city scale through these lenses?  Does this scale offer something different to our understanding of power? (which could in turn enrich the study of the effects of race and colonialism on political development more generally)?
  4. What role do municipalities and municipal law play in embedding or addressing racism and colonialism?
  5. What are examples of grassroots resistance to racism and colonialism in cities in Canada and internationally?
  6. How are immigration and other forms of migration related to racism and colonialism? And, how do the politics of immigration, racism and colonialism intersect in Canadian and other cities?
  7. What kinds of methodologies could enrich urban scholars’ understanding of power and bring empirical backing to the forces of racism and colonialism in cities?  How does one conduct ethical research in this subject area? 
  8. Are there international studies and cases that identify productive ways to incorporate critical race and decolonizing perspectives to the study of city politics in Canada? 

Following the workshop, we aim to assemble some of the papers into an edited volume on this subject, which will be submitted to McGill-University Press and hopefully become part of the “Studies on Urban Governance Series” of which Kristin Good, one of the organizers is the co-editor (with Martin Horak).


Decentering Privilege in the Discipline: Toward an Anti-Oppressive Political Theory


Image Description

Afsoun Afsahi

Section Head of Political Theory

Image Description

Genevieve Fuji Johnson

Simon Fraser
Section Head of Political Theory

This workshop will bring together scholars to discuss the ways in which we can free political theory, and political science more generally, from its deeply embedded colonial, racialized, gendered, heteronormative, and ableist presumptions.

We start with the recognition of what Donna Haraway calls the “god trick” as the animating force in all corners of our discipline (Haraway, 1988: 581-582). This trick presents the dominant frameworks, approaches, literatures, and questions within our discipline as objective and undeniably superior or important thus ­masking the inherent power relations that have elevated this specific positioning (often white, European, male, heterosexual, and able-bodied/able-minded) as neutral and universal. Instead, we emphasize the situatedness of our knowledge (e.g., Alcoff 1988; Code 1993; Hartsock 1983; Hill-Collins 1989; hooks 1984). Research, writing, theorizing, and teaching/mentoring within our discipline are embodied and relational processes informed by lived experiences and reflections. How we theorize, how we train students to theorize, who we recognize and value as theorizing, and what themes we take up in our theorizing need to better reflect the broad diversity of who we are, what we experience, and what’s important to us.

Our hope is that workshop participants will inquire into the consequences of surrendering to Haraway’s “god trick.” More constructively, we hope participants will make contributions toward an explicitly anti-oppressive political theory, which stands firmly against the conscious and unconscious reproduction of the status quo. We expect that this involves a critical discussion especially with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), BIWOC (Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color), queer, non-binary, and differently-abled colleagues and students about all aspects of our work within the discipline of political theory.

Our workshop will focus on three areas: Research, Teaching, and Service. Our aim is to establish both the challenges in, but also the strategies for, decentering privilege in political theory.

  1. Decentering privilege in research

    Our research is in many ways structured or conditioned by traditions that have, often purposefully, elevated certain voices and experiences but excluded, marginalized, and oppressed others. As Charles Mills writes, “White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today” (1997, 1). The pervasive role of this system in determining understandings and articulations of social life and political ideals is often veiled—as are the roles of patriarchal, heteronormative, and ableist systems.

    Key questions we hope to address will include the following:

    1.1 What themes have theorists typically addressed and how has this focus served in upholding oppressive systems?
    1.2 Whose ideas and arguments are left out, obscured, marginalized, and excluded?
    1.3 How can we center the voices, experiences, reflections, and theory by and about BIPOC, BIWOC, gender diverse, and differently-abled peoples?
    1.4 How can we better engage with this theory on its own terms and as equally as valuable as the “mainstream”?
  2. Decentering privilege in teaching

    As Ricky Lee Allen notes, within our “educational institutions, from kindergartens to doctoral programs, whiteness is pervasive and constitutive” (Allen, 2004: 131). The same can be said of maleness, heteronormativity, and ableism.

    2.1 How do we best engage in a critical pedagogy that is explicitly anti-oppressive?
    2.2 What steps must we take to stop reproducing privilege through the repudiation and undervaluing of knowledges that challenge systems of oppression?
    2.3 How do we incorporate the often-side-lined contributions by scholars who do not “fit the mould”?
    2.4 How do we move beyond including them as responses or supplemental to the “mainstream”?
    2.5 What ideas do our students have for creating meaningful change?
  3. Decentering privilege in leadership and service

    Central and senior administrators within universities—thought leaders—are overwhelming white (Johnson and Howsam 2020; Smith 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019; Tate and Page, 2018). Conversely, it is well documented that women of color are often over-burdened in terms of less visible and less valued service work.

    3.1 Is this a pattern that we see within the discipline of political theory?
    3.2 If so, how do we go about taking active measures to recognize excellence and leadership qualities as belonging to people other than white, heterosexual, able-bodied and able-minded men?
    3.3 How do we shift toward a more equitable sharing of the service work and leadership positions necessary for the collective organization of political theory and the broader discipline of political science?

Ultimately, in this workshop, we seek to center BIPOC, BIWOC, queer, non-binary, and differently-abled colleagues and students and to continue the work of dismantling white supremacy and the privileges associated with being male, heterosexual, and able-bodied in political theory.


The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Practice and Study of Politics in Canada


Image Description

Jared Wesley


This workshop explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the practice and study of politics in Canada.  It is divided into three parts:

Part 1 will explore theoretical and empirical insights gleaned from early research on the pandemic, including studies of political behaviour, public administration, political theory, and other subfields.  Completed studies and research designs are welcome. 
Part 2 will delve into the impact of the pandemic on political science pedagogy, inviting participants to share lessons and promising practices in the areas of teaching and supervision. Empirical studies of different teaching methodologies (e.g., remote teaching) are welcome.
Part 3 will involve participants in a discussion of the role and value of political science during global crises like the pandemic. Participants will reflect on the place of political scientists in the coming months and years.  Papers delivered at the workshop may be combined into an edited volume or special edition of a journal.


Policy, Politics and the Administration of COVID-19


Image Description

Gina S. Comeau

Section Head of Women, Gender, and Politics

Image Description

Isabelle Côté

Section Head of Comparative Politics

Image Description

Kiera Ladner

Section Head of Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

Image Description

David B. MacDonald

Section Head of Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

Image Description

Geneviève Tellier

Section Head of Public Administration

The world pandemic caused by COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. Throughout the world, millions of people lost their jobs and several more were asked to adjust rapidly to a new work environment. In addition, daycares and schools were closed forcing parents to juggle work and family responsibilities to unprecedented levels. Citizens, governments, and markets struggled to cope with the economic, health and social impacts of the pandemic. Health care systems were overloaded and ill-equipped to respond in a timely fashion often unable to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, such as those living in long-term health care facilities.

This crisis has highlighted and exacerbated existing structural, societal inequities and systemic racism. In many cases, it also highlighted how states were ill-equipped to handle a pandemic. This crisis provides an exceptional opportunity to reflect on the current functioning of our societies and the role of the state in these.

This workshop seeks proposals that explore the impact and management of the COVID-19 pandemic to help us understand governmental and societal responses, the lessons learned and the opportunities for change.

We welcome diverse perspectives, methods and methodologies and encourage those that consider gender, indigeneity, race and diversity to approach some, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Governments and public administrations’ responses to COVID-19;
  • Policy implications of COVID-19 responses on Indigenous, racialized, linguistic minorities, LGBTQ, newcomers, and other marginalized communities;
  • Indigenous responses on the COVID-19 Pandemic;
  • Comparative analyses of policy responses and challenges;
  • Socio-economic impacts of the crisis;
  • Feminist, intersectional, Indigenous and racialized analyses of the crisis.

Questions? Contact the CPSA Secretariat.

Submit Proposal