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OISE professor receives Connaught Award for research into the development of Black Studies in Canadian universities

September 19, 2019

By Marianne Lau 

The scholarship, experiences and perspectives of Black people have long been underrepresented in Canadian universities. But in recent years, a gradual shift has taken place. 

In campuses across the country, there has been an increase in the number of Black student and faculty recruitment initiatives, including the creation of new faculty positions and curriculum related specifically to Black people’s experiences and knowledges.

Understanding whether the current increase in attention to Black scholars and scholarship represents a move towards the institutionalization of Black Studies as a formal area of postsecondary study in Canada is the focus of a new research project by Rosalind Hampton, a professor in the Department of Social Justice Education and co-president of the Black Canadian Studies Association.

Hampton recently received the University of Toronto’s prestigious Connaught New Researcher Award for her study. Alongside fellow OISE professor Jennifer Brant, Hampton is among 52 winners of the annual award which provides U of T assistant professors within the first five years of a tenured-stream academic appointment assistance in developing strong research programs. Up to $1 million will be distributed among this year’s winners.

“It is very encouraging to have the significance of this work recognized and supported by the Connaught Award. Receiving this award has allowed me to hire and work with graduate student research assistants, whose own research in Black Studies will also be informed by their work on the project,” she said.  

Hampton’s own appointment as assistant professor of Black Studies in education at OISE is among several that have been created at Canadian universities in the past three years.

In her forthcoming book, Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University, Hampton highlights the institutional resistance that students, faculty and community members have faced while calling for the establishment of Black Studies in Canada. Now that the tide appears to be turning, she wants to understand how these programs are being shaped and envisioned.

Her two-year study, which she describes as a critical inquiry, will examine the processes, ideas and contexts surrounding initiatives related to Black faculty recruitment and Black Studies curriculum in eight universities across Montreal and Toronto – cities home to Canada’s largest Black populations.

“I’ll be interviewing administrators and faculty members involved in developing faculty positions and curriculum options related to Black Studies to understand how these initiatives are being framed and pursued, and whether they anticipate the creation of formal degree-granting Black Studies programs."

Hampton hopes this project will provide a critical assessment of potential commonalities and tensions between institutional and community understandings of what Black Studies is and should be in Canada, with implications for future planning. 

“Because Black Studies has not been institutionalized in Canada, we’re at a very important moment where we get to decide what it can look like in Canadian universities. I want to see what the visions of Black Studies in Canada are right now in Montreal and Toronto in order to support those involved in making conscious, informed decisions about what we want it to become and the work that we want it to do,” Hampton said.

Rosalind Hampton is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Justice Education at OISE. Her areas of research include critical Black Studies in Canada, racialized social relations and anticolonialism in higher education, student activism, and arts informed methods of inquiry. Learn more about Dr. Hampton