Intersecting Identities, Marginalization Processes and Multiculturalism: A Commentary on the 6th Annual Ethnic and Pluralism Studies Graduate Research Conference

By Bejan, Raluca; Pino, Fritz Luther | McGill Sociological Review, February 2014 | Go to article overview

Intersecting Identities, Marginalization Processes and Multiculturalism: A Commentary on the 6th Annual Ethnic and Pluralism Studies Graduate Research Conference


Bejan, Raluca, Pino, Fritz Luther, McGill Sociological Review


Introduction

Academic conferences serve as moments and spaces for young scholars to engage in productive conversations, develop networks and gain public speaking experience. Between January 31st and February 1st 2013, the Ethnic and Pluralism Studies (EPS) program at the University of Toronto, successfully hosted its 6th annual Graduate Research Conference at the Munk School of Global Affairs. Focused on issues of migration and ethnicity, the two-full day event brought together Canadian and international graduate students from a variety of disciplines. The yearly EPS events have established a tradition of interactive scholarly dialogues. Presenters submit their papers in advance to the session chair(s). Post-presentation, expert discussants provide young scholars with extensive feedback, intended to rework their manuscripts into potential publishable submissions. Featuring a keynote presentation, usually taught by a renowned scholar within the ethnic studies field, the conference creates a platform for students, junior scholars and other academics to engage in productive conceptual conversations and share innovative research methods.

This short report style paper documents the multifaceted works concluded at the 6th EPS conference. Thematically linking papers and scholarly dialogues, it highlights the significance of a graduate student conference in promoting critical skills and addressing social (in)justices regarding the wellbeing of marginalized immigrant groups.

Racialization and Multicultural Nationalism

The vast majority of conference presentations paid special attention to issues of multiculturalism, nationalism and racialized experiences of ethnic minorities. Drawing from anti-colonial, anti-racist and feminist lenses, the presented works articulated various forms of oppression and marginalization. Moreover, they shed light upon neocolonial practices perpetuated by liberal multiculturalism and nationalist ideologies (Thobani 1998), which reproduce racial oppression from political discourses to everyday life experiences.

Rainos Mutamba, from the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), critically analyzed the web-blogging process in Africa as rooted in racist colonial stereotypes and western post-modernity. Mutamba illustratively used 'digitelling' as a technological example re- constructing Western identity and naturalizing colonial typecasts. Continuing a similar thought, Robin Liu Hopson, from the same department at the University of Toronto, examined current dominant discourses on equity, diversity and anti-racism within the educational field, exploring how racialized minority teachers from the Greater Toronto Area understand the professional expectations casted upon them.

Moving the debate into the realm of institutionally grounded racism, Nadia Prendergast, a Ph.D. Candidate at OISE, de-constructed the archetypal image of women professionals in multicultural societies (i.e. white and middle class) to show the re-colonization of leadership positions within the policy making field. Drawing from post-colonial, anti-racist and feminist perspectives, Prendergast reported on qualitative findings from internationally educated nurses to reveal the exclusionary character of state supported multiculturalism in relation to foreign trained female professionals.

Bukola Salami's work continued Prendergast's discussion on global inequalities. Demonstrating how racialization works through gendered and classed bodies (Fellows and Razack 1998), Salami, a PhD Candidate from the University of Toronto's Nursing department, explored the experiences of Philippine educated nurses who migrated to Canada through the Live-In-Caregiver Program. Enriching and broadening the transnational feminist concept of global care chains, her work exposed a laddered down immigration process that excludes newcomers from the Canadian labour market. Her work was thoroughly congruent with former scholarly research on the topic: the state non-recognition of foreign credentials (George 2002), institutionalized economic, cultural and educational discrimination (Dowding and Razi 2006; Richmond and Shields 2005), the prevalence of 'Canadian work experience' discourse, migrants' unfamiliarity with workplace practices (Tufts, Lemoine, Phan, Kelly, Lo, Preston and Shields 2010), un-transferability of their skills (Schellenberg and Hou 2008) and state's insufficiently supported inclusionary mechanisms (Bejan 2011). …

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