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Personal Statement

Overview

The social organization of our vocation – the professoriate (the status or position of professor) enjoys three equally significant and interrelated activities: research, teaching and service. No one statement can hope to do justice to the enormous interplay, breadth and depth of benefits accrued from teaching, service and research. The close match between research, teaching and community activities provides me with the personal and intellectual stimuli that are essential to effective teaching and learning. Throughout my many years at York University the task of effectively balancing my scholarly responsibilities, teaching, and service has been made possible by the ongoing and generous support from students, administration, colleagues, staff and the wider community.

 

 

 

 

Research | Teaching | Service

 

Research

 

This statement provides a chronological overview of the history of my research. My published scholarship and related contributions are organized to reflect what I consider to be three long-term research programmes. They are integrated and continuing programmes in the sense that each has a core of intellectual interests that have engaged me over the decades and each has had some cumulative development that have also influenced the other: law, culture and inequality; law, culture and crime; and, law, culture and justice.

1.  Law, Culture and Inequality

The first programme has focussed on aspects of law, culture and inequality. The research on the impact of contemporary cultural segregation and stratification on law began during my graduate years working on my Master’s thesis (under the supervision of Dr Wilkins). This study on the ethnicization of Organized Crime led to a more systematic analysis of patterns of exclusion based on ethno-racial stereotypes, that is, the differential access to services by members of ethno racial communities. An inquiry into the relationships of ethnic/ racial  inequalities and the formation of ethnic communities has led to a more focused reassessment of the relationship between  inequality and legal formation(s) of criminality. My interest in law began with teaching courses in law and social services at Ryerson and continued in my work for Corrections Canada in the 1970s. I came to be interested in thinking about culture primarily because of the unequal application of law. Working as a Research Associate under Dr Ericson re. Mobile Police Studies in the late 1970’s as well as the several studies I undertook with  the Social Planning Council of Metro Toronto in the mid-1980s, resulted in new developments in issues of access (Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Social Services for ethno specific communities). I have continued to develop these projects and taken up a variety of complementary ones. The focus on cultural patterns of inequalities and law mainly examined the relationship between law and inequality as mediated by culture. I have returned periodically to these research interests over the years, and they have influenced features of my second (cultural criminology), and third (ontonomology) research programmes. Figure one schematically highlights the horizontal and vertical movements of law and culture vis a vis the intersections of inequality. 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure One

Inequalities (horizontal and vertical):

      LAW

race, gender, class,sexuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CULTURE

                              

2. Law, Culture and Crime

From my studies on law, culture and inequality, I moved specifically to law, culture and crime notably the social organization of knowledge and the making of official crime knowledge. With considerable encouragement from Dr Ericson, Dr Wilkins and Dr Shearing at the Centre of Criminology, I entered doctoral  studies. Although accepted to the London School of Economics, I pursued my PhD at University of Toronto primarily because of   Sociology’s strong interdisciplinary orientation to regulation, sociology of law and the sociology of culture. As a student of John A. Lee, Dennis Magill, James Giffen and Ted Turk I decided to conduct research on the regulation of youth. While pursuing my interests in youth cultures, I continued to research on ethno specific cultures with the Social Planning Council of Metro Toronto. These interests  were further prompted in the early 1980’s by my detailed reading of Foucault and Gramsci and their influence on analyses of modes/ discourses  of regulation. In the mid-1980’s I undertook a unique project based on male prostitution, drawing on new developments in critical  ethnographic research combining praxis and criminological perspectives. I continued to develop  projects on youths empowerment in a variety of complementary methodologies. My first published manuscript,  This Idle Trade drew on interviews with prostitutes to construct an argument for conceptualizing prostitution as a work relation. I raised the concern that prostitutes themselves had been left out of shaping the discourses which construct their identities in popular culture, law, gay liberation, and so on. The main objective of the book addressed the social organization of prostitution (stages and contingencies) beginning with the assumption that a complex interplay of forces at particular historical moments in specific locations contributed to various career patterns, policy initiatives, and laws (social/ moral regulation/ governmentalities).The research on youth cultures focuses on a number of related topics: historical patterns of age based stratification; criminalization; social exclusion; peer composition; literacy and education. These studies have mainly examined the experience of youths using comparative longitudinal and cross sectional designs.   My 2006 SSHRC funded book What do they Know?, the result of early formulations on  popular culture and youth crimes analyzes the impact of the media on youth criminality. Figure two captures theoretically the embeddedness of youth crime.   

 

Figure two

 

 

 

 

 

In my studies, I compare occupational cultures, youth subcultures, the dominant culture, multi cultures (multiculturalism) as hierarchically ordered by class, gender, sexuality and race. Moreover, the violence that often accompanies authority and resistance were  the  results of criminal sanctions. With this in mind, current regulatory policies and practices need to be challenged, and criminality was relocated out of the realm of criminal law and into the realm of culture/ ideology. This then  became the starting point for my third  theoretical and empirical set of inquiries concerning the relationship between law  (regulation) and justice (harmony/ balance).

3. Law, Culture  and Justice

My work in progress extends my early analyses of law and culture by reassessing relevant legal theory (jurisprudence) and bringing new evidence to bear regarding the relationship of law and justice. I argue that the ontological bases of Western law, especially  the foundation of twentieth-century patterns of equality are inimical to notions of individualized justice, let alone social justice. My work in progress, Ontonomology, for which I will be applying for SSHRC funding extends analyses taken up in the first cultural projects, reassessing relevant legal theory and bringing new evidence to bear regarding the relationship of law and culture to  formation of justice. I argue that these changes in law are the foundation of current practices of justice and the understanding of law which are, in turn, essential to understanding our dominant ideologies. Figure three locates the study of law  within the interrelations of three overlapping levels of analytic inquiries.

 

 

 

IDEOLOGIES

(modernity, liberalism and capitalism)

 

                                                LAW

 

             INSTITUTIONS                                     IDENTITIES   

                                                      

Again, the generic theme that sustains my research is the relationship between law and culture. Further operationalized I have been examining the relationship betwween idologies and identities as mediated by institutions. I have studied  cultures in terms of the following empirical sites: a) multi cultures (race, ethnicity); b) subcultures (youth); c) occupational cultures (criminal justice system and education); and, d) dominant culture (media, pedagogy, law). The strengths of my contributions are in the connections with the subject from so many hitherto neglected vantage points: interdisciplinarity, philosophical, feminist, critical race, critical legal, and community-based/ professional. Admittedly, this narrow field of inquiry (critical cultural criminology)  remains non traditional with its emphasis on racism, misogyny, classism and social justice.  Acknowledging the intellectual limits of orthodox thinking, a more critical analysis however seeks to make sense of the hitherto ignored relationship between crime and culture from various vantage points notably the pedagogy of praxis, dialectics of discipline and the primacy of partnerships. By pursuing the nature of this relationship, I examine a priori conditions, forms of ideological struggles and identifiable institutional trends. A troubling feature in conventional approaches is the glaring absence of a conceptual grasp of the intersection of culture and law, that is, the cojoint elements in the ideological- institutional nexus, the absence of which will erode any promise, let alone prospect of social justice. Moreover there is even less work on determining what conditions the constitution of the ideology-institution connections despite the proliferation of studies in criminology on the manner in which ideology facilitates institutional discrimination. In addition to the content of my studies the morphology of the methods (based  qualitative, inductive, ethnographic as well as textual analyses, content analyses with an interdisciplinary focus) continue to exist outside mainstream criminology.

 

 

Teaching

 

To vision is to transform....   come let us share our visions,   To create a greater Circle of Interconnectedness”  (cited from Circle Works by  Fyre Jean Graveline, 1998)

 

By presenting this brief reflection as a contemplative process, the concepts put forward indicate a form of commemorating images and  imagination that explore the intersections of culture and community that shape teaching and learning. Education is a lifelong process for both teacher and student. It involves a constant unveiling of a reality that links the classroom to the discipline, scholarship and community.

The phenomenon of teaching is developed in reference to believing in the other,  being the other. The corpus of curricular practices transcends   local and situated boundaries to consider the relatedness of what we do well – connect with diverse communities. Our   pedagogy, scholarship and administrative practices were located strategically within broader contexts of engagement. As educators  we are encouraged to move beyond our  traditional cultural roles and expectations, and to situate ourselves  in the struggle for critically responsive alternatives. The culture and practices of teaching offer a complex system of  offering alternatives to  the ordering   of “certain” stratified values  that accommodates conveniently  to market economics and instrumental rationalities.

    Teaching and learning offer a difference – something that sets us apart; “in” but not necessarily “of” mainstream thinking. Since its early years York teachers were never content in redefining the possible but rather were committed to making the possible real by forging  new directions and never abandoning the distinctive principles well ensconced in its foundation. Departmental synergies contributed to this conscience. Juxtaposed against the mainstream, one easily observes the ontological character of the our community and its attendant  articulation of  historical mandates  as unmasking the privilege of conventional curriculum. At the forefront of York’s contributions is its  “engaging”,  “transformative”,  and “community-based”  education  where  real-life experiences  are integrated  with academic requirements. By transforming  sentiments into significant inducements to action, a benchmark of our credibility, social justice, community outreach and alternatives are formalized in curricular offerings. Flexibility mediates the relationship between York and its more “marginalized” populations.

Over the years it was not just a phlegmatic unwillingness of mainstream thinking on campus to appreciate the contributions of progressive thought but rather there was a perniciously cemented resistance to knowing what this thought represented. We have   succeeded in moving the conventional boundaries of orthodoxy to consider that which was much ignored -- community based alternatives and social justice models. This success however was not replicated easily elsewhere.

Accessibility  and not that which  is offered  and paraded –  fragmented availability is fundamental.  Availability simply refers to the existence or  provision of a specific service while  access deals with the actual delivery of a service. That is, what may be available may be inaccessible. More precisely, access involves two components: (a) student access, that is, the extent to which students were able to secure much needed services; and (b) organizational access, the extent to which students  (especially members of racialized communities) were represented and also participated in the delivery  of courses. Organizational access is important since it relates very closely to the purposes and effectiveness of outreach. By contrast, students require responsive services that are as accessible as possible on a geographic, psychological, or cultural basis. Access to deliverable services especially to diverse and less privileged  populations should remain a priority.

    Accordingly, the process of seemingly incorporating the community model by the  mainstream is of dubious success since it conceals as much as it reveals. Witness, for example, the neatly tailored homilies and the panoply of irreverent  discourses on the  “community” outreach.Clearly,  selective institutional amnesia, economic convenience and the culture of corporate/ bureaucratic  interests have diverted attention away from authentic community voices and action. As our dear colleague Howard Buchbinder  has long argued, traditional  decision-making has been replaced by a managerial  hegemony in which market strategies  predominate. Despite the aura of collegiality or the spirit of participatory democracy, an  actuarial logic of “the bottom line”, guided by market place language,  governs curriculum, planning  and the “optics” of excellence.

              In brief, a commitment to enabling the  “othered” students, the “othered discipline, the “othered” communities can never be a negotiable commodity. Vision contributes consistently to a mission by developing inimitable models of interdisciplinarity – the co constitutive elements of liberal arts and professional studies.  

              In terms of pedagogical philosophy, I have maintained that the coterminous forces of context and content constitute an analytic framework for understanding how this privileged vocation wonderfully profits from the input of  many constituencies. Context and content have shaped my identity as a teacher  and my social interactions with my students. Context  (affiliation with York University, resources skills, CST, motivations and self-concept)  constitute experiences that condition the content of teaching. It is always an ongoing challenge to teach effectively and inclusively, to be committed to creative, critical  pedagogical approaches to race, gender, sexuality, lifestyle and class-based differences and to recognize that all participants in the teaching and learning process are equal participants who have different roles to play.

     Accordingly, teaching is the process of experiencing connections with our students. In order to enhance  a more emancipatory and transformative pedagogy  that seeks to invite the development of  a sociological imagination, my courses and their concomitant learning objectives strive  to respond to the critical faculties of all students. Students are  encouraged to empower themselves conceptually, to engage in open debate and to document their experiences, consciousness, intention, and their relational contexts especially when examining social problems, criminology and culture. This pedagogy does not reduce teaching to simple instrumentalist transmission models of learning the “skill and drill”, but rather to engage in the interdisciplinary ethics of justice. For me, teaching is about  the integrity of   “reaching in” and “reaching out” wherein the personal and social converge rather than diverge as opposing interests. This emphasis on “being” and “becoming” aware is based on trust, respect and compassion which compel all – teachers and learners alike, to “redefine the possible” in terms of the “message” as well as the “method” of inquiry.

    Courage, character and curiosity define one’s commitment to learning and teaching. Responsive to various sources of knowledge available and reflective of the changing interests of our students, my undergraduate courses consist of a coherent , clear and consistent program of study which includes a detailed reading list and a  corresponding set of lectures and written assignments that highlight diverse concepts and problematics of the phenomena under investigation. After covering fully the fundamentals, these courses engage in applications - initiatives that are  project based. These assignments balance the structured themes, lectures and assignments with the students' collective and individual initiatives. Processes of knowing how to ask and answer questions are fundamental if students are to understand criminology /sociology. I use a combination of lectures, guest lecturers, group discussions, activities, films, and student-led sessions to enhance learning and to make students more interested and involved. Not only does this maintain interest in the subject, but it also conveys the information in several ways to ensure that all students will grasp a successful understanding of sociology. Clear, well-organized lecture notes are essential for effective delivery and for student comprehension. I continually revise my lecture notes with an eye toward not only updating content, but toward improving their pedagogical effectiveness. While I tailor material and adapt teaching methods to fit each particular course, I also develop  themes and methodologies within a teaching philosophy that cut across courses. This philosophy comes from my own practical experience and reflections as a teacher and learner, from studying diverse theories and applications of appropriate teaching and learning models and from my own research and experiences with the subject at hand. 

      My graduate courses have introduced students to prominent writings and the complex theoretical debates that energize the field of critical legal theory, critical human rights and critical criminology. Students participate actively in the teaching process, by contributing to the discussions and analyses of the literature, which are followed by lectures and students' seminar presentation. Students are also expected to act as discussants, following a presentation on one of the themes included in the course. To facilitate the active engagement of students in my courses, I use a learning-based, inquiry focussed approach. This entails the development of a variety of teaching practices that require students to become active learners, and to take responsibility for their own learning process.  Three factors provide students with the right environment and motivation to learn: preparation, interest and effective communication.

    In addition to classroom/ seminar, my teaching/ learning experiences are informed by my engagements in i) graduate student support,  ii) undergraduate advising as SUSA, Law and Society advisor, Atkinson Sociology Chair and Sociology Coordinator, and ii) curriculum development.  I believe that commitment to graduate student education is evinced in not only the courses that one teaches and the dissertation committees that one sits on, but through actively assisting students in their efforts to secure funding for their research and employment following graduation. Consequently, my commitment to student support is also reflected in my work on graduate programme committees, programme workshops, SSHRC presentations, mentoring, organizing panels and encouraging York graduate students to disseminate their respective research at various fora and assisting graduate students in publishing their respective studies. It has been extremely rewarding to observe a large number of students with whom I have worked succeed in pursuing academic appointments and senior government / industry portfolios. Second, it is my very good fortune to have been asked to serve as advisor for various student organizations (Sociology Undergraduate Students Association) and programs (Criminology, Law and Society). Equally, I have been honored by a number of teaching awards. I especially value the OCUFA, Faculty of Arts Award, FGS Award, and the Sociology Undergraduate Students Award (SUSA) primarily because students (undergraduate and graduate students) who cared enough about classroom engagements prepared the nomination files for them. I have been invited to act as Mentor for the Critical Mentoring Program, Division on Critical Criminology - American Society of Criminology. Third, in terms of Curriculum Development, I have served on a number of Committees developing courses, degrees (Criminology, Public Service Studies, Public Administration and Justice Studies and certificates (Certificate Anti Racist Research and Practice) in both the Faculty of Arts, the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies and  Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.  In addition, I have been invited to serve as a consultant for under graduate and graduate program reviews  and invited to make presentations on curriculum. I have worked closely with the Dean’s Office re Police Executive Training and Management Committee in assisting in the preparation of a Proposal for Funding (Toronto Police Services), worked with colleagues in developing a graduate degree in Socio-Legal Studies;   Public Policy, Administration and Law; Syllabi and Instructional Materials for Teaching Sociology of Law for the  American Sociological Association and  the American Society of Criminology, University of Toledo’s Masters degree in Criminal Justice. I have presented papers at conferences and different universities / community colleges  and published on the subject of pedagogy. At York University I have developed  In - Service Training Workshops for York University Security, participated in the Academic Planning Forum in 2006 with L. Sanders; with Pat Rogers re Critical Pedagogy at the “Rethinking The  Curriculum: Race, Culture,  and Liberal Education  Conference. York University; acted as a member of the  Advisory Group to the Dean on Matters Relating to Race, Gender, Multiculturalism and the Curriculum (Dean M. Stevenson) (appointed) and served on various curriculum committees (SPT, Criminology, Sociology).

    A large number of my former graduate students enjoy post secondary teaching appointments. They include: Elarick Persaud,  SUNY New Palz, NY; Anas Karzai, Laurentian University; Claudio Colaguori, York University;  Curtis Clarke,  Athabaska University, Alberta; Stephen Muzzatti, Ryerson University, formerly Iowa State; Gamal Abdel-Shehid, York University; David Baker, Southern Texas University; Marilyn Corsianos, Eastern Michigan University; Dick Butcher, SUNY Potsdam, NY; Michael Spivey University of North Carolina; Kathy Orban, Marygrove  College, Detroit; Kevin McCormick,  President of Huntington University, Sudbury; Lisa Jakubowski, Brescia University College, University of Western Ontario; James Hodgson, Ferrum College, West Virginia; Ron Stansfield University of Guelph; Naomi Couto  York University; James Williams, York University; Merle Jacobs, York University;  Anthony Micucci,  Memorial University ; George Skoulas,  University of Macedonia, Greece; Anna Leslie, Memorial University;  Marianne Vardalos, Laurentian University; Kasia Rukszto, Centennial College George Rigakos,  Carleton University;Cynthia Levine-Rasky  Queen’s University, tenure stream; Karen Blackford,  ” deceased, tenure stream Laurentian University; Egerton Clarke,   Kent State U.; Melodye Lehnerer,   Southwest Missouri State University; Alfred Choi, University of Singapore; Zoran Pejovic,  Trent  University; Kevin Baker, Dean, Durham College.

 

 

Service

Service is an active and sustained engagement in the act of citizenship, a collective responsibility, and an expression of commitment to the well being of the university. It has been as much an honour as a delight to serve the university in a number of capacities. For me a critical goal of service is a commitment to ensuring that the central values of the university are sustained and strengthened. I have learned much from my active service record about the collegium, governance and administration and most notably principles of respect and trust.

Service exists within the fabric of relations that facilitate a sense of belonging. Service not only situates our “organic” position but clearly defines the  intellectual as someone who is committed to a pedagogical framework that is "action-oriented", representing a world-view that focuses on how "concrete", "real" social phenomena. This social praxis in the life of the university is essential for the development of a genuine university citizenship. These opportunities facilitate a pedagogy that is "engaged", "transformative" or "critical" and "community-based". This  inclination to learn from the processes and structures within which we are embedded/ connected  life  conditions our identity as educators, our sense of  “being and belonging”. The university functions best with the well informed  participation of all of its constituencies, that is, the quality of service shapes and is shaped by the quality of contributions of its members.

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