Friday, December 17, 2021

American Anthropology, Apologies, and Apologetics

 In November 2021 Akhil Gupta, president of the American Association of Anthropologists publicly apologized for the harm American Anthropologists have committed against Indigenous peoples. He doubled down on his apology with a presidential address that asked what anthropology might have looked like if it had foregrounded a decolonial perspective from the start. I wasn’t at the meetings but almost immediately saw my social media feeds light up with commentary (mostly positive) about Gupta’s presentation. Not all anthropologists were so supportive. One senior AAA member penned a letter to the effect and gathered a band of signatories to express their dissatisfaction. 

The Lewis letter takes umbrage with the idea anthropology is responsible for any kind of harm. Perhaps, Lewis and follows allow, there may have been problematic individuals, but the discipline itself has been well intentioned and a net positive contribution to humanity. Lewis discursively positions himself as a well-intentioned elder being undermined by younger voices that might not be as informed as they should be. He laments how Boas and others get tossed under the bus in the rush to a new political correct presentist anthropology. But Lewis’ critique of Gupta is misplaced and just plainly wrong. 

I came upon Lewis’ letter of complaint by accident. I receive the regular ‘communities’ update from the AAA but normally ignore and delete it. What caught my eye wasn’t Lewis’ initial letter, it was the small torrent of congratulatory cheering statements from a range of folks with increasingly inflammatory reasons for agreeing with Lewis. So I clicked on the link in my email (a mistake I’m sure) and started reading the thread building around Lewis’ letter. At the time most were supportive. They shared a tone of pained victimhood in which they positioned themselves as a stalwart minority holding out for truth against a horde of presentist youngsters who themselves were under the bewitching charms of some anthropological pied piper. Fact is the discipline is fairly middle of the road and many practitioners still pride themselves on their 'liberal' ability to solve other people's problems (even if not asked).

In response and over a couple of days I penned several comments. You may note that the tone changes over time from a quiet attempt to be considerate of Lewis to increasing diminishment of patience with them.   During this time I also wrote to Gupta himself to ask to read his comments, which he shared with me for that purpose. After reading Gupta’s paper I was even less impressed with Lewis as it becomes clear that Lewis did not listen to the presidential address, is factually incorrect in several cases, and clearly is motivated by a kind of political agenda that looks unkindly on Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour having our own voices unmediated by white sojourners. 

Below, modestly edited, are my comments (updated Dec. 19/21 with two newer comments).

Comment 1.
As both an Indigenous person and an anthropologist I can see the importance of the earlier fieldworkers (though to be fair much of Boas' work was down by my Indigenous cousins, people like William Beynon or George Hunt, for example).  Yes, this work was thorough, and dare I say maybe even more thorough and detailed than work being done today (but that's opinion, not observation).  The older work was also located within it's time irrespective of whether it took an anti-racist or supremacist tone. Indeed the progressives of yesterday are often the first maligned by the progressives of today as they seek to set themselves apart from their parents and grand parents, nonetheless to ignore the potential of having gotten it wrong is itself a problem that does require attention.

We can, however, still learn from the past. I am currently reading the amazing book by Aaron Glass on writings about the Hamatsa. As Glass trawls through our intellectual past he clearly, cleverly, and engagingly identifies what was right, wrong, and confused (he is able to do this through a careful reading of the actual sources, many of the earlier ones borrow freely from each other without acknowledgement.  My point is that his 'critique' does not reject the legacy, worth, and detail of the past writers and anthropologists, but he does make very clear that their interests really weren't about understanding a 'native' view, but rather in drawing fact and data from our societies to elaborate and advance their own stories in which we were often mere characters on their theoretical stage.  

Despite Gupta's passionate and heartfelt critique many anthropologists are essentially still doing what anthropologists have always done - drawing from others to move their own theory.  I'm actually okay with that, but I think it is important that anthropologists realize what they are doing, and stop grandstanding.  Glass does a good job, in fact is an exemplar, in this regard.

A few years ago I published Standing on the Shore with Sabaan  which challenges anthropologists to stop using Indigenous societies as laboratories and date mines.  The story of getting the paper published is one that reveals some of the hidden prejudices within the mainstream of the discipline, despite the progressiveness of today's advocates. Nonetheless, it eventually came out. The point was not to deny a euro-centric American (or Canadian) anthropology, but to suggest that Indigenous peoples have also tried to figure you out as you were trying to figure us out. We don't always get you (American Anthros) right, but you do howl when you don't like the image we paint - way more, than we do I might add (and you still have control of many of the levers).

So while I can appreciate Hebert Lewis' complaint, I think he feels the attack too strong, he over exaggerates the change of the ground.  From my years attending the AAA, though time spent in a US grad school to working with colleagues (many of whom trained and originating in the US) in Canada, I can assure Dr Lewis that what he laments as lost is still the dominant perspective in the discipline no matter how moving a presidential address may have been.

Comment 2.

I am confounded by all the emerit(a/us) profs going on like the sky is falling and finally someone grabbed a stick to prop it up. A hardy band have come running to put their hands out to help hold up the sky. It would seem they have finally found their voice and courage to speak against the horde of young ungrateful children finding fault with the disciplinary ancestors.

How tiresome that our discipline has a poor sense of its own history. Every decade or two there is some crises that might foretell the end, some heretical saying that denies the early good work. So simplistic a story. I take delight in being able to cite Boas' critical piece about anthropologists of his day (WWI era) prostituting their science (a gloss on his own words) to aid an imperialist power (USA). He got censured by the AAA for that one. So yup Boas did some nifty things, things that can be admired. That doesn't leave his work free from critical inspection. That doesn't make his work untouchable.  What it says is that sensibilities change over time and what is important and valuable at one time may not be at another.

What I find intriguing about all the championing and complaining over Lewis' little comment is how offended he and his signatories seem to feel. It is as though they feel the sting of criticism against their own work, but in their minds and memories they were doing good things - the thought that maybe the subjects of their work might think differently is potentially threatening to them. Perhaps this group of elder colleagues feels their own work is being diminished by imagining an anthropology based in something other than theory making out of Indigenous cultures? Intent and desires are hard to parse out from the intense and passionate defences of old time anthropology. But it certainly seems that they are more concerned about what they feel they might lose then with imagining what a future anthropology might be if were based on something other than extracting data from other folks.

I'm no spring chicken myself (having begun my anthro journey as an undergrad in the 80s) so can appreciate how it feels when younger folks with 'new' ideas pop up with critical introspection in lectures, seminars, or talks. When one considers oneself radical, militant, or progressive and then realizes that for some of our current young scholars these once progressive ideas are retrograde - it can really pull one up short. But rather than taking a knee-jerk reaction, I am interested in how this has come to be.  I was never on board with the so-called post modernist moment, but aspects of the experiments in writing and thinking have served me well. Same with the current moment of decolonization, there are excesses indeed (like with anything new) but there are also valuable lessons. I'm interested in the lessons and would urge my senior colleagues (a few of whom I actually know) to take a sober second thought about signing onto Lewis' letter [and retract their support].

Comment 3.

If my colleagues had reflected on what I wrote, they would note I in fact said it is hard to tell the author's and supporters' intentions and desires - except in so far as to note their explicit words and indeed they do take great umbrage with the youthful critiques (but most of us critiquing aren’t that young!) that have been happening in the very academies they were formerly part of.

I do find it engaging. As an Indigenous anthropologist I have long experienced just this kind of correction as non-Indigenous 'experts' patiently explain to me why their analysis of my home is the right one. I have read the pages of explanations (in peer reviews) of why my own observations and those of my indigenous colleagues, relatives, and friends are definitely wrong.  I particularly recall an experience wherein a group of community leaders and Smgyigyet sat silently as we listened to a young 'expert' quote Boas to us to explain to the Sm'ooygit why the young 'expert's' understanding was the right one:  So I am familiar with this highly regarded 'true' history that Lewis and others rush to defend and regularly meet it in my everyday work life.

But they, Lewis and Band, really and truly miss the point.  They have had their cake and they continue to eat it. Though retired from the field they still occupy a large space within the body politic that is their imagined American Anthropology. The fact that they still have space and platform and desire to keep hold of the discipline demonstrates the power they still deploy, even if they think they are being dethroned.

Gupta's address and article isn't tossing anyone under the bus. His ideas aren't even particularly new. As recently as 1969 Kathleen Gough said something very similar and she lost her job, in part because of it. But one needn't restrict themselves to recent radicals, go back further to the anthropologist William Beynon (researching 1915-1955). Perhaps you have heard of him?  Maybe not, but he was the source behind the majority of Boas' Tsimshian materials. He was also the source behind Drucker, Garfield, Sussman, Barbeau, and countless others who rarely name him in their published works. Beynon eventually wrote a multi volume ethnography that was never published - if one were to read it one might appreciate the fact that however brilliant Boas was (and I believe he was) he was interested in extracting from Indigenous peoples to advance his own model of humanity - I do not begrudge him that - he was far better than the majority of the conservative physical anthropologists and archaeologists of his day. But Beynon had a different, more accurate view and when one reads his own words unmediated by Boas, Barbeau, or the others, we see a high complex civilization within which Beynon operated as himself a sm'oogit from a storied Tsimshian lineage.  While Boas theorized, Beynon understood and deployed that knowledge locally and through his attempts to shape the research of the follows of Boas who washed ashore in our laxyuup.

But there were also other non-Indigenous anthropologists working at the time of Boas doing things differently, in fact doing along the lines that Gupta calls for.  Consider James Teit, a community-based anthropologist before the term was invented. (see review of Wendy Wickwire's amazing biography here: ). Working at the same time, even in correspondence with Boas. Teit did anthropology in a way that paid attention to Indigenous intellectual traditions - it was an exemplar of what today we might call decolonial anthropology.  But rare is the student of American anthropology that has heard of let alone read James Teit.

So yes indeed, let's pay attention to history - not as it was written by the cold war generation in triumphalist America, but as it actually played out on the ground, with attention to how the institutional power was enacted in departments, who got hired, who was relegated to the margins, who do we remember, who actually was doing the work? The mid 20th century myth of American Anthropology that centres a harmonious four field study all of humanity does more of a disservice to the men and a few women who practiced it in the early 20th century than does Gupta's calls to reimagine our future.

Comment 4 (Dec. 18/21).

The thing is we [those commenting in support of Gupta's address] have been discussing your letter of complaint [this in response to several comments from Lewis & his supporters that his critics aren't listen, just cherry picking and name calling]. What you are not hearing is that we have experienced and heard these types of criticisms for many years and for much of our lives. You are blind and deaf to the criticisms which you have a priori disregarded. For each point you say "what about this, Boas was in fact this or Willis was in fact that..."  But it misses the point. No one really wants to take away your sense of comfort with the 'imagined community' you exist within, we just want the edges rolled back a bit so that what created the imagining can be made a bit more clear.  We want younger IBPOC to have experiences that were better than ours, we want our junior colleagues to move through the ranks without being undermined by the self-centring 'whitestream' ideas.

As an Indigenous faculty member I can attest to the problems IBPOC colleagues experience, and it is partly our institutional structures but it is also the disciplinary histories and traditions that continue to draw from us as data and ignore our perspectives when it becomes uncomfortable.  You might find this comment on the tenure process for Indigenous faculty at UBC of interest.  You [H.Lewis] may bristle at having your ideas and responses tabled 'white fragility,' but that is a meaningful concept and it is far from bullying, it is an analytic descriptor.

Comment 5 (Dec. 19/21).

[In response to a series of comments from Lewis' supporters who say they know a thing or two about hardship.]

I often say to my students your grade does not define who you are, it's a measurement of something you did at a particular moment in time.  This seems apt here. 

Our evaluation, or grade if you wish, of earlier (and current) anthropologists is not a measure of who they were/are, how hard they work(ed), or a diminishment of the struggles they may have endured.  Yet so many of the passionate defences of the letter of complaint roll out examples of how "hard I worked/I struggled" or point to all the "good I did."  That misses the point. It's the classic liberal defence and cry to be exempted from critique 'because I had it tough too."  While one may appreciate the stories of "I had it hard too" are designed to show that supporters of Lewis' Complaint aren't silver spoon babies, that misses the point. 

Another example.

When I teach about the colonial appropriation and history of Indigenous peoples along Canada's west coat I often talk about what Annie Booth (that is the first person I read who used the term) called microbial colonialism and the waves of small pox that rolled like death waves through my late ancestors' homes. I don't focus on individual acts of aggression in this story, but on the many more acts of structural indifference that were (to my mind far worse). Like the 1862 wave of smallpox that swept up BC's coast propelled by settler constabularies driving my kin out of Victoria at gun point. When students hear about this it is not unusual for at least one of them to come up to me after class, crestfallen and distressed who then express a sense of sorrow and offer an individual apology for what happened.  Then there are others who say that was bad but my family wasn't here during that period, you make it sound like all of us are guilty, we worked hard for our lives in BC and Canada.  

Both responses miss the point, it's not about you, the individual, how hard you worked, how sad you feel, it's about understanding the structural contexts that made that wave of genocide possible and now, a century and a half later doing something to make sure it doesn't happen again. And, and, and to drive the point home, the society that made it possible, settler Canada (and our settler sister state to the south) is responsible for the harm inflicted which was real, measurable, and unreasonable even in it's day. And each of us toady, in our respective settler states, benefit from those harms.

To all those who share and say "I too have suffered (even if I am a settler)" I think you miss the point. We are all implicated as 'anthropologists' in the historical acts of our discipline, we are all bound to make amends for past harms, and as sensibilities turn and cultural values transform it becomes (one hopes) less acceptable to hide behind the normative values of a euro-whiteness that presents as universal and colour blind.

For those who say they have done good work, why not examine that work and ask how can those lessons of your 'good work' apply in your departmental review processes for tenure and promotion (how many Indigenous faculty made the cut in your unit?), consider your mechanisms for graduate recruitment - what hidden criteria restrict IBPOC applicants? In your courses you teach ask yourself are these Indigenous 'content' courses in which all the sources that focus on Indigenous  communities are constructed as doing research 'on' rather than 'with' Indigenous peoples?  In your Indigenous content courses do you have a place for Indigenous intellectual traditions or do you use Indigenous societies as data to explore external theories and models? Start with these self questions and reflect.

In our university we have a new Indigenous Strategic Plan that is quite different from the typical strategic plan. It is designed, on a university level, for us to all ask these kinds of questions [as in paragraph above] and to see about meaningful response to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  UBC is no bastion of radical revisionism, it is a big neo-liberal research university. But those on its board and in its administration realize that they have to stop talking about themselves, what great things they did, and how their predecessors are really being misunderstood and actually were great folks. Instead they have taken a brave path to actually confront the harms of the past while drawing forward what might have been okay, tossing out what was clearly wrong, and in the entire process trying to bring the university collectively forward. To my mind and heart Professor Gupta's presidential address was something similar (in intent). Paying attention to what Gupta actually wrote and said has a good chance to keep anthropology relevant.

Comment 6 (Dec. 20/21)

[In response to a Lewis supporter saying some voices (those critical of Lewis?)are divisive and we should all strive for unity.]

Yes, everyone is flawed and we are all products of the society we are raised in, but the effects work out differently depending upon one's class, gender, racial, etc location. So the everyone is the same claim is simultaneously wrong and right. The call for unity, however, is one that actual seeks to deny difference and the effects of structural power. I see more than a devolution here into binaries, but rather a fairly nuanced circle of differences, some more pronounced than others and on the edges (as the circle moves through time) are those who deny the circle does in fact shift and transform over time. The edge views become increasingly rigidified, increasingly less tolerant of differnnce, and ultimately inflexible o to the point of brittleness and fragility.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Getting dropped from a feature on cancel culture

A lesson on getting oneself dropped from a feature article about cancel culture at UBC in the student paper. A month ago I was asked to do an interview about cancel culture at UBC. You can read my side of that interview here:  Cancel Culture. My mistake was to assume reporters consider themselves on the record in the same way they put those they question on the record. How wrong I was!

"During interviews," I was told by the features editor, "the journalist is not on the record." I was (am) surprised by this assertion. I'm conceptually puzzled by the idea that the questions used to prompt my responses are off the record while my responses are on the record and the journalist takes carte blanche in how to treat my responses. 

In a subsequent email from the coordinating editor they doubled down with their idea of informed consent suggesting that the interview (they called it a conversation) required consent of both parties for both to be put on the record and since I was the only one who agreed to the interview, the reporter had not given consent to be on the record. As a social science researcher I am accustomed to a rather formal process of prior informed consent,  the ways that friend-like attributes infuse this kind of research, and the importance of one's focus of research being informed and engaged in granting consent through multiple stages of research and writing. Through that process I always assumed and expected that I, the question asker, was on the record and that was in part an act of reciprocity with those I interviewed. 

The editorial staff at the Ubyssey do not agree with the above. The coordinating editor informed me that "in the future, The Ubyssey and our reporters require being informed of your intent to publish interview transcripts and recordings before you agree to the interview."  To make things simple I replied that for any subsequent interview request I reserve the right to post interview transcripts (edited or raw) upon publication of their article. I suspect that will ensure I am removed from their list of potential interviewees for some time (or at least until a new group turns up). 

In my professional practice as an anthropologist I expect to be every bit on the record as those I interview, observe, and write about. If I can't put myself there, how can I morally expect those I write about to put themselves there?See:  Introduction to special issue on autoethnography.

Journalists aren't alone in being annoyed at having the microscope turned on themselves, many professional anthropologists become highly unsettled when they find themselves the object of study.

But if both professions are honest about our practice, and respectful enough to engage in reciprocal relations, we will not try to mask ourselves from interrogation, we will welcome it as radically authentic experience. It will shape our capacity for empathy and care.


Interviews with the Ubyssey currently available.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Cancel Culture - an interview with a Ubyssey reporter

On November 4th I had the opportunity to sit down with a Ubyssey reporter to talk about cancel culture at UBC. The sprawling hour long interview covered a lot of topics and  most of it is unlikely to make it into the article. If all [reporter's] interview subjects do the same I imagine it might take a few months for the story to see the light of day! 

Update (Nov. 22). After originally posting this the Ubyssey features editor sent me an email

Hi Professor Menzies, 

I hope you're doing well. My name is [features editor], I am the features coordinator and {reporter's] editor for the cancel culture story. 

It has recently come to our attention that you published the transcript from your interview with [reporter]. We are kindly requesting that you take down the transcript. While we did provide you with the audio file, it was for your own files, not for publication. We were never made aware of your desire to publish the transcript, and if we were, we would have informed you that it is against our policy to publish interview transcripts. During interviews, the journalist is not on the record and [reporter] provided with personal information that she does not wish to be public. 

We hope this issue will be resolved expediently. 


[features editor]
Ironically, they want me to cancel the blog post. So what I have done, out of respect for the reporter's wish not to be on the record is to delete their comments throughout. The original transcript was already modified to remove anything obviously personal. I will confess to finding it surprising (and not a bit ironic) that the the Ubyssey demands off the record questioning while expecting on the record responses.  But live long enough and surprise awaits around most corners.

I have indicated by <SNIP> deletions in the text. My apologies if anything becomes less readable, but I would note that this was rather more akin to a moderate lecture than actual conversation. I would also note that I have only lightly edited the auto-transcription so there remains some strange wordings etc.

I wrote to the reporter as follows:

Dear [reporter],

My apologies for assuming that you would have no issue with me publishing the interview transcript on my low circulation blog.  This is a standard feature and normally I would have recorded the interview myself, but was pleased when you offered to share the audio file with me.  For several years now this has been my practice. I don’t always publish transcripts, unless it seems relevant and important – and this one did. I normally wait for the article to come out to publish an interview. I hadn’t understood that you were writing a feature, I assumed it was a shorter, quicker, news item. For this I apologize.

I do consider my answers to be my own intellectual property and that I retain the right to use and publish them as they are. One of the reasons I do interviews almost always when asked is that as an anthropologist I make my livelihood asking other people questions and then writing their words into my narratives. I think it behoves me to be therefore willing to be likewise interrogated and also be willing to be on the record even when I am asking the questions.

Nonetheless, I am sorry for making an unwarranted assumption and I have reedited the transcript to only show my words. I very much enjoyed our conversation and trust that you did as well. 

If you feel that you would rather not quote me in your feature I total understand and am completely fine with that. 

Yours, Charles.

Update (Nov. 24). I have now been advised that, due to the Canadian Association of Journalists guidelines, I have been relieved of the worry that the reporter will write a story using any of my interview. I do these student press interviews out of a sense of duty, even when I might not really wish to. 

Hello Dr. Menzies, 

Thank you for your email and I hope you’re doing well. 

I wanted to reach out and thank you for understanding and taking my name off the blog post. I also very much enjoyed our interview and thought it was both informative and important to current political and social discussions. I also want to apologize that I didn't make it more clear I was working on a longer feature piece. 


Unfortunately per the Canadian Association of Journalists’ guidelines which The Ubyssey follows, I’m unable to use your comments in the article, but I really appreciate that you took the time to meet with me on the issue and thank you again for your time and effort.

All the best,  [reporter].

I look forward to seeing what they eventually write, now with perhaps less apprehension :). 


[00:00:58.370] - Charles

Charles Menzies. Hagwil Hayetst, which is my Gitxaala name. So I'm a faculty member here at University of British Columbia. I've been here for a quarter century, officially,  ... . And having received a little gift box ... Yeah, it's very exciting.


[00:01:34.470] - Charles

I don't publicly announce my pronouns. Okay, though, for a long time, I come from the second feminist moment where we wrote. We predated the he/she alternating he/she conversations, but I actually try to write from a third person pronoun or avoid pronouns [and gendered speech].


[00:02:03.910] - Charles

It's hard to define something that doesn't exist.


[00:02:12.910] - Charles

Cancel culture. Like a lot of things like, for example, political correctness, are inventions of a conservative group of thinkers who feel threatened by viewpoints that challenge themselves. Right now, I forget which state, there's so many of them to choose from. Down in the US, it has the legislation going through banning something called critical race theory. I'll be honest. I never heard of critical race theory before the right wing started talking about critical race theory. There's been critical theory that comes from the Frankfurt School years, decades ago.

[00:02:48.730] - Charles

But the whole notion about the idea of this thing that it's a thing. And I'm sure you're going to find academics today, probably half my age or younger who might actually say there's critical race theory. What there is is basically good social science and philosophical examinations and understanding that explores the way in which we construct and conceptualize what constitutes race. And people in anthropology have a long history, [arguing against so-called scientific racism.] From its North American origin. The origins of anthropology in North America. Not that it originated in North America.

[00:03:25.210] - Charles

Just to be clear in which question the whole concept of scientific racism. So if you go back to the eighteen hundreds, a lot of European theorists were going around the world measuring people's skulls and declaring that there's a biological linkage between types of skulls and forms [of race] and anthropology and it's North American variant had it's basically its roots contesting challenging that notion, suggesting there is a diversity of humanness, and then looking at how race is constructed socially. So that is, you could say, critical race theory in the sense that it doesn't assume race is a reality that just exists definitionally.

[00:04:03.850] - Charles

So in that sense, cancel culture is the same kind of idea what I see, but it's mostly promulgated by people who are fairly conservative in their political and social outlooks. It is claimed that the people of the right are the ones who are the object of it. My experience has been that when you take a look at the Silencing, those of us who situate ourselves politically on the left who come from various types of progressive politics are actually more likely to be silenced.

[00:04:37.970] - Charles

To Receive letters from concerned citizens to our Department heads to our Dean's.  In some cases just anonymous threats and I was actually threatened one time around. The John Furlough thing was in the news. I was quoted and actually received an explicit threat to my person that came through and [I] actually reported it to the police who weren't very helpful. Just because what you do, the police officer said, unless they're really going to come up to you and telling you they're going to be physically violating you. And then more recently, I received this a few years ago when an economics Professor ... [criticized the fraternities fo laying a wreath at the Remembrance Day events.]

[00:05:20.210] - Charles

so I was quoted because I've been publicly supportive of the right to say that and act that way. Publicly recorded did an interview just over here with one of the local news channels. I had some strange gentleman phone me about four times to my office phone with explicit threats to my person. We actually had the police and the security come and listen to the phone calls. The guy left his actual number on the phone. He was automatically recorded, ... He was down in the states somewhere.

[00:05:54.630] - Charles

So ... A lot of the actual kind of threats in Silencing comes both from outside the University, toward people who are more oriented toward the social issues. Even the state's prosecution and persecution of people tend to follow these lines. So Sunera Tubanni, for example, some years ago made a statement after the 911 event and basically faced a hate crimes investigation. No charges were laid.  [Nothing was done.} But because she made the linked between the US military aggression overseas, its imperialist actions, et cetera,  and the adverse impact of people of colour globally, et cetera, and even the long history, both in Canada and the US [she faced criticism].

[00:06:43.210] - Charles

Basically people who are supporting sort of racial justice in the McCarthy period that was who was targeted. It actually wasn't communists. If you read the historical work, there are a lot of Communists who managed to go through that period of time it was the ones who really expressed, [were] working with communities, especially in the academic sector, who were working with anti racist types of programs. ...  When you have to take a look at it, the question becomes whose power? There is a kind of political puritanism that exists in today's world, which is ironic.

[00:07:29.730] - Charles

I find there's all kinds of ironies with that. But there is a kind of political puritanism where left, right, center, upside down, underneath, over are all going on about what you can or can't do, what you can or can't say how you can or can't say it. So people say that. But whether it actually carries you with institutional force, that's a different matter. And it's really hard to see any empirical evidence of that.


[00:08:02.910] - Charles

Well, that particular action was Twitter shaming.


[00:08:05.730] - Charles

Where a large group of people came together and highlighted particular sentiments and then sort of.


[00:08:23.130] - Charles

I don't think people are turning to that.


[00:08:25.590] - Charles

I think this is, unfortunately, the way human beings have been. There's a whole notion of how do we maintain social cohesion in social groups before we had large scale capacity to broadcast digitally, right. Face to work. We had systems of social control in terms of gossip, communications, chiding control, what people today now called microaggressions. But in the old days, that just was parental control and authority. I'm being facetious. But when I say, if you look at human society, if you take a look to societies that were organized by kinship level organizations without large external state mechanisms behind, there's a lot of work.

[00:09:15.670] - Charles

I mean, there's existing 20th century societies this way. Where joking teasing. Chiding ostracizing socially use the technique. This is just another expansion, and it has a wider reach, whether it's emotionally any more.

[00:09:34.390] - Charles


[00:09:35.650] - Charles

If it's your closest group of 100 people that you live with and you see every day of your life, and that's all you're going to see. Or it's 10,000 online piling on you. The one difference that I would say that I think is an empirical fact is the ferocity irrespective of what the issue is just the ramping up to the kind of the anger, the level of obscenity, the personal attacks, the violent commentary that flows through. I think I just constantly. I have a long list of blocking.

[00:10:10.850] - Charles

I block people, and some people think I block for really weak kneed reasons. I don't care. It's my emotional social life.


[00:10:22.430] - Charles

It's my account. I mean, of course it is my account, but it's my account on a corporate network. And so a certain extent, I lose certain types of control because of the fact that these forms of communications have been privatized and corporatized but all the kind of open access ones that have attempted never really managed to make it.


[00:10:54.830] - Charles

Across the board. All kinds of different because he's prominent, but it doesn't matter what even look at some of the stuff around the vaccine mandates and things like that. There's been a lot of kind of for people. These things become real personal, direct relationships. And I saw how some of these are going. I just decided to remove myself from engagement with a whole range of colleagues who it just because you have to think there's something that they're in their personal life. It's affecting how they respond. And we all have personal lives.

[00:11:29.390] - Charles

We think about things in particular fashion. But yeah, I interrupted your question.


[00:11:49.030] - Charles

I think the thing there was interesting is he was an individual a bit older than myself, worked his way in the resource sector, this province as a lawyer, working for Patterson and other companies like that and doing things in his own right, politically conservative, but also one thing I found interesting about him. He made large, significant donations to both the provincial Liberals and the provincial NDP. He was actually a person, unlike his predecessor, my personal opinion, who couldn't work with people who he disagreed with. Kornberg actually was able to work with people and was actually a political moderate.

[00:12:32.650] - Charles

When it came to working on the board of governors. I'm not going to articulate any of my opinions or theories about how on Earth he came to view Twitter. Except I got a feeling this is a really lame explanation that he didn't have a clue of the social reach of Twitter. He didn't have a lot of followers. He wasn't following a lot of people. And I think there was just a little bit of blindness, but beyond that, but yeah, he allegedly, I never saw this, wore mega hat to a meeting.

[00:13:12.110] - Charles

My colleague, the mathematician Nassif Ghousoub, said that. And he turned up one day with what's that American New Yorker who's a Democrat who's a little bit radical.


[00:13:27.890] - Charles


[00:13:28.490] - Charles

So he came with one day with a hat like that on. And it's like I'm thinking big deal American politics. I really don't care. I hope you're not American.



[00:13:53.970] - Charles

Back in the 80s and some of my more youthful politics, I was involved with the group from the Kurdish Workers Party in Vancouver, which is, of course, another whole issue in history because that's 40 years ago. I'm sure it's different people today.


[00:14:28.270] - Charles

There's no more. No, they're all intersected. For example, here's the thing I studied with a guy called Gerald Sider. So this is a little bit academic of me. Do it this way, but I'll try to pull down something you can quote if you want. Gerald Sider was a classic New York, grew up working class. New York, became an academic, drove a taxi through his graduate studies, managed to get a job. And then by the time I got to him, he was a fairly reasonably recognized academic. And he talked about, he says all this stuff about experience, the academic theory about experience based work and drawing from experience to understand.

[00:15:14.370] - Charles

He says, to hell with that, you have to act against experience because experience teaches you the injuries of class, the injuries of race, the injuries of gender. And to act with that experience, to build from that experience, in a sense, is to replicate and continue it. And he had an example of people. You can read the chapter if you want to. In a book called Silence and Silences. Silence is in Commemoration, I think, edited by him and Gavin Smith. He has a piece and there called against experience.

[00:15:47.770] - Charles


[00:15:49.630] - Charles

His point being oftentimes our experience teaches us the wrong lessons. It really teaches about how to accommodate how to acclimatize to the world we're living in. So we need to act against experience. It's like in this whole in the late 70s and 80s, the political movement and progressive people said, there is no problem saying I'm racist, I'm sexist, I'm homophobic. I'm et cetera, et cetera. The point is to recognize that and act against it, to acknowledge that, not to go on a Liberal white guilt trip and cry about how terrible things are and how I'm personally responsible.

[00:16:25.210] - Charles

But to actually recognize that and say, so, how do you act against that? How do you change? How do you parents different? How do you engage with people in different contexts differently? How do you organize your work differently because of that acknowledgement. When people say the personal beliefs matter, sure they matter. The Mayor in Williams Lake, who is tweeting, on Facebook, on his private page giving this idea that residential schools weren't really that bad, which really misunderstands the moment we're in. It misunderstands the whole nature,  what the schools were designed for, which was actually a common technology of assimilation used globally.

[00:17:07.850] - Charles

It wasn't just the Canadian government. The French used it against the breton and minority language speakers. The Soviet Union used it in the period of Stalinism as a clear way to change people. The Americans used it. The British used with the workhouses for poor people to reeducate. ... So this was a technology of control and assimilation to fundamentally change people.  So to sort of focus on the idea 'oh, well, it's balanced,' 'there's two sides to every story' crap. Really misunderstands the dynamic. So yes, those things do shape how people feel and behave.

[00:17:40.670] - Charles

But you also have to say, how much are they really willing to work with other people? Even though I've been critical of American politics, a lot of the criticisms of  JFK when he was first elected in the US, and I only know this from history. He was Catholic. A Catholic President would do what the Pope told him. You can't have a Catholic leading the US because he wouldn't be a free man. So there is a point of view with saying that because of that person's personal religious beliefs, they couldn't actually carry out their job effectively.

[00:18:19.910] - Charles

And if it's okay for the President of the United States to be a Catholic and lead the so called greatest free nation of the world, or whatever the hell they call it, you can have people who have divergent views. It depends on how do they fit within what is the considered the norms of society, and of course, that's going to shape their things. I mean, Kornberg was no progressive in terms of, no leftist in terms of a radical socialist.

[00:18:43.970] - Charles


[00:18:44.990] - Charles

But none of the NDP appointees are either.

[00:18:47.210] - Charles

Thank you.

[00:18:47.990] - Charles

I mean, I'm sorry, you can quote that. Even a couple of them I like.

[00:18:59.850] - Charles


[00:19:02.430] - Charles

Like Santa Ono is a conservative Christian, and that does inform some of his ideas about service leadership. There's a strand within the Christian tradition about service leadership that's informed in a particular kind of biblical reading, et cetera. Every religion, every culture has its own particular variant of this, of course, but he comes in a particular tradition. Does it make him unfit to be the President of UBC?

[00:19:30.330] - Charles


[00:19:32.790] - Charles

Does it shape some of his response to how we do things?

[00:19:36.390] - Charles


[00:19:39.150] - Charles

I think we have social norms where we see there's certain types of political leadership that actually are outside what is the contemporary norm today. And then you have to just look at that and say, Because change comes when there's people on the margins, on the edges and they push and they often get penalized for that. But that's often how society moves in those kinds of directions, falling upon those things. The question becomes a matter of principle and conviction, an idea about how beyond that norm can you go?

[00:20:12.150] - Charles

Because it's important to have a diversity perspective, and that's where you get reasonable disagreements and then you get unreasonable things like the Dorchester Review right now this morning, which is a right wing history paper general in Canada is basically spam tweeting, what's the Twitter word for it? They're retweeting, but they're replying. Spam Replying to wveryone who has commented about the change over happening in the Royal BC Museum, how they're going to change the kind of settler exhibits and stuff. I made a comment on it this morning. These guys, I blocked them.

[00:20:57.550] - Charles

I'm not interested in even engaging with them at that level because they took an example of saying, hey, look at this. Indian societies in BC had slaves. And the only people who saved it was British imperialism and evangelical Christians.

[00:21:12.730] - Charles

Of course.

[00:21:13.150] - Charles

The point is, the evangelical Christians in the 1800s are very different than evangelical Christians today. And I think to say standards, those ones were fairly Liberal in the 1800s. But it's a kind of gotcha moment that, AHA, look, all humans are bad, therefore and really, what you were saved by, was what you're criticizing, this imperialist power really brought light and truth and justice to you. And you just are rejecting it. I wouldn't want somebody from that Journal to be involved in governing this University.


[00:22:00.590] - Charles

There's also a left wing panic, too. I don't know. One of the sad things is seeing people who are hardcore cultural leftist, which is different than the old style leftist that I locate myself within.


[00:22:17.210] - Charles

Well, actually critical. I like would say the NDP is in the center to the right.


[00:22:26.210] - Charles

A lot of people south of the 49, I think a lot of people in Vancouver think of the NDP as leftist.


[00:22:31.010] - Charles

I'm not convinced they are. They might be cultural leftist. So everyone's about all this kind of panopley of difference variation except the one difference that this encounter is economic difference in terms of the issues of social class.

[00:22:48.330] - Charles


[00:22:50.490] - Charles

You get some of these people from the cultural left who talk about these things, think they're up to dates and other things. And then all of a sudden they get called out for something. And then there's two approaches. They go roughly, they either start apologizing, profusely, and then they resign from everything and leave all this behind, or they try to fight and then they get kicked out.

[00:23:09.870] - Charles


[00:23:13.210] - Charles

I don't think that because what gets left behind is you change the people. You don't change the power. And that's the question. If we're interested in changing the people, this is a great approach to do. It is my thing, if that's what you want to do, if you don't like the people and you think it is and it's all individual. But one of my critique in politics, it's not about Justin Trudeau, it's not about Erin O'Toole, it's about the social interests they actually represent and that coalesces around them. It's that political power that they bring to the table and that moves things.

[00:23:48.790] - Charles

And I think for me that's the important thing. At the same time. I also think it behooves us to pay attention to what we say, how we say it. And for a long time that goes back to the early feminist movement, looking both at speech patterns in groups. And so you get these great early social linguistic studies in the 70s and early 80s about how conversations in a group work, how men will talk. So you get three men in a group of ten people and the three men will talk to each other and continue and ignore everything that happens to say.

[00:24:26.290] - Charles

A woman steps up to say something, listen, and then the conversation continues. And so the idea. So that's not cancel culture to say, we've got an issue here. This is about participation. And how do we engage this? How do we change the dynamics? Because there might be something interesting from this person, probably is something interesting from this person. How do we hear that in this conversation? And how do you do it also, without making the three people who are talking all the time feel excluded. But at the same time, they need to be able to relinquish the stage a bit.

[00:24:59.830] - Charles

And this is a pattern that's been taught and things. So it's in looking, thinking about how those changes and shifts occur. But I also take great delight from the book written a long time ago by a women called Ellen Meekson Wood, The Retreat From Class, where she critiques then emerging post structuralist, post modernist theories, which everything was focused on discourse and words. So Chantel Mouf and Ernesto Laclau wrote a book on something called The Postegemony or something like that. And she just was ripping them to shreds from her vantage point because it was as though everything is about the words we use.

[00:25:39.950] - Charles

And so if everything is only words, then we enter into a world where material effects have no impact. It's only what you say, how you say it when you say it, et cetera becomes the issue where that is part of the dynamic. But it's not just that.


[00:26:04.370] - Charles

I think a lot of people who are benefiting from the current system, both left and right would find themselves excluded.


[00:26:13.310] - Charles

Because they already are included.


[00:26:16.790] - Charles

I'm reading a book right now called Mistaken Identities, and I just blanked on the gentleman's name [Asad Haider]. He created something called Viewpoint. He was part [of], an activist in, the Occupy movement. So he wrote this little book. It's relatively recent, and I was mentioning that because ....


[00:26:43.510] - Charles

Oh, right.

[00:26:43.990] - Charles

Because what he was suggesting is that a lot of the especially the university of today's politics, is that people who are coming in and utilizing these languages of identity to move themselves into this position are doing so because they all come from the same class. So they're already, call it the loose middle class, whatever you want to call it (I take issues with that term, too), nonetheless, call it that kind of professional, well supported middle class character. Diversity actually advances particular kind of, their own interest, within an internal class struggle between people who are part of the managerial ruling class.

[00:27:23.390] - Charles

And he questions whether their actual experiences again, this word experience, are really that different. And he's writing as a son of a Pakistani immigrant family growing up in Pennsylvania and sort of suburban Pennsylvania, and then looking at, from that vantage point and then seeing these issues. So at the end of the day, it's a difficult balance, because that's the thing. Yeah, it's a difficult balance, only because it's like this is important. But it's not the endpoint. But it's like you used to say, when you had discussions about the state of the Canadian economy is Canada imperialist?.

[00:28:24.710] - Charles

....The debate about whether Canada was imperialist power, a colonized neocolonial economy, all this kind of stuff. And at the end of the day, the question comes, does it matter with the nationality of your capitalist? And of course, some people will say, oh, yes, it does, because they're more invested in the local.

[00:28:56.270] - Charles

But capitalism operates in a particular rule. And if it's advantageous for the guys who are running the parts industry in the auto industry in Canada, which was a local industry or the steel industry in Hamilton, which was kind of local, which to their economic advantage to ship their production south to the US and then down to Mexico, they'll do it .Because at the end of the day, there's a different kind of logic that overrides that. In the same sense, does it really matter the ethnicity, the racial or religious background of your President of your VPs in your office if they're still promulgating the same structure on one level, yes, it does make a difference.

[00:29:36.230] - Charles

There's different things. But at the end of the day, when they look at the decisions that are made about new core decisions about buying $70 million worth of property in Surrey to build in a satellite campus to engage in constant expansion of this University, I'm going to bet they all make pretty much the same decision. And having sat through some of these discussions in the closed door sessions when I was in the board of governors, I'm reasonably confident. And of course, keeping in mind my perspective, lumps them more similar than they themselves would see themselves.  I remember one time saying to Stewart Belkin when he was the chair of the board or something along the lines.

[00:30:17.090] - Charles

You guys are all business people. And he says, We're not all business people. And I says, Well, okay. He said this guy is in the real estate industry. This guy is a corporate lawyer, and this guys a banker and I said that's all business people in my world.


[00:31:10.770] - Charles

It's hard to say because perception doesn't necessarily map onto reality very effectively. So people may feel a perception that they can't say something, but maybe they just don't want to do the work that's involved in articulating their beliefs. And they think, at what point in time? I don't know all the way along, I've had, for example, various colleagues or faculty I've known who said, Well, Gee, I can't do that because I'm still pre tenure, and I want to make sure I get tenure and I don't want to flop.

[00:31:42.090] - Charles

And then I can't do that. Or I can't do this because I'm going up for full professor pretty soon, and I don't want the committee to blah, blah, blah.

[00:31:51.510] - Charles


[00:31:56.650] - Charles

At least in our world, ... what I call the University of Excellence. It seems to me it doesn't matter, except there are some areas that does content of what we do matters, but in a lot of areas, it doesn't seem to matter. It's quantity. How many grants, what dollar value of those grants? Who's issuing those grants? How many publications have they done? Where are they published? The fact that they might be Marxist informed publications seems not to matter to people. There are areas and some of the gender debates.

[00:32:27.610] - Charles

If you go into those, you're going to get slaughtered on all different directions. You have to have pretty tough skin. Some of the political issues of contemporary post 911 that brought in a new kind of McCarthyite period where there are certain prescribed areas you couldn't say. There's other global conflicts have been going for a long time. It just isn't politically wise to engage in. Only because, it's not that people suffer serious consequences.  [Rather] you have to be willing to stand up and, be clear on what your convictions are and willing to take the heat for them.

[00:33:06.170] - Charles

So I'm not really sure if there's any validity to in real terms [to fears about speaking out], I wanted to say.

[00:33:14.570] - Charles


[00:33:17.570] - Charles

I look back lots of times. Maybe you hear students say they feel that they have to write a certain kind of paper. I can imagine the students to say, okay, I'm doing this Menzies guy, and he's got this Indigenous political bias, and he's a Marxist. I better write a paper like this. Well, let me reassure those students. I can tell you're not sincere, and you do a worse job when you write this way. I'd rather have your middle of the road conservative settler paper that extols  the values of corporate social entrepreneurial ship.

[00:33:53.030] - Charles

Then your attempt to give me a class analysis paper, pro revolution, because it's like you just don't get it in the first place, right? And because of the way the criteria defined, I'm not convinced that the empirical world [i.e., that fears are grounded] is there, but clearly the perceptual element. There's a lot of people really think this. Some of the subjects I teach, like First Nations B-C, I do, of course I'm going to do it again. And there's always, I find in the group there's always a kind of cohort of students who kind of think they should be there, but not really convinced.

[00:34:43.850] - Charles


[00:34:45.710] - Charles

They're  uneasy. And occasionally one of them might blurt out something really, which for anyone who knows anything about, is  this just dumb or really totally insensitive.

[00:34:55.550] - Charles


[00:34:57.590] - Charles

Those are moments that in that comment, they really shouldn't say that. But they don't have the wisdom, and so if they don't have the wisdom to understand. So to make a comment, they say all Native people get free education. That's a very generic, bland formulation of that, which is actually false. It misunderstands an awful lot of issues. And there are all kinds of caveats about how that works out, but that when stated innocently is unreasonable. It's bring up a stereotype and trope and irrespective of their intent. I mean, it can cause people to respond to it and period, but say they can sit back and listen to how there's a problem with articulating, that or the problem with stereotype.

[00:35:44.870] - Charles

And they go, okay, I kind of still thought about that. I heard that when I grew up, my parents say that to me all the time, and I certainly looks that way. And I know this kid who went to, but then they start to change their opinions. They might not even change their opinion, but at least reflect upon how they might conceptualize that differently. That's one thing. But let's say that same person keeps coming back the next class with another question  and then another question and then another question.

[00:36:10.490] - Charles

Well, that's a deliberate provocation. And there what they're trying to do is actually not engage in discussion or debate. They're actually trying to disrupt, and their reason for disrupting is ultimately based upon what I'd say conception of malice, that their intent is to derail, disturb and hurt. That shouldn't be allowed. But that's not cancelling that's actually saying you have to engage in an environment where you can share ideas, talk about them, explore them. But part of that bargain is you have to be willing to consider shifting and changing your own.

[00:36:50.450] - Charles

If you get to the point. It doesn't matter where on the spectrum that people are unwilling to consider other perspectives, to put themselves in other people's feet and to think about that in some sense. Well, that's not learning. That's not what University is about. And that's the whole idea in terms of thinking about where this goes, and that's where the problem comes in. Normally, people do well, but the other thing, too, is another side thing. I taught a version of this course many years ago up in Kitamat.

[00:37:24.710] - Charles

Of course, that was taught for then it was AlCN. I think it's reo tinto now that runs the Aluminum smelter now. So for their employees run a program for people to do University degrees to move up the management chain. So this was an elective course in First Nations for BC. So I thought, Well, I'll just make this course as educationally sound, as rich as possible in detail. And through this kind of notion of Liberal education, people will explore these ideas and they'll realize if they have any misconceptions, they'll be able to address them and all this kind of stuff.

[00:38:01.310] - Charles

And it was very eye opening for me because it was really clear because one of the things about when you're teaching people who are basically your own age, some of them are older and they're accustomed to telling people what they think they don't hold back. And there was two individuals in particular who really were dead set about it. And this kind of realization was this isn't about good education quality content. Having properly researched material. The only way to deal with this is addressing racist attitudes directly, head on and it's uncomfortable.

[00:38:34.370] - Charles

Nobody likes that. Nobody wants to have a kind of antiracist pedagogy given to them. I say nobody wants, the people who do want it, don't need it. Or at least they don't think they need it. So you get that kind of dilemma. And so that means it changes the way I teach the course. When I do these kind of subjects, I don't actually test people on knowledge. They may think, they morally, personally and individually can't do it. And 20 year olds, early, younger, 20 year olds tend not to be.

[00:39:09.370] - Charles

Despite all this empowerment, I'm speaking of, tend not to directly confront the profs unless they really have some reason. So they might think. And here Menzies's talk about education system and the inequalities, and they might think and say there's person sitting beside them. That just doesn't ring true. I mean, I blah, blah, blah this, but they're not necessarily going to come from that to me.


[00:39:35.050] - Charles

Their parents, however, had no problem. It was a real sort of eye opener and nothing new that I discovered, for me at that moment was the kind of revelation. But obviously lots of people have had these understandings and there's all kinds of manuals for how to teach antiracist pedagogy and things like that. So like I said, I changed the type of assessment. So I basically don't say, remember all these ten articles we've read? I want you to repeat the core concepts and all of them. It's more about what have you learned?

[00:40:18.990] - Charles

And how does that shift? Where did you begin this? What have you learned now? Has it altered your perceptions? If so, in what way? So it's a different approach. Clearly, if you take my first year course, you get tested on all the concepts. All the bolded concepts [in the text] have to be defined.


[00:40:46.330] - Charles

That's right.


[00:40:54.550] - Charles

The idea about being afraid for what people say?

[00:40:56.950] - Charles

that was all there.


[00:41:00.670] - Charles

Because one of the things, of course, I've never been restrained by uttering an opinion. I think that I actually value people who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to be direct and honest about it. One of the things I find most problematic are people who think to move ahead or get along, that they have to suppress what they think, because it seems to me to involve a kind of lack of respect in that engagement, because they won't respect me enough to be honest. But they're polite and friendly.

[00:41:37.910] - Charles

And then they do the other things. But no, I think all that was there.

[00:41:44.090] - Charles


[00:41:46.130] - Charles

There'S been shifts in changing moves for this. When I started my undergraduate in the early 80s, I had profs who would say, oh, you guys are pretty tame. You're not [very radical].

[00:41:56.810] - Charles

It used to be. Everyone demanded we had to read Fanon in this class, and then you sit there and go, this is kind of weird. This guy seems to be really got a chip on his shoulder about something. Or the Prof told us that his job was Kathleen Gough's job. Kathleen Goff was an academic up at SFU who was one of the famously fired profs in the early 1970s. That's going way back. So there I am in the 80s. He's remembering this from the early 70s, when you're like, in the early 20s, I mean, ten years is lifetime.

[00:42:33.030] - Charles

It's lifetime now even..

[00:42:37.450] - Charles

So, they thought we were kind of quiescent. But yet we were involved in the boycotts against South Africa, the solidarity work for Latin American revolutionary political struggles like Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador, Guatemala. All those were the political moments of that time. And those are based - the coal miner strike in Thatcher's, England - all these moments sponsoring traveling coal miners who are unionists and doing this kind of solidarity type work. So there's a lot of speaking out. And so in an interesting way, maybe if I say, well, if I presume that my experience was similar to other people in the same environment, which is a big mistake to make.

[00:43:27.750] - Charles

But if that is, and if kids =students- these days are suggesting that they don't feel able to speak out, maybe there is something materially different in their environment. It's not something I've actually studied. Clearly from the faculty side, there's lots of people said, oh, you really shouldn't do this because it might affect your tenure. And I'm thinking if it's going to affect my tenure and it will affect who I am as well, and I'd rather lose tenure for who I am then gain tenure for who I am not.

[00:43:57.090] - Charles

And so right from the start, I was involved in strike support stuff both on campus and off and through the things. And my beginning here began right around the time the No to APEC meetings and stuff. And So standing witness to what was happening there. And I had two senior colleagues come to me after one Department meeting when I said we should have a vote of opposition. [They] aid So-and-So colleague is really involved in doing that. You're really causing him embarrassment. Maybe you should rethink about this because we don't want it to affect your career.

[00:44:32.830] - Charles

And I'm thinking, so both are kind of leftist and a more conservative. And I thought about that.

[00:44:40.850] - Charles

Maybe I was too naive. Quite likely. But I just thought that just seemed how could I try to suppress who I am in? Of course you have a family and other people who are reliant upon. You have commitments to so it has implications and you think but then you just have to do the work that you're supposed to do. And that's the thing with the University of Excellence. It's basically you meet the production targets and you're okay. I mean, there are variations. I've written about some of the ways in which Indigenous colleagues are qualitatively described differently in promotion contracts on my blog site.

[00:45:19.170] - Charles

I have a comment/blog about it. So there are these different things that work in the subtextual realm. So yes, there are things that work out differently, and it's a lower rate of success amongst Indigenous scholars at this University than among non-indigenous scholars in terms of being deflected out, career path changes, increased poor health indicators. But the entire job, from a student perspective, might not be unless you have parents who are involved in the post secondary world. The whole process of tenure & promotion is amazingly stressful and exhausting for everyone, and it creates a lot of strange behaviours because imagine you put seven years in and there's no guarantee you have the job after that.

[00:46:16.890] - Charles

And of course, not getting tenure is like a real career killer. In most places, though, there are some places where some of the Ivy leagues use tenure denial as a way to spread their people out. The empirical reality of perception is really difficult, because if a person believes this is real and if they really fundamentally think they can't be who they are, then that's going to end up in them acting that way and everything will confirm that. And so it's really hard to know, because when you stand at the beginning and you look forward, you don't know how that's going to go.

[00:47:07.330] - Charles

Even like when I went up for a professional, the Department had the time suggested, well, maybe this isn't a good time for you to go. You know, maybe you should do a little bit more this that and next thing. And I remember thinking I said, Well, let's run through the options. What's going to happen if it doesn't work? I'm going to feel really bad. Yeah.

[00:47:22.750] - Charles

Granted, put that to the side. Empirically. It means that you delay my thing for a period. I have to do this. And then I'll come back and do it again. Right?

[00:47:35.830] - Charles

Or I do it now and they say yes. And if I have to, I'll run a little bit longer.


[00:47:57.870] - Charles

If only I sure wish. Of course, my colleagues won't be pleased if I say they're all right wingers. But when you take a look and even the way decisions get made, some people say all the EDI stuff is a kind of left wing conspiracy. You look at every one of the top 500, the Fortune 500 companies, the major corporate world. This is the model in the corporate world, having equity, having diversity, having an inclusive workplace. It's the mantra of the ruling class. How further from left wing can that be?

[00:48:47.570] - Charles

And not only that, if you want a productive, compliant workforce, you don't want people going around assaulting and harassing people in your workforce. You don't want bullying, you don't want to run down the list. You want a reasonably happy, reasonably compliant workforce that doesn't want to jump ship right away.


[00:49:14.310] - Charles

Maybe I think where people feel paranoia or going on is that they feel that somehow they can't say the rude, nasty things that they want to say. We all get angry from time to time, but it doesn't give us license to utter forth, anyone who's been a long term relationship, like with a significant other knows that in order to get along, you go along, you make, you work things out, and it doesn't really benefit things to call people names.


[00:49:45.390] - Charles

Yeah, I could do that. But I just don't understand the long term benefit. And some people it's longer to learn that lesson than others.


[00:50:02.610] - Charles

It's a lot of work. You use an automatic transcriber.


[00:50:07.050] - Charles

which then also has problems, too. Sometimes you got to really double check to make sure.


[00:50:13.830] - Charles

And the old days is like three times. It takes at least three to one for doing the old fashioned way, because I just do hand notes.


[00:50:46.770] - Charles

It's really hard to tell. I think that we need to be able to use the tools that we have available to ourselves. So way back in the old days Iskra was the newspaper of the Bolshevik Party - the Spark. It was the defining revolutionary, innovative tool of the day, the ability to print on broadsheet form at a reasonably low cost distribute to a newly literate workforce. All this kind of information that was revolutionary. It was time changing. The problem is today groups that think of doing the same thing will make a difference - and it won't.

[00:51:24.090] - Charles

And so we need to use [the tools of the day].. But the problem is with each tool that has advantages, has disadvantages and understanding that and figuring out how to maneuver through that. So that's no magical simple answer. But it seems to me we have these tools. Are we distracted by them? Do they prevent things sometimes, but you need to figure out how you can move.

[00:51:54.610] - Charles


[00:51:57.250] - Charles

I'm thinking here, like tactics. I really tried to use different types of computer mediated learning technologies in my teaching for a long time, right? When it was really awkward. And my partner did one thing, she was doing an education training program, to become a teacher. And one prof had this kind of thing called knowledge base. And it was really [awkward] you had to download the software and install it. And then it was like a kind of big whiteboard / blackboard where you can move things around. It was clunky. It was horrible.

[00:52:31.210] - Charles

I loved it. I tried to use it with my own students. I got permission to use it. They hated it. And of course, there's all kinds of stuff, we were on dial up then, right?


[00:52:41.110] - Charles

Students only got 5 hours a month. You can't do this with 5 hours a month. But thinking about, how do you use these tools and what are the advantages? It's like I do ethnographic film. Well, how does film convey information differently than text? And one of the big mistakes social scientists do when they bring film or video into the picture is they just sit the camera down here and I'd be filming you.


[00:53:06.610] - Charles

And I'd somehow think now I'm doing film. I'm not doing film. I'm doing an interview that's now, I've gone beyond audio recording. Now I've got a video recording. What am I, the hell am I going to do with that? It's really boring film to have just you sitting there talking to me on the film. So this guy, Paul Henley, who's a British ethnographic filmmaker, talks about how we can move some of the new sort of reflexive postmodernist techniques into film. The idea of using different types of illusions so you can understand and 

[00:53:39.910] - Charles

Explore culture or human beings using this medium. But you have to understand the medium. And I think we're at a stage. We're not really sure how this medium actually works because it's a kind of free for all, this individualistic approach to the neoliberalism engages, where everyone's an individual and I have my particular things. And we're all out there chipping away at everybody else. And it does seem to highlight the negative component. So in that sense, it's a distraction but this is a learning phase. I, we moved, through, fingers crossed, where we can find the power to deploy it in more interesting ways.

[00:54:19.150] - Charles

And there have been examples which, of course, States have shut down, like the Arab Springs does use a lot of electronic communication. And then, of course, they realize, well, let's just shut down. Let's make all the large corporations who want access to our marketplace actually agree to censoring and providing the information, et cetera. So then that creates a problem. You have to then move to different types of things, and the problem becomes we could use this in an effective way. But then you have to become a software programmer and understand how to use set up some technical things in these tools.

[00:54:52.990] - Charles

Anyway, so maybe it sort of is I think it undermines the possibility of collective action in some cases, but expands it in others. It's peculiar. But unless there's a face to face component, I don't think we can actually fully unleash it's like you kind of move [in these differnt directions.]. So there's a guy I think he was at MIT. I don't know if he's still there. Sociologist called Hartman. I think. It might be like Gary or something like that, but any Hartman, I'm pretty sure it was his last name.

[00:55:25.870] - Charles

He did some early stuff looking at, like listservs in the communities. And that was pre Twitter when he was doing this earlier work. And so what he found is in situations where people joined a listserv, not so much anonymously [but without knowing others] they couldn't realize or materialize action outside of that electronic communication. But if they began, say, in a neighborhood sitting around a kitchen table talking about something, we got a problem with the landlord here and then set up a listserv. More people come to it that's sort of from face to face to virtual, back to face to face led to deeper, more profound political actions, allowing people to work collaboratively.

[00:56:07.390] - Charles

So in that sense, these become tools of mobilization and technique.

[00:56:20.090] - Charles

When you think of Kornberg, I think back on that.   When we're in these kind of positions of responsibility, we should have an awareness of the implications of our participation and then do that participation deliberately and willingly. Whereas sometimes people aren't as aware, it's hard because it leaves a trace. I always get a kick out of like I'm following the UNA elections here right now. I'm blogging about it, too. Of course, The Ubyssey is trying to cover a little bit of it, since there's four students running for being sponsored and pushed by the AMS.

[00:57:10.570] - Charles

But it's always interesting thinking about what kind of traces do people leave in digital traces. You can see differences where people, have some of the candidates. A couple of the students made no apparent effort to clean up their digital traces. At least one of them has almost virtually nonexistent digital trace, which I find that they probably shifted something somewhere along the long ways. Then the older people who are running, varying degrees of engagement [with social media]. And of course, the people who are working who are first language manager and who come from either Hong Kong or China are in a completely different universe online, which is one of the big sort of Balkanizing aspects of things.

[00:57:52.630] - Charles

If we're working in different language groups and even not just the fact that the language is different, but the applications and the communication technologies are different ones. And so that makes it hard to intersect into link them.

[00:58:11.650] - Charles

That's always, I find it intriguing how that works. Are you going to do any of the Una coverage?


[00:58:22.390] - Charles

I won't ask you who the profile is. I don't want to put you on the spot.


[00:59:00.730] - Charles

 We're microcosm of the wider society. 15% to 20%? I think it's the number of our students come internationally, probably depending on which faculty or Department up to 40% to 60% of the faculty are from a place other than BC or Canada. My Department, the majority are American, in some other departments it's less. Stem fields tend to be more local than over in the faculty of arts or even education. ... So we're a microcosm, but we also represent we're a bit different than, so we don't represent Vancouver necessarily.

[00:59:49.670] - Charles

But we kind of do. We kind of don't. And a lot of the issues that motivate wider discussion, of course, motivate public discussion here. We teach the subjects in these areas or the people who aren't teaching those kind of subject areas in computing science are affected by them discussions of enrollment limits and criteria and admission. So it's all floating around.

[01:00:21.510] - Charles

I find the current framing about polarization very American based upon their two political party models, which, to me, if you want to talk distractions, that's a distraction, because I think that by and large, the fundamental contradiction of society is not between whether you vote blue, vote red. It's really about whether you own property or don't own property. It's about whether you're in control of the collective labourer or you're part of the collective labourer. And so for me, that's the primary issue. And we're distracted when we talk about these other issues, about being concerned about the vaccine, no masking thing and this whole thing about the people who and how like if you look to say Germany, for example, where 40% of people aren't vaccinated.

[01:01:17.050] - Charles

Where you look at Quebec, which I forget has a very strong antivax movement. Even some of the people from BC I've run into a few of them who visit, like the interior in the Okanogan. There's been a really virulent group there really attacking public media and things like that. Those are divisive. But the fact, by calling it divisive is a way to actually accentuate and make it. So there's a kind of interest and then the other side, we all have to talk together. We all think and I think what's going on here for these people?

[01:01:59.690] - Charles

Gabor Marte had a commentary a while back suggesting that motivating people kind of antivax motivation. He put it to a kind of sense of an incoherent sense or lack of connection or identity, where people were sort of out there without any meaningful connection to society, and that this gave them a sense of belonging and connection. So there was an interesting kind of social psychological explanation for what motivates people who seem to be people who have lower levels of education, at least the ones who are the shock troops, not necessarily the people who leadership, that plays into a wider anti intellectual sentiment in society and a sense of anger.

[01:02:47.070] - Charles

And that being unfair, that people who have an education, who do they think they are. They think they're so smart, they think they're so smart, et cetera. But they don't really know what it's like. What do you see as a divisive issues?


[01:03:41.710] - Charles

That makes sense. It's all there oftentimes these are things that reach the people's conception of themselves. Years ago, I did a paper never published it. It was just presentation paper. There's a place where I go in Prince RUpert where I grew up, that when I was growing up. They called it Apache Pass and down Third Avenue. There used to be a whole bunch of bars and in the World War II and media postworld War Two area this was a big working class drinking area, and people would spill out after closing time in the street and they'd be all kinds of fights.

[01:04:14.830] - Charles

Rupert even had the riot act declared in town in the early 50s. Of course, Apache Pass  refers to the kind of American Western movies about this. A lot of people, up until relatively recently, Knew where, especially if you grew up in Rupert, knew where it was. But in an interesting way, even though it's a racialized term, it wasn't a racialized space. It was an actual intersection where everyone was there in terms of white, Indian, Asian. There was a whole range of people, basically as working class. I think the allusion comes out of the World War Two, cowboy Western movies, John Wayne stuff like that, which, of course, is clearly both colonial, imperialist and racist.

[01:05:03.970] - Charles

You keep on naming sexist to boot. I mean, the whole kid and kaboodle. But the kind of looking, ...   the issues of race. It's basically about what I found is that as time went on, by the time in the 80s, when I started thinking about it and becoming an academic, and then I started talking to people, I found that the incoming professional classes had never heard of this place or they denied its existence or suggest it was inappropriate to talk about. But one of the things that really at the core of Prince Rupert's history is the racial divide between Indigenous and non Indigenous people.

[01:05:46.010] - Charles

 One time I was interviewing one of my uncles, and we were talking, we try to do a study for the Nation on the Prince Rupert space and who owns, which nation's territory was and this kind of stuff. So we were working through the questions, and I said to him, I said, Well, are there any special places in town or certain things where you go or not go? "Well, he says my dad used to tell us when we got off the boat at Cow Bay to walk straight up Third Avenue, not deviate."

[01:06:16.470] - Charles

Okay, I said, hold on a minute here..

[01:06:17.610] - Charles

I said, this sounds a bit peculiar. I said, "how come?"  "He's going to get the shit kicked out of you if you went off that street?" And so is that kind of the different questions, but the revealing these kind of fault lines around race and place. Of course, the white community in town always says there's no racism in Prince Rupert. They always say that. Then you always get some letter where somebody would write in from one of the villages about how they were denied access to hotel.

[01:06:43.170] - Charles

Their Hotel is full. And then you see a white family come in right after them and got a room in the hotel. All this kind of stuff going on. So you have these things playing out. But people often feel that it's part of their sense of belonging, identity. And the other thing with the Apache Pass paper that I always wanted to mention to you. So my mother, who wasn't Indigenous, she had a lot of stories. Her family came out through the US, and they had settler families back in Minnesota and places like that.

[01:07:09.810] - Charles

She'd tell these stories about that. She'd been passed on to her about Indians chasing them when they're in the ox cart. And then as they get closer, worried they were going to get massacred or something. This little rag doll got tossed back into the cart. And then the Indians melted away.  That's how she put the story. And of course, they're playing on. This is supposed to be an informed story about it's. Really not that. But it also played upon the idea that of course, if you ever see an Indigenous person, it's going to be a threat in violence.

[01:07:37.770] - Charles

This is a contradiction and expectations that you get this stuff. And so you only have these stories, you kind of have in the stories of the settler community., there aren't really no Indigenous people, except as phantoms or in the modern version, disruptive, angry in the newscast about rights and title and things like this. And so when you say to a non Indigenous person, you're a settler on somebody else's land and you have to accommodate and reconcile to that, you're actually not just stating a political fact, which it is. You are basically assaulting their conception of themselves.

[01:08:15.510] - Charles

And so it becomes a highly emotionally freighted concept. And so the anger becomes that you're calling me into question. You know, my grandfather came here and worked hard. I came here and I worked hard to make a life for myself, my parents, this story and nobody gave us anything. We made it for ourselves. And so what is happening is that their own sense of self and identity is incorrect because these stories, these  narratives don't connect. And so it's like, how do we rewrite these stories? So they do interconnect.

[01:08:47.490] - Charles

And I think the problem is that some people just won't listen. So the Mayor in Williams Lake, despite what he does politically on the outside, he fundamentally presents as someone who is just not accepting and he'll use the language of liberalism and everyone has an opinion,  consider all sides, look at the evidence, to basically carry forward a value. Because fundamentally, that means reconciliation, in that sense really means coming to terms with history. And it's not just the long term settlers, the people who are just new here, also, because the possibility to be at UBC is made possible, like removing Musqueam from this place to have these things.

[01:09:35.730] - Charles

The wealth that goes into this institution from the province comes from Indigenous lands that have been extracted, and the wealth has been extracted from them while putting most Indigenous communities into poverty. So all that continues. But that's a real tough thing. And so you can become really defensive on it, which some of the people who see themselves right wing, realists get or the other side is also just a flip side. The same kind of colonial coin are the ones, the people who become really sort of overwhelmed and shooken up by it and get upset and feel that they're going to personally do something to make it all better, kind of have to find some middle ground of accommodation, of recognizing what can you actually do, what's meaningful action and that's hard to do.

[01:10:26.590] - Charles

The Apache Pass paper is a tough one to write, which is why it sat on the burner off and on for years, because it involves so many different strains, some of which time has gone by. I don't think anybody even born in Rupert now might, unless their grandparents told them about it, would necessarily know of this place because it was a unique moment in time. For many reasons. Every moment in time is unique. Which is a cliche.


[01:11:11.330] - Charles

That was the anthropologist Max Gluckman, I couldn't resist.


[01:11:21.590] - Charles

Because part of that is this terribly academic thing. So Gluckman was structural functionalist, there's probably in political science, the same kind of concept. But the idea that there are structures in society that function and everything continues, and then they get destabilized. Either an external force comes in or maybe some internal thing goes gets out of kilter. And normally society, this is very Durkheimian. I mean, have you ever read Durkheim?


[01:12:00.830] - Charles

 It was a kind of organic functionalist of sorts. So Gluckman had worked in Southern Africa, studying communities there, seen the disruption, and realized that it wasn't just external things. He was critical of the structure functions model. So he was trying to think, what are the different things that keep things going? So there is a Zulu ritual that he talked about where the power inverted.

[01:12:25.250] - Charles

But then the classic example used was the British Navy, where on Boxing Day, the officers served the [enlisted] man. And so this idea is that inverting the hierarchical structure allowed the hierarchy to continue. It's kind of a neat, a cute idea. I guess I'm suggesting that Twitter shaming is a ritual of rebellion, which makes it feel good, but it keeps power going. It doesn't really change the fundamental structure.


[01:13:13.750] - Charles

Well, history got Koonberg too, because that occurred after George Floyd. It occurred after a student tried to get into Buchannon Tower, ...  

[01:13:57.290] - Charles

So he's in a particular moment, there's all the reporting about the rise of anti-asian behaviors in lower mainland and around all this. So he comes in. We also had some of the other stuff with the different transphobic commentators  coming on campus. Everything coalesce at a particular moment. Perhaps if this had happened six months earlier, it wouldn't have been noticed. But it also suggests that the person who's in this position should be thinking about  the moment they're in. So that all came together.

[01:14:39.990] - Charles

The other thing, too, is that because Kornberg had a particular agenda that didn't necessarily fit with the executive branch of the University.


[01:14:58.430] - Charles

No,no, If you look at the way you read some of the commentary that Naisif  Gousoub put out about how Korenberg, Goussoub had some very strong criticism of the president's office and some strong praise for Korenberg. And I actually think that the board came more in alignment after the fact. Well, I've said this publicly, came more in alignment with the University administration's directions after that fact. And so everything came together, and he {Korenberg] lost that political battle. But I always, so what was your question again?


[01:15:46.230] - Charles

In an idyllic, utopic world where we did, how would that look?


[01:15:57.930] - Charles

I actually think one of the things like Halloween, which is originally and it's sort of Western European origins, a kind of ritual of rebellion where the people would go out and basically shake down the rich folks for stuff. And it was tied to the idea of the disruption and the inversion between the world of the dead and the world of the living. And it was a kind of very dangerous period of time. And then you go around and you say that you bang on all the Lords' and Ladys' doors, yelling, Give us something.

[01:16:30.810] - Charles

And there's a lot of these kind of  [festivals] in the feudal worlds, in the ancient worlds, these kind of rituals of basically terrorizing the richer people, threatening that you're going to do something if they don't behave properly and this kind of balances. All around human society. So in a sense, we need these kind of things. Of course, Halloween today is a big commercial venture, and it's like, kids go Happy Halloween. I'm thinking it should be scary halloween not happy. So we kind of need them. But I think it depends on your perspective.

[01:17:07.390] - Charles

You think society is kind of fine and [only] needs some tinkering, then we're okay. This helps tinkering. If you think that society has a fundamental flaw that needs and we need to redress and actually requires a major transformation, then it's not sufficient. It really depends where a person sits on that kind of perspective.

[01:17:29.770] - Charles

Whether this works enough. All society, if you look at the history of society through time, they often get kind of interesting moments where there's, like rejigs where things shift. Sometimes it's really pronounced and obvious. Other times it's kind of slow and gradual. So that's an answer that's not an answer.