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Ameil Joseph is the inaugural holder of the Faculty of Social Sciences’ professorship in equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous strategies. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/ McMaster University)

A Q&A with Ameil Joseph, the inaugural recipient Faculty of Social Sciences’ Professorship in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Strategies

Faculty of Social Sciences' Professor in Equity, Identity and Transformation, Ameil Joseph, recently sat down with the FSS Communications Team to discuss the faculty’s Professorship in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Strategies.

Jul 22, 2021

In the last year, society has been challenged to acknowledge and grapple with persistent inequities that exist both off and on our campus. At McMaster, we’ve been called to listen, learn and respectfully engage in discussions and initiatives that advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

Many of these activities have been facilitated and informed by experts whose scholarship is devoted to the pursuit of advancing societal justice and well-being. Consistently among the experts guiding these efforts is Ameil Joseph.

Joseph, an associate professor with McMaster’s School of Social Work and former chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community, has been a critical voice on campus and in the Hamilton community on issues of equity and identity. He regularly provides expert commentary on race, colonialism, violence and social justice, helping diverse audiences confront prevalent systemic inequities and persistent systems of supremacy.

Now, as the inaugural holder of the Faculty of Social Sciences’ Professorship in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Strategies, Joseph will have a new opportunity to expand his research and community impact as he continues to contribute transformational research. Recipients of the professorship can adapt their title to reflect their areas of focus. As a result, Ameil’s title will be the Faculty of Social Sciences' Professor in Equity, Identity and Transformation.

We caught up with Joseph, whose five-year term began on July 1, to learn more about his motivations and goals for the professorship.

 


 

Ameil, congratulations on your appointment. What aspects of the professorship most appealed to you?

I think the attentions to issues of inequity, hegemony, systems of supremacy, and exclusion need recognized, valued, supported and dedicated analyses that are informed by the fields, lived experiences and knowledge pathways that have pushed back against oppression for generations. 

We have seen lately but not uniquely, an increase in the appropriation of the language of equity, diversity and inclusion in ways that fail to understand their meanings and that actually serve old commitments to systems and structures that perpetuate inequities. We need to be vigilant in our research, theorizing, teaching, and organizing so that efforts to undermine projects of fairness, or rights, reconciliation, restoration, redistribution, reparation, and revolution are not permitted to go unquestioned. Otherwise, we’ll see repurposed forms of marginalization, oppression, subjugation, appropriation, violence, and exploitation under newer banners.  

What are the greatest opportunities for McMaster to grow in terms of its EDIIS initiatives?

We can more robustly recognize the generations of work that has been forged by marginalized groups: women, LGBTQ+, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, by Black, Asian, South Asian, Latinx, and other racialized groups, of people with disabilities, people with mental health issues, of people of marginalized faith, religious, and spiritual traditions or practices. We need to acknowledge what they contribute and how their labour, perspectives and analyses aren’t often adequately valued, listened to or supported. We can do this while also working to collect analyses of how matters of equity, identity, and transformation are not solely about sameness, division, nor one-off trainings or temporary interventions.

We can also recognize, value and support those who are doing the work now, and allow for further analysis, critique, and contributions to understandings that can make the work and the world better. I am hopeful about it. 

How does this professorship integrate with your current research portfolio? 

For many years, I have been exploring issues of injustice and inequity as they are made and remade in policy, practice and law. Specifically, my research has grappled with the confluence of ways that identities have been crafted, ordered, constituted and relied upon to inadequately rationalize ideas of worth, desirability, nation, and threat while also being wielded—sometimes outside of popular knowledge—to perpetuate historical and contemporary forms of exclusion, omission and harm. I thought about the lived material realities of the impacts of this and how those are also sites of solidarity, collectivism, and resistance. Through this work, my analyses have contributed to understandings of mental health, immigration, criminal justice and disability related systems.

How does your research and expertise translate into action?

Often my contributions span a variety of methods based on what is needed. This can take the form of community organizing, speaking at community events, panels and not-for-profit organizations, writing supportive Op-Eds, and working to develop policy alternatives, all to translate existing knowledge to support action. I often work with agencies and organizations that address issues of inequity for racialized groups, in mental health, immigration, criminal justice systems, 2SLGBTQ+ populations, for people with disabilities and across genders.

 Within McMaster, I have also contributed through my years as chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community, through my teaching on race, racism, racialization and colonialism, on social movements, mental health and disability.

 I also often meet with groups in the evenings and on weekends to strategize about forthcoming pieces of legislation, to advocate for resources or to offer critical perspectives at municipal, provincial, and federal government levels. This is often very connected to all of my academic publications and research projects.

Why are professorships like this one important, and how do you see them advancing EDIIS at McMaster? 

I believe we need to better recognize, value and support the kinds of academic work that have not traditionally been recognized for marginalized groups. Sometimes the methods and contributions are based on relationships that exist because they are necessary to support one another, to develop solidarities, alliances, collectivity, and a critical consciousness that we develop best when working together. Through this professorship, I hope to continue support equity and to challenge injustice in the ways that are required from the people, groups and communities, depending on their needs, when and where it is needed for change. 

What aspect of the professorship do you most appreciate?

Research in EDIIS has often been approached or inadequately represented with broad strokes. The fact is, there are generations of contributions to activism, resistance, research and analyses that require dedicated support to address the realities of inequity and injustice.

In these difficult times, when we see more discourses, online organizing, the rationalization of hateful ideas of inequality and human hierarchy which perpetuate harm and exclusion, colliding with movements and initiatives to bring about change. However, widespread disparities and inaccuracies continue to exist. For us to bring about forms of intervention and transformation that are truly fair, will require knowledge of existing analyses across a diversity of contributing fields, as well as novel analyses and approaches that engage with current phenomena.

A professorship like this will allow for the freedom to respectfully engage with these complex matters in a way that has not been possible before.  Systemically dedicating, resourcing and supporting such work is itself a change that signals the importance and necessity of this area.

Are there new projects, leadership roles or initiatives you hope to undertake as part of the professorship? 

I have many existing projects on which I hope to build. These include a project on municipal hate reporting and another on immigration detention. I’ve also been working on projects focusing on mental health, as well as on exploitation and data collection. I believe this professorship may also serve as a beacon to those who may want to engage with these ideas, initiatives and projects in ways that have often been hidden. I will do my best to honour the contributions of critical scholars, activists, and community leaders that have contributed to these analyses for generations. 

 As a faculty member in the School of Social Work, what role do you see social work playing in EDIIS work within and outside academia? 

Social work is a complex area that demands critical attention to matters of injustice and inequity. We study and learn from a diverse confluence of fields that contribute to how we think about better supporting people in need. Social work’s complicities with systems of harm make this ever more urgent and necessary. Our work can take the form of community organizing, policy advocacy, critique and development, thinking about better ways to resources services, entitlements, and systems of care as well as through teaching, research and writing that names injustice and inequity and seeks and supports efforts for transformation.

Social work must also grapple with issues of racism, coloniality, cisheteropatriarchy, classism, ableism, sanism, et cetera, as they intersect and interlock, through a confluence of historical trajectories that convene differently in policy, practice, and law, depending on who you are. For these reasons, I believe social work is a necessary site for this work. 

As the current holder, you can adapt the name of the professorship to reflect your research priorities. Do you plan to adapt the name, and if so, what will it be during your term? 

For my term in the professorship, I will continue to contribute to analyses of equity/inequity, to the complex issues of identity, and to the ways through which we might imagine transformation differently, inside and outside of the university. For this reason, I will be a Professor of Equity, Identity, and Transformation

To learn more about the professorship in equity, diversity, inclusion and Indigenous strategies, read the Daily News announcement.