Malinda S. Smith
Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta
Research and Scholarship
My research program and scholarship traverses three broad themes. While still animated by my earlier work on Africa and the Diaspora, my current research focuses on Black Canadian Studies, specifically on two core projects. The first, “A Seat at the Table: Engendering Black Canadian Pasts and Futures”, my 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellowship research, excavates and recovers hidden histories of Black Canadian women in politics, law, and higher education. Second, The Nuances of Blackness and the Canadian Academy (for University of Toronto Press), is a related collaborative project (with Awad Ibrahim, Tamari Kitossa, and Handel Wright) and our forthcoming edited book (UofTpress) that explores complexities of Black experiences in the post-secondary sector.
Since the early 2000s I have collaborated with over 60 scholars in countries across all sub-regions of the African continent who are working in the area of critical African and Diaspora studies. These collaborations are reflected in three edited volumes -- Securing Africa: Post-9/11 Discourses on Terrorism (2010); Beyond the African Tragedy: Discourses on Development and the Global Economy (2006); and the 30-chapter volume, Globalizing Africa (2003).
Equity, diversity and intersectionality in Canadian institutions, especially in universities, also is an enduring theme in my research program. The questions of justice-as-fairness animating this research have taken me in different directions, from theory, to ethics and law, policies and procedures, cultures, and practices. A current focus is on diversity data, representational equity, and intersectional equity policies and practices that are deployed to close the diversity gap in universities and colleges, the judiciary, the police, and on corporate and non-profit sector boards.
Among the best known of these works is my SSHRC-funded co-authored book, The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities (with Frances Henry, Ena Dua, Carl James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, and Howard Ramos, UBC Press, 2017). Another innovative approach that has had significant national and international impact is The Diversity Gap Canada research which, in collaboration with Nancy Bray, assembles and visualizes the historic and contemporary diversity data in infographics (2016-). These infographics are available on this site and have been published elsewhere (e.g. the Indigenous Diversity Gap in Academic Matters (2019); and articles such as “Diversity in Theory and Practice” in Contemporary Inequalities and Social Justice, edited by Janine Brodie (UofT Press, 2018).
I also am the co-editor of two books that take a critical theoretical approach. With Sherene Razack and Sunera Thobani, I collaborated on producing one of the first critical race and intersectionality books in the Canadian context, entitled States of Race: Critical Race Feminism for the 21st Century (2010). I am also involved in an ongoing collaboration with Janine Brodie and Sandra Rein on an introductory political science textbook, Critical Concepts: An Introduction to Politics (2013, 5/E). A revised sixth edition is currently in progress (Oxford University Press, 2021).
Across my career, I have deployed non-conventional communication strategies and formats both to promote “EDI literacy” and make EDI research more accessible to broad audiences and communities. For example, I have two non-peer reviewed, open access edited eBooks aimed at ‘EDI Literacy’, public education and awareness: Transforming the Academy: Indigenous Education, Knowledges, and Relations (2013), which emerged out of an extended blog series I edited for ‘Equity Matters’ on the Ideas-Idees Blog in the lead up to the 2011 Congress in Fredericton; and, Beyond the Queer Alphabet: Conversations on Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality (with Fatima Jaffer, 2012).
An Ethic of Engagement
At the heart of my work as a professor, university-based researcher, and community engaged scholar is a commitment to advancing a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive academy and broader society. Since 2018 I have served in the University of Alberta’s Provost Office as a Provost Fellow (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy), working with various individuals, teams, and academic, administrative and technical units on EDI policies, communities of practice, and initiatives. I’ve also had the privilege of serving as Vice President (Equity Issues) for the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2009-2012), where I spearheaded ‘Equity Matters’ on the Ideas-Idees blog to advance EDI literacy and education, and collaborated with national scholarly associations to embed EDI in Congress of the Humanities and Social Science programming. Subsequently, I served on the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) Racialized Academic Staff Working Group and Equity & Diversity Council. A commitment to anti-racism and social justice animated my decision to volunteer with and then Chair the Board of the Centre for Race and Culture. This same commitment to a more equitable academy animated my contributions to the advancement of gender equity and intersectionality as President and Past President of the Academic Women’s Association (U of A); and as Equity Chair for the Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta.
Currently, I serve on the Canada Research Chairs (CRCs) Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy (ACEDIP), which has deepened my appreciation for collaboration and team work. Alongside working with colleagues in NSERC on the ‘made-in-Canada Athena Swan,” which became Dimensions Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, the collective wisdom has deepened my commitment to advancing equity in the Canadian postsecondary sector. As well, I am a member of the Statistics Canada working group on Black communities in Canada, and the Statistics Canada expert group on immigration and ethnocultural statistics. I am also a member of the National Steering Committee of Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equality/Equity (R.A.C.E.) Network, and have hosted two international anti-racism and anti-colonialism conferences in Edmonton (in October 2010 and October 2014).
Awards and Honours
Over the past two decades I have been honoured with several awards that recognize my ongoing research on and commitments to EDI. In February 2020, for example, I was named among 100 Accomplished Black Canadians (100ABCWomen) honourees. Extraordinary colleagues in the United Kingdom and the United States successfully nominated me for the International Studies Association’s Women’s Caucus 2020 Susan S. Northcutt Award. I remain humbled and grateful for the generosity of such nominators and referees across my career. My other recognitions include: