In combination with the Subcommittee on Racialized and Ethnic Persons (REP) and the Black Students’ Network (BSN), professor rosalind hampton hosted a virtual book talk and conversation on Jan. 20 to discuss her new book Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University. The book details the experiences of Black people studying and teaching at McGill University and examines how those experiences have been shaped by settler colonialism and racial capitalism.
“Black people have attended and worked at the university since the 19th century,” hampton said. “As in Canada more broadly, this presence and the contributions of these people have largely been erased and excluded from institutional histories. My book contributes to correcting this erasure.”
Khalid Medani, associate professor in the departments of Political Science and Islamic studies, chair of the African Studies program at McGill, and member of the McGill Black Faculty Caucus, introduced professor hampton.
“[Professor hampton’s book] gave me an understanding of the real struggles, marginalizations, [and] violence meted out against Indigenous people not only historically, but also in the university.” Medani said.
Medani commended hampton’s work on dispelling the division between African and Black studies.
“Rosalind hampton allows us to be both African and Black, and both Black and African in a seamless way,” Medani said. “There are lots of structural, racist, and other institutional, historical barriers […] that have kept Africans and African studies apart from Blacks and Black studies.”
Hampton then opened the discussion to the audience and answered pre-submitted questions from attendees curated by BIPOC student moderators.
One audience member asked about the greatest challenge to Black and Indigenous inclusion at McGill University, noting the university’s history of exclusion.
“Colonialism is the greatest challenge,” hampton said. “[It is] colonialism and the logics of European enlightenment around humans and around civilization and the ways in which the colonial project contradicts those ideals.”
Hampton elaborated on the inherent contradiction in colonial systems and institutions attempting to now include Black and Indigenous people.
“If we think about the university and all of its wonderful liberal ideals, they can’t apply to Black and Indigenous people or it calls out the whole colonial project, or the whole project of racial capitalism that keeps racial hierarchy in place,” hampton said. “The way the institution of the Canadian university has dealt with that historically is just to leave us out of the picture, to pretend we’re not there because it’s too messy and complicated.”
Hampton also took issue with the idea and terminology of “inclusion” itself.
“Do we really want to be ‘inclusions’?” hampton said. “Do we want to enter into a university that otherwise is the same old university doing that harm? Do we just want a seat at that table or do we want a profoundly different university? [Instead,] I think that we come in and we do claim space and we do fight for the opportunity to do the work that we want to do, but on the terms that start with us.”
Jadyn Normore, U2 Medicine and Health Sciences and member of the Qalipu First Nation, was one of the student co-moderators of the event. Normore said she left the event feeling empowered and more knowledgeable.
“The conversation that was had over the two-hour event made me realize the amount of microaggression and underrepresentation that occurs at my own university,” Normore said. “It is definitely something that everyone should be thinking and talking about, and this book should be on everyone’s reading list for the near future.”