Outstanding Contribution Award Lecture: Dr. Alejandro Hernandez

Conference Highlights, Keynote Speakers

Critical Approaches to (Current) Social Change in Canada

In times of heightened social change, the need for critical, interdisciplinary, and intersectional scholarship is more urgent. Honouring Dr. Agnes Calliste’s work, this talk will address some of the current social challenges we face around the axes of race/ethnicity, colonialism, and citizenship and belonging in Canada.

Dr. Hernandez will be honouring the work of Dr. Agnes Calliste who received the 2019 Outstanding Contribution Award.

Dr. Calliste passed away last year at the age of 74, after a long and rich career at St. Francis Xavier University. She was a faculty member there for 26 years, having retired in 2010.

Over those years, Dr. Calliste’s work was foundational to establishing a tradition of critical, intersectional analyses of race in Canada. Focusing especially on Caribbean immigration, Agnes Calliste foregrounded the experiences of Black/Caribbean workers in Canada. Working from the political economy tradition, Dr. Calliste illuminated complex hierarchies of race, class and gender in structures of imperialism, colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy, and captured the agency and resistance of Black Caribbean and African Canadians. Her work on immigration policy revealed gendered and racist assumptions embedded within the immigration system, channeling Caribbean women to physically dangerous and servile work. Her research is an important counter to the narrative of Canada’s self-awareness as a colour-blind, multicultural society.

The study of race, immigration and gender are now central concerns of sociology in Canada as elsewhere around the world. The insights that Agnes Calliste developed over her career contributed to setting this research agenda. It says something about how groundbreaking this work has been that we are only now recognizing her contributions nine years after her retirement and almost a year after her passing. I am delighted that we are doing so now, however.