Culture, Inequality, Recognition II

Friday May 20 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: SCL4B
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English, French
Research Cluster Affiliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization, Social Theory, Sociology of Culture
Session Categories: Regular Session

Throughout the neoliberal era increases in social inequality manifest in widening gaps between social groups; the rich and the poor, white and non-white, trans and cisgender, the global north and south. These gaps express material, symbolic, and cultural differences. At the same time, the social issues faced by marginalized classes and racialized communities have gained broader societal recognition becoming focal points for mobilization and social change. These include increased awareness of settler-colonialism, anti-black and anti-Indigenous racism, the diminished life chances of trans and non-binary peoples, as well as the everyday stigma faced by women, queer people, and people of colour. And yet, societal recognition fuels a culture of backlash and outrage, sharpening the polarization of opinion and further dividing political sects. A growing number of scholars focus on how culture as an autonomous force in social life stands between both gross inequity and the possibilities of societal recognition. Tags: Canadian Sociology, Culture, Indigenous Studies, Theory

Organizers: Dean Ray, York University, Mervyn Horgan, University of Guelph, Connie Phung, Concordia University; Chair: Connie Phung, Concordia University


Nick Martino, McMaster University

Hunting and Fishing, Treaty Opposition and Settler Colonialism

Since the 19th century, sport hunting/fishing has fundamentally contributed in myriad ways to the underlying processes that fuel settler colonialism and nation building. At its core, the longstanding opposition to Indigenous peoples’ treaty hunting/fishing rights among settler sport hunters/anglers and organizations is one avenue that works to uphold settler Canadians’ power and privileges, undermine Indigenous sovereignty, stewardship and connections to the land, and sustain colonial and racialized structures. Interviews with 55 non-Indigenous Canadian hunters/anglers and data from social media revealed that acquiring and maintaining a hunter/angler identity involves learning and adopting a multifaceted belief system, which not only includes specific values and role expectations of environmental stewardship and an emphasis on following provincial game rules, but also anti-Indigenous and anti-treaty rights ideologies. These ideologies are communicated through collectively shared frames, styles and stories reflective of Colour-Blind Racism which non-Indigenous hunters/anglers utilize to articulate and justify their treaty opposition in a seemingly fair and non-racial manner. Through this, settler Canadians perform the boundary work of defining and racializing Indigenous people as ‘poachers’ who are perceived to be given ‘special rights’ to hunt/fish unregulated in comparison to non-Indigenous, predominantly White Canadians who are considered morally and scientifically superior in terms of environmental stewardship, law-abiding behaviours and ethical hunting/fishing practices. Indeed, within hunting/fishing lies a complex set of interconnected and mutually reinforcing processes of identity formation, ethno-racialization and group positioning that cultivates or reaffirms settler Canadians’ sense of group superiority and ownership over Indigenous land. Despite the pervasiveness of anti-treaty ideologies, 13 White-settler participants supported Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and treaty rights and several sought to challenge treaty opposition and the settler colonial system. In all, hunting/fishing can be a sphere where white supremacy and settler colonial structures are reinforced but also a route for settlers to become allies for decolonization.

Dean Ray, York University

Indigenous Peoples and Self-Help Cultures: How does self-help make Indigenous resistance possible?

A worn ideology in sociological research is that self-help cultures makes individuals subject to neoliberalism. Through their psychological and normative discourses, their focus on self-transformation and self-empowerment, and their tendency to depoliticize the individual (locating failure and failings with the subject rather than the collective) it follows that self-help cultures render compatible persons with limited government and the progress monitoring and benchmarking advocated for in neoliberal policy reforms. Indigenous communities, like most global citizens, are enmeshed in self-help cultures, however, rather than making them subject to new forms of governance, self-help has created new cites for resistance, rendering Indigenous cultures resurgent. Centuries of colonization have created tremendous inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. These are expressed in material and life expectancy differences as well as recognition gaps. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research and 40 interviews of Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers at Indigenous organizations, this paper argues that self-help and self transformation are a key element that makes Indigenous resistance possible, allowing them to overcome the harms they have experienced from the process of colonization. The popularity of self-help seminars and books amongst Indigenous Peoples was an early insight gleaned from the field. Indigenous Peoples, institutions, and communities pragmatically combine these sources of the self with traditional cultural practices to heal the individual and their communities, to overcome alcoholism, addiction, and trauma and create new potentialities and possibilities for our collective futures and to engage more deeply with cultural sources.

Isma Yusuf, Western University

Mapping the Margins: An Intersectional Case Study of Young Somali Women's Spatial Patterns and Conceptualizations of their Urban Environment

Despite feminist and critical race scholarship growing increasingly attentive to how race and gender (e.g., Black women) and religion and gender (e.g., Muslim women) are negotiated in urban space, few studies have explored the ways in which these three identities–Black, Muslim and woman–compound to produce qualitatively distinct urban encounters and experiences irreducible to two-frame models of gender-religion or gender-race. Little is known about Black Muslim womens specific relationship to/with urban space, or how this hyper-invisible group frequently negotiates a gendered and anti-Black Islamophobia (musogynoir) when they do navigate the public realm. Required, then, is a creation of frames capable of considering what material experiences arise when the mutually constitutive and embodied categories of race, religion and gender interact in spatial place. Critical scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw (2016) cautions of the dangers that underly limited/absent frames, explaining that "without the necessary frames to think about groups residing at multiple intersections...reporters dont lead with them, policymakers dont think about them, and politicians arent encouraged to speak to them." These individuals, Crenshaw warns, consequently "fall through the cracks of our movements, left to suffer in virtual isolation." In taking seriously Crenshaws assertions, this dissertation aims to ameliorate the current lack of frames for theorizing Black Muslim womens urban spatial negotiations by creating a project that qualitatively documents such experiences in-depth, as understood by the women themselves. This thesis utilizes mental-mapping focus groups and individual interviews with Black Muslim Somali women to explore their urban spatial schemas, and the geographies of belonging, exclusion, resilience, and of resistance engendered therein. By textually and visually illustrating this specific lived reality of existing at the intersection of race, gender, and religion, this dissertation contributes critically to Black Feminist Thought (BFT) and the budding area of Black Muslim geographies.

Mervyn Horgan, University of Guelph

Recognition, intersubjectivity and an ethics of sociality: towards a minimalist theory of solidarity

Recognition theory casts a long shadow in Canadian scholarship and politics. At the twentieth century’s close, Canadian political theorists and political philosophers advanced models of recognition that could and did direct multicultural liberal democratic government policy (Kymlicka 1995; Taylor 1994). Today, many Indigenous scholars reject the ‘politics of recognition’, viewing it as a means the settler-colonial state uses to bolster power (Coulthard 2014; Simpson 2014). This paper first distinguishes between the politics of recognition and recognition theory, arguing that while some forms of state recognition may be desirable or undesirable to some groups, fortunately, the state does not and cannot maintain a monopoly on recognition. Indeed, the existing dominance of political theory and political philosophy in thinking through recognition has generated theories that suffer from ‘social weightlessness’ (McNay 2008). Sociology and social theory may just be the right place to look to address politically thick but socially thin conceptions of recognition.  Building on the above, and informed by (i) conceptual clarifications from the recognition debates  between Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, and (ii) sociological research centering experience, interaction and everyday life (e.g. Patricia Hill Collins, Erving Goffman, Anne Rawls), I treat interaction between copresent persons as a distinct domain of recognition that may be ‘loosely coupled’, but is not reducible to the state. Many discussions of recognition give intersubjectivity short shrift. Sociologically, a theory finding little traction at the intersubjective level is limited. Using the example of copresent strangers in dense public spaces, I treat recognition at the intersubjective, embodied level as a necessary condition for solidarity more broadly. Taking mundane life seriously, a relationally grounded theory of intersubjective recognition becomes the cornerstone of a minimalist conception of solidarity. Recognition alone is no salve for growing  inequality, but without recognition in everyday life, expanded solidarity will remain elusive.

Reiss Kruger, York University

Recognition Theory and Interactionism: A Dialogue

Recognition Theory is a term which covers a range of sociological and philosophical theory. Broadly speaking it focuses on the role that human interaction plays in a host of areas of social research, especially the ethical interconnectivity of human beings, and the role others play in the development of some notion of both one’s self and human consciousness. These two major areas the human ‘self,’ and the ethical consequences embedded in selfhood are the central concern of this work. To aid in the investigation of these phenomena, I propose that a dialogue between recognition theory and interactionist theory will be to the benefit of all. To this end, I first lay out some of the central themes and influences within recognition theory, drawing primarily upon Hegel and his various interlocutors across time, space, and theoretical circumstance (covering a range of critical race, indigenous, feminist, and Frankfurt School theories). Second, I engage with the works of Mead and Goffman to introduce some central themes within interactionist theory. Finally, I proceed to develop a dialogue of themes between these broad social theories to the aid of each, specifically focusing on the comparative areas of: gaze, communication, consciousness, selfhood, theories of the background, recognition, and questions of ethics and normativity. This work provides a starting point for bridging normative and epistemic gaps between the disciplines of sociology, social psychology, and philosophy.