Karine Coen-Sanchez

Karine Coen-Sanchez (She/her)
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology
University of Ottawa

Current Research:

How to increase inclusivity in Canadian academia?

Karine’s research examines systematic racism embedded in educational institutions and how this manifests in the experiences of racialized students and workers. She is particularly interested in deconstructing the concept of race and exploring how the term “racialization” draws attention to how “racial” identities are constructed and contested within power relations. 

The recent resurgence of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has ignited a debate on oppressive educational structures, including homogeneous faculties and curriculum that do not reflect the diversity of the Canadian student body. By recognizing the discursive space racism occupies within academia, we can define how knowledge is produced locally and internationally and its link to Black scholars today (Escobar, 2014). Fundamentally, decolonizing school curriculums is one step towards creating inclusivity for Black and racialized postgraduate students. Karine’s work bridges scholarly and public spaces, most recently through organizing a series of panels by and for racialized scholars and students. Karine uses open concept webinars where panelists can speak freely about their own lived experiences with systematic oppression.

Objectives and Motivation:

My research interests emerged from my own experiences as a Black student, where I observed a profound disconnect between the student body’s makeup and what was being taught in my graduate program’s curriculum.

My professional and personal objectives are to provide Canadian students with an inclusive learning environment by challenging and unscrambling the current educational policies in teaching and research. As a woman of African ancestry, it is essential for me to regain our power to re-write/re-tell our stories through our pain, vulnerabilities, suffering and resistances and the essentiality of freedom and justice. 

Research Challenges and Impact:

The most challenging aspect of my work has been re-living the personal, structural, and social problems linked to racism. My work aims to support both the policy change to incorporate Black and racialized communities’ history into school curriculums and the practical change to provide all students with the educational experiences that reflect the true Canadian history and empower students to achieve their full potential.

Further contributions:

In addition to her above research pursuits, Karine is also working on anti-racist workshops for grade 12 and undergraduate students administered nationally and internationally. Subsequently, Karine has organized numerous panel discussions involving high administrators, academic scholars, professors, students, and Members of Parliament (in Canada and the U.S.). For the latter initiative, data collected demonstrated that although some racialized faculty are in a position of power, they are limited on resources and accessibility to represent a true reflection of multiculturalism in Canada. Karine continues to bridge the educational gap by helping to create inclusivity statements, developing anti-racist workshops for students, and calling on higher administers to engage in changing colonial structures.

Karine’s advice to other graduate students:

Follow your passion – do not allow any structural barriers to be a deterrent in achieving your professional or personal life goals/objectives. 

Recent Publications:

Coen-Sanchez, Karine. (27 January 2021). Repeating the cycle of racism through education. Troy Media. Available at: https://troymedia.com/education/repeating-the-cycle-of-racism-through-education/#.YBxClHdKjlw

Coen-Sanchez, Karine. (10 November 2020). I can’t breathe: feeling suffocated by the polite racism in Canada’s graduate schools. University Affairs. https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/i-cant-breathe-feeling-suffocated-by-the-polite-racism-in-canadas-graduate-schools/

(available in French and English)

Idriss-Wheeler, D., El-Mowafi, I.M., Coen-Sanchez, K. et al. 2021. Looking through the lens of reproductive justice: the need for a paradigm shift in sexual and reproductive health and rights research in Canada. Reproductive Health, 18129.

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