York Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Deborah Barndt has recently been named the inaugural Coady Chair in Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
An annual award, the chair honours the spirit of Rev. Moses Coady and leaders of the Antigonish Movement, which was a response to the poverty afflicting farmers, fishers, miners and other disadvantaged groups in Eastern Canada. The Coady Chair in Social Justice is designed to bring exceptional thought leaders to the Nova Scotia campus to share their experience and expertise with the university and local communities.
Founding coordinator of the Community Arts Practice Certificate at York, Barndt says she hopes to “build bridges between the Coady International Institute and St. Francis Xavier University, and between local and global social justice educators and activists, based on my own four decades of work linking theory and practice, community and university, local and global educators/artists.”
She would also like to develop institutional links between the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University and York University around social and environmental justice, community and international development, citizen activism, popular education and arts for social change.
Barndt has been an educator, writer, activist and photographer for more than 40 years. She has written eight books on food, popular education and community arts, including an edited volume, Wild Fire: Art as Activism (Sumach Press, 2006), and VIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas (SUNY Press, 2011). She is also the author of Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization the Tomato Trail (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and Garamond Press, second edition, 2007).
She has had several exhibitions of her work, including If the Walls Could Speak….What Stories Would They Tell?, which also included student works, and Cross-Pollinations: Photography and Social Change in the Americas, a retrospective.
Her most recent artistic project is an installation, “Unpacking Local/Global Food: Re-framing Labour”. Adapting the genre of Mexican altars, it combines her photographs with objects set within both global and local food boxes, to emphasize the role of migrant labour in both imported and local food production. Photos are featured on “prayer cards”, as well as stickers of workers to place on produce. This exhibit will be remounted in Antigonish in November.
As the Coady Chair in Social Justice, she has piloted a course in arts for social change with 25 participants from Africa and Asia: and an expanded course will hopefully be integrated into the curriculum of an international diploma program in community and leadership development. She would like to “catalyze new connections between local artists and the cultural practices of international participants, mainly from Africa and Asia, in Coady diploma programs and nurture connections with Latin American institutions of community development and adult education to increase participation of Latin American leaders in Coady programs.”
The chair will also give her the opportunity to facilitate a workshop with local food activists, St. Francis Xavier food scholars and students, and Coady international diploma candidates to link local and global food justice issues and actions. As part of the position, she will also be delivering public talks, guest lectures in classes and workshops.