Karen Murray awarded Killam Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies

Political science Professor Karen Murray, who also is appointed to the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, is in the United States for the winter term holding a Killam Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Bridgewater, Mass.

Karen Murray
Karen Murray

Established in 2006, this Killam Professorship is the only endowed chair in Canadian Studies at a public university in the United States. The Killam endowment allows Bridgewater’s 43-year-old Canadian Studies Program to bring prominent scholars and public intellectuals from Canada to its university classrooms and, through public speaking engagements, to enhance understanding of Canada in southeastern Massachusetts. Murray is the fifth holder of the Killam Professorship at BSU.

“We are thrilled to have scholars of Professor Murray’s caliber joining us at Bridgewater through this professorship,” said Program Director Andrew Holman. “Our students are the most direct beneficiary, but the whole scholarly community at BSU grows from exchanges like these.”

Over the course of her academic career, Murray has focused her research on the governmental character and political implications of normalized inequalities with the aim of opening up avenues to challenge them. BSU is an ideal place for Murray to pursue her work. It was founded on the core values of social justice, and continues in this tradition, most recently with the creation of the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice.

“It is such a privilege to have this opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty at BSU,” said Murray. “It’s especially exciting to be teaching in Bridgewater my flagship course on Governing Urban Poverty that I developed at York.  Students always play a crucial role in helping me shape my thinking. I’m learning from these students in southeastern Massachusetts. They have unique and important perspectives on social justice causes.”

Murray’s current work elaborates upon the concept of bio-gentrification, which she introduced to critical urban studies in an article published in 2015 in Urban Geography. The bio-gentrification lens extends democratic theory by evaluating the relationship between contestations over land and governmental interventions framed as securing space for disadvantaged peoples in gentrifying neighbourhoods.

Murray’s core argument is that bio-gentrification is part of larger transformations that naturalize poverty; these changes, she maintains, have implications for democratic governance that require more sustained empirical, theoretical and political attention.

Phillip Hansen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Regina and the author of Reconsidering C. B. MacPherson: From Possessive Individualism to Democratic Theory and Beyond, said: “Murray’s critique of bio-gentrification puts into focus the limits of an account of democracy” that severs property relations from questions relating to the governmental targeting of the biological existence of humans as living beings.

Her “research values, methods, and practices embody a commitment to engaged social science that builds upon and reinforces the participants’ perspective, where [they] aid the process of defining and elaborating their interests, concerns, and projects,” he said.

Murray’s writings include publications in leading journals in Canada and internationally. The Killam Professorship is one of three major scholarly awards received by Murray in recent years. In 2013, she held a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Canadian Studies at Kennesaw State University in Greater Atlanta. In the fall of 2016, she will hold an Eakin Visiting Fellowship in Canadian Studies at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal. Murray said she is “grateful for the encouragement and assistance from colleagues at York that helps to make research opportunities such as these possible.”