Open letter: Thou shalt not commit sociology (or critical thinking of any kind)

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      The anti-intellectualism of Stephen Harper demands a reply. In face of global capitalism’s mounting crisis, critical interrogation of social phenomena, causes and consequences is urgently needed. We invite Canadians to ‘commit sociology’ and indeed ‘history’, ‘literary criticism’, ‘philosophy’, ‘political science’, ‘anthropology’, ‘critical legal studies,’ ‘political economy’, and ‘feminist studies’.

      The latest attack on independent research and scholarship is part of the current Conservative government’s attempt to keep Canadians in the dark. Since at least the 1960s and 1970s, evidence-based research in the humanities and social sciences has illuminated pervasive injustice and inequality.  In Canada, long-standing colonialism in dealing with the First Nations, the ‘patriarchal dividend’ in employment, politics, education, and social security, the gulf between rich and poor, the scapegoating of racialized immigrants and foreign workers, the criminalization of the poor, and the hollowing out of the middle class have been confirmed.  To a significant degree, anti-racist, feminist, and other critical scholars have shaped policy and improved outcomes for the less powerful. Their scholarship has also encouraged social movements such as Idle No More and Occupy, which reject the market capitalism embraced by the right as the solution to global immiseration.

      Harper’s administration and its allies have mounted a general attack on critical research, be it in the humanities, the social sciences or the sciences. They want data-based interpretations of Canada that document elite, corporate, European, and male abuse to disappear. Their assault on the humanities and social sciences, like that on the sciences, began with censorship. Statistics Canada, archives, libraries, and parks and historic sites, not to mention programs of scientific research, have been hobbled.

      National history is one special target of conservative efforts to cleanse Canada of proof of inequality and injustice. Ottawa’s 2011 “Discover Canada” guide to the citizenship test and 2012 immigrant guide, “Welcome to Canada,” foster a deliberately naïve patriotism.  Political decisions to turn the Canadian Museum of Civilization into one of History, to embrace reactionary commemorative practices, to militarize patriotic mythology, and to attack Library and Archives Canada, the principal depository of our history, aim to dumb down the electorate.

      The contest for hearts and minds goes far beyond anti-intellectualism. Current government practices form part of a broader process of public ‘de-gendering’ that aims at the systematic elimination of gender, racial, and class justice from public policy. That result threatens hard-fought struggles by Canadians of every description and scholarly investigation of every variety

      In face of a world that is so self-evidently badly served by reactionary forces, we rededicate ourselves to committing critical scholarship.  We also support scientists who document the precarious state of the environment.  Like them we embrace the ‘sin’ of employing data in aid of a proactive public policy that fosters a sustainable and equitable planet.  We urge all Canadians to do the same.


      Veronica Strong-Boag (FRSC) & Gillian Creese, University of British Columbia
      Leonora Angeles, University of British Columbia
      Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa
      Denyse Baillargeon, Université de Montréal
      Kaili Beck, Laurentian University
      Frank Blye, University of British Columbia
      Suzanne Bouclin, Université d’Ottawa
      Susan Boyd, University of British Columbia
      Bettina Bradbury, York University
      Angela Cameron, University of Ottawa
      Gail Campbell, University of New Brunswick
      Wanda Cassidy, Simon Fraser University
      Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia
      Ann Chinnery, Simon Fraser University
      Elizabeth Comack, University of Manitoba
      Cynthia Comacchio, Wilfrid Laurier University
      Margaret Conrad, University of New Brunswick
      Sharon Cook, University of Ottawa
      Emma Cunliffe, University of British Columbia
      Megan Davies, York University
      Karen Dubinsky, Queen’s University
      Margaret Early, University of British Columbia
      Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia
      Shelley Gavigan, Osgoode Hall Law School
      Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University
      Laauren Gillingham, University of Ottawa
      Mona Gleason, University of British Columbia
      Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia
      Huamei Han, Simon Fraser University
      Katy Haralampides, University of New Brunswick
      Jennifer Henderson, Carleton University
      Susan Hoecker-Drysdale, Concordia University
      Emery Hyslop-Margison, University of New Brunswick
      Franca Iacovetta, University of Toronto
      Rebecca Johnson, University of Victoria
      Gregory Kealey, University of New Brunswick
      Linda Kealey, University of New Brunswick
      Gary Kinsman, Laurentian University
      Kim Lenters, University of Calgary
      Andrée Lévesque, McGill University
      Kristina Llewellyn, University of Waterloo
      Meg Luxton, York University
      Susan McDaniel, University of Lethbridge
      Gayle MacDonald, St. Thomas University
      Ann McKinnon, Okanagan College
      Arlene McLaren, Simon Fraser University
      Lynn Marks, University of Victoria
      Greg Marquis, University of New Brunswick
      Isabelle Martin, Université de Montréal
      Kathy Mezei, Simon Fraser University
      Mary Jane Mossman, Osgoode Hall Law School
      Suzanne Morton, McGill University
      Catherine Murray, Simon Fraser University
      Tamara Myers, University of British Columbia
      Vrinda Narain, McGill University
      Bonny Norton, University of British Columbia
      Nicole O’Byrne, University of New Brunswick
      Debra Parkes, University of Manitoba
      Karen Pearlston, University of New Brunswick
      Geraldine Pratt, University of British Columbia
      John Price, University of Victoria
      Jane Pulkingham, Simon Fraser University
      Andrew Rippin, University of Victoria
      Becki Ross, University of British Columbia
      Claudia Ruitenberg, University of British Columbia
      Eric Sager, University of Victoria
      Joan Sangster, Trent University
      Ozlem Sensoy, Simon Fraser University
      Alexis Shotwell, Carleton  University
      Mary Lynn Stewart, Simon Fraser University
      Jordan Stanger-Ross, University of Victoria
      D. Gillian Thompson, University of New Brunswick
      David Tindall, University of British Columbia
      Keelleen Toohey, Simon Fraser University
      Lorna Turnbull, University of Manitoba
      Lucinda Vandervort, University of Saskatchewan
      Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick
      Wendy Wickwire, University of Victoria
      Margot Young, University of British Columbia




      Apr 29, 2013 at 5:50pm

      Joseph Goebbels once said; “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

      The Nazi propaganda minister went on to say; “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

      Your Harperland government issued muzzle is in the mail, or in the next omnibus legislation, or by a new ministerial dictate.

      Free Speech Anyone?

      Apr 29, 2013 at 6:00pm

      Has any of the above signatories signed a free speech wall at their university? No? I didn't think so.


      Apr 29, 2013 at 6:19pm

      Sociologists! Interdisciplinary work with your Linguistics and Political Science colleagues is necessary. This message was not for your ears. It was directed at people who wouldn't know sociology from a Marxist with a stick of dynamite up his arse. It's called Propaganda chuffs.

      devils advocate

      Apr 29, 2013 at 8:48pm

      ooo, all the tenured profs getting their knickers in a knot because someone slagged sociology

      time for some more cuts to super subsidized universities staff


      Apr 29, 2013 at 9:07pm

      Thank you. Stay the course.

      anon 1962

      Apr 29, 2013 at 9:13pm

      I LOVED Stephen Harper's comments on "not committing sociology". Sociologists study the stupidest subjects and are "scholars" who can't do anything else. I met plenty of them doing my Masters degree in Sociology. If it wasn't for government funding, sociologists would be unemployed. So, please spare me your indignation.

      Anita Moorman

      Apr 29, 2013 at 9:43pm

      What a lot of useless rhetoric...I have seen Mr. Harper asking for accountability for the money that is being handed over in a lot of these cases...I for one applaud that since my hard earned taxes are part of the process....

      Daphne Sams

      Apr 29, 2013 at 9:43pm

      If this were a petition, I'd sign in a heartbeat.

      Alain Milette

      Apr 29, 2013 at 10:05pm

      I am with these people Mr.Harper (God)

      Bruce Ryan

      Apr 30, 2013 at 8:41am

      It has been years since I had to look up a word found in a publication. Congratulations. Erudite conversation to enlighten the citizens is ALWAYS worthy. The concept of immiseration on a global level was disturbing. Viewing the right wing corporate plutocracy as a Marxist ideal shed new light on the current Conservative agenda.
      The truth is indeed the enemy of the State. Using every means possible to conceal the truth and divert the attention of the People is a standard tactic. Any politicians, using our money, to assist with these tactics are violating the public trust. This is a failure of good governance. Secretive bills and legislation are a violation of our Charter and the Constitution. Free speech and dissent are required for informed decisions in a democratic nation.
      All of the people involved with Idle No More, Occupy Wall Street, anonymous, Electoral Reform, Keystone, eco-warrior movements (and others) are ALL a response to governments simply not listening to the People. These are a response to knowing that the corporate global model is a disaster for humanity. The agenda to suppress the truth will never be successful ~ as every government has learned throughout history. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.