Jasmin Habib

Professor of Political Science

Jasmin Habib.

Our students bring their curiosity about the world into the classroom and I think it’s important to nurture as well as expand their sense of wonder. I enjoy learning about and from my students as well as introducing them to new ideas. Having recently been seconded to the Department of Political Science, I look forward to bringing ethnographic insights and cultural theory to the questions posed by political scientists. In all of my courses, students are exposed to contemporary global issues. We examine the challenges posed by structural and direct violence, including poverty, racism, disaster, and war. Ethnographic accounts of research with nuclear scientists, war-affected refugees, and those exposed to the scourges of infectious disease form the basis for some of our most engaging discussions. 

I'm also interested in assymetrical power and its consequences for the lives of people in everyday ways. In courses on leisure, for example tourism and travel, authenticity, globalization, and the cultural dynamic of those at work and those seeking pleasureable experiences, get taken up. This course offers students a wonderful opportunity to reflect on their own activities and experiences. Before taking the course, few have considered the ethical and cultural effects of eco-tourism, for example, because it is associated with 'doing the right thing'. They are often surprised to learn that this politic is far more complicated. In all of my courses, documentaries and films expose students to the range and politics of representations. Students are invited to reflect not only on the readings and the films but to do so from a scholarly as well as a personal perspective. 

How do your research and teaching activities intersect and enhance each other?

It's impossible for me to separate my research from my teaching activities. My background in International Peace Studies and Anthropology shapes the way I interrogate the roots of violent conflict. My research within and across diaspora communities -- Jewish and Palestinian -- and their relationship to the violent conflict in Israel/Palestine helps me to frame the questions I pose in the classroom. Under what conditions does violence become normal? What are the meanings of home or homelands and in what ways do those meanings shape our sense of self and community? My work with the leaders and administrators in Eeeyou Istchee (Cree territory in Northern Quebec) as well as the consultants, advisors and anthropologists who have worked alongside them, allows me to consider not only the role of anthropology in an ever-changing world but the extent to which connections can and must be made between historical wrongs and the responsibilities of those privileged by those practices, no matter the ‘field’ site or location. Workshops as well as classroom visits by research collaborators, such as Philip Awashish, a Cree leader and signatory to the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, have shared their experiences with our students. These moments allow us to reflect on the ethics and potential for collaborative community-based research, and it gives students the opportunity to consider their roles and responsibilities in the wider political sphere.

What teaching approaches do you use in the classroom?

While I choose the readings and films for my courses, students lead and facilitate discussions by not only reflecting on the course texts but by bringing in contemporary issues -- from news media, websites, films, activist postings, etc. In this way, the classroom becomes a collaborative environment -- where teacher and students learn -- and which is connected to the real world.

What is your main learning goal for your students, particularly as they graduate and set off into the world?

My greatest hope is that we have piqued our students’ curiosity and that we have inspired them to want to learn more. Enormous satisfaction comes when, at the end of a course, students ask me for another set of readings, a list of my favourite documentaries, and the like. Students exposed to global issues will have learned to appreciate, not simply ‘tolerate’ difference, whether political, social, cultural, and they will make wonderful neighbours, co-workers, caregivers, and advocates. In short, wonderful citizens of the world!

University of Waterloo

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