Handel Wright

Professor

Research Classification

Transcultural Studies
Educational Approaches

Research Interests

(post)multiculturalism and multicultural education
Cultural Studies
Youth Studies
Critical Race Theory
identity, citizenship and belonging
Africana studies
postcolonialism and decolonization

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Research Methodology

qualitative methdologies
critical ethnography
qualitative case studies

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Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

(post)multiculturalism; youth identity and belonging; cultural studies and education; Africana identity; comparative and international education

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Afrocentric education : what does it mean to Toronto’s black parents? (2017)

The miseducation of Black students attending Toronto metropolitan secondary schools, as evinced by poor grades and high dropout rates among the highest in Canada, begs the question of whether responsibility for this phenomenon lies with a public school system informed by a Eurocentric ethos. Drawing on Afrocentric Theory, this critical qualitative study examines Black parents’ perceptions of the Toronto Africentric Alternative School and Afrocentric education. Snowball sampling and ethnographic interviews, i.e., semi-structured interviews, were used to generate data. A total of 12 Black parents, three men and nine women, were interviewed over a 5-month period and data analyzed. It was found that while a majority of the respondents supported the Toronto Africentric Alternative School and Afrocentric education, some were ambivalent and others viewed the school and the education it provides as divisive and unnecessary.The research findings show that the majority of the participants were enamored with Afrocentricity, believing it to be a positive influence on Black lives. While they supported TAAS and AE, the minority, on the other hand, opposed the school and its educational model. The findings also revealed a Black community, divided between a majority seeking to preserve whatever remained of (their) African identity and a determined minority that viewed assimilation to be in the best interests of Black students. It is recommended that the school adopt antiracist education; that it appoints a spokesperson to field public inquiries to counter adverse perceptions of the school and its programs; that it fosters an on-going dialogue between its supporters and critics; and, most importantly, that it takes steps aimed at rebuilding relations among the stakeholders, i.e., the school, Black parents, the Toronto District School Board and the community.

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Chinese pride? searching between gendered diasporas and multicultural states (2017)

This research of pride is necessarily from but not limited to my own personal searching, as a Cantonese/Chinese migrant across (Northern Guangdong) mountains, (Pearl River) delta, and (East Pacific) waterfronts. To explore what (Chinese) pride means in context, who needs it, and how it relates to the learning of empowerment, privilege, and diversity, I deploy a multi-biographical method to explore the mixed productions and expressions of pride. These multi-biographical sources include: audio life history interviews with thirteen community activists in the East Pacific port of Greater Vancouver and specifically in Richmond where significant streams of Chinese diasporas locate, five autobiographical accounts in a national Chinese-Canadian online project, and audio-video clips of two Chinese-Canadian stories in a transnational Chinese television/online program. Searching and researching these life stories, I find (Chinese) pride articulable on two journeys. A journey of diaspora emphasizes the flux of pride, expressible in a trio of gendered stories from women’s heritage to both women and men in migration and further to queer and nonqueer immigrant youth collaboration. A journey of state emphasizes the stability of pride, expressible in a trio of multicultural stories from nation-state citizenship to local citizenship and further to a global state of mind. While this mix of life journey/storytelling speaks in its own way towards more soul-searching and politically-sensitive projects of learning, my conclusion is more modestly about bringing four small elements to cultural studies of education: namely, extramural education as collaborative praxis, aspirational learning in political literacy, critical education with place-based and mobile cultures, and a reflexive take on why (and in what ways) cultural studies of education matters to me. With all these tissues of pride alive, I hope primarily and modestly to create openings in what could be done between/with you and me.

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(Un)learning citizenship in Canada : Iranian immigrant youth's silences, contradictions, and expressions (2012)

This study examines the meanings, interpretations, and experiences of citizenship in the lives of young Iranian immigrants in Canada in order to (1) offer a conceptual approach to migrant youth citizenship that fills gaps in dominant conceptualizations of citizenship in Canada, and (2) provide recommendations for the improvement of models of citizenship education relevant to lived experiences of migrant youth. Contemporary conceptions of citizenship in Canada are underpinned by assumptions closely aligned with a multicultural national identity and stress formal aspects of citizenship, which undermine substantive aspects of citizenship. Moreover, citizenship education is traditionally conveyed within formal schooling contexts, thereby neglecting the informal processes of learning citizenship for immigrants. To address these weaknesses, this study examines how citizenship is learned within and across diverse informal sites for Iranian immigrant youth. This understanding helps to situate more effective approaches to education that account for culture, locality, and the social, and political contexts in which learners are embedded. In 2010, I conducted a six-month ethnographic study with 12 first-generation immigrant Iranian youths aged 19-30 in Vancouver, Canada. Analysis of semi-structured interviews and participant observation disclosed citizenship as a process of learning within individuals’ lived experiences. In-depth engagement with the research findings, informed by concepts associated with cultural studies, diaspora studies, and cultural citizenship, reveal three conceptual commitments that aid understanding of citizenship and learning for citizenship: (1) identity as situated within multiple, shifting, intersecting, and interlocking dimensions; (2) citizenship as situated within multiple constructed boundaries of membership; and (3) citizenship as an iterative process of learning. This inductive framework situates citizenship discourse within the national and global contexts in which immigrant youth are embedded. This study contributes to theoretical and empirical literature on substantive and social citizenship and citizenship learning for immigrant youth in formal and informal contexts. It also offers practical recommendations for improving models of learning citizenship within formal schooling contexts by including: a conceptual commitment to move beyond a nation-based focus on citizenship, a curricular commitment to focus on the lived experiences of learners, and a pedagogical commitment to focus on informal and experiential modes of learning.

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Social, cultural and educational inclusion/exclusion of Turkish immigrant youth in Canada (2012)

This dissertation explores the experiences of social, cultural and educational inclusion/exclusion of Turkish immigrant youth in Vancouver, Canada. I undertake this work within the context of inequality, such as racism and other forms of social and educational marginalization. My theoretical framework combines sociology of immigration (e.g., Hall) with sociology of education (e.g., Bourdieu). The main methodology is a critical qualitative approach. In total, 14 young people, ages 15-25, participated in this research. The findings of the study indicate that Turkish youths’ experience of inclusion/exclusion in Canada changes according to their immigration and socio-economic status, gender and religious affiliation. Muslim and first generation young people suffer from cultural and accent discrimination, stereotypes and general Islamophobia in the social sphere. The imposition of the dominant language, values, habits and habitus on minority students as the legitimate truth and lack of respect for minority students’ cultural background are forms of discrimination against minority youth in Canadian schools. The social and educational marginalization of young people affects their conflicted identities and sense of belonging in the host country. Conditional acceptance leads minority youth to have a conditional sense of belonging.

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Islamic education in a multicultural context : the case of two educational institutions in British Columbia (2011)

The purpose of this study is to increase understanding of Islamic education in Canada with an emphasis on how two educational institutions promote and maintain an Islamic worldview and identity in a secular pluralistic society. To achieve this goal, the study explores the nature and meaning of Islamic education in a national context, in which such education is caught between the edict to transmit and promote Islamic values on the one hand, and secular multiculturalism values on the other. This qualitative research uses an instrumental case study to provide an in-depth understanding of two participating Muslim schools in British Columbia, Canada. The case study, however, instrumentally offers understanding for Islamic education in a multicultural context. Findings from this research indicate that while Islamic educational institutions in Canada utilize various tools to nurture Islamic identity and worldview, they still face considerable internal challenges including limited resources and internal diversity. The internal challenges are exacerbated by external pressures in the form of Islamophobic sentiments fueled by poor media coverage. The dissertation recommends that Islamic educational institutions join the multicultural conversation with a genuine Islamic voice. Similarly, in order for these institutions to provide adequate Islamic education, they need to adopt targeted Islamization and embrace multiple identities.

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Music lessons : a cultural studies analysis of music's capacity for critical pedagogy and methodology (2010)

When expressing the phrase music lessons, one often visualizes students with their musical instruments practicing scales or compositions with the intent of memorizing the music. Although music can actualize as mnemonic practice, this dissertation focuses on other lessons that music teaches us by examining how musical knowledge is produced. Building on the ideologies articulated within a framework of cultural studies, the dissertation attempts a pedagogical praxis that establishes a fluid and dynamic conversation to express both my theoretical and empirical findings. The findings then are not definitive answers to the questions I pose about music’s effect, but operate as a process of opening up these questions to further reflection. The dissertation, by invoking a praxis-based structure, communicates both the theoretical “how” of music as praxis involved work and my practice of realizing music as culture-in-action.The dissertation aims to redress music – not only in terms of music making as transformative praxis but also to assert that music, as a means of producing knowledge within critical discourse, can be situated as the subject versus the object of effect. Because a core component of music is its ability to be inclusive of all cultures/peoples, the dissertation examines how the performative aspects of music intersects sites and people of differing class, gender, race and culture to articulate music’s capacity for negotiating difference. Pitched in this way, music can no longer be regarded by critical educators as being on the sidelines of critical discourse but rather will be seen as integral to transforming consciousness and realizing praxis.By informing and expanding upon the theory and practice of critical pedagogy, this music discourse not only seeks to influence a broader idea of social justice praxis but can also operate as a predominant cultural component in promoting peace education.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Crossing borders, constructing identities : a collective case study of Chinese international graduate students at a Canadian university (2017)

This study explores how international Chinese graduate students, especially those contemplating immigrating and who therefore fall into a fuzzy international student /immigrant category, (re)construct their identities through their social experiences at a Canadian university. Theoretically, discourses on migration, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism and diaspora and on Chineseness are employed. Students who are diasporic orientated tend to feel more patriotic than they are back home and have a strong identification with being citizens of the Peoples Republic of China. Cosmopolitan oriented students on the other hand are decentered and don’t have a strong attachment to any particular identity, so they feel neither Chinese nor Canadian. Finally, transnational orientated students identify strongly as both Chinese and Canadian. Methodologically, the study employs qualitative case study, with semi-structured in-depth interviews as the main data collection tool and reviewing postings on social media as a triangulating strategy. Five Chinese graduate students, each being a case, from diverse backgrounds studying in Canada on study permits constitute a collective case study. My findings suggest that all participants inhabit in transnational social field by maintaining transnational ties and relations with home country via social media. However, students with clear an immigration agenda are more likely to have extended social circles to transit from students to permanent residents, whereas those have not yet decided their future plans have smaller social circles that evolve around life in university and within academia. Chinese students develop complex and hybridized identities in Canada, from diasporic-oriented, to both diasporic and cosmopolitan oriented, to extremely transnational and cosmopolitan oriented. Where exactly their identities locate in the continuum largely depends on participants’ upbringing, disposition and life experiences: the more participants mingle with a mixed group of people, expose themselves to various cultures, the more they become transnational and cosmopolitan oriented, tolerant and appreciative of differences and less attached to clear-bounded identities.

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Interculturalidad from below : an Indigenous movement's encounter with Peruvian intercultural education policy (2017)

This study examines the discursive encounter about the notion of Interculturalidad between the Chirapaq Indigenous organization of Peru and the official Peruvian intercultural education policy. Taking a multi-perspective approach, it addresses how an Indigenous organization discursively (re)constructs the notion of Interculturalidad and how this (re)construction challenges and resists the Peruvian government’s dominant construction reflected in an official policy. The study draws on a hybrid decolonial theoretical framework, which is informed by decolonial theory, conceptualizations of Interculturalidad, and the principle of interrelatedness of Indigenous knowledges. In terms of methodology, the study utilizes a dual Foucauldian-inspired critical discourse analysis approaches. This dual discourse analysis is applied to the Indigenous organization’s written and spoken texts on intercultural education and the text-based official policy document. The findings demonstrate that the Peruvian intercultural education policy is principally dominated by an instrumental conception of cultural diversity, one which does not address the root causes of racism, marginalization, exclusion, and social asymmetries in Peru. Furthermore, the study found that the policy language fails to recognize the holistic nature of Indigenous knowledge systems. On the other hand, the Indigenous organization’s intercultural discourse was found to be intrinsically related to the problem of the colonial power structures that have subordinated all dimension of Indigenous peoples’ lives, while its (re)conceptualization of Interculturalidad constitutes an opportunity to centre Indigenous views on knowledge, language, and territory. The gulf between these divergent intercultural discourses speaks to the different frameworks in which each is grounded and their different conceptions of education for Indigenous students in the Peruvian context. Taking this Indigenous organization’s conceptions and the study’s findings into account, recommendations are made for improving the Peruvian intercultural education policy. Some of these recommendations are to affirm the inseparability of Indigenous knowledge, language, and territory within the intercultural education policy, and to ground it in a decolonial framework.

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"Poetry out of poison" : exploring rap music as critical pedagogy (2013)

How to create learning experiences that are more relevant and empowering for young people is an ongoing issue for educators, youth workers, parents, social scientists, and students. Critical pedagogical theorists have identified gaps in formal education which limit the possibilities for critical thinking and student-centredness (Ibrahim, 2004; Low, 2007, 2011; McLaren, 1997). While many of these studies have been conducted in classroom settings, this study focuses on what can be learned from youth programs that were collaboratively developed by program directors and rap artists in community organizations. Using qualitative interviews and drawing from cultural studies, this research engages the perspectives of five participants who are actively involved in the development and implementation of hip hop youth programs. The emergent themes from the interviews highlighted hip hop culture’s relationship with social justice and social contradictions. These findings support the claim that critical rap pedagogies provide young people with more relevant learning experiences and with greater possibilities to draw connections between their own experiences and the wider community leading to greater opportunities for agency and empowerment.

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On Chineseness and the identities of Vancouver's Chinese youth with implications for education (2012)

This qualitative study examines the creation of Vancouver’s Chinese youth identities using a cultural studies framework. This thesis moves the thinking about Vancouver’s Chinese youth beyond that of mere victims of racism and views them instead as active desiring agents with interests, ambitions and the power to decide for themselves how to identify. This study also avoids any essentializing assumptions about Chinesesness and illustrates the multiple constructions of Chineseness by Chinese youth. By investigating more complex identifications, the boundaries of what constitutes the category “Vancouver’s Chinese youth” become blurred and a challenge is made to any commonsense notions about Chineseness, Canadianness, and cultural identity generally. In such a way, this study helps to fill a significant gap in the literature on Vancouver’s Chinese youth identities, a literature that focuses primarily on stereotypes, race-relations, and quantitative socio-psychological work. A discourse analysis is performed on two “texts”: a historical novel, The Jade Peony, and a contemporary incident involving the release of controversial Internet video clips by a social club on the University of British Columbia campus. They are analyzed for their representations of Chinese youth identifications using the discourse theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the work of cultural studies thinkers such as Stuart Hall and Ien Ang and their poststructuralist notions of cultural identity, and the work of queer theorists of colour such as Patrick Johnson and José Esteban Muñoz. The study will show the usefulness of the concept of hybridity and the limitations of the diasporic paradigm that places homeland as “centre.” Chineseness then becomes an open signifier whose meaning is continuously struggled over and dependent on the context of discussion. The study also makes a connection between the complexities of Chinese Canadian identity and debates in antiracism education by showing how antiracism must work with the ambivalences that come from ruptures within Chinese communities. Incidents of conflict within Chinese communities show how antiracism can move beyond a minority/majority or Chinese/White paradigm and consider more productive notions of power and how minorities are capable of social hatreds themselves.

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