As you know Roger Keil stood down on July 1st as Director of the CITY Institute. I have agreed to stand in as Acting Director for a one year period while another search takes place for a permanent Director. Roger is an incredibly hard act to follow but I hope that in my year I can add to City’s well-deserved reputation as a dynamic research centre with a global reputation.
So who am I? I am a geographer by training and I have been a member of the Urban Studies program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York for over twenty years. For most of this time I was cross appointed to the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies so it should come as no surprise that my research has had a focus on feminist issues. My latest publication in this field is a co-edited book with Prof. Martina Rieker (Director, Centre for Women and Gender Studies at the American University in Cairo) Rethinking Feminist Interventions into the Urban (2013, Routledge). You can find out more about it at http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415518802/ And you can find out more about me at www.yorku.ca/lpeake
We have a busy year coming up at CITY with ongoing activities, most notably those of the MCRI funded project, headed by Roger, on ‘Global Suburbanisms’ that will be showcased with a major international conference in September. For the CITY seminar series I have already put plans afoot to have a roundtable on social justice and the city with urban activists in Toronto, a one day session highlighting postgraduate urban research, an evening with Matt Gallagher from the CBC (to be confirmed) and faculty presentations, including from myself. We have a number of visiting scholars from Europe and beyond and a range of activities that will engage the CITY community at York in outreach activities. I will for example be working with Prof. Zulfikar Hirji (Anthropology, York) on a symposium being mounted by the Ismaili community in Toronto on faith and the city. I am also going to be working with Vice Provost Academic Alice Pitt on how to increase York’s community engagement; such an activity is obvious for CITY to be involved in.
My attention will mostly be focused however on a range of new activities that I would like CITY to undertake, both in-house and beyond, that will serve to raise its profile. With such a well established global reputation and the large number of postgraduates engaged in urban research at York the time is ripe for CITY to initiate its own postgraduate diploma. Other student based initiatives include seeking funding for undergraduate and graduate essay prizes on an urban topic (equivalent to the CERLAC Baptista essay prize) as well as for a PhD on a topic such as ‘diversity and the city’ or ‘women and the city’. Funding will also be needed to establish an annual ‘activist in residence’ program that will provide a semester’s stipend and office space to allow the intellectual head space that enables such individuals the time and space to recuperate, regenerate and develop their creative agendas. Another activity will be to put together a proposal, along with an academic department, for a Canada Research Chair in Canadian urbanism (the final focus of which will be determined through consultation). Should all these initiatives come to fruition there is also the possibility, further along the line, of an annual postgraduate conference and a summer school on methods training (ranging through theatre to big data) for urban scholars.
A revitalization of the web site will serve to highlight these new developments. Work on the web site will take place alongside some other housekeeping activities that we need to undertake. The Institute needs to establish its own governance document, especially with the changing landscape facing research centres at York. And we also need to make decisions about the space CITY is occupying. The Institute is a busy place with a number of postgraduates and visiting scholars and if we are successful in achieving the above ‘things to do’ list we will be even busier. Do we want to expand and offer space for faculty residents, have our own meeting room and drop-in space? We need discussion and resolution on such matters.
The first and foremost task however is the Chartering exercise that CITY must undertake this year as this will establish the research focus for the Institute for the next five years. We have a tight schedule in that the charter document should be submitted to the VPRI by early November. This is an exercise that will involve much consultation but I feel confident that we can complete this on time with a positive result.
The success of these ventures will largely depend on how well the CITY community can work together. I hope to facilitate this process by a leadership mode that will emphasise dialogue and collegiality. Please feel free to drop by the CITY Institute (we are on the 7th floor of the Kaneff Tower); I look forward to hearing from you about any ideas you have about CITY and to meeting with you.