Welcome to the ReImagining Value Action Lab

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The ReImagining Action Lab, which will be launched in September of 2017, is a collaborative workshop for research, media and activism under the auspices the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice, held by Dr. Max Haiven.

RiVAL aims to create a space and a platform for academics, artists, activists, students and community-member to work together on vital issues of social justice, local and global.  Headquartered in a purpose-built facility on Lakehead University’s downtown PACI campus in Anishinaabe territory under the Robinson Superior Treaty (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada), but with a global set of collaborators and partners, RiVAL focuses its attention on a core set of four themes.

a research workshop

RiVAL’s primary function is to steward scholarly research, publication, collaboration and distribution on its core themes. Here, research is approached as a worldly and dialogical process of  inter-disciplinary collaboration, experimentation and debate that aims not only to understand but to change society. RiVAL maintains a library of texts, hosts and facilitates gatherings and workshops, employs and assists students, supports the publication of texts and offers a venue for collaborative study.

an art and media lab

RiVAL hosts a semi-professional multi-media studio in order to explore the potentials for audio, video and online media to make research public. It will produce media including online video, podcasts, radio programming and documentaries on its core research themes and use media as a tool for research, teaching, activism and outreach. RiVAL also hosts writers and artists in residence and fosters creative and artistic methods of research and activism.

a platform for activism

RiVAL’s purpose is to activate research and media towards social justice and the radical imagination. As such RiVAL works closely with local and global activist and global justice initiatives on its core themes. RiVAL offers its space and resources to efforts to transform the world and acts as a critical interface between activism and academe hosting meetings, producing media and offering workshops that build community capacities to struggle for social justice.

Core themes 2017-2022

Financialization, extraction and colonialism

The crisis unleashed in 2008 has drawn renewed academic and activist attention to the financial sector’s economic, political, sociological and cultural dynamics and ramifications. Likewise, the ongoing global ecological crisis has focused attention on the extractive industries including mining, oil and gas and water privatization. How are these processes connected, and how do they intersect colonialism, neocolonialism and settler-colonialism?

Debt, financial literacy and the radical imagination

In an age of financialization, debt is not merely an issue of personal finances, it is a profound social, cultural and political force. What might a financial literacy look like that took these broader tendencies into account, and that linked debt to neoliberalism, gender-based oppression, racism and (settler-)colonialism? Such a literacy would open pathways to the radical imagination.

Revenge politics and the prospects for democracy

How does revenge, a dark theme we believed banished to the margins of modern politics, take on a new life in an age of pathological uncertainty? How has democracy been weaponized against itself in the name of deepening capitalist inequality and social violence? And how is revenge politics tied to legacies and contemporary patterns of exploitation, oppression and injustice based on race, gender and class? Is another democracy possible?

Commons and platforms

The breathtaking development of new communication technologies has unleashed vast new inequalities and injustices, but also holds the promise of platforms for new modes of cooperation and social justice. Beyond the silky rhetoric of the so-called “sharing economy” and the stardom of tech entrepreneurs, can the notion of the commons help us navigate this terrain and reclaim the potential of communities and technology?

Rationale

After decades of social, economic and environmental injustice based on rampant financialized capitalism and a largely undisputed global free-market ideology, we have awakened to a crisis of revenge politics. Resurgent ethno-nationalisms, fundamentalisms and xenophobias threaten not only to further entrench the forms of exploitation, oppression and inequality that gave rise to the crisis in the first place, they threaten war, terror and new high watermarks of cruelty.

Yet over this period critical scholars of culture, media, economics, politics and society, working as or alongside social justice activists, have been developing incisive frameworks for understanding these forces and imagining a different future. The purpose of RiVAL is to draw on these legacies and facilitate their flourishing. It takes as its task the need to think through and experiment with how radical ideas for social justice can be spread and democratized in a profoundly changing media ecology, where new technologies are transforming the methods of communication, thought and action.

Radical imagination

RiVAL is dedicated to the radical imagination. Radical does not simply mean unconventional or extreme; it means the intellectual courage to follow social, economic, political and cultural phenomena to their root. Likewise, the imagination is not simply the realm of individual fantasy; it means a shared landscape of ideas and fellow-feeling that animates the thought and action of people and communities. The radical imagination is something we do together.

social justice

For RiVAL, social justice is based on striving together for systems of mutual aid and social cooperation that affirm the dignity and value of all people. As such, RiVAL challenges poverty, war, sexism, racism, homo- and trans-phobia, ableism and ecological injustice by comprehending these as ultimately driven by intersecting systems including capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, white-supremacy and (settler-)colonialism.

reimagining value

RiVAL situates itself at the cusp of, on the one hand, the interdisciplinary fields of cultural studies and critical theory and, on the other, the analysis of political economy. It is centrally concerned with reimagining the relationship between the reproduction of social and cultural values and the production of economic value. As an action lab, it sees the work of reimagining value as a question not of theory alone but also of practice: it seeks to contribute to the active cultivation of the relationships, ideas, practices and institutions that will build a better world.

Activities

  • Local, national and transnational scholarly collaborations
  • Supporting the publication and distribution of research
  • Producing audio, video and other media (eg. podcasts, radio programing, online video, documentaries)
  • Organizing workshops, seminars, summer-schools in Thunder Bay and beyond
  • Developing syllabi and organizing reading groups, webinars, etc.
  • Hosting guest scholars, activists and artists to give presentations and work with the RiVAL community on projects
  • Working with collaborators, partners and activists initiatives on key projects

Partners

The Radical Imagination Project is a research and solidarity platform for working with social movements to understand, refine and broadcast ideas that can change the world

The University of the Phoenix is an activist-art ensemble for a radical financial literacy that teaches the living and the dead to make common cause in the name of righteous vengeance

Institutional support

The Department of English and Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Lakehead University houses the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation provides material support for research infrastructure

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs Program provide financial support

Facilities

RiVAL is headquartered in Lakehead University’s PACI building in Thunder Bay’s North Core. It offers a flexible, modular space that can be used for multi-media production, workshops, classes and collaboration.

A full list of equipment available to the RiVAL community will be posted in the Fall of 2017, but will include high quality DSLR cameras, a small video and recording studio environment, audio recorders and microphones, computers with audio, video and multimedia editing and design software and more.

RiVAL’s lab-space is designed to be a community space and is available for meetings and workshops.

At this point, the space is not wheelchair accessible.

Director

Dr. Max Haiven is Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Northwest Ontario and director of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL). He writes articles for both academic and general audiences and is the author of the books Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons, The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (with Alex Khasnabish) and Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life. He is currently working on a book titled Art after Money, Money after Art: Radical Creative Strategies Against Financialization.

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