Welcome to the ReImagining Value Action Lab

RiVAL is an experimental think-tank for the radical Imagination based at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada

A new kind of think-tank

RiVAL is an experimental platform for asking deep, radical questions about society, culture, politics and economics in ways that activate the imagination and transform public discourse towards social justice. Headquartered at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada, it aims to have a national and a global impact and gain a reputation for fostering thoughtful, provocative, rigorous and courageous publications and interventions.

for a social media age

RiVAL solicits and coordinates the publication of a range of texts, from peer-reviewed studies to editorial interventions, from cultural criticism to economic analysis. It also produces online video and audio and maintains an active social media presence. In addition, RiVAL collaborates on and facilitates artistic and social justice projects to help fulfill its mandate.

in the name of social justice

RiVAL’s goal is to produce interdisciplinary research and media at the cusp of cultural studies and political economy that begin with a radical leap of the imagination, a powerful “what if” that does not take the current alignment of social, cultural and political forces as legitimate or necessary but, instead, approaches them from the perspective of social justice. RiVAL focuses on a rotating set of three intersecting core themes.

Core Themes (2017-2022)

Resource extraction, financialization and settler-colonialism

Today’s ecological, financial and geopolitical crises have triggered a renewed interest in extractive industries, especially in Canada. While financial interests speculate on huge returns, Indigenous and non-Indigenous opposition to mining and other large resource extraction projects pose an existential and moral risk to profit and “development.” We explore the historical legacies and present-day forms of settler-colonialism as they intersect the entanglement of the extractive and the financial services industries. We ask deeper and more profound questions about capitalism, social movements, ecology, decolonization and the collective future.

Debt, financial literacy and the radical imagination

In our world system debt rules – from the debts of whole nations to those of individual borrowers. Yet the vast majority of these debts have been incurred under duress, or in order to merely secure basic human rights like housing or education in an age of cutbacks and the privatization of social risks. Unfortunately, conventional financial literacy and education typically offers only individualized answers to what are, in fact, social problems. This individualization is key to debt’s power: it not only constrains and reshapes our individual and collective options in the present, it suffocates our futures. What would a different financial literacy look like, one that celebrated and activated the radical imagination?

Revenge politics and the prospects for democracy

Around the world, democratically elected authoritarian governments are on the rise, empowered by racism, xenophobia, nativism and revanchism. In this project, we look for lessons about how to confront and overcome these dark forces, seeking complex and uncomfortable answers. We seek to understand the intersections of race, class, gender, history, social psychology and political economy. But we also question the forms of neoliberal, formalist democracy that has ushered these authoritarianisms into power; what other democracies are possible?

Commons and common platforms

The communicative technologies of a globalized world hold incredible promise for allowing communities and humanity as a whole to reorient and democratize social cooperation, resources and wealth. Yet today this promise is largely enclosed or foreclosed by corporations or private interests. What can the notion of the commons (shared and collectively managed resources) offer to these discussions, and how can it be actualized in the field of daily life and the realm of social reproduction? Further, how can local “commoning” efforts combine or ally to present a meaningful challenge to the globalized constellations of corporate and state power that define the present moment? And how can such commoning  also work to address the perpetuation of oppression and exploitation based on gender, sexuality, race, colonialism and other structures of power?

Radical

Here, radical does not simply mean unconventional or extreme; it means taking the intellectual courage to follow social, economic, political and cultural phenomena to their root. Likewise, the imagination does not simply mean 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.

imagination

We understand the imagination not simply as an individual capacity that we each have but also as a shared force, something that we do together. We see research as a reflection on and a contribution to the field of the imagination. As such, we use texts, multimedia, art, social media, workshops, film screenings and public discussions to build a critical culture of the imagination

social justice

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

Core Activities

Publishing 2.0

RiVAL’s core activity is the solicitation and publication of texts that invite writers to propose radical, generative and provocative analyses. When a text is solicited or commissioned, the author works closely with the editors to produce a work that is both intellectually rigorous and as accessible as possible. Depending on the nature of the text, it may be sent for peer review to relevant academic and non-academic researchers to ensure it represents a trustworthy and cogent contribution. The publication of most texts is accompanied by the translation of the ideas and information into other media streams. These include opinion-editorial pieces to be published online and also in mainstream and alternative publications, video interviews and audio podcasts for free online distribution, and an energetic social media outreach.

Research

RiVAL exists to facilitate and broadcast research on its rotating suite of core themes (see page 4). It provides space, resources, funding and support to it’s core staff and affiliated members for critical interdisciplinary inquiry.  To these ends its activities include sustaining a collaborative modular lab space in Thunder Bay, offering resources for the training of graduate students and others, applying for funding from third-parties, hosting conferences and symposia, facilitating online research networks and contributing to and collaborating with other research initiatives. In addition, RiVAL sustains a research-creation wing that experiments with artistic methodologies for both research inquiry and research communication.

Outreach

In addition to these core activities, RiVAL also hosts workshops, lectures, film screenings and other public activities on its core themes at its facilities and farther abroad. RiVAL is also a research platform that supports pedagogy. In addition to integrating into classes at Lakehad University, RiVAL produces educational materials for university classes, high-schools, workshops and popular education and seeks out institutions and individuals eager to collaborate on reaching a wide diversity of learners. In the near future, RiVAL will seek to establish a summer research retreat where academics, students, artists, activists and others can collaborate on developing ideas, orientations and materials towards its core objectives.

Collaboration

RiVAL is also developing resources and facilities to host residencies to welcome academics, activists, artists and others to Thunder Bay for visits ranging from a week to several months, during which time they will work closely with RiVAL staff on shared projects. In addition, RiVAL cooperates closely with two other organizations: the Radical Imagination Project, which works with social movements to foster and broadcast the strategies and perspectives of social justice organizing, and the University of the Phoenix, an art-intervention platform that takes the form of a nomadic institution for a radical financial literacy.

Why now?

Revenge politics are on the march. A rising tide of racialized authoritarian politics has washed up rancorous sentiments generated in the depths of neoliberal inequality and social destruction. People everywhere are demanding radical change, but often in disastrous ways that target the most vulnerable and marginalized and do nothing to solve deeper, systemic injustices and crises.

Meanwhile, the forces of social justice seem yet unable to meet this rising tide with popular platforms of their own. Movements for ecological, economic and racial justice appear everywhere to be struggling merely to defend tenuous gains made in the past decades, rather than for a fairer, more peaceful world.

RiVAL takes as its challenge the reality that unless the forces of social justice can clearly, courageously and rigorously put forward radical proposals for social transformation, unless they can present a vision, however partial and tenuous, of a better world, they will continue to be unsuccessful in answering the call of these historic and dangerous times. Now, more than ever, we need a radical imagination that questions the root causes of social, economic, political and cultural phenomena and opens a space for imagining a different, better future.

In an age of anti-intellectualism, but also one of a retreat of intellectuals from public life, RiVAL aims to be a platform for the interface of, on the one hand, generative and worldly writing and research and, on the other, the realms of policy, public debate and social movements.

Who is it?

In its, larval form, RiVAL operates under the directorship of Max Haiven, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University and encompasses his collaborators and students. This exploratory stage is expected to last until at least 2022, at which time a more formal, independent organizational structure will be defined and a timeline for transition established.

RiVAL welcomes inquiries from affiliated and unaffiliated researchers, artists, activists and others who share its vision and looks forward to collaborating with a wide range of people with a diversity of perspectives.

RiVAL is a non-partisan institution and does not accept funding or support from political parties. It works with other organizations on a case-by-case basis.

Director

Partners

RiVAL works in close collaboration with two partnered initiatives:

The Radical Imagination Project is a research platform working with social movements to study, celebrate, broadcast and refine the transformative ideas that emerge from collective struggles for social justice.

The University of the Phoenix world first nomadic for-prophet university teaching the living and the dead to rise up. An art/intervention platform and revenge consultancy for a radical form of financial literacy.

 

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