The ReImagining Value Action Lab
The ReImagining Value Action Lab's physical manifestation is a large room (no. 2002) on the second floor of the North wing of the PACI building. Furniture is modular allowing the room to be configured as a public event space, an open-concept workshop area, a classroom, a mutli-media production studio and/or a space for thinking, writing, discussion and reflection.
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.
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.
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.
Core themes, 2017-2022
The task of reimagining who and what is valuable is vital in a moment of global uncertainty, inequality and violence.
In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., who insisted that we turn our imaginations towards a broad "revolution of values" as part of the quest for social justice, the ReImagining Value Action Lab is committed to exploring the intersection of the economy and culture.
How and why does our society and economy render some people and things "priceless" while so many others are made "worthless"? What would it take to, for instance, actually honour the value of each life, or the ecosphere of which we are a part?
How can we challenge the monumental inequities of a global system that enriches a tiny handful and leave so many in poverty?
RiVAL co-director Max Haiven's scholarly work on the relationship of value and imagination informs our approach, which combines methods and approaches from cultural studies, sociology, gender studies, critical race studies, political economy, literary and film studies and other disciplines to examine a broad range of issues.
Research is an active, engaged, worldly practice. At RiVAL, we explore the intersection of value and imagination, economics and culture, not as phenomena to be dispassionately observed but as as aspects of the world we, as researchers, also inhabit. That world shapes us and we shape it. We want to learn, together, how we are being shaped. We also want to become better at helping shape that world in the interests of social justice.
As such, we see all research as inherently a form of transformative social action. But we want to think through and discover new ways to ensure that action is intentional and powerful. We see research as a common pursuit which ought not be monopolized by academics: it is a process of experimentation and discovery which should be part of every democratic life and all democratic societies.
An action lab is a space to reflect on, to experiment with and to intervene in the patterns of social power. Based on RiVAL co-director's previous research into methodologies of the Radical Imagination, we aim to gain a broad understanding of how we, as scholars and activists, contribute to social justice struggles, in part by catalyzing new encounters between diverse social actors, challenging conventional norms and ideas, and discovering new ways to share information, knowledge and perspectives.
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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, held by RiVAL's co-director, Dr. Max Haiven. 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 support for specific research programming.