What we do

RiVAL’s activities are diverse but unified by a vision for a hybrid on-site/off-site/on-line space that activates and enlivens the radical imagination at the intersection of academic research, artistic creation and activist intervention.

Support research and creativity for social change

RiVAL’s core mandate is to facilitate research at the intersection of the interdisciplinary fields of cultural studies, political economy and social justice studies. We operate a physical space to support our team’s diverse research methods, collaborative inquiry and research-creation.

Organize and collaborate locally and globally

Towards these ends we enter into and build partnerships, collaborations and networks locally in Thunder Bay and worldwide. Locally, we work with other researchers at Lakehead University and other institutions, as well as with local social justice oriented initiatives from the community. Globally, we maintain an extensive networks of collaborators in the spheres of art, activism and academic research.

Publish and promote text, media, art and more

RiVAL maintains physical and online facilities for the creation and publication of academic and non-academic text as well as podcasts, video, animation and various forms of artistic engagement. We are working with partners around the world to create and distribute these media.

Why we do it

RiVAL’s name indicates its orientation.


the Lab is focused on studying, theorizing and intervening in the imagination, a force that is considered not only as a private individual capacity, but a shared sociological process, key to the fabric of social, cultural and economic relations and institutions. The role of the intellectual is conceived as that of an activist in the realm of the imagination, offering ideas, information, narratives, methods and experiences that challenge and awaken the imagination in the name of social justice.


The Lab takes as its objective the reimagining of value in the broadest sense. Value can speak to both the concept of economic measurement and also of cultural belief, and the Lab is particularly interested in the intersection of these two dimensions. It is dedicated to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of as a “revolution in social values” that he saw as the prerequisite to the possibility of racial and economic justice: not only a redistribution of wealth or the transformations of opinions, but a holistic overturning of preconceptions, prejudices, institutional norms and established conventions.


The Lab takes activism as its mandate, based on the acknowledgement that all research and all knowledge is always already political, in the sense that it is bound up in social power relations, and in the moral duty of the intellectual to speak out against injustice, to stimulate transformative thought, and to be an active part of working with movements of achieve social transformation. As an action-lab, RiVAL pursues these goals and themes on two fronts. First, it seeks to understand, enact and experiment with the ways academic research in the social sciences and humanities and inquiry can work in solidarity with activism for social justice. Second, it seeks to refine academic research and inquiry as methods of activism. An “action-lab” is not a sanitary, reclusive environment; it is an open and engaged part of the world that offers up the University’s resources and gifts to broader publics.

Who supports us

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.

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Major projects

Future, present and past activities
Summer camping intensive

Summer camping intensive

August 3-10, 2019 - Thunder Bay

RiVAL invites applications from activists, artists and scholars who wish to join a week-long intensive temporary community of inquiry and radical joy

Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire

Finance Capital and the Ghosts of Empire

April 5-6, 2019 - Brighton, UK

A symposium of artists, activists and scholars at University of Sussex, UK



April 25-28 - Vancouver, BC

A gathering of scholars, activists and artists to discuss the intersections of emergent digital technologies, debt regimes and the histories and legacies of empire, colonialism and race.

Decolonization reading group

Decolonization reading group

Every Tuesday at RiVAL

Everyone is welcome (especially newcomers) to this weekly meeting where we read and discuss Arthur Manuel's "Reconciliation Manifesto"



provocative pamphlets

RiVAL is currently developing a new series of radical, rigorous and resonant peer-reviewed print and multimedia texts to fan the flames of discontent. Check out our prototype.



An interactive tour of the City of London

Based on a physical participatory scholarly tour of London's historic financial district in Spring 2018, this site hosts an audio archive, interactive map and blog posts

Feminist Economics Yoga

Feminist Economics Yoga

An occasional series of practices

A series of practices led by RiVAL co-director Cassie Thornton

Podcast and audio archive

Podcast and audio archive

Recordings of texts and presentations from RiVAL staff and visitors


Contact us

IRL (in real life)

Room 2002, PACI Building (Law School building), Lakehead University, 401 Red River Rd., Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Via technology


info.rival [AT] lakeheadu [DOT] ca

+01 (807) 343 8010 x7667

Contact Us