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Critical Regionalism: The Determinants of Community Sustainability
The Centre for Regional Studies (CRS) at St. Francis Xavier University (St FX) is aligned with both the academic and social goals of the university, through its mandate to promote research into the social, economic, cultural and political issues germane to Atlantic Canada generally and Northeastern Nova Scotia specifically. The Centre is committed to collaborative work with groups and organizations within the region, and to disseminating the results of research. It has stimulated an expansive array of humanities, social science, business and education explorations, which have brought to light important, but often overlooked, aspects of local and community life. Not only has this resulted in new paths of scholarship but also nurtured expanding networks of academic researchers and contributed, through the employment of undergraduate students, to the mentoring and training of emerging young scholars. The CRS board administers its programme by holding bi-annual rounds of competitive adjudication for scholarly support. Eligible activities included academic research projects, workshops, seminars, and conferences.
With each new round of CRS planning, we strive to build upon areas of demonstrated strength, while encouraging initiatives in new and urgent areas of academic concern. The present CRS Development Plan focusses on the theme of Critical Regionalism: The Determinants of Community Sustainability. Critical regionalism understands region as a relational term, rather than as a bounded place, existing in isolation. A region is best conceived as a “network of sites,” rather than as “an isolated space, withdrawn from larger cultural [economic, social, and political] forces and processes” (Powell 4-5). In turning to critical regionalism as a thematic umbrella and a research philosophy, the CRS aims to support research projects and workshops that are concerned with the ways communities in Atlantic Canada sustain themselves economically, socially and culturally through their relations, both historic and current, with communities elsewhere.
The research ethos fostered by critical regionalism is one that strives for greater collaboration among scholars in different disciplines, and between universities, communities and regions. In this respect, it seems perfectly suited to the aims of the CRS, which supports research and collaborative workshops conducted by faculty from a variety of different disciplines, and which has seen the emergence of several successful regional and national collaborations. The current thematic interest of the CRS in the Atlantic region’s complex place in a network of other places, whether they are located elsewhere in the nation or elsewhere in the world, is likely to enable the CRS to build on these sorts of collaborations, and to encourage international collaborations as well. Under the general rubric of critical regionalism, we envision several distinct research thrusts: social identity, resources, governance and demographic change.
Both the Centre for Regional Studies and StFX University are well situated to examine the social impacts of political identity as they affect diverse populations of Indigenous peoples, settlers, migrants and their families in this region, and to facilitate cultural security, encourage citizenship participation and implement strategies for sustainable socioeconomic development across and within communities. One of the key strategies of this program of research is to re-examine and adjust the role of the university to better engage underrepresented populations within the resource infrastructures of the university community and its networks. The goal is to generate greater opportunities for respectful knowledge exchange and translation in order to enhance resource infrastructure sustainability within and between these diverse and largely segregated communities.