Tag Archives: postaday

In support of Chief Theresa Spence and #IdleNoMore

Chief Theresa Spence (detail). Photo by Regina Notarsandsnobelomonte Southwind

Chief Theresa Spence (detail). Photo by Regina Notarsandsnobelomonte Southwind

From The Guardian: “The grassroots IdleNoMore movement of aboriginal people offers a more sustainable future for all Canadians. Canada’s placid winter surface has been broken by unprecedented protests by its aboriginal peoples. In just a few weeks, a small campaign launched against the Conservative government’s budget bill by four aboriginal women has expanded and transformed into a season of discontent: a cultural and political resurgence.”

“I won’t soon forget this clash between these two very different kinds of resolve, one so sealed off, closed in; the other cracked wide open, a conduit for the pain of the world.”

“Termination in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal coercion of First Nations into Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. To do this the Harper government announced three new policy measures…”

“@PMHarper has been completely silent about Chief Spence and Idle No More, while cracking jokes about everything from the CBC to Chinchillas. (Update: Just after 4p.m. EST today, @PMHarper Tweeted “mmm… bacon,” accompanied by a video clip from the Simpsons. No, seriously.)”

“First Nations officially put Prime Minister Harper on notice. They plan to file a legal injunction to stop him from ratifying FIPA, the secretive and extreme Canada-China investors’ deal.”

It’s worth noting that, unlike former PM Paul Martin (quoted in the Guardian article), PM Harper is on record denying colonialism in Canada: “We are one of the most stable regimes in history. There are very few countries that can say for nearly 150 years they’ve had the same political system without any social breakdown, political upheaval or invasion. We are unique in that regard. We also have no history of colonialism.” He made the comment at a press conference at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit in September 2009; it’s quoted in Colonial Reckoning, National Reconciliation, a special 2009 issue of English Studies in Canada 35.1 (2009).

(Emphasis added; thanks to WG for this reference.)

An overview of current threats to balanced copyright and a free Internet

This blog, 17 Jan. 2012

This blog, 17 Jan. 2012

Under neoliberal hegemony, the critical decisions of state governance continue to retreat from the formal, public political sphere to the private corporate sphere of lobbying and trade negotiations. That retreat deliberately makes it harder to detect and track political-economic transformations; however, the present freedom of the Internet goes far to bring some of these to light. Which is likely why the Internet itself is such a major target for increasingly restrictive and repressive political and economic regulations.

This post just presents a summary of those major current threats to Internet freedom and balance in the copyright regime; they represent an array of policies, trade and vendor agreements, legal practices, and digital techniques. The list does give more attention to threats and issues facing Canada specifically. If you know of other such threats, please feel free to comment below.

This is already a lot to keep track of, but what else is this list missing?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: not in Canada’s interests

As Ottawa trade expert Peter Clark observes of the Harper government’s neoliberal agenda, when it comes to international trade – in CETA, FIPPA, and the TPP – “everything is on the table” (69, my emphasis).

Clark has posted a detailed, plain-speaking, and highly critical analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a USA-led, Pacific-rim trade negotiation to which Canada has been admitted … as a “second-tier” participant with no say in whatever the deal ends up demanding. A self-professed advocate of free trade, Clark nevertheless roundly criticizes the TPP here, mainly for its considerable imbalance – in favour of interests that are not Canada’s own (24).

In trade agreements, the devil is always in the details – and when it comes to the TPP, the devils travel in packs.

The TPP has been widely criticized by copyright experts (like Michael Geist) for leaked draft chapters concerning its intellectual property regulations: “The TPP could result in extra-territorial application of U.S. laws, particularly in the Intellectual Property area, including criminalization of non-commercial infringement” (Clark 26). The TPP has also been criticized for its extreme and anti-democratic but all too typical secrecy, and for the uncertainty over what exactly Canada stands to gain at the table here – relative to what it stands to lose.

The TPP is not all about sandals, diapers, detergents and cucumbers. In some ways it is about how we live, our healthcare, access to medicare and our way of life. It is about how we preserve our heritage and culture. And it is about how those whose ideas shape so many things are properly compensated for their achievements. … At this point, participation in the TPP raises more questions for Canada than it answers. As noted, with Japan as a participant there could be real gains. Without it, TPP as currently envisaged would more likely be a gift to Washington with benefits to Canada being marginal and illusory. Fortunately for Canada, Trade Minister Ed Fast has made it clear that Canada will not accept bad or unbalanced trade deals. Break a leg, Minister. (13, 18, my emphasis)

Critiques aside, there are a number of resources to take action against the TPP. There’s a Facebook Stop the TPPA page, and the Stop The Trap website, which focuses on the TPP’s copyright chapters, features a petition that now shows over 120,000 signatures.

As Canada’s neoliberal government ramps up its ecologically hazardous sell-out of Canadian resources, its Orwellian rewriting of Canadian history, its systematic attack on working people, and its dismantling of Canadian sovereignty, Canadians need to do all we can to send the message to Parliament that these are massive political risks it takes at the price, ultimately, of its own credibility and power to govern.

How you know you’ve arrived as a popular culture scholar

When a reader likens your work to porn. (Favourably.)

The work in question is my chapter in the new collection Selves and Subjectivities: Reflections on Canadian Arts and Culture, edited by Manijeh Mannani and Veronica Thompson, out now from AU Press – in purchasable print and free, Open Access e-book formats.

“By examining how writers and performers have conceptualized and negotiated issues of personal identity in their work, the essays collected in Selves and Subjectivities investigate emerging representations of self and other in contemporary Canadian arts and culture.”

Open letter to Canada Trade Agreement Secretariat, about the FIPA Canada-China trade deal

Dear Canada Trade Agreement Secretariat,
I am writing to state my strenuous opposition to the FIPA Canada-China trade deal, and my just as strenuous opposition to the undemocratic manner in which it has been negotiated, with neither meaningful public consultation nor meaningful parliamentary debate.
FIPA represents a reckless compromise to Canada’s resource sovereignty, environmental protections, and even our very democracy. It must at least be subjected to meaningful analysis and debate, and not be forced as an inordinate political, economic, and ecological burden on our children and grandchildren.

Send your own message to Canada’s Trade Agreement Secretariat via this link.

For the facts about FIPA, the @leadnowca and @sum_of_us campaigns have produced a website, and this fact sheet (click for full-size printable PDF):

Flash fiction, science fiction, and the shape of things to come

I’m pleased to see that one of my flash fiction tweets for the CBC “Tweets from 2112” contest made the adjudicators’ all-stars list in the Environment category.

I don’t have anywhere near the time I’d like to devote to writing fiction and poetry, so I’m not above hyping either flash fiction generally (see Jeff Noon for an exemplar of the form) or this particular honourable mention, especially since the event was run by Canadian SF luminary Robert J. Sawyer, with adjudicators from SF Canada.

“Tweets from 2112” was organized as a contest, but took shape as an absorbing (=distracting) literary experiment in collective speculative fiction. I submitted several flash fiction tweets to it, but the one chosen for the all-stars list is the one I’m happiest with as a self-contained narrative…and as a flash back from the kind of future I can’t help imagining as most plausible.

Here are the others I wrote, reports from possible futures all contingent on the particular present (as Frederic Jameson theorizes what SF does).

These other submissions are maybe more satirical than science-fictional; as the contest developed, I couldn’t resist leveraging the contest tag, once it was trending, to do some consciousness-raising too, in this case about the urgent issue of #FIPA, the secretive, $64 billion, 31-year trade deal between Canada and China, which stands to get Royal Assent anytime now without so much as a single minute of debate in Parliament – despite the repeated questions of opposition MPs and several citizen petitions, the biggest of which now has over 70,000 signatures. FIPA is basically a trade treaty that commits Canada to exporting more climate change in the coming decades. As David Suzuki explains it:

Why would anyone want to sell out our interests, democratic processes and future like this? And why would we put up with it? On the first question, Gus Van Harten, an international investment law professor at Osgoode Hall Law School [and an outspoken critic of FIPA], told Desmog Blog we must consider the possibility that government and industry know that changes in attitudes about fossil fuel extraction “may lead to new regulations on the oil patch, in that, climate can’t just be wished away forever, and that governments might take steps to regulate the oil patch in ways that investors wouldn’t like.” He continues, “If you bring in a lot of Chinese investments, and you sign the Canada investment deal, you kind of get the Chinese investors to do your dirty work for you.”
In other words, as the world recognizes the already extreme and increasing consequences of global warming and shifts from wastefully burning fossil fuels to conservation and renewable energy, tar sands bitumen may soon become uneconomical. The goal is to dig it up, sell it and burn it as quickly as possible while there’s still money to be made. It’s cynical and suicidal, but it’s the kind of thinking that is increasingly common among those who see the economy as the highest priority — over human health and the air, water, soil and biodiverse ecosystems that keep us alive.

FIPA thus points to a compromised, colonized future for Canada’s energy industry, a dire, costly future for the nation’s democracy and resource sovereignty, and a further diminishment of Canada’s standing in the international community. It is not the Canada I would leave to the next generation, whose survival, never mind prosperity, deals like FIPA squander and endanger.

Which is why I find it hard to imagine a world in 2112 that isn’t fundamentally post-apocalyptic, finally laid waste by corporate greed that now seems bent on its own ultimate collapse, on the cannibalizing of its own institutions, before we can collectively imagine a different future, another world. These are dangerous, precipitous days, on the cusp or arguably even already past the tipping point of globalized climate catastrophe. In this context, science fiction has important consciousness-raising work to do, in ringing the alarm now sounded far and wide by the genre’s present preoccupations with (zombie) apocalypse and post-apocalypse.

Which brings me to a short hypothesis about science fiction’s projecting power. Setting aside, for the moment, the critical consensus (following Jameson) that science fiction is best understood as a literature of commentary on the present, not the future, what nevertheless can we see of the genre’s power to project if not predict the shape of things to come?

Take “cyberpunk” for example. As the most popular science fiction of thirty years ago, this subgenre might reasonably be said to have projected an accurate image of today’s globalized, corporate-ruled, digitally networked, and simulacrum-haunted world.

Now take “post-apocalypse” for another example: it’s arguably, at present, the most popular subgenre of science fiction today. What might post-apocalypse, the most popular science fiction of today, project about our world thirty years from now?

We need to heed these reports from our possible futures, lest we find ourselves doomed to produce them.

Work Cited
Suzuki, David. “China deal and budget sacrifice democracy to short-term goals.” David Suzuki Foundation 25 Oct. 2012.

Open letter to #HOC International Trade Committee: The #FIPA Canada-China trade deal needs study and debate

To: House of Commons International Trade Committee – Rob Merrifield (rob.merrifield@parl.gc.ca), Ron Cannan (ron.cannan@parl.gc.ca), Russ Hiebert (russ.hiebert@parl.gc.ca), Ed Holder (ed.holder@parl.gc.ca), Gerald Keddy (gerald.keddy@parl.gc.ca), Bev Shipley (bev.shipley@parl.gc.ca), Devinder Shory (devinder.shory@parl.gc.ca)

Subject: Please support MP Don Davies’ motion to study and debate the Canada-China FIPA treaty

Dear Members of the House of Commons International Trade Committee,

This Thursday, October 25th, NDP International Trade Critic Don Davies will put forward an important motion to conduct a full study of the Canada-China FIPA trade treaty, and to call for postponing its ratification until it gets proper study and parliamentary debate. I am writing to ask you to support that motion.

I understand the House has been debating a trade deal with Panama, worth $213 million, since the spring. This FIPA treaty, worth an estimated $64 billion and to be in force for decades, demands study and debate in its own right.[1] FIPA could compromise the Canadian government’s ability to set policies in the public interest; it exposes taxpayers to expensive litigation and damages; and international investment treaty expert Gus Van Harten suggests that it may even be unconstitutional.[2] A recent Angus-Reid poll shows three of four Canadians oppose foreign governmental control of our resources.[3]

I urge you to support Mr. Davies’ motion, in the interests of Canadian democracy and resource sovereignty.

Thank you for considering this encouragement from a concerned citizen.

Sincerely, [YT]


[1] May, Elizabeth. “The threat to Canada’s sovereignty – what we are giving to China.” Island Tides. 18 Oct. 2012. Web.

[2] Van Harten, Gus. “Canada-China FIPPA agreement may be unconstitutional, treaty law expert says.” Vancouver Observer 17 Oct. 2012. Web.

[3] Beers, David. “Three of four Canadians against ceding control of resources to foreign governments: poll.” The Hook 20 Oct. 2012. Web.

(Thanks to Thomas Mulcair for today’s #FIPA update e-mail, from which I’ve adapted some wording here.)

Open letter to my MP about #FIPA, the un-debated Canada-China trade deal

This is the e-mail I sent to my MP this week about the imminent #FIPA (or #FIPPA) trade pact the government plans to pass by November 1. I have adapted some of the text from a form letter provided by the Council of Canadians.

Subject: Please push for debate on Canada-China corporate rights pact (FIPA)

Dear [MP],
I am opposed to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). These investment agreements are nothing but corporate rights pacts that put public policy at risk from costly, secretive lawsuits. They undermine democracy. And the particular interests of parties to this deal stand to gravely extend the corporate extraction industry’s environmental harms too.
At the very least, Parliament should have the opportunity to debate and make changes to the treaty, or to eventually reject it if MPs determine it is not in Canada’s best interests.
Australia has discontinued the practice of including investor protection dispute mechanisms in trade deals like this; that is an approach Canada should consider. (Ideally, I would like to see a plebiscite mechanism implemented to debate and publicly ratify deals like this, but Canada at present is far from an ideal democracy.)
I look forward to your response and thank you for your hard work on behalf of our riding.

– [YT]

The #FIPA deal compromises Canadian democracy and resource sovereignty, and is arguably unconstitutional. Yet it has received very little media attention, will commit Canada to at least fifteen years, and stands to pass entirely without debate in little over a week. As Elizabeth May writes:

the House has been debating C-42, the Canada-Panama trade agreement since last spring (total volume of trade $213 million.) and we had six days debate in the House and 6 days in Committee before passing C-23, the Canada-Jordan trade agreement (volume of trade $90 million.) This sweeping deal with China is not due for a single hour of debate before passage (trade volume $64 billion.)

If you are concerned – alarmed – about this trade treaty, write to your MP to demand the Opposition make it a debate topic on Opposition Day. There’s also a petition you can sign – as nearly 50,000 Canadians already have done.
Trade deals like this clearly show what Chris Hedges calls “the hollowness of electoral politics”: the neoliberal governments of the (over)developed world today act less to serve and protect the public interest than to facilitate the extractions and exploitations of multinational corporations, the imperial powers that have colonized us. We need to look as closely at trade treaties as we look at formal legislation, as more and more machinations of ruling power retreat into their Byzantine shadows.

“Political correctness”: decoding a vicious, pernicious code word

I always cringe when I hear the phrase “political correctness” being used. It’s a deeply coded phrase, and what it encodes is a stubborn, neoconservative cultural politics, a politics of entitlement and disrespect. And yet that politics is so deeply coded that one encounters the phrase being used by people who should know better; and maybe they will learn to avoid the phrase, if they take the time to get caught up on its context and complexity. If I never see it being taken out and waved around in public discourse again, it will be too soon.

In the late 1980s and ’90s, North American academia – and the Humanities and social sciences sector more specifically – found itself in a war of words and policies not only among its own stakeholders, but also with policymakers, and with corporate news media – which, let’s remember, held far more cultural and discursive sway then, before the popularization of the Internet in the mid-’90s. This encounter became known as the “Culture Wars.” In his critical retrospective, Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars, U of Guelph Professor Emeritus Michael Keefer describes the Culture Wars as “a widespread perception of crisis in North American higher education, a perception stemming largely from the outcries over ‘political correctness’ in American and Canadian universities that began in the late 1980s” and continued until the mid-1990s (Keefer vi). Understood in retrospect as a “moral panic” created and fueled by neoconservative ideologues (e.g. Rush Limbaugh, George F. Will, Allan Bloom) to justify the defunding and privatizing of the Humanities and social sciences, the “PC furore” revolved around the coded buzzword “political correctness.”

“Political correctness” remains in use today, usually as a pejorative term that neoconservatives use to ridicule or criticize progressive or left-leaning events or persons, to conjure moral panic over freedom of speech, or to otherwise vilify criticism of inappropriate or untenable claims. Take this Maclean’s article from last year, for instance, which uses the phrase to dismiss the UN’s quite legitimate critique of Canada’s policy language of “visible minorities.”

One of the usual suspects

The phrase also gets an annual dusting-off during the holiday season in neoconservative news media reports of a purported “war on Christmas.” The phrase has nothing like the traction it had in the early 1990s – when you couldn’t swing a black and smoking Christmas tree without hitting some old white fart brandishing a new book denouncing the censorious menace of “PC” – but it has persisted, viciously and perniciously, in everyday speech, popular culture, and public discourse. “Political correctness” is still a card quickly played by conservative or otherwise privileged voices who complain of being “censored” – not just the usual rightwing media suspects, but also a curious and tenacious class of strident yet paranoid academics whose definitions of political correctness – as some kind of discursive “tyranny,” or liberal conspiracy, or “threat” to academic freedom – have helped establish the phrase as a rhetorical stick with which to beat progressive intellectuals. Or intellectuals generally, for that matter. I’m not linking to any such definitions or diatribes. Google “political correctness” if you want, and then take in the lunacy of even just the first page of results. But I will stoop to briefly administer some undeserved oxygen of publicity to a recent example in peer-reviewed scholarship – on account of its windy bombast, and its startling success in finding refereed publication some twenty years after this party more or less ended:

One of the abominations of our day, and there are many, is the beast of political correctness that has been turned loose on the world. Born of genuine humanitarian impulses, it now threatens to devour much of what is greatest in our literature and forever separate the children of our culture from what is essential to their humanity. (272)

Whoa, this opener makes PC sound like a Monsanto product. Actually, in this particular article, this chimerical “beast” threatens to suggest that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a racist text, instead of just a “beautifully written” one that “should still be read” (278) – as though analyzing the book’s racism somehow means we shouldn’t, or haven’t.

But – its purported “beastliness” and “tyranny” aside – what does the phrase actually mean, as a phrase so cherished and widespread in neoconservative usage? “For the sake of reporters and columnists who might want to come clean and openly mock the virtues that would otherwise remain hidden by the PC label,” Keefer directs our attention to Wayne Booth’s “list of synonyms for political correctness”:

(1) decency; (2) legality; (3) moral or ethical standards; (4) justice, fairness, equality of opportunity; (5) tact, courtesy, concern about hurting people’s feelings unnecessarily; (6) generosity; (7) kindness; (8) courage in defending the underdog; (9) anti-bigotry; (10) anti-racism; (11) anti-anti-Semitism; (12) anti-fascism; (13) anti-sexism; (14) refusal to kneel to mammon; (15) sympathetic support for the jobless, the homeless, the impoverished, or the abused; (16) preservation of an environment in which human life might survive; (17) openness to the possibility that certain popular right-wing dogmas just might be erroneous. (qtd. in Keefer 11)

More plain-spoken versions of this definition appear as ripostes to a diatribe against political correctness that was published (unsurprisingly enough) on the Richard Dawkins Foundation website:

“Political Correctness” – Buzzword used to express the absurd notion that the majority is being dominated by the minorities. (foundationist)

Political correctness is formalised good manners. It has been a benefit to society. Before it became influential it was common to see overt racism, sexism, homophobia, jokes about the disabled and so on. Fortunately a culture of respect for diversity developed and with it a culture of disrespect for rudeness – political correctness. … The term ‘political correctness’ can be used as a verbal weapon by those who want to do extreme things, things which would attack equality and human rights. When others complain, the response ‘that’s just political correctness’ is supposed to be a conversation stopper, because political correctness is supposed to be wrong. Complaining about political correctness is as absurd as complaining about good manners. The response ‘that’s just political correctness’ usually translates as ‘that’s just being polite’. (Zara)

In other words, “political correctness” is a nasty way to describe talking nicely, as though talking nicely is nasty. This rhetorical duplicity, coupled with the privileged, dominant positions from which pronouncements on political correctness typically come, has made the phrase “political correctness” slippery, robust, and insidious. The phrase thus provides a present-day example of “political speech and writing” as “the defense of the indefensible,” as criticized by George Orwell, in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English language.” The phrase “political correctness” is a perfect example of a phrase whose cryptic complexity lets it smuggle into one’s speech or writing a formidable freight of covert (and perhaps, sometimes, unintended) meanings that can detract from or even derail the point of a statement in which it’s used, when it’s not being openly used to justify oppression.

Amidst the flame wars, troll rampages, and other hostilities that attend a digital mediascape much more populous and interactive than it was in the mid-1990s, it is a tragedy of English vocabulary and public discourse that one of the main progressive take-away points from the “political correctness” furore – that we be courteous, thoughtful, sensitive, inclusive, and above all respectful in our language – has been lost, body-snatched by a sneaky and vicious code word for the privileged, entitled, and bigoted to claim not only license but even moral high ground for their vituperative sound and fury.

Works cited

Booth, Wayne. “A politically correct letter to the newspaper.” Democratic Culture 3.1 (1994): 2.

Curtler, Hugh Mercer. “Political correctness and the attack on great literature.” Modern Age 51.3-4 (2009): 272-79.

Derry, Alex. “Political correctness gone mad?” Maclean’s 10 Aug. 2011

foundationist. Comment 2 re: “A challenge to the politically correct.” Richard Dawkins Foundation. 20 Apr. 2011

Keefer, Michael. Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars. Toronto: Anansi, 1996. Print.

Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” Horizon Apr. 1946. Rpt. in Stanford U. Web.

Zara, Steve. Comment 4 re: “A challenge to the politically correct.” Richard Dawkins Foundation. 20 Apr. 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Research as a Public Good

Buffy and her friends spend a lot of time reading. This is uncharacteristic enough for a Hollywood prime-time serial drama (it’s practically un-American). But more specifically, they spend a lot of time doing research: finding the most authoritative sources on a subject, reading up, and discussing what they read. And it’s rare that the research doesn’t pay off, in one way or another; most often, it pays off in critical discoveries and insights, knowledge of the situations, events, and adversaries they face, of the histories that have produced them, and sometimes even of vital knowledge of self. That knowledge reliably then helps Buffy to kick serious demonic ass. Buffy the Vampire Slayer routinely dramatizes research in action as a public good.

Rupert Giles, “watcher” and librarian-turned-entrepreneur

One of the main protagonists, the “watcher” Giles – Buffy’s supervisor and paternal sort of mentor – is a librarian, who runs the high school library. For all the predictable tweedy jokes, the character is an essential part of the team, as readily looked to as leader as the slayer herself. Giles demonstrates research best practices by cultivating an important specialist collection (although its place in a public secondary school is curious, and sometimes challenged by parents and other authority characters), by identifying the best sources on certain subjects, and by putting in the time and effort that research needs to take if it is to prove valuable.

In an early, character-establishing first-season episode, Buffy’s friend Willow asks Giles:

–How is it you always know this stuff? You always know whats going on. I never know whats going on.
–You werent here from midnight till six researching it.

This is a teachable moment: in subsequent episodes, the whole team is often shown in marathon, wee-hours research tableaus and montages. Here are still frames from one such typical montage, in season three’s episode 10 (“Amends”).

Need some books

Need more books, and a whiteboard

Sunnydale High: ahead of the trend in allowing food in the library

For the first three seasons, then, the school library is a regular setting for scenes in the series, scenes of research, and of modeling how to do research. The library setting also thus comments on the anti-intellectual ideology that’s more common and prevalent in popular culture. Except for the main protagonists, the school library is usually deserted. When student character extras enter, the protagonists meet them with surprise and bewilderment. That the library has an extensive specialized collection of rare and ancient texts on withcraft and demonology goes largely unnoticed by other characters, except in one third-season episode (“Gingerbread’) in which Buffy’s mother spearheads a moral panic and literal witch hunt, leading to the police confiscation of Giles’ specialist archive, and culminating in a witch- and book-burning denouement.

Just some light weekend reading for Willow

The series script regularly has characters recognizing a need for and then conducting research, often in montage scenes to suggest the significant time and effort that goes into the research process. There are plenty of jokes about how research is tiring, isn’t fun, and so on, but the protagonists still commit to it – and it usually brings results. Their research regularly results in knowledge that helps and often saves individuals, groups, the town, the world. The series reinforces its valuation of research too by dramatizing inattention and lack of rigour as research practice errors that make bad situations worse. For instance, in the third-season episode in which an imported face mask begins producing zombies, an early scene shows Giles absentmindedly turning pages in a book, ostensibly researching, but flipping past the page that illustrates and describes the mask. The show makes it imperative not only that one does one’s homework, but that one does it well: using the best sources and reading them diligently.

Researching in Giles’ home library

As the series progresses, the fact that Buffy and her team graduate from high school and go to college doesn’t change their need to do research, but changes the dramatic sites in which research is done. Interestingly, in the fourth season, as Buffy and Willow begin college, the first episode briefly shows the college library as a serious research library that dwarfs the school’s; however, the protagonists are never shown doing research there. That they refrain from researching in the university library suggests that library – unlike the school’s – does actually get used by other students, and doesn’t house the specialized archive they need. So instead, the library moves, becomes portable – and, interestingly, more privatized. In the fourth season, most of the research is done at Giles’ own home.

As Buffy and Xander read up, Giles climbs up to his shop’s not-for-sale book section

In the fifth season, when he buys the town magic shop, this retail store becomes the repository for Giles’ collection and the primary site in which the team carries out its researches.

The series thus both promotes the value of research as a public good, and – ironically if not downright paradoxically – performs the privatization of research resources, in the migration of the team’s library from the high school, to the librarian’s home, to a retail store. Buffy the Vampire rewards rewatching today with a critical eye to its representations of research, given significant developments in research and its regulation. At the global level, the various policies and trade deals that purport to strengthen copyright law, taken together, represent a multilateral, globalized campaign not only to protect Big Content businesses but even to control the Internet, to regulate and curb its demonstrated potential to subvert modern forms of state governance. At the regional level, the overdeveloped Anglophone world (e.g. the USA, the UK, Canada) privileges private corporate interests whose client governments are carrying out a systematic program of what political science professor Janine Brodie calls “manufactured ignorance”: the active destruction – through “austerity” and other policy measures – of citizens’ “social literacy,” that is, a people’s knowledge of self and history as a people. Canada, for example, has recently witnessed deep budget cuts to libraries, archives, and public broadcasting, as well as the active government muzzling of climate change researchers. To retrieve, today, a popular cultural product, from the not-so-distant past, that prominently promotes research as the first step of effective social action – a vital contribution to the public good – is a most welcome research result. It’s a lesson in history, as conceptualized by Walter Benjamin: history is the critical image that flashes before you at a moment of danger. And so, I might add, is research.

Works Cited

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Writ. Joss Whedon. Warner Bros./Paramount, 1997-2003.

Brodie, Janine. “Manufacturing ignorance: Harper, the census, social inequality.Canada Watch Spring 2011. 30-31. http://robarts.info.yorku.ca/files/2012/03/CW_Spring2011.pdf

—. “On courage, social justice, and policymaking.” Rabble.ca 16 Sept. 2012. http://rabble.ca/news/2011/09/courage-social-justice-and-policy-making

Screen frames from Buffy the Vampire Slayer used under fair dealing provisions of Canadian copyright law.