2022 Impact Awards—Connection Award winner: Jordan Stanger-Ross

In a discipline where solo research is the norm, University of Victoria historian Jordan Stanger-Ross’ research has been defined by connection with other academics, community organizations and professionals outside the academy to tell the story of the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. His groundbreaking SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary collaboration, Landscapes of Injustice, is an unprecedented analysis of the seizure and selling of Japanese Canadians’ homes, farms, businesses and belongings, including heirlooms, which revealed a new history of Canada’s internment era—one that told a different story from the prevailing view.

“Before our project, the harms perpetrated against Japanese Canadians in the 1940s were most often understood as a temporary misstep of Canadian politicians at a time of war. We proved widespread complicity in an injustice with scant connection to any exigency of war and that carried permanent impacts,” says Stanger-Ross.

The research for this SSHRC Partnership Grant project began with an in-depth study of archival materials. Federal records uncovered widespread looting and vandalism of Japanese Canadian property and allowed researchers to identify the officials who neglected their duty as trustees and then forced the sale of what remained. Land titles showed the economic benefits to those who acquired the land of Japanese Canadians, while specifying the extent of the community’s losses. Court records demonstrated how Japanese Canadians fought against dispossession, and oral histories revealed the memories and silences of the decades since. Ultimately, Landscapes of Injustice told a new history of a major expression of systemic racism in Canada.

“Landscapes of Injustice began in conversations at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre [located in Burnaby, BC],” says Stanger-Ross. And, by asking questions together, Stanger-Ross and his multidisciplinary, community-based team were able to bring to the forefront the intergenerational trauma of many Japanese Canadians.

“The work of repair takes place within a context of irreparable harm. At the same time, Japanese Canadians, both individually and communally, pushed back and then rebuilt lives in Canada in inspiring ways. It was only in the context of that remarkable effort, and with the support of remarkable members of the community, that our project was possible.”

Stanger-Ross is extremely grateful for SSHRC support, especially for the Partnership Grants.

“Particularly in the discipline of history, where we tend to work alone, it has been wonderfully encouraging for the most important funding agency in my field to encourage interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration.”

“Large-scale collaboration, however, is challenging and expensive. SSHRC partnership funding has made it possible for me to work with people who have taught me a great deal and increased exponentially the impact and significance of my work.”

But it is not just about his connection with other academics and community partners, Stanger-Ross adds.

“My SSHRC-funded projects have offered over 150 positions to students and recent graduates. Working with these young people has been the most fulfilling teaching of my life. Students come to our projects with a commitment to antiracism, and their time here at university helps them build skills to contribute meaningfully to social justice.”

“Winning the Connection Award offers affirmation for our entire team. Our work has not been easy. Questions abound about who has the right to tell this story. The pain of the dispossession is still felt, and its direct beneficiaries can still be identified. There are good reasons for this history of betrayal to be closely guarded,” notes Stanger-Ross.

“We are convinced, though, that partnership across difference is essential to the cause of anti-racism. Winning this recognition from SSHRC helps to confirm that many others also see the benefits of our efforts.”

About the award

The annual Impact Awards recognize the highest achievements in SSHRC-funded research, knowledge mobilization and scholarship, as well as the highest achievements resulting from a SSHRC fellowship awarded.

The Connection Award recognizes an outstanding SSHRC-funded initiative to facilitate the flow and exchange of research knowledge within and/or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community.

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