Monitoring activism in the academy 

By Karen Herland

The old adage suggests that those who do are not those who teach. Anna Kruzynski is committed to connecting action and the academy.

Anna Kruzynski is settling in. Magnifying glass

Anna Kruzynski is settling in.

“The SCPA [School of Community and Public Affairs] brings together activism and scholarly work. That is quite rare,” said Kruzynski of her new position. She left a tenure track position in the Université de Montréal’s social work department this July for the SCPA faculty position.

“I love the atmosphere here — it’s small and convivial. It’s less alienating to be in a small department.”

That hands-on potential has been the hallmark of her research over the last several years, notably when she was invited to participate in a project at the Community Archives of Point St. Charles in 1998. Through the Archives she began working with a local activist, Isabelle Drolet, and a group of women who had been organizing in the community for (in some cases) decades.

“My research has always been action research, using a feminist methodology for social transformation, specifically in situations involving access to the public sphere for those who don’t usually have their voices documented.”

The four francophone and five anglophone women began meeting and developing a record of their past and current struggles around issues as varied as poverty, housing and health . The women were all living in the district and involved in battles they had a personal stake in, from daycare to street safety. Similarly, although the women did not have a specifically feminist agenda, they were making the private public, a recognized feminist strategy.

The Point has a long history of activism. For instance, the community health clinic, established there in the 1960s, was the model for provincial CLSCs. However, the community resisted the shift to provincial control for their initiative and opted to keep the Point St. Charles Community Clinic autonomous.

The five-year history-making process resulted in the publication of books in English and French by Les Editions rémue-ménage last year. When they began the project, “very little had been written by women on community organizing, even though 80 per cent of members in community organizations were women.”

Part reminiscence, part guidebook, The Point is…Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles sharing stories of solidarity is both an historical record of community action and a primer on how to fight city hall and beyond. The text is deliberately written in accessible language.

Although Kruzynski continues to be active in the community she calls home, she is currently involved with the CRAC, a research group on collective autonomy that is working to document the diversity and complexity of its own movement.

CRAC activists who want to participate are documenting anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, feminist and queer organizing in Quebec since the mid-1990s.

Through this project, funded by both the FQRSC and SSHRC, has been set up and in-depth case studies are underway on: collective gardens, a skill-share collective, an eco-radical group, a feminist autonomous radio show, a radical queer group, radical feminist networks and, most recently, on the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (CLAC).

The intention is to produce a range of materials including movement-relevant workshops and documents, books, as well as articles and conference papers that aim to fill a void in burgeoning research on Quebecois global justice movements.


Concordia University