JHI Alumni Spotlight—Daniel McNeil

Submitted by Sonja Johnston on Wed, 09/30/2020 - 15:01
JHI Alumni Spotlight features past Fellows and their current work

As the October deadline approaches for the 2021-22 Visiting Public Humanities Faculty Fellow application, we caught up with Daniel McNeil, the first person to hold the Fellowship last year. He fills us in about his time at the JHI, his Visiting Public Humanities Faculty Fellowship experience and what he’s working on now.

Daniel is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University. He obtained his PhD in History from the University of Toronto in 2007 and has many years of experience nurturing interdisciplinary communities, fostering innovations in pedagogy, and leading public outreach work in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

JHI: Can you summarize the projects you worked on while at the JHI?

DM: I worked on three research projects at the JHI. The first scrutinized stereotypes that position migrants as alien wedges who threaten to pollute the nation and self-regulating citizens. The second explored how multiculturalism has been configured as banal across a range of disciplines and fields of inquiry. The third wrestled with the provocative, explorative and heuristic work developed by Black militants, mavericks and malcontents in the post-civil rights era.

JHI: What was your JHI Visiting Public Humanities Faculty Fellowship experience like?

DM: The fellowship reaffirmed my faith in the ability of the humanities to foster imaginative, collegial, and transformative exchanges. The presentations of tech-savvy students sharpened my thinking about cultural critics who deliver nostalgic and elegiac reflections about the deskilling and decline of popular culture. My work was also boosted by the public-facing research of visiting artists from Public Studio, the writer Amitav Ghosh, and faculty fellows.

JHI: How has your work in the public humanities been (or how do you think your work will be) impacted by events over the past few months (COVID-19 pandemic/BLM/Indigenous/social justice movements)?

DM: The fellowship provided a range of material and symbolic resources that have informed my thinking and anti-racist praxis. Over the past few months, I have worked with colleagues at Carleton to organize against anti-Black racism where we are situated, and develop concrete and material demands to help redress the legacies of systemic anti-Black racism in our community.

JHI: What are you doing/working on now?

DM: I am currently teaching classes on Black Popular Culture and African and Black Diaspora Studies, and contributing to a number of informal and formal networks that are taking serious, ambitious strides towards the creation of an anti-racist university.

I’m also working on a number of events with the co-editors of the recently published book, Migration and Stereotypes in Performance and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), to discuss the so-called “migration crisis,” the rise of right-wing populism and related events and movements that have been linked to the intensification and proliferation of stereotypes about migrants. One upcoming event is “Who Belongs? A conversation about migration and stereotypes”, which will work with the audience to develop historically-informed approaches to migration, confront questions of inclusion and exclusion in our contemporary context, and consider forward-looking approaches to identity and belonging.


I am also looking forward to the publication of three manuscripts: a new book on a political and cultural generation that came of age in the break between the civil rights and post-civil rights era; an essay that brings African Canadian History into conversation with broader Black Atlantic intellectual traditions; and an article that builds on my work on “shy elitism”  – the intriguing mix of academic credentialism and anti-intellectualism that has confined and defined the study of immigration, multiculturalism and race relations in Canada and elsewhere.