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Photo courtesy Alex Michaels

U of C doctoral student celebrated as the newest Trudeau Scholar

By Eula Mengullo, July 27 2022

University of Calgary English doctoral student, Jamie Michaels, is the latest recipient of the prestigious Trudeau Scholarship.

A multifaceted person, Michaels is a writer, educator and filmmaker from Winnipeg. His most recent graphic novel, Christie Pits, depicts the riot that erupted between immigrants and proto-fascists in Toronto during the 1930s. His work has been adapted as a documentary and is currently anticipated to be released as an animated film.

As a doctoral student in the English department, Michaels’ research presents the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in comic book form, highlighting both Jewish and Arab perspectives. His research aims to use popular mediums such as comics and animations to broaden the dialogue on important issues pertaining to politics and human rights, and reaching a wider audience beyond academia.

In a written response to the Gauntlet, Michaels described his research and the inspiration behind his work on bridging the Israeli-Palestinian cultural divide.

“As a Jewish-Canadian with family living in Israel, I have skin in the game,” he said. “I’ve also developed friendships in the Palestinian community that are deeply meaningful to me. In doing so, I became deeply troubled by the disheartening parallels of our peoples’ respective narratives. This led me outside of the confines of my own tradition. Sometimes to be an effective and moral leader within a cultural community, it is imperative to spend time outside of it.”

Aside from the funding and research support that the Trudeau Scholarship offers, it also gives doctoral candidates the opportunity to partake in a three-year leadership program. Through the Trudeau Foundation, Michaels is afforded the opportunity to spend his inaugural year working under the mentorship of Stanford professor Richard Thompson Ford.

“Both of us consider questions of race and multiculturalism from very different frameworks. We’re both committed to writing for both popular and academic audiences, albeit in very different ways. As such, I’m keen to see the ways our ideas will intersect and how these frameworks might challenge, and ultimately enrich, my own approaches to multicultural scholarship,” he said.

While reflecting on this unique opportunity, Michaels also emphasized the economic barriers that many academics are facing today. He remarked on the discrepancy between the work that scholars are capable of achieving and the funding that is available to them.

“I’m grateful for the incredibly rare opportunity — this scholarship affords me to focus on my research. That being said, I want to highlight the fact that many Canadian graduate students continue to receive funding that falls below the poverty line,” he said. “Increasing internal minimum stipends for graduate students and sessional rates for under-compensated academics would better enable their important research to flourish.”

Besides being named as the newest Trudeau Scholar, Michaels is also a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Bombardier Doctoral Fellow and Killam Laureate at the U of C.

Overall, Michaels aspires to help alleviate the gap between Israelis and Palestinians in understanding their shared history.

“It’s easy to be angry. Understanding takes work. My hope is that my research can play a small role in enabling Israelis and Palestinians to understand each other, and also serve as a reminder of the costs in failing to do so.”

For more information on Michaels’ work and the Trudeau Scholarship, visit the U of C website.

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