Deborah Cowen

Study program:
Department of Geography and Planning
Current affiliation:
University of Toronto

Professor Deborah Cowen's research looks at how conflicts over infrastructures have come to define our political landscape. She rethinks citizenship through case studies in energy, transport and security with movements and communities who contest infrastructures of injustice, and work to assemble alternatives.

Trudeau project: Reassembling the Infrastructures of Citizenship

Project objectives:

Committing to a profoundly consultative and community-based process of knowledge production means that research outcomes cannot be defined in advance, yet this project will produce concrete outcomes of three distinct kinds:

1. The community-based building of a political process through deliberation and applied policy innovation. Outcomes will include reports from the four networks detailing innovative practices that could inform (transform?) the governance of infrastructure in Canada.
2. Conceptual insight through scholarly investigation of key challenges in the governance of infrastructure. Outcomes will include a series of papers addressing themes such as: public-private partnerships, finance and infrastructure, ‘participatory’ policing, the ‘right to infrastructure’, co-management models, and legal issues of jurisdiction.
3. A digital commons that will support creative vision through hosting, archiving and artistic production.

Find out more

Deborah Cowen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. She received her Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and urban geography, then went on to earn a Master of Science in Planning and a Ph.D. in geography, all at the University of Toronto. Her first teaching position was at the Royal Military College of Canada, and her career since has been varied, with positions ranging from postdoctoral fellow at York University and then New York University, to visiting scholar at the University of Amsterdam.

Deeply committed to social justice and transformation, Deb’s work addresses the politics of infrastructure. She has written about the suburbanization of poverty, issues of race and space, urban securitization, and the reach of war into civilian spaces. Deborah is the author of The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade, which was awarded the 2016 International Political Sociology Book Award. Her first book – Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada – and co-edited collection, War, Citizenship, Territory (with Emily Gilbert), have been widely read and reviewed. Deborah was a partner of the National Film Board of Canada’s award winning HIGHRISE project and film, Universe Within. Deborah has been involved in a range of research and arts interventions in communities in Toronto. She has delivered more than a dozen keynote lectures across as many disciplines. A long time editor of the journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and the Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation book series, she currently edits Duke University Press’ Errantries book series with Katherine McKittrick and Simone Browne and is a board member of the Groundswell Community Justice Trust Fund in Toronto.