The Wind of Change

“What is multicultural in Canada pales with what one finds in India where you have so many different languages being spoken; where you have so many different cultures and different religions brought together in a single very populous country,” says Dr. William Coleman, political studies professor at McMaster University. “One comes away from India with so many impressions.”

For Coleman, those impressions were made in January and February 2007 after he was awarded the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, Canadian Studies Visiting Lectureship and took part in a three-week lecture tour, speaking on globalization and multiculturalism and globalization and indigenous peoples at a number of institutions in India. “The Shastri Institute made possible a very unique opportunity in the sense that otherwise it would have been very difficult to visit all of those places in such a systematic way and to meet people who already had expressed interest in my research,” he says of the many scholars and students he met while there.

Coleman’s involvement with the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute began as a result of his increasing research interest in the area of globalization. In 1998, he founded the Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition at McMaster University and with that initiative, got involved in a large research project on globalization and autonomy.

“Through that research I realized that part of my own training had glossed over some of the important changes that were taking place in what some people called the developing world,” says Coleman. “I became increasingly interested in the changing aspects of India as a major growing economic and political power in the world.”

The lectureship was a means of building an initial dialogue with scholars in India about what globalization means in their country, what are the possibilities for advancement and what are the obstacles to change, he says.

But the dialogue continued well beyond Coleman’s three-week visit including this past September at a conference he organized in Waterloo titled “Building South and North Dialogue on Globalization Research” where he was able to invite three of the scholars he met during his lectureship. “My thinking about the need for that conference really grew out of my visit to India,” he says. “One of the things I learned from the trip which I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of research going on globalization in a country like India that isn’t really visible in the North…there is something wrong here; that knowledge of globalization isn’t itself being globalized.”

From a professional standpoint, Coleman says the lectureship provided an opportunity to create a basis for further research but also helped him make that desired shift in his career. But the effects of the trip also extended far beyond his work.” It was my first time going to India and the visit had a tremendous personal impact on me… It was a personal growing experience and I don’t know if I had something quite that intense in my life before that came in such a short period of time.