A native of British Columbia, I completed a B.A. (1976) and M.A. (1978) at the University of British Columbia, and a PhD (1983) at UCLA. I taught in Geography and East Asian Studies at McGill University from 1983 to 1994, when I came to Queen’s, initially as Director of the Institute of Women’s Studies (1994 to 1999) and thereafter as Professor of Geography. I have spent time as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, University College London and, most recently, Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1994, I was a Fulbright Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC. Other positions include President of the Canadian Association of Geographers (1999-2001), and Editor, People Place and Region, Annals of the Association of American Geographers.
I view teaching, research, and community participation as part of a single process of learning and contributing to society. I believe that the classroom should be an open and safe place, where students can participate, think, challenge, make decisions, and be creative. I also believe that all university courses should provide an opportunity to improve reading and listening abilities, analytical skills, written and oral communication, and time management. In the classroom, I take every advantage of electronic technology both to present material in a manner that is well organized and accessible, and to make use of a variety of media of communication, including music, film and the internet. I place strong emphasis on the individual needs of students, especially in an interdisciplinary classroom where learning objectives vary. I keep an open door, and attempt to respond quickly and appropriately to students’ requests.
My courses in cultural and social geography emphasize the ways in which societies create the landscapes in which significant interactions among people take place. This approach always entails a historical perspective, to understand how things came to be. I place strong emphasis on the concept of landscape, as the world that people create and re-create in defining a place for themselves. And I focus on the ways in which various things and acts within a landscape intersect, such as the ways in which commodities reflect both economic and cultural systems, and become symbolic of individual and group identities.
My course on “’Race’ and Racism” has provided the most significant challenges and rewards of my teaching career. The classroom is diverse in every way. Nearly all of the students are there because they are committed to overcoming racism, but they have very different ideas of what that objective entails. From the first day of class, it is apparent that the class is divided into students of colour, who have experienced racism, and white students, who have a variety of perspectives on what racism means and a range of degrees of comfort with the subject. This is a difficult divide to overcome, but by the end of the course, nearly everyone, no matter what their background, has developed a sense of openness and a willingness to learn and to take stock of their own positions within society. Although there is much to be learned of historical ‘fact’, and of the workings of legislation and policy documents, this is not a subject matter that can be consigned to memory. It is often emotionally challenging for a diverse group of students to work together in a large classroom and to direct their responses to the subject matter in constructive ways.
My research interests revolve around the question of how process of human differentiation - race, class, gender, ability, national identity - emerge in a range of landscapes that include homes, streets and workplaces. I place strong emphasis on public policy, on the legal and legislative frameworks that enable social change, and on the cultural systems and practices through which normative frameworks for human actions and human relations are developed. I am particularly interested in the public negotiation of these issues. In addition to the three large projects below, I have an ongoing research project on the history of Japanese-Canada communities, and smaller current projects include: 1) racism and public participation in Christchurch, New Zealand; 2) Post-election discourses and the option of emigration from the United States.
Ongoing Research Projects:
1) REVITALIZING JAPANTOWN? A Unifying Exploration of Human Rights, Branding, and Place [Website]
Principal Investigator: Jeff Masuda, University of Manitoba; Co-investigators: Sonia Bookman, University of Manitoba; Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University; Beth Carter, National Nikkei Museum
Revitalizing Japantown? is a research project which engages Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents, organizations and artists who are working with a team of researchers with grassroots experience in the community. The goal of the project is to recover the long Human Rights history of the neighbourhood while doing our part to ensure that the rights of current DTES residents remain a public priority. To accomplish this we’re working with the 5 founding communities of the DTES: Coast Salish people, the Low-Income community, Chinese Canadians, Japanese Canadians and African Canadians.
2) Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities in the Legal Profession: Invisibility, Disclosure, and Equality
Co-investigators: Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University and Kathleen Lahey, Queen’s University
This project is a sustained empirical, socio-legal study of the complexities and challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsex/gender, two-spirited, and intersex members of the Canadian legal profession as they negotiate issues of invisibility, disclosure, and acceptance by employers, colleagues, clients, judges, and communities in shaping their lives and careers.
Since the early 1960s, law and sexuality discourses have revolved around whether people characterized by their sexual orientation/gender identity are entitled to be treated equally and fairly. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsex/gender, two-spirit, and intersex lawyers have often played crucial roles in bringing about law reform, litigation, and institutional changes that have eliminated many deeply-entrenched forms of discrimination. In the intensity of these efforts, surprisingly little attention has been paid to how lawyers, judges, teachers, and other members of the profession who are themselves characterized by their sexualities have fared as professionals.
Our study centres on these legal professionals, asking three basic questions: 1) Where are such individuals located in the legal profession, especially those who are characterized by gender, race, Aboriginal heritage, religion, immigration status, disability, or economic class as well as by sexualities and identities? 2) What forms of bias do they encounter in legal institutions and what discursive practices do they use to counter bias and discrimination? And 3) what steps would substantively facilitate their integration into all aspects of the legal profession and justice system on an equal basis? Through indepth analysis of the structure, organization, and personnel of the legal profession, we aim to develop a coherent conceptual framework that will explain and theoretically situate LGBTTTI lawyers in professional formations and in their personal and work lives. Of particular interest will be how the specific dynamics of invisibility and disclosure might produce tension between work and non-work life and affect lawyers’ overall quality of life.
This study will use both qualitative and quantitative research methods to obtain comprehensive results. Qualitative research will focus on the legal and regulatory framework governing the legal profession and the many steps that have already been taken in recognizing diversity within the profession, and will include individual and group interviews with lawyers, teachers, judges, law firm, and other employers to identify key issues. Quantitative research will be obtained through online surveys to obtain information on as many LGBTTTI lawyers as possible, from all regions.
3) Racialization, Racism and the University
Principal Investigator: Frances Henry, York University; Co-investigators: Enakshi Dua, York University, Carl James, York University; Audrey Kobayashi, Queen’s University; Peter Li, University of Saskatchewan; Malinda Smith, University of Alberta;
This study will be the first of its kind to address the status of racialized and indigenous scholars in Canadian universities. As a national, multidisciplinary team of scholars, we will undertake a national analysis of Canadian universities with a more detailed analysis of ten universities that represent a diversity of regions and institutions. The study will gather data required to make an accurate assessment of the representation and position of racialized minorities within Canadian universities, and will analyze these data to reveal patterns of discrimination and racism with a particular focus on three questions: 1) How does the pattern of racism vary according to gender, sexuality, ability, age, and different kinds of racializations? 2) Are there any differences between institutions? 3) How do patterns of racialization affect the mission of universities to deliver equitable education and research and thus fulfill their public responsibility?
The research also has two broader goals: To contribute to inter- and multidisciplinary theoretical understandings of the social construction of racialization, racism, equity, and social justice; and secondly to assist policy makers, administrators, and faculty associations to develop more effective tools to ensure equity. A study of discrimination, racialization and racism requires a focus on more than numerical representation. Indeed the lack of representation is often tied to other dimensions of discrimination such as the everyday experiences with racism, the way in which institutions create an understanding of what equity is, and the effectiveness of the mechanisms to address inequities. Therefore we will examine the multiple and interrelated ways in which racialization and racism take place by analyzing data on:
1) Representation: hiring, tenure and promotion practices; the attitudes and practices of administrators responsible for equity policy and practice. 2) Institutional/organizational culture: including barriers to access and equity. 3) Mechanisms for inclusion: what have universities put in place to ensure inclusion? 4) Discourses: the social construction of knowledge about equity and use of discourses by the academy in informing its practices.
In using a mixed method approach — census data, surveys, interviews, textual and policy analyses – we gain analytical insights which otherwise might be lost using a single methodological approach. It affords us the opportunity to leverage the strength, breadth and depth of both qualitative and quantitative approaches: from the problem identification, through to the data collection, analysis and interpretation phases of inquiry. The mixed methods approach also provides an opportunity to triangulate and combine the generalizability of quantitative data with the rich insights of stories of the qualitative data. Research findings will be communicated through an ambitious dissemination plan to academic and non-academic audiences. Three goals are identified: to add to the growing academic literature about racialisation and racism in the academy; to inform policymakers, administrators, and faculty associations about national patterns of racialised inequities; and to train students to make effective presentations drawing on various kinds of data analysis and to write for academic and non-academic audiences. To reach diverse academic audiences, we plan a series of presentations and publications targeted to various disciplines, both national and international.
4) Canadian Disability Policy Alliance [Website]
This project is funded by an SSHRC Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) for which Mary Ann McColl of Queen’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research is Principal Investigator. Professor Kobayashi is a co-investigator, and Project Lead on the Citizenship research domain.
The CURA is guided by a vision of Canada where people with disabilities enjoy full participation and citizenship, supported by a coherent network of legislation, regulation and entitlements. We propose to achieve this vision with a CURA entitled, “Disability Policy Alliance: Learning Collaborative and Equity Coalition”. At maturity (after five years), our CURA will have achieved the following:
- Consolidation of a dedicated group of researchers, advocates and policy makers working together to enhance disability policy and overcome fragmentation in existing policy;
- National teams of researchers, consumers and decision-makers focused on issues of greatest importance to people with disabilities in Canada;
- Durable links between policy makers at all levels of government, and researchers and consumer organizations;
A powerful multi-disability advocacy coalition supported by sound evidence;
- Detailed policy scans on major areas of concern in disability policy, disseminated in accessible formats though scientific, consumer and popular media;
- A cadre of research trainees approaching a career dedicated to disability policy from a variety of disciplines, including law, political science, health services, geography, epidemiology;
- A plan for sustainability beyond the five years of the CURA grant, continuing to seek optimal integration for people with disabilities in Canadian society.
Over the five years of the CURA, four major policy areas will be addressed: health services, employment, education, citizenship. Specific objectives against which the Alliance can be evaluated include the following:
- Research: To produce sound evidence upon which to build disability policy in Canada, using a variety of participatory, qualitative and quantitative research approaches.
- Education/Training: To prepare Masters, Doctoral and Post-doctoral candidates for future research careers in the area of disability policy;
- Dissemination: To disseminate accessible, evidence-based information on disability policy using the networks of our researchers, consumer organizations and policy partners. Information products from this CURA will include detailed policy analyses, policy recommendations, briefing notes, and advocacy supports for each of the five designated policy areas (health, employment, education, citizenship).
5) Transnationalism, Citizenship and Social Cohesion: Changing Concepts of Citizenship among Recent Immigrants from Hong Kong
This is an SSHRC Strategic Grant, for which I am Principal Investigator of an interdisciplinary team made up of three geographers (including David Ley, Department of Geography, UBC), a political scientist and a sociologist. Our objective is to understand the transnational activities of people of Hong Kong origin, several hundred thousand of whom migrated to Vancouver and Toronto in the period 1989-1997, and the attendant challenges to the concept of citizenship both for new immigrants and the larger society. We have conducted extensive questionnaire surveys and focus groups in Vancouver, Toronto and Hong Kong, and are now in the process of data analysis and writing. In addition, we have partnered with an interdisciplinary team in Australia, who have received similar funding from the Australian government to duplicate our study there as a basis for international comparison. Both projects have been developed as part of the Metropolis network, which represents one of the largest international collaborative social science projects ever undertaken.
Our results show two major original findings. First, international migration and subsequent transnational identities need to be understood as situated in particular communities, and as variable in a number of ways, including gender and stage in the life course. Rather than simply using gender and age as variables to explain different experiences, however, we use intensive focus groups to explore relationships among family members and with the larger community, and to uncover the negotiation and renegotiation of cultural norms and family roles in a transnational context. Both the decision to migrate and subsequent experiences are strongly gendered, and conform to life stage patterns around births, education, labour force entry and retirement. This finding broadens the discussion of citizenship in the recent migration literature, where a fascination with issues of cosmopolitanism and globalization has in fact tended to disregard research within traditional families. Our work situates family concerns within that larger context.
The second finding is that citizenship is also a form of relationship under constant public negotiation, and a product of racism as well as of the negotiation of cultural practices. Our project involves working directly with community groups both to understand the complex relationships between migration and active citizenship, and to facilitate a notion of citizenship in the larger Canadian society that does not involve normative practices of assimilation, but, rather, the redefinition of Canadian citizenship as equal, plural, open to change, and free of discrimination. This perspective allows us to juxtapose political concerns at a number of scales, including the family, the ethnocultural community, the metropolitan region and the state.
The public policy implications of this research range from issues of education, language, formal and informal citizenship rights, integration policies, human rights and employment equity, to everyday issues of immigration regulations, taxation laws and the provision of social benefits such as medical care and services for seniors within a transnational community. Our overriding concern, however, is with how our research can contribute to helping Canada, and its citizens, deal with change and make progress towards the open, multicultural society that our policies profess.
Books and Edited Volumes:
2012 Kobayashi, Audrey ed. Geographies of Peace and Armed Conflict (rev.). London and New York: Routledge.
2011 Texiera, Jose, Wei Li and Audrey Kobayashi eds. Geographies of Immigrants in North American Cities. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
2011 Baldwin, Andrew, Laura Cameron and Audrey Kobayashi eds. Rethinking the Great White North. Vancouver: University of BC Press.
2009 Kobayashi, Audrey ed. Geographies of Peace and Armed Conflict. Special issue, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(5), 250 pp.
Refereed articles and book chapters:
In press Kobayashi, Audrey and Mark Boyle. “Colonizing Colonized: Sartre and Fanon.” In A. Bakan and E. Dua eds. Marxism and Anti-Racism: Conversations.
In press Henry, Frances, Andrea Choi, and Audrey Kobayashi. “The Representation of Racialized Faculty at Selected Canadian Universities.” Canadian Ethnic Studies.
In press Kobayashi, Audrey. “Camp Road.” In Aguiar, Luis and Daniel Keyes, eds. Hinterland of Whiteness: White Fantasies in the Okanagan Valley. Vancouver: UBC Press.
In press Kobayashi, Audrey, Meghan Brooks, Sarah de Leeuw, Nathaniel Lewis, Catherine Nolin, and Cheryl Sutherland. “Advocacy in Geography.” In Lee, Roger, Susan Roberts, and Charles Withers. Eds. The Handbook of Human Geography. Sage.
Accepted Kobayashi, Audrey. “Neoclassical Urban Theory and the Study of Racism in Geography.” Urban Geography.
Accepted Kobayashi, Audrey, “Justice versus Justice: The Killing of Troy Davis and the Meaning of Death in Geographical Context.” Acme Journal of Critical Geography.
Accepted Kobayashi, Audrey, “The Geography PhD in Canada,” Geojournal special issue on international PhD programs in geography.
2013 Kobayashi, Audrey. “Kingston.” In Biles, John, Vicki Esses and Caroline Andrew, eds. Immigration, Integration, and Inclusion in Ontario Cities. Ottawa: Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
2013 Kobayashi, Audrey, Victoria Lawson, and Rickie Sanders. “A commentary on the whitening of the public university: The context for diversifying geography.” The Professional Geographer 65(1):1-7. Available at:
2012 Kobayashi, Audrey, “Critical race approaches.” In N. Johnson, R. Schein, and J. Winders. The Wiley Companion to Cultural Geography, 57-72. New York: Wiley.
2011 Boyle, Mark and Audrey Kobayashi. “Metropolitan anxieties: A critical appraisal of Sartre’s theory of colonialism.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 36 (3): 408–424.
2011 Kobayashi, Audrey, Valerie Preston and Ann Marie Murnaghan. “Place, affect, and transnationalism through the voices of Hong Kong immigrants to Canada,” Social and Cultural Geography, 12(8): 871–888.
2011 de Leeuw, Sarah, Audrey Kobayashi, and Emilie Cameron. “Difference.” In Vincent J. Del Casino Jr, Mary E. Thomas, Paul Cloke, and Ruth Panelli, eds. A Companion to Social Geography, pp. 17-36. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell
2010 Kobayashi, Audrey. “Geographies of Courage, Imagination, and Hope.” Arab World Geographer 13 (3–4): 192–194.
2010 Kobayashi, Audrey. “People, Place, and Region: 100 Years of Human Geography in the Annals.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100(5):1095-1106.
2010 Kobayashi, Audrey. “Existentialism.” Encyclopedia of Geography, Volume 2, pp. 1046-1048, ed. B. Warf. Los Angeles: Sage Reference.
2009 Kobayashi, Audrey. “Geographies of Peace and Armed conflict.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(5): 119-126.
2009 Krull, Catherine and Audrey Kobayashi, “Shared memories, common vision: Generations, sociopolitical consciousness and resistance among Cuban women,” Sociological Inquiry 72(2):163-189.
2009 Kobayashi Audrey, “Situated Knowledge, Reflexivity.” In Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 10, pp. 138–143. Oxford: Elsevier.
2009 Kobayashi Audrey, “Peet, R.” In Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 8, pp. 114–115. Oxford: Elsevier.
2009 Kobayashi Audrey, “Identity Politics.” In Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 5, pp. 282–286. Oxford: Elsevier.
2009 Kobayashi Audrey. “Representation and Re-presentation.” In Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 9, pp. 347–350. Oxford: Elsevier.
2009 Wiles J. and A. Kobayashi. “Equity.” In Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 3, pp. 580–585. Oxford: Elsevier.
2009 Kobayashi, Audrey and Sarah de Leeuw, “Tensioned landscapes and contested identities: social geographies of difference and relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.” In Susan J. Smith, Rachel Pain, Sallie A. Marston and John Paul Jones IIIeds. Handbook of Social Geographies, pp. 118-138. Los Angeles: Sage.
2009 Kobayashi, Audrey, “’Here we go again’: Christchurch’s anti-racism rally as a discursive crisis.” In Julie Cupples ed., special issue, The New Zealand Geographer 65:59-72.
2009 Kobayashi, Audrey, “Now you see them, how you see them: Women of colour in Canadian academia.” In Frances Henry and Carol Tator eds. Racism in the Canadian University: Demanding Social Justice, Inclusion and Equity, pp. 60-75. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
2008 Kobayashi, Audrey, “’Race’ and racism in the classroom: Looking back on anger” Progress in Human Geography 32(1):17-25.
2008 Kobayashi, Audrey, “Place.” In Peter Cane and Joanne Conaghan, eds. Oxford Companion to Law, pp. 895-896.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2008 Kobayashi, Audrey and Linda Peake. “Racism in place: Another look at shock, horror, and racialization.” In Pamela Moss and Karen Falconer el Hindis eds.Feminisms in Geography: Rethinking Space, Place and Knowledges, pp. 171-178. Lanham: Roman and Littlefield.
2008 Kobayashi, Audrey, “Ethnocultural political mobilization, multiculturalism, and human rights in Canada.” In Miriam Smith ed. Group Politics and Social Movements, pp. 131-158. Toronto: Broadview Press.
2007 Preston, Valerie, Myer Siemiatycki and Audrey Kobayashi., “The dual citizenship of Hong Kong-Canadians: Convenience or commitment?” In Thomas Faist ed. Dual Citizenship: Democracy, Rights and Identities Beyond Borders, pp. 203-226. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.
2007 Kobayashi, Audrey and Valerie Preston, “Transnationalism through the life course: Hong Kong immigrants in Canada.” Asia Pacific Viewpoints 48(2):151-167.
2007 Bakan, Abigail and Audrey Kobayashi. “Affirmative action and employment equity: policy, Ideology, and backlash in Canadian context.” Studies in Political Economy 70:145-166.
2009 Reprinted in Nick Larsen and Brian Burtch eds. Law in Society: Canadian Readings, pp. 148-162. Toronto: Nelson.
2007 Kobayashi, Audrey. “The limits of the limits of community.” Political Geography 26(2):214-217.
2007 Kobayashi, Audrey and Genevieve Johnson, “Scholarship and activism on the edge: introduction.” In Randy Enomoto and Genevieve Fuji Johnson eds. Race, Racialization, and Anti-Racism in Canada and Beyond, pp. 3-16. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
2007 Bakan, Abigail and Audrey Kobayashi, “The sky didn’t fall”: Organizing to combat racism in the workplace: The case of the Alliance for Employment Equity.” In Randy Enomoto and Genevieve Fuji Johnson eds. Race, Racialization, and Anti-Racism in Canada and Beyond, pp. 51-78. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
2002-10 Editor, Annals of the Association of American Geographers: People, Place, and Region
Commissioned Research Reports:
2012 Mehrunnisa Ahmad Ali, Audrey Kobayashi, Susanne Cliff-Jungling, Joanna Ochocka, Jonathan Lomotey, Liliana Araujo, Dragan Kljujic, “Making Ontario Home: A study of settlement and integration services for immigrant and refugees” Report commissioned by Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).