From Suspicion and Accommodation to Structural Transformation: Enhanced Scholarship through Enhanced Community-University Relations

  • Trish Van Katwyk University of Waterloo
  • Robert A. Case University of Waterloo
Keywords: community-engaged scholarship, disgust response, habitus continuum of scholarship, structural transformation



 While substantial efforts are being made in some universities to democratize the production, ownership, and use of knowledge through partnership with the community, significant barriers to community-university partnership persist, maintained through inequitable research relations, reductionist definitions of knowledge, and disincentives for faculty who are interested in community-based scholarship. The perseverance of this disconnect, we argue, is indicative of an existential aversion to community that lies deep within the psyche of the university. We liken the aversion to that of a disgust response, a social response that creates distance from that which is perceived to be dangerous, which in this case serves to preserve the university’s privileged status as knowledge producer. In this paper we bring forward arguments for the importance of community-engaged scholarship to the university’s civic role, to the pursuit of knowledge, and to the principles of democracy. We highlight promising advances in how some universities are accommodating community partnership within their definitions of scholarship and academic production, and, drawing upon Gordon’s theory of structural transformation and Bourdieu’s conceptualization of agency and habitus, we consider how such changes might be brought about at a deeper, structural level within the university.