The Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) announced the appointment of Arjun Shankar as its new faculty and research director Feb. 22.
Shankar, a culture and politics (CULP) professor in the School of Foreign Service (SFS), researches neocolonial politics and racial capitalism. Shankar’s appointment to the CSJ — a social justice hub that connects Georgetown students and staff with volunteering, research and advocacy opportunities in Washington, D.C. — will enable him to expand his impact beyond current academic responsibilities.
In his new role, Shankar will lead the CSJ’s research efforts, which include organizing social change efforts, influencing public policy and meeting community-based needs. Shankar will remain a professor in the SFS.
Shankar said his classes have always maintained a strong focus on race, capitalism, caste and labor, and that his advocacy efforts align with these academic interests.
“At CULP and the SFS, I’ve been really eager to help in the global anti-racism movements that have been happening, and I’ve been part of the facility committee on global anti-racism,” Shankar told The Hoya. “I’m excited about the SFS’s move to take seriously DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion — and hire more faculty of color, more faculty to work on race, gender and sexuality.”
Shankar plans to bring his existing advocacy to the CSJ in hopes of making the center a more diverse space. Shankar said one of his top priorities as the new faculty and research director will be to facilitate more inclusive collaboration among community members interested in the CSJ.
“One of the things about Georgetown is that a lot of incredible work in these areas is happening, but we don’t oftentimes talk to one another,” Shankar said. “I really see this new position as an opportunity to bring together all those faculty from across the university who are ready to lead really exciting work, studying inequality both historically and in the contemporary moment.”
Shankar said he also wants to research mental health at universities, particularly focusing on the experiences of Georgetown students.
“For a number of years, I’ve been extremely interested in student mental health on university campuses and the epidemics of suicidal ideation, depression and stress that seem to be increasing in the student body,” Shankar said. “I’m hoping that as a member of CSJ, I’ll be able to work with students to really start to study how this phenomenon is impacting Georgetown students, and how it might be specific to this palace versus other campuses.”
Andria Wisler, the CSJ’s executive director and a teaching professor in the justice and peace studies program at Georgetown, said she is delighted to have Shankar join the CSJ because of his expertise on social justice, which ranges from the classroom to his involvements outside of academia.
“He is a dynamic educator, an exemplar as researcher for advocacy and activism, and a community builder,” Wisler wrote to The Hoya. “His commitments to decolonial pedagogies, multimodal ways of knowing, and the interrogation of capitalism align strongly with CSJ’s values and work.”
Anthony Pirrotti, an SFS associate dean, said he is excited about what Shankar’s commitment to advancing community service can bring to the CSJ.
“Not only is Professor Shankar a formidable scholar who complicates and challenges how we think about race, economics and globalization, but a dedicated teacher and mentor,” Pirrotti wrote to The Hoya. “This new role will provide Professor Shankar with a unique opportunity to merge scholarship with community engagement and make a significant impact on our community.”
Shiloh Krupar, an associate professor in the SFS, said that she has worked alongside Shankar to further develop curriculum and faculty knowledge about DEI principles and accessibility practices in the CULP program.
“He offers key CULP courses on global inequality, colonialism, humanitarianism, development and race, that empower students to question the universality of categories and position those categories within unequal power relations and hierarchy,” Krupar wrote to The Hoya. “The third CULP core faculty member to receive the School of Foreign Service Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Professor Shankar’s pedagogy beautifully extends the abolitionist approach to education—of ‘unlearning’ the structures of inequality that define the status quo and our relations by evoking care and concern over what exists and what could exist or be otherwise.”
Shankar said that he hopes students and faculty will begin to learn more about the CSJ’s work, identifying it as a place on campus that focuses on supporting students.
“I just want to make sure that students know to take advantage of those opportunities. I believe many students don’t know that it’s one of the few safe spaces on campus, especially for students of color, who don’t have that many spaces to go in the first place,” Shankar said. “They can talk about a lot of the issues that I know continue to circulate, continue to be part of what they’re trying to grapple with.”