Planning for Abolition – Research Assistant 2022

Part time: ~10 hrs per week, Fall 2022 – Summer 2024, ~$34/hr
Contact: Sheryl-Ann Simpson [sheryl-ann.simpson[at]]

The Project

Planning for Abolition is a SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) funded research project that aims to support abolitionist practices within urban and regional planning.

By abolitionist we are broadly referring to practices that aim to produce community safety and thriving without increasing the number of people sent to jails and prisons, without adding resources for policing, and without resorting to violence, enclosure and surveillance.

By urban and regional planning we mean the formal practices involved in land use planning, economic development and urban design, for example, but also the informal and community work that goes into making the places where we live, work, play, learn and worship.

The project has three stages:

  1. Analyzing the content of independent podcasts to build a stronger understanding of the variety of definitions of abolition that are developing in community and through action and organizing. We will prioritize podcasts created by people who are, or have been formerly incarcerated, or otherwise systems-involved including folks who have experiences with family and child services, immigration and disability detention and surveillance, and policing violence.
  2. Surveying city and regional planners to build a stronger understanding of their knowledge of the connections between policing, prisons and planning.
  3. Building a network of city and regional planners to support the incorporation of abolitionists ideas and practices into planning.

Full Project Description [pdf]

Job Description

This position is a two year funded research assistantship for a Master’s student in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, to work on parts of the first two stages of the project.

The position is part time, approximately 10 hours of work a week, over six terms (Fall 2022 to Summer 2024) at a starting rate of $34.00.

In the first year the research assistant will work on identifying potential podcasts to include in the project, contacting podcast producers to gain permissions to use their work in research and potentially engage them in the research process. The work will also involve podcast transcription and analysis to pull out keywords, themes and information about the producers, guests and references in the podcasts.

There is also an opportunity to support quantitative analysis of the material including learning skills around analyzing text using computer automation, and analyzing spatial networks. No previous experience is expected in these areas.

In the second year there is an opportunity to dive more into the quantitative analysis and further develop those skills. Or to support the development and administration of the survey of planners including work to develop the survey, to recruit survey participants and to support early analysis of survey results.

There will be opportunities throughout to work with community partners, undergraduate research assistants, to conduct reviews of existing research, and to be involved in research presentations and publications.

Work on this project would be a supplement to your own Master’s research. In other words this would not have to be your Master’s thesis project and so would be a great opportunity for someone who has a question or project in mind, and where this could be an opportunity to help fund your studies.

Having said that, if the project lines up with your interests and questions there would certainly be opportunities to carve out part of the project for you to work on more independently as your Master’s research.

Ideal Candidate

This position is ideal for someone who is interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Geography with an interest in questions related to any combination of urban and regional planning, urban geography, abolition, decolonization, racial justice, digital communication, and data science.

No previous experience in ‘formal’ research, urban planning or quantitative research is expected, but an interest in learning new skills is a must!

The work will require balancing different aspects of the project, so it is also ideal for a candidate who has previous work experience, or experience balancing multiple priorities and deadlines at the same time. Balancing, as examples, school and childcare, or work and organizing, or community care, school and work at the same time.

This can also be an opportunity for someone who would like to use a graduate degree as an opportunity to pause and reflect on the work they have already been doing, to have time to work more on community care and organizing, and to gain new skills for the next stage of their work. So folks with a non-traditional, or just not straight line to graduate school are encouraged to get in touch!

Finally we are aiming to prioritize working with formerly incarcerated, and otherwise systems-involved folks, and folks from communities that experience disproportionate policing harm. You do not have to self-identify directly in any communication or applications (your stories are yours to share or not), but if this resonates with you that’s another encouragement to get in touch!

Carleton’s MA in Geography

The research assistant will need to be a Master’s student in Carleton’s Geography program.
So you will also need to eligible for the program (including having a Bachelor’s degree) apply to the program, and maintain standing in the program throughout the work.
Program applications can be submitted until July.
We are happy to work with you on that material and working through that process.
If you do not meet the requirements still get on touch, and let’s talk about other possibilities.