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Matt James

Associate professor

Political Science

Office: DTB A340
PhD (2000) UBC
Area of expertise:
Reparations, social memory, social movements, transitional justice

Office hours

Summer 2024 office hours: by appointment


  • reparations
  • political apologies
  • transitional justice
  • social memory
  • social movements
  • Canadian constitutionalism and citizenship
  • Canadian politics

About Dr. James

Matt James studies the politics of reparation and transitional justice and also has expertise in the fields of Canadian politics, constitutionalism and social movement studies. He is the author of Misrecognized Materialists: Social Movements in Canadian Constitutional Politics (University of British Columbia Press) and has published on reparation, memory, and political apology in journals such as the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Citizenship Studies, Human Rights Review and International Journal of Transitional Justice.

He also produced for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada a major research report on truth commissions, victims and perpetrators around the world. Students under his supervision have received significant honours, including the Fulbright Scholarship and the SSHRC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. He is able to supervise students working on collective memory, transitional justice, reparations, political apologies, social movement politics, hatred and responses to hatred and Canadian constitutionalism and citizenship.

His current research projects are twofold. One focuses on how to work critically with truth commission reports, apologies and the like to address their insufficiencies and pathologies in ways that promote social accountability. The other focuses on community responses to acts of hate and political critique of contemporary mainstream anti-hate discourses. 


Dr. James teaches courses on reparations, social movements, and Canadian politics.

Teaching 2024-25

Fall 2024:

Spring 2025:

Previous courses taught:
  • POLI 101: Canadian Politics
  • POLI 320: The Canadian Constitution
  • POLI 360: Canadian Federalism and Public Policy
  • POLI 432/533: Issues in Politics - The Politics of Social Movements
  • POLI 432/533: Issues in Politics - The Politics of Historical Injustice and Memory
  • POLI 516/616: Graduate seminar in Canadian Politics



  • Misrecognized Materialists: Social Movements in Canadian Constitutional Politics, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2006.

Journal articles

  • "Corrosive Comparisons and the Memory Politics of “Saming”: Threat and Opportunity in the Age of Apology" Social Sciences 13:3 (2024): 167.

  • "Separate National Apologies, Transnational Injustices: Second World War Oppression, Anti-Japanese Persecution, and the Politics of Apology in Five Countries"Global Studies Quarterly 2:4 (2022), ksac079. Co-authored with Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada, Masumi Izumi, Monica Okamoto, and Jordan Stanger-Ross.

  • "Worlds Reversed: Canadian Charter Discourse, Right-Wing Charter-Claiming, and the Mnemonics of Rights, Forty Years On." Review of Constitutional Studies 26(1) and 27(1) 2022-2023.
  • "The Structural Injustice Turn, the Historical Justice Dilemma, and Assigning Responsibility with the TRC Report." Canadian Journal of Political Science 2021. Firstview publication date 07 June 2021. 
  •  With Jordan-Stanger Ross, "Impermanent Apologies: On the Dynamics of Timing and Public Knowledge in Political Apology," Human Rights Review 19 (2018): 289-311.
  • "Changing the Subject: The TRC, its National Events, and the Displacement of Substantive Reconciliation in Canadian Media Representations." Journal of Canadian Studies 51:2 (2017): 362-397.
  • "Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives, the Impermanent Apologies Approach, and the Politics of Political Apologies," C4E Journal: Perspectives on Ethics 2017 C4EJ 13 (2017).
  • "On Carnival and Context: A Response to Bridget Storrie." International Journal of Transitional Justice 9:3 (2015): 486-493.
  • "Degrees of Freedom in Canada's Culture of Redress." Citizenship Studies 2014 (electronic version).
  • "A Carnival of Truth? Knowledge, Ignorance and the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission," International Journal of Transitional Justice 2012; doi: 10.1093/ijtj/ijs010.
  • "Against Legitimacy," Les Ateliers de l'ethique/The Ethics Forum. 7:1 (2012): 112-118.
  • With Michelle Bonner. "The Three R’s of Seeking Transitional Justice: Reparation, Responsibility, and Reframing in Canada and Argentina," The International Indigenous Policy Journal 2:3 (2011), Article 3.
  • "Uncomfortable Comparisons: The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission in International Context," Les Ateliers de l'éthique 5:2 (2010).
  • "Scaling Memory: Reparation Displacement and the Case of BC," Canadian Journal of Political Science 42 (2009): 363-386.
  • "Recognition, Redistribution, and Redress: The Case of the 'Chinese Head Tax'," Canadian Journal of Political Science 37:4 (December 2004): 883-902.

Book chapters

  • With Jordan Stanger-Ross. "Social Accountability after Political Apologies." In Landscapes of Injustice: New Perspectives on the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020, pp. 454-484.
  • "Narrative Robustness, Post-Apology Conduct, and Canada'’s 1998 and 2008 Residential Schools Apologies." In Palgrave Handbook of State-Sponsored History after 1945, ed. Berber Bevernage and Nico Wouters, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp. 831-848.
  • "Occupy: History, Physicality, Viturality". In Group Politics and Social Movements in Canada, ed. Miram Smith, 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.
  • Neoliberal Heritage Redress." Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress, ed. Jennifer Henderson and Pauline Wakeham. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.
  • "Memory, Identity, and Diversity in BC," in British Columbia Politics and Government, ed. Michael Howlett, Dennis Pilon, and Tracy Summerville. Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2009.
  • "Wrestling with the Past: Apologies, Quasi-Apologies, and Non-Apologies in Canada," in The Age of Apology: The West Faces its Own Past, ed. Mark Gibney, Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Jean-Marc Coicaud, and Niklaus Steiner. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
  • "Do Campaigns for Historical Redress Help Erode the Canadian Welfare State?"in Multiculturalism and the Welfare State: Recognition and Redistribution in Contemporary Democracies, ed. Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • "The Permanent-Emergency Compensation State: A ‘Postsocialist' Tale of Political Dystopia," in Critical Policy Studies, ed. Michael Orsini and Miriam Smith. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006.
  • "The Politics of Honourable Constitutional Inclusion and the Citizens' Constitution Theory," in Rethinking Canadian Citizenship: Essays in Honour of Alan C. Cairns, ed. Philip Resnick and Gerald Kernerman. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004.
  • "Being Stigmatized and Being Sorry: Past Injustices and Contemporary Citizenship," in A Passion for Identity: Canadian Studies in the 21st Century, ed. David Taras and Beverly Rasporich, 55-75. Scarborough, Ont.: Nelson, 2001.
  • "Redress Politics and Canadian Citizenship." The State of the Federation 1998/99: How Canadians Connect, ed. Harvey Lazar and Tom McIntosh, 247-281. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.
  • "Building Transdisciplinary Standpoints: An Integrative Bibliography," With Gabriele Helms and Paddy Rodney, in Painting the Maple: Essays on Race, Gender and the Construction of Canada, ed. Sherrill Grace et al., 262-278. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1998.
  • "Women Speaking: Heather Rose and the Culture of Health Care," with Joan Anderson, Sherrill Grace, Gabriele Helms and Paddy Rodney, in Northern Parallels: Fourth Circumpolar Universities Cooperation Conference Proceedings, February 23-25, 1995, ed. Shauna McLarnon and Douglas Nord. Prince George, British Columbia: University of Northern British Columbia Press, 1997.
  • "Multifarious, Processual and Pervasive: Towards an Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Constructions," with Gabriele Helms and Paddy Rodney, in Vol. II, Proceedings of the Race, Gender and Construction of Canada Conference. Vancouver: UBC Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Relations, 1996.

Reviews & other

  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. "A Knock at the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 41:1 (2017): 115-117.
  • "Forum: History Under Harper", guest forum co-edited with Penny Bryden. In Labour/Le Travail 73 (2014).
  • "Perpetrator- and Victim-Centred Truth Commissions: Choices and Tools." Research report prepared for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2011, 64 pp.
  • Melissa Nobles, "The Politics of Official Apologies," The Journal of Politics 71 (2009): 1196-1197.
  • Janna Thompson, "Taking Responsibility for the Past: Reparation and Historical Injustice," Canadian Journal of Political Science 36:5 (December 2003): 1121-1123.