Jai Sen

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Jai Sen
Professionnel en résidence

Bureau : 613-282-2900
Courriel professionnel : jai.sen@cacim.net

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[Note, January 2021 : I am presently on semi-absence for the Winter semester, as has been my pattern over previous years.  But I am available for email or phone exchange, and for lectures as and when possible, so please feel free to contact me.  In more normal years, during Fall semesters, I keep Office Hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-5 pm, at my office at FSS 8011; for the future, who knows ?!]


Research and Work Interests :

  • Social movements
  • Civil society
  • Development
  • International developments
  • Other Worlds Other Globalisations


Current Research and Work :

  • Curating an international listserve on emerging world social movement (World Social Movement Discuss)
  • Writing up research into social movements around a place to live in security and dignity, in India and in Brazil
  • Archiving my research and listserve work
  • Researching and archiving my family history


Current appointments :

  • Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at uOttawa
  • Advisor at CACIM (India Institute for Critical Action – Centre in Movement), New Delhi, India


Degrees :

B Arch (McGill University, Montreal), 1970

B Sc Arch (McGill University, Montreal), 1970


Biography :

Jai Sen is an architect turned activist/researcher/author and listserve curator on and in movement, who looks at international development and globalisation issues from a movement perspective.  He has lived and worked in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and New Delhi, and now also in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Anishnaabe territory.  Earlier a social activist in dwelling, planning, and development issues, he moved in the 1990s to becoming a student of the history and dynamics of movement, doing depth studies on local, ‘national’, and transnational movements and campaigns for people’s rights to a secure place to live in dignity.

One example of his recent work is a workshop he co-organised at the School in November 2019 with Fayyaz Baqir (former Visiting Professor) titled ‘Turning the Tables : International Development and the Games of Empire’   Others are his books (see ‘Publications’, further on below).

Since the early 2000s, he has worked to promote critical engagement with the World Social Forum and emerging world movement.  Seeing critical reflection as a potent contribution to building transformative power, much of his work over the past two decades has been and is around creating spaces for reflection in and on movement, in different media, such as the listserve WSMDiscuss (World Social Movement Discuss).

He has published quite widely, on housing, dwelling, and urban development issues, human rights and freedoms, and social movement, and on issues related to civil society.  He has taught courses on globalisation and social movement as a Visiting / Sessional Lecturer at Carleton University in 2006 and then at the University of Toronto in 2010, and now gives lectures and seminars as invited, within uOttawa and elsewhere. 

He has primarily worked with and through the social organisations Unnayan (meaning ‘development’ in Bengali, in the sense of unfolding, self-actualisation) based in Kolkata, India, and CACIM (India Institute for Critical Action – Centre in Movement), based in New Delhi, India.  During his period of focus on research during the 1990s-early 2000s, he was a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research during 1992-95; a Visiting Fellow at different institutions in India, The Netherlands, the UK, and the US during the 1990s and early 2000s; and Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow during 2004-06.

He has been a Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at uOttawa since 2017; he is now coming into his final year (2021-22).


For those interested in more detail :

While in Kolkata during the 1970s-80s, Jai Sen was co-founder of Unnayan, a social action group, an office-bearer of the Chhinnamul Sramajibi Adhikar Samiti (‘Organisation for the Rights of Uprooted Labouring People’), and Convenor of the NCHR (National Campaign for Housing Rights) in India (1986-91); and he represented Unnayan on the founding Board of the Habitat International Coalition during 1987-91.

One of the major outcomes of this period of his work – through collective work successively at Unnayan, the Chhinnamul Sramajibi Adhikar Samiti (‘Organisation for the Rights of Uprooted Labouring People’), the National Campaign for Housing Rights (in India), and the Habitat International Coalition (based then in The Netherlands and then Mexico) - was the formulation of a radically new concept of the ‘right to housing’ as the ‘right of every woman, man, and child to a place to a place to live in security and dignity’.  This idea, and practice, was then carried forward in India and then worldwide, and including its acceptance by the UN during the 1990s.

His work on the concept of an ‘unintended city’ during the 1970s and 1980s attempted to contribute to reframing contemporary understandings of cities and of ‘citizenship’, and of so-called ‘urban development’.

He continues this work today through his ongoing work on so-called ‘civil society’ and the idea of ‘movements of movements’.

Jai Sen has two daughters, Jayita and Diya, by his late wife Anita Sen who died in 2002, and a granddaughter, Elainita, through Diya.  He was with Julia Sánchez during 2005-2015.


Publications :

Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance.  New Delhi : OpenWord, and Oakland CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press  also hard copy only at discount at The Movements of Movements 


Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New Delhi : OpenWord, and Oakland CA : PM Press.  Hard copy and ebook available at PM Press, and hard copy alone at discount at The Movements of Movements. Also Indian edition, 2018, New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN, MOM1Flipkart, and MOM1AUpFront


Jai Sen, ed, 2012 - Imagining Alternatives, Book 3 in the Are Other Worlds Possible ? series.  New Delhi : OpenWord  


Jai Sen and Peter Waterman, eds, 2012a – World Social Forum : Critical Explorations. Volume 3 in the Challenging Empires series.  New Delhi : OpenWord


Jai Sen, ed, 2011a - Interrogating Empires, Book 2 in the Are Other Worlds Possible ? series.  New Delhi : OpenWord  


Jai Sen, 2010b – ‘On open space : Explorations towards a vocabulary of a more open politics’, in Antipode, Vol 42 No 4, 2010 (ISSN 0066-4812), pp 994–1018; available on payment at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00785.x.  Full unedited version available online at https://www.academia.edu/5631554/On_Open_Space_Explorations_Towards_a_Vocabulary_of_a_More_Open_Politics


Jai Sen and Peter Waterman, eds, 2009 – World Social Forum : Challenging Empires, second edition. Montréal : Black Rose Books  

Jai Sen, November 2007d – ‘The power of civility’, in Mikael Löfgren and Håkan Thörn, eds, 2007 – ‘Global Civil Society : More or Less Democracy ?’, special issue of Development Dialogue, no 49, pp 51-68.  Available @ https://independent.academia.edu/JaiSen.  Full issue available for download @ www.dhf.uu.se


Jai Sen and Mayuri Saini, eds, January 2005 – Are Other Worlds Possible ?  Talking New Politics, Book One of Are Other Worlds Possible ? series.  New Delhi : Zubaan Books. The full book online @ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=yeh6sswTy8MC&printsec=frontcover&dq=talking+new+politics&source=bl&ots=Vb5gglG1X7&sig=yFcAnKCi76hCRg0chuGpnWzmL34&hl=en&ei=qKzmS83mL4H_8Abgz-nwDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false


Jai Sen, Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar, and Peter Waterman, eds, 2004a – World Social Forum : Challenging Empires.  New Delhi : Viveka

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