Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci’11
Journalist Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci’11

People across Canada enjoy hearing culture writer Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Artsci’11, dissecting and analyzing the news that impacts our lives.

As co-host of the CBC podcast Party Lines, Abdelmahmoud breaks down all things political, from Canada/U.S. relations to decriminalizing drugs. He is just as passionate when he talks about the latest music from Kanye West and pop culture trends on his other CBC podcast, Pop Chat. When he is not on CBC, he is writing about culture and news as an editor at BuzzFeed Canada.

Now, as COVID-19 cases in Canada drop and friends and family start gathering again, the talented commentator is turning his attention to the pandemic for a special virtual event series called Road to Recovery. 

The series, beginning on June 29, features Queen’s researchers and alumni leaders looking ahead to life in a vaccinated world where physical distancing and facemasks will hopefully not be a part of our daily lives. The first online talk focuses on what society will look like as we begin to re-integrate. What have we learned and how have we changed?

Abdelmahmoud took time out to answer questions about why he wanted to host the series and how the skills he learned as an Artsci student 10 years ago help him today as he breaks down current political and pop culture news.

Question: Why are you hosting the Road to Recovery series at Queen’s?
Answer: I am hosting for somewhat selfish reasons. I have a lot of questions and I would love some answers. At this point, I am anxious to return to some semblance of normality and I don’t know what that looks like anymore. We have some smart people at Queen’s and I would love to get answers from people who study these questions for a living.

Question: You live in Toronto which has been in lockdown for a long time. What are you looking forward to the most once pandemic restrictions are lifted?
Answer: I’d love to go back to eating inside a restaurant, but the thing I miss the most is having people in our home – hosting friends and having get-togethers. We usually do a Christmas get-together every year. Obviously we couldn’t do it last year, so to go two years without that would really break my heart. I am hoping that by this winter, we can do it again.

Question: Tell us about your career path. How do you go from Artsci student at Queen’s 10 years ago to BuzzFeed Canada editor and CBC podcaster?
Answer: Sheer luck (laughs). No, luck is a part of it. I’ve been really lucky to get to do some of the stuff I was doing in undergrad. I was at the (Queen’s) Journal and CFRC (radio) and those were integral experiences for me. One of the things I love about my gender studies degree is that I get to ask the same questions now in my line of work as I did back then. I get to do cultural criticism (now), which is similar to the stuff I was doing for my degree, just in a slightly different voice. It’s the same set of skills, which is looking at a story and seeing how it translates into something bigger.

Question: You host two CBC podcasts, one focusing on politics and the other on pop culture. Who do you prefer to talk about: Justin Trudeau or Justin Bieber?
Answer: There is no way I can make a choice between them. I don’t have a preference, I like to talk about both worlds (politics and pop culture) equally. Part of why I enjoy my work so much is I don’t think people are one-dimensional. Getting to free my thoughts from the constraints of having to only talk about one of these things has been really nice. Politics contributes to our lives and so does pop culture. It tells us something about ourselves, which is why I like to talk about it so much. 

Question: You are adding published author to your resume by writing the book Son of Elsewhere, which will be released in the spring of 2022. Tell us about the book.
Answer: The book is an exploration of having moved to Canada when I was 12 years old from Sudan and what it was like to figure out life (growing up in Kingston), learning English, and all the ways pop culture helped me understand myself as I tried to piece together an identity. So it is a little bit about Blackness, Islamophobia, watching wrestling when I was young – all those differences fit together in a book and hopefully co-exist in a coherent way.

Registration for the June 29 virtual event is free. Join host Elamin Abdelmahmoud as he talks about our future in the post-COVID-19 world. He will moderate a panel featuring organization behaviour expert Dr. Tina Dacin, infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans, clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Allyson G. Harrison, and Scott McFarlane, Artsci/PHE’97, Ed’98, MEd’07, who is a vice-principal with the Limestone District School Board.