Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

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Eisenberg.jpgAvigail Eisenberg

Department of Political Science
University of Victoria

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Avigail Eisenberg is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Faculty Associate in the Indigenous Governance program at the University of Victoria. Before moving to Victoria, Eisenberg was an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, where she spent the first ten years of her academic career. She has held visiting research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh (1996-7), and Université de Montréal (2004-5). She has been a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Centre in Bellagio Italy.

Born and raised in Alberta, Eisenberg received her B.A. in political science from the University of Alberta and her M.A. and Ph.D. in political studies from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Her M.A. work focused on how groups are recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her Ph.D. traced the development of 20th-Century theories of political pluralism and their relevance to contemporary debates about diversity. It was published as Reconstructing Political Pluralism (SUNY Press) in 1995.

Eisenberg's research focuses on issues at the intersection of political theory and Canadian politics. She studies and teaches in the area of Canadian constitutionalism with a focus on the status of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and national minorities in Canada. In the last five years, she has become interested in the broader theoretical challenges to the status of minorities in legal and political decision-making, especially in conflicts between individuals and groups. Her research focus is now to examine the ways in which public institutions interpret and apprehend the identities of religious, indigenous, linguistic and ethnic minority groups in their decision-making. She has put together numerous conferences and workshops on the topic which have recently resulted in three collections of research papers: Minorities within Minorities co-edited with Jeff Spinner-Halev (Cambridge 2005); Diversity and Equality (UBC Press 2006); and Sexual Justice/Cultural Justice co-edited with Barbara Arneil, Monique Deveaux and Rita Dhamoon (Routledge, 2007).

Eisenberg's contributions also include co-founding the Victoria Colloquium on Legal and Political Thought, and the Consortium on Democratic Constitutionalism based in the University of Victoria. She has also worked with the Canadian Policy and Research Network, and provided advice to the BC Premier's Office, the BC Citizens Assembly on Democratic Reform, and the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. She is an active member of the Westcoast Legal Education and Action Fund and the BC Civil Liberties Association.


  • Democratic theory and Canadian politics with an emphasis on pluralism and minority rights
  • The political history of democratic pluralism
  • Public policy and minority rights, in Canada and comparatively
  • Aboriginal rights issues in Canada
  • Sexual discrimination and minority rights in Canada
  • How political institutions assess identity in the context of legal and political controversies about minority rights