Debt, Austerity, and the Media

Debt, Austerity, and the Media at Western FIMS brings a selection of local and Canadian practitioners, exponents, analysts, activists to share their research about regionally- and nationally-specific problems of debt, austerity, and the media. This project draws on their practical insights into tactics and strategies for strengthening our abilities to detect and cultivate practices of useful thought, repair, and (debt) forgiveness.


Next Event

Researching Canadian business news through translation: debt, austerity and victims

A talk by Pier-Pascale Boulanger, Concordia University, with a response by Melissa Adler, Western University

Thursday, February 27, 2020, 4:00-6:00 p.m.

FNB 4110 (FIMS and Nursing Building at Western University)

Abstract: Translation is a point of entry for studying how social groups and topics are represented in the press. Investigating translation in a large bilingual corpus provides insight into the way anglophone and francophone journalists frame and explain economics and finance for large audiences. With Chantal Gagnon (associate professor at Université de Montréal), we look at the words “debt”, “austerity” and “victim” to see whether narratives converge or diverge when anglophone and francophone stories are set side by side and contrasted.

Biography: Pier-Pascale Boulanger is a professor at Concordia University in Montreal. She teaches financial, legal, economic and literary translation. She has co-authored several papers with Chantal Gagnon on the ideology of the financial discourse in the Canadian press and chairs the Observatory of Financial Discourse in Translation (



The 2007-2008 crash, and the economic, social, and political crises that have multiplied and intensified in its wake, seem to have left few areas of life unaffected. Along with war and conflict, unprecedented flows of refugees, and political polarization, debt has become (or has been revealed as) a transversal problem, one that enchains the most modest idiosyncratic quanta of individual biographies and the broadest world-historical flows of power and resources. In Canada, consumer debt, student debt, automobile debt, and mortgages continue to increase out of sync with increases in wages or other sources of social security, and national or sovereign debt is typically framed as a sword hanging over the neck of Canadian society. All levels of government have been propounding and institutionalizing austerity measures of one kind or another, compelling many Canadians to get by with less than they may have been led to expect by previous generations and still-circulating truisms. In Ontario, it seems, the hits just keep on coming: the provincial health system may no longer cover the cost of anesthetic for colonoscopies. Students in the province are welcome to all the extracurricular activities they like, even if they must borrow more money for access to a post-secondary experience that’s anywhere near as rich as that of their predecessors. Here, as around the world, “[e]ven those too poor to have access to credit must pay interest to creditors through the reimbursement of public debts”—through taxes or reduction of services. Debt, the creditor-debtor relation, identifies a, perhaps the, defining problem of our age.

Under a number of headings or guises—financialization, austerity, privatization, monetary and fiscal policy, and so on—debt has emerged as a major research focus in a number of otherwise seemingly divergent disciplines. Scholars from political science, geography, sociology, economics, aesthetics and criticism, and numerous other fields approach debt from different angles, illuminating distinct facets or aspects of this complicated relation. Luminaries and eminences grises from Andrew Ross to Saskia Sassen are doing crucial critical-historical work in media studies and sociology. But one of the most important features of the developing debt economy is the degree to which its proliferation is technologized: new information and communication technologies enable unfathomably complex modes for the individualization of risk-assessment and the tracking of individual economic actors. In this connection, Shoshana Zuboff has surpassed her influential The Age of the Smart Machine with a widely-heralded new book on surveillance capitalism. 

The high-altitude work of such globally-celebrated transdisciplinary scholars is important. The aim of Debt, Austerity, and the Media is to 1) to contribute substantively to the construction of a democratic, multidisciplinary apparatus for the analysis of debt, in all its political, historical, and technological complexity, and 2) to cultivate cross-disciplinary work among FIMS students and faculty, and between members of our faculty and others, around this shared object (debt), an object too urgent and too multifaceted to be the property of any single discipline. We scholars need the grand, ambitious syntheses of international scholarly heavyweights, but it’s our belief that we can benefit more practically and directly from more local and contextually rooted studies, brought to us and shared with us by our Canadian/Ontarian/Great Lakes colleagues. 


Get in Touch


Debt, Austerity, and the Media is sponsored by the Rogers Chair in Journalism and New Media.

Matt Stahl, Associate Professor & Rogers Chair

Faculty of Information & Media Studies

FIMS & Nursing Building Room 4136

Western University

London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7

519-661-2111 x86999