Students in the Spotlight - Atif Khan

July 24, 2020 by School of Cities Staff
"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.



  • What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests? 
    I am finishing my dissertation work on drone warfare across the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I am also investing myself in artistic knowledge, craft and self-practice. These days I think most about form, structure and architecture of what we call knowledge. I’m especially interested at the intersections of experimental knowledge and artistic work.

I’m working on a series of projects stemming out of my academic work in the realm of public engagement, digital humanities and research dissemination.

  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
    I grew up in Rexdale in Etobicoke and still live there. I was and still am surrounded by predominantly low-income Black and Brown peoples. Every single day is a fight. Anyone who studies the urban knows the urban is not something unified but fragmented and divided. Similarly, Rexdale is not Toronto. Toronto is a classist and segregated city and peoples on the margin know this all too well. Such context frames the entirety of this project as well as my graduate research and broader work.

  • What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
    Drone Shadows is a project in which I am interviewing cultural workers, thinkers and artists working under the broad themes of war, technology, surveillance and visual analysis. I am invested in experimenting with artistic form, conversation and public dissemination.

  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact? 
    Everything is always connected. There were always pandemics before this one. There will be more. We are not all the same. And we are not all in this together.

  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student? 
    Students need to be told they are capable of creativity, imagination and rigorous scholarship. The School has been a place for me to experiment with what that work can look like and the ways in which I can take that up across my thinking, ideas and artistic practice.

  • Any final words/ message?
    Fight alongside others. Think yourself powerful. Think yourself capable. 
    Please feel free to connect with me, especially if you are from a poor and racialized background within the city and navigating institutions, academic work or emerging artistic practice. I’d be happy to point out resources, networks and offer advice where I can.



Student Bio:

Atif resides in the community of Rexdale which informs much of his research work, practice and thought. His graduate research refracts the fields of surveillance studies, science and technology studies, architecture and visual studies, security studies and drone warfare.