Daniel Justice

The Root System of Knowledge

Whether at work or play, he loves branching out; after all, "the broader your perspective, the deeper you can go in your own tradition."


Daniel Justice is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture at the University of British Columbia. We asked him everything from why he chose his field of study to what he does for fun in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about being a researcher?
I think of research as the enlivening connective tissue between ideas, like the network of fungal mycelium that links and nourishes a forest through its root system. I love how seemingly disparate topics will come together in compelling ways as you follow many of its linking threads, contexts, and histories. This is probably my favourite part of being a researcher: finding and illuminating the meaningful connections.

What advice would you give young researchers?
The same advice my Ph.D. supervisor gave me: “Read promiscuously.” Think well beyond the established limits of your discipline, your field, your comfort. The broader your perspective, the deeper you can go in your own tradition. Be creative, be bold, and let your wide reach keep you humble.

What are you reading right now? 
I tend to have a few books on the go at any one time. Right now I’m quite enjoying Seeber and Berg’s The Slow Professor, along with Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and Eden Robinson’s new novel, Son of a Trickster.

What do you like to do for fun? 
Cooking with my husband, hiking and hanging out with our dogs, drawing, reading fantasy novels and animal cultural histories.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
Forest ranger, librarian, Indigenous-focused bookshop/tea house.

Aside from things for your survival, what item would you most want to have with you on a deserted island? 
A waterproof copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.