March 2013


Haitian voodoo is a form of medicine: author

In popular culture, voodoo is all about zombies and witchcraft and dolls with needles stuck into them.

But where some see a religion with African origins, or simply black magic, Nicolas Vonarx sees a structured system of medicine, a way of treating illnesses as worthy of respect as any other.

Vonarx explores this idea in Le vodou haïtien : Entre médecine, magie et religion, a work that won him the Prix du Canada en sciences socials 2013 for a French-language work.

“Medicine, magic and religion – those three words are very important when it comes to understanding Haitian voodoo,” says Vonarx. “This book stresses the first word: medicine.”

Trained as a public health practitioner, Vonarx came to know Haiti, its people and its culture, while working there for an international...

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MOOCs: The next generation of teaching and learning?

What are MOOCs? Are they good for teaching? Good for learning? On March 22, the Federation's Director of Teaching and Learning, Fernand Gervais, explored these questions and more. Looking at French MOOCs, the success of MOOCs across different institutions, and posing future challenges, Dr. Gervais made the case for what could be the next generation of teaching and learning as we move into an increasingly digital world. 

For his full powerpoint presentation, click here.

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Drawings from New France brought to light

For 300-odd years, the Codex Canadensis was largely unknown. And yet, the manuscript contains valuable drawings that illustrate in detail the flora and fauna of New France, as well as some of its Aboriginal peoples.

It is lost no more. A new book, The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas, brings together for the first time the illustrated Codex Canadensis and The Natural History of the New World, a written account that supplements the drawings. Together, they offer a new glimpse into the life of New France.

The book was edited by François-Marc Gagnon, an expert in Canadian art, with Nancy Senior and Réal Ouellet. It is the winner of the 2013 Canada Prize in the Humanities presented by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences for an English...

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Baseball a common thread in the Americas

Michel Nareau loves literature, the study of New World identities – and baseball.

He manages to bring those three passions together in his new book, Double jeu : Baseball et littératures américaines, the winner of the Prix du Canada en sciences humaines for 2013.

In it, he shows how, through baseball, many themes common to different countries in the Americas play out.

Baseball, which originated in the United States, quickly spread to Canada, the Caribbean and some Latin American countries – especially those, says Nareau, where in the 19th century the elites sent their children to be educated in the U.S. Baseball is therefore played in countries whose languages are English, French and Spanish.

Love of baseball was not something the Americans imposed on anyone; its fans...

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Authors say Canada’s intelligence services need to be accountable


Writing the history of Canada’s spy and intelligence services is a massive undertaking – so massive that until now no one had taken it on, says Reg Whitaker, one of three authors of the first attempt at a comprehensive history of the “political police” in Canada.

In that respect, Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada from the Fenians to Fortress America breaks new ground. The winner of the 2013 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences for an English-language scholarly work covers 150 years of activities by police and security agencies such as the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Whitaker, who wrote the book along with Gregory S. Kealey and Andrew Parnaby, says that in a liberal democracy like Canada’s, it can be difficult to separate the...

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