Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Knowledge Waiting to be Discovered: Leroy Little Bear speaks on Blackfoot Metaphysics

By Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger

Questioning our very way of thinking, long-time First Nations education advocate and scholar Leroy Little Bear delivered a mind-blowing Big Thinking lecture to a packed house at Congress 2016 this afternoon with wisdom, wit, and extraordinary knowledge. Little Bear explained his view of the limits of Western metaphysics. Metaphysics are those things that are so embodied within an individual that they form the foundational and often unconscious basis of one’s thoughts and behaviour, as well as the organization of society.

Little Bear stated thatWestern metaphysics has been largely shaped by the Enlightenment period of European history.  Western ways of thought are primarily driven by rationalism: everything is about matter; we look at things in isolation; and, we are future-oriented. It rejects arriving at truths through faith, reliance on the past, or intuition, and rejects anything to...

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Eugenics and its modern world implications


Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger

Imagine having no agency over your reproductive decisions. Imagine that those around you believe that you are not capable of making decisions for yourself and your future. Now, imagine a society in which your body is policed to the point where institutions have the right to legally sterilize you without your consent. From 1928 to 1972, this was a reality for persons with disabilities or mental illnesses in Western Canada, predominantly practiced in Alberta. The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta disproportionally affected vulnerable populations, including women, indigenous persons and institutionalized persons.

Nicola Fairbrother presented insights on the history of eugenics in Western Canada in the session entitled Surviving Eugenics in Alberta at Congress 2016. Fairbrother’s research focused on the story of eugenic survivors, as this problematic part of history remains largely...

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At the intersections of queer and youth, there is no single story


Caleb Snider, Congress 2016 student blogger

The Congress 2016 roundtable hosted by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) and the Association for Research in Cultures of Young People (ARCYP) on May 31st entitled At the Intersections of Queer and Youth featured some of the brightest up and coming minds from Canadian academia.

Recent graduates Jordan Fischer (University of Calgary) and Andrea Oakunsheyld (University of Calgary), and Doctoral Candidates Isabelle Groenhof (University of Calgary), Meredith Snyder (University of Alberta), and Joshua Whitehead (University of Calgary) each presented papers on queer spaces and methods of identity formation in popular culture. These topics ranged from literature (Groenhof, Snyder and Whitehead) to music (Fischer) to fan fiction (Oakunsheyld). Each brought a unique perspective and emerging voice to the roundtable.

As different as each...

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Preserving knowledge in the face of war and oppression: Stories of academic refugees fleeing Hitler’s regime


Caleb Snider, Congress 2016 student blogger

When academics and researchers are displaced by war or persecution, it is more than their lives and those of their families that face destruction; we also risk losing their accumulated expertise and future contributions to human knowledge. In times of political turmoil, intellectuals make easy targets for scapegoating and targeting, as they represent an imminent threat to totalitarian systems. The rise of the Third Reich in the middle of the 20th century proved no exception, resulting in the deaths and displacement of many of the German-speaking world’s academics.

This is the subject that six eminent academics spoke on, as part of multipart panel entitled Personal stories and institutional narratives from German-speaking émigré physicians, scientists, and academics between the 1930s and the 1960s. Presented by the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) and the Canadian Society for...

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Ideas matter: Telling your research story


Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger

Do you find yourself attending academic lectures on topics in which you are extremely interested, only to leave feeling confused, angry at your time wasted, and wondering how such a gripping topic was presented so poorly? Why are some academic presentations so long, difficult to follow, and simply boring? The truth is, researching and presenting require two completely different skill sets. Collecting, analyzing and synthesizing scholarly research are skills that do not automatically translate into the ability to effectively and accessibly deliver findings in the form of a presentation.

Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions was at Congress 2016 this week to deliver a Career Corner workshop entitled Ideas matter: Telling your research story, providing specific strategies and concrete tools to help individuals more effectively tell...

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We’re all in this canoe called Canada together


Caleb Snider, Congress 2016 student blogger

Referencing the famous statue “Spirit of Haida Gwaii” by Indigenous artist Bill Reid, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada) addressed the issue of accommodation in her Big Thinking lecture The Rule of Law in a Multicultural Society, hosted by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences on May 30th.

The Chief Justice argued that accommodation is not a state to be achieved or a destination to be reached; it is an ongoing process, an ideal for which we must ever strive.

She spoke passionately about how to deal with diversity in modern society, how to deal with the “other,” which she sees as the most challenging issue facing the world today. She argued that Canada was founded as a nation that constitutionally recognized diversity (of various indigenous and European peoples under an umbrella of federalism that recognized differences in...

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HSS grads in the workplace: Better than Baristas


Peter Severinson, Policy Analyst, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

If you work in the humanities and social sciences (HSS), there is likely one myth you are tired of hearing: that their graduates will not be able to find good jobs, that they’ll all be working as overeducated baristas. Well, thanks to an enlightening presentation entitled Barista or better? Where will a university or college degree take you? on the opening day of Congress 2016 by Dr. Ross Finnie, we now know this isn’t true.

Finnie, whose background is in economics, is the Director of the Education Policy Research Initiative at the University of Ottawa. His group is studying the labour market outcomes of students who graduated from 14 universities and colleges between 2005 and 2012. The final report is not available yet, but Finnie was able to share an enlightening sneak peek to his Congress audience.

Finnie’s current project is a...

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