Big Thinking

Big Thinking

Big Thinking

Presented by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Big Thinking lecture series is committed to bringing big ideas in the humanities and social sciences to new audiences - creating opportunities for researchers to challenge and inspire policy makers, citizens, academics, students and community members on the critical questions of our time.

Big Thinking on the Hill's audience consists of MPs, senators, policymakers, and members of the public. Big Thinking at Congress takes place at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which brings together academics, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to share findings, refine ideas, and build partnerships that will help shape the Canada of tomorrow.

The Big Thinking series is made possible through the support of

Upcoming Events 

Perceptions of humanity and of membership: Two challenges of inclusion and exclusion in Canada

Will Kymlicka

Various groups in Canada are stigmatized in ways that make them vulnerable to discrimination. In some cases, this takes the form of dehumanization: a perception that members of the group are somehow deficient in humanity, and hence not owed the universal human rights that arise from our common humanity. In other cases, members of a group may be seen as deficient in their commitment to Canada – as fully human, but not fully Canadian – and hence not deserving of the citizenship rights that attach to being a full member of society. This Big Thinking lecture will explore both forms of stigmatization, discuss their powerful effects, and identify the distinct challenges each raises to the Canadian model of diversity.

Respondent: Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Citizenship and Human Rights, University of Alberta.

Will Kymlicka holds the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University, focusing on issues of democracy and diversity, and in particular on models of citizenship and social justice within multicultural societies. He has published nine books and over 200 articles, which have been translated into 34 languages, and was recently awarded the 2019 Gold Medal from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He is co-director, with Irene Bloemraad, of a new CIFAR program on Boundaries, Membership and Belonging, which brings together leading scholars to explore how the boundaries of social and political membership are drawn in the contemporary world.

Free online lecture

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. ET 



Presented in partnership with CIFAR.


Open call for speaker suggestions

Do you have an idea for a future lecture or panel featuring scholars in the humanities or social sciences that you think is a great fit for Big Thinking? Submit your idea!

Past Events:  2019-2020 season

Networked bodies, AI, and our future digital lives (virtual lecture)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Will bodies become computer platforms? Disruptive embodied computing technology is being proposed, and it will change how people live in vastly different ways in our evolving post-Internet society. The idea of a thoroughly quantified, remotely monitored networked body is propelling discussions of personal privacy, human agency, creativity, consent, social connection, cultural values, and ethics. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seeping into all computing paradigms. As a consequence, AI also operates as an ideology, a belief system. This talk raises questions about early-phase embodied technologies and the unintended consequences that may result in the future

Dr. Isabel Pedersen is Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media and Culture and Associate Professor at Ontario Tech University. She is co-editor of Embodied Computing: Wearables, Implantables, Embeddables, Ingestibles, a collection released in spring 2020 by MIT Press. As a humanities researcher, Pedersen explores how technology is invented and adopted; she takes a human-centric approach to understand the impact on life, culture, politics, art, ethics and social practices. She was inducted into The Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in 2014.

Watch the video here:


Promoting health for refugees in an era of forced migration

September 18, 2019

Global economic inequities, violence and war, and environmental catastrophes aggravated by climate change, ensure that the numbers of people seeking asylum will continue to increase in the years to come. CAHS Fellows and other researchers have a crucial role to play in bringing evidence to this urgent policy issue. Discussion will explore the interplay of human rights, social policy and clinical practice in refugee health, identify best practices and gaps in existing knowledge, and explore the implications of current research and emerging challenges to address the health needs of refugees in Canada.The goal ultimately is to identify best practices in Canada and specific strategies to improve the health outcomes of refugees seeking protection Canada. 

James Orbinski, Director, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, York University

Nadia Abu-Zahra, International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa (moderator)



See past Big Thinking lectures in our archive.


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