Thousands of scholars talk city at York

In late May, 8,000 scholars and researchers from across Canada and around the world will converge upon York to talk about The City, the theme of the 2006 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Not since 1969, when York was a solitary intellectual outpost in the barrens of north Toronto, have members of 80 learned societies come together on its campus.

“What an incredible opportunity to show York’s coming of age, ” says John Lennox, Congress Chair and academic convener.

That it is. In 37 years, how hasn’t York changed? It’s now Canada’s third largest university, and the Keele campus has evolved from a patch of buildings in a farmer’s field on Toronto’s fringe to a city within a city with a dynamic faculty, first-class researchers and fine research facilities. What more fitting a place to host the 75th congress?  

“We are a pre-eminently urban university of Canada’s present and future and that is why the Congress theme – The City: A Festival of Knowledge – is quintessentially York,” says Lennox. “As an intensive, productive, and dynamic centre for the humanities and social sciences, York is the ideal site for this year’s gathering.”

Banners festooning The Common will welcome visiting researchers and scholars from May 27 to June 3. Beyond sharing research at the customary annual meetings of academic societies, visitors – academics and graduate students – will be treated to a stellar showcase of York’s academic and artistic talent.

This is the 75th anniversary of the congress (formerly the Learned Societies) and York and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences have worked together to prepare a stimulating program of lectures, panel debates, research displays, music, dance, theatre, film, art and book fairs.

Congress highlights

  • Research in Society LecturesStephen Lewis (right), UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, will discuss the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the topic of his recent CBC-Massey Lectures. And environmentalist David Suzuki  gives a lecture followed by a panel on urban sustainability. Participating on the panel will be Karen Kraft-Sloan (MES ’90), currently Canada’s ambassador for the environment.
  • Congress 75th Anniversary Gala – Bernard Shapiro, Canada’s first independent ethics commissioner and former principal of McGill University in Montreal, gives the keynote address.
  • International University Presidents’ Panel – President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden chairs a panel discussion by university presidents about the university as urban institution.
  • York Research Gallery – An exhibition of some of York’s city-themed research will line the walls of a special research gallery in York Lanes.
  • Library Archival Display – Scott Library showcases York holdings.
  • Breakfast on Campus Speaker Series – Writers speaking include Governor General’s Award-winning poet, novelist and essayist Nicole Brossard and Giller finalist Eden Robinson (right), author of Monkey Beach.

York cultural highlights

Congress gives York a chance to highlight its new performance and exhibition spaces in the Accolade East Building.

  • Art Gallery of York University – A double-projection film and photographic exhibition, Inconsolable Memories by Stan Douglas, focuses on Havana and surroundings.
  • Faculty Concerts – Pianist Christina Petrowska, jazz saxophonist David Mott, jazz quartette Time Warp, Mark Chambers and the York Baroque Ensemble, and mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin (right) perform at the Congress opening. Other cultural events and entertainment will feature primarily York student and faculty talent.
  • Film Festival – Prepared by professor, author and broadcaster Seth Feldman, this festival features films focusing on the city theme.

York University, as host, has planned an array of additional events for guests during the Congress.  Registration takes place at Vari Hall. Hospitality sites include a tent on the Vanier common and the Grad Pub. And the largest multidisciplinary scholarly book fair in North America will stretch the length of York Lanes into the York University Bookstore.

Hundreds of York faculty and staff have been planning for this Congress for four years. Various committees have been hard at work planning academic and cultural fare, logistics and campus presentation, says Lennox. “They are working to make this Congress one of the best and to help this campus shine,” he says.

 “Congress is truly an institutional, pan-university enterprise. We all are part of it. It will be a festival of knowledge and a celebration of what York has become since the Congress was here in 1969.”

Look for more news and details in future issues of YFile and on the Congress 2006 Web site.

For further information, please contact the Congress Office at ext. 55788 or