Guest lecturer to speak on politics, literacy and more

An expert in the dimensions of state formation, the centralization of knowledge and the historical development of social science, Carleton University sociology Professor Bruce Curtis (right) will present the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure annual lecture. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History, will take place tomorrow at 3pm in the Senate Chamber, N940 Ross Building on the Keele campus. There will be a reception immediately following the lecture.

His lecture, titled “Textually Mediated Politics in Lower Canada: Literacy Events and Literacy Practices”, will highlight some of his most recent work. Research by Curtis has contributed new perspectives on interdisciplinary studies of state formation, knowledge formation and systems of classification and categorization. His earlier studies and resulting schoarly works including, True Government by Choice Men?: Inspection, Education, and State Formation in Canada West (1992) and Building the Educational State: Canada West, 1836-1871 (1988) have been recognized as landmarks in theoretically innovative, historically grounded research. His most recent book, The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875 (2001) is the only study awarded both the John A. Macdonald Prize of the Canadian Historical Association and the John Porter Prize of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.

Curtis is fascinated by problematic instances of what the 20th century French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “category slippage” (which he saw as the “sociologist’s bread and butter”), and by the development of systems of classification and categorization. Curtis’ fascination has led to a life’s work, influenced by social studies of science and actor-network theory, on the history of weights and measures; the making of the census and of census categories; the politics of demography; and cases of boundary crossing, from so-called blues singers changing their names to record gospel music, to the configuration of modern consumers by new information technologies, and the age-governance of sexuality.

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