York prepares to greet 8,000 visiting academics

Banners are up and final preparations are in full gear as York gets ready to welcome nearly 8,000 delegates to the largest multidisciplinary gathering of scholars in North America. The arrival of delegates begins on Saturday and continues for the next eight days.

The 2006 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together some of the world’s most influential voices from more than 70 disciplines and scholarly associations. Formerly called the Learned Societies Conference, Congress 2006 celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

“York is very proud to be hosting Congress this year. This is the country’s largest and most important academic gathering,” says York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “It brings together thousands of top scholars who not only influence academic life but contribute significantly to public policy and national and international dialogue across a full range of disciplines.”

The last time York hosted Congress was in 1969 – when the University consisted of a cluster of buildings in a farmer’s field. In 37 years, rural has become urban landscape, which makes it ideal for this year’s Congress, points out John Lennox, York English professor and the academic convener for Congress 2006. “The Congress theme this year – The City: A Festival of Knowledge – is ideal for York, which has become a pre-eminently urban university.”

Left: Groundskeeper Harmony Riley trims the grass along banner-festooned York Boulevard, next to the Honour Court & Information Centre

Congress is organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Federation president Donald Fisher also sees York as an ideal venue, for different reasons. “As one of the largest humanities and social science universities in Canada in terms of teaching and research, it seems a perfect match for this celebration.”

During the eight-day event, May 27 to June 3, dozens of academic associations will hold annual meetings and scholars will present their latest research. A tiny sampling includes papers on:

  • Youth (Dis)Engagement in Politics
  • The Republican War on Science: A Just War or Unholy Crusade?
  • As a Double-Outsider: The Experience of Being an Asian Youth Gang Member in Canada
  • What Real Pros Do: Hockey 2004-5 Lockout
  • Much Odder Than People Realize: The Theology of C.S. Lewis
  • Canadian Political Blogs: Online Soapboxes or Forum for Democratic Dialogue?
  • Post Walkerton: The Implications for Public Health
  • The City as Target: Diaspora and Transnational Migration
  • Gender and Literacy Learning: Cross-cultural Perspectives on the “Boy Problem”
  • Translating Across the Multilingual City: Montreal as a City of the Americas
  • Cell in the City: Is Cellular Phone Use Eroding the Distinction Between Private and Public Space?
  • The Futures of Yiddish Education and Culture in Canada
  • Revival: Celebrating Black Canadian Literature
  • The Science of Ballistic: Mathematics Serving the Dark Side

The event gives York a chance to strut. “Congress will enable York to showcase both its academic strength and its artistic talent,” says Lennox. A research gallery in the Scott Library will highlight the work of more than 40 York scholars. And York will entertain guests with homegrown talent from musicians and dancers to films.

Right: No evidence yet of Molson’s arrival, discover Amina Hussain (left), Food Services manager, and Mary Scheepers, director of Housing and Food Services, as they peer into the giant beer tent set up on the Vanier lawn behind York Lanes

This Congress will also feature many public events, including talks by renowned scientists, writers and social activists. For a $10 day pass, the general public is invited to hear:

  • David Suzuki, award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster
  • Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
  • Bernard Shapiro, ethics commissioner for the Government of Canada
  • Nicole Brossard, award-winning poet, novelist and essayist, who has published more than 30 books
  • David Butler-Jones, Canada’s first chief public health officer
  • Eden Robinson, a Haisla author from BC
  • Elisabeth Lloyd, professor of biology, adjunct professor of philosophy, at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, and adjunct faculty at the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior. She is the author of The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution.
  • Suketu Mehta, a fiction writer and journalist. His first book, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, won the Kiriyama Prize, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.
  • Anosh Irani, born in Bombay and moved to Vancouver in 1998, author of the acclaimed novel The Cripple and His Talismans and of the play, The Matka King.

For more details, visit the Congress Web site or the Today at Congress  page.