Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies examines fires and other catastrophes

Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

The second talk of the 2020-21 Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies (STS) takes place on Sept. 29 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and features Eric Kennedy, an assistant professor in York University’s Disaster & Emergency Management program. Kennedy’s talk is titled “Fires, and Other Catastrophes: Science & Technology Studies in the Governance of Emergencies.”

All events will be delivered all academic year via Zoom. Prior to the talks, the Zoom links can be accessed by contacting the Seminar Series Coordinator Connor Douglas by email at

Now in its 27th year, the series has hosted hundreds of experts from across Canada and around the world presenting on a wide range of STS-related topics. The talks are free and open to the public, and STS majors are encouraged to attend this and all events in the series.

In this talk, Kennedy will draw on ongoing research into both COVID-19 and wildfire management to explore the ways that STS approaches can assist with the management of emergencies.

The presentation is divided into three parts. The first explores the way that these catastrophes perform as proxy wars for deeper disagreements, becoming the sites of multi-layered conflicts about values, priorities and visions of the ‘good life.’ In the second part, Kennedy will turn to the contingency of knowledge (such as the ongoing debates about masking and airborne transmission in COVID-19) to discuss how it’s affected data collection in a national COVID-19 monitoring survey, and how it needs to affect governance of these crises. The talk will conclude with a return to a core STS idea, that of symmetry, to investigate how it challenges us in responding to highly consequential emergencies. Kennedy argues that these approaches can provide a needed corrective to simplistic, linear and deficit-style approaches to policy-making, particularly in the context of emergent crises.

Kennedy runs the CEMPPR Lab (Collaboration on Emergency Management, Policy, and Preparedness Research), and researches wildfire policy in Canada. He teaches classes on qualitative methods (including surveys, interviews and research design), science policy and science and society. Kennedy organizes and teaches an annual eight-day bootcamp for graduate students from across Canada (called Science Outside the Lab), which runs in Ottawa and Montréal each May.

Unless otherwise specified, all seminars in this series will take place on Tuesdays via Zoom.

The series is sponsored by York University’s Department of Science & Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, and coordinated by members of the department. For more information about the Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies, contact Douglas at or visit