Three York professors join ranks of CIFAR

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Three professors will lead or join two programs launched by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) – a global research organization – to delve into pressing, challenging questions facing science and humanity now and into the future.

Hélène Mialet
Hélène Mialet

Professor Hélène Mialet of the Department of Science Technology and Society is principal investigator and co-director leading CIFAR’s Future Flourishing program, to which York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Kristin Andrews, of the Department of Philosophy, was named a new Fellow. Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change Professor Roger Keil was also named a Fellow of CIFAR’s Humanity’s Urban Future program.

Future Flourishing, initiated and co-led by Mialet, is one of only three programs, out of 100 initial candidates, that won the international CIFAR’s The Future of Being Human competition, which called for ideas and proposals looking at the long-term intersection of humans, science and technology, social and cultural systems, and the environment. The Future Flourishing underwent a 16 month process, with multiple stages of selection, to become the only York-led program to win the competition.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for York University researchers to apply their knowledge and expertise toward answering some of humanity’s most urgent questions and to make a difference in the world. It is not only a testament to the talent and expertise of our researchers but speaks to the forward-thinking research that takes place every day at York,” says York Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “My congratulations to Professors Hélène Mialet, Kristin Andrews and Roger Keil for pioneering new research and ideas on the impact of technology on society and our urban future.”

Mialet, as co-director of the Future Flourishing Program with Tarek Elhaik, University of California, Davis, and Christopher Kelty, University of California, Los Angeles, has assembled a network of 16 exceptional scholars and practitioners, including philosophers, historians, curators, conservators, artists and anthropologists from around the world to participate in the program.

Her longstanding research aims to set out an innovative methodological and empirical trajectory for the study of the human as a distributed centred-subject. This work has been foundational to the inception of the Future Flourishing program, which will explore how human exceptionalism can be reconfigured by extending the boundary and definition of the human to the living and non-living beings that make us who we are.

“The fundamental question at the core of the Future Flourishing program,” explains Mialet, “is how can we live well without human exceptionalism? How can we live well and flourish with those upon whom we depend or with whom we share a common world? The establishment of a new definition of the human will have tremendous implications for how we think about and ‘do’ politics, ethics, knowledge and morality.” In addition, she points out “This is an important award for York. It has the potential to make profound change in how we engage with our complex world.”

Kristin Andrews
Kristin Andrews

As a new Fellow in the program, Andrews, York Research Chair in Philosophy of Animal Minds, will bring empirical and theoretical expertise to questions about the similarities and differences between humans and non-human animals, their cognitive, affective, social and cultural capacities. She developed novel frameworks for social and normative cognition that can be used to investigate these capacities in other animals.

Humanity’s Urban Future program will explore the question “What is a good city of the future?” Keil is an expert in global sub/urbanization with a particular interest in the urbanization of nature and the relationships of cities and infectious disease. He currently leads an Urban Studies Foundation sponsored project, “City after COVID-19: Comparing vulnerability and urban governance in Chicago, Toronto and Johannesburg.”

Roger Keil
Roger Keil

He says Toronto will be one of the six cities around the world that the group, led by Simon Goldhill of Cambridge University and Diane Davis of Harvard University, will study.

“This is significant as Toronto will be scrutinized as one of the places where humanity’s urban future takes shape,” says Keil. He considers becoming a Fellow a “great honour.” He further notes that York’s exemplary track record in hosting large, multi-site and interdisciplinary research programs at its City Institute and the purposeful recent creation of a Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, provided excellent conditions for the work that lies ahead as he seeks to contribute to thinking about future urban life on this planet.

Successful programs were required to submit bold, new ideas that have the potential to be transformative in tackling complex questions affecting the world. Mialet, Andrews and Keil join a community of Fellows, Nobel laureates and some 400 researchers from around the globe. Each newly establish research program is interdisciplinary and collaborative.

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