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Richard Florida will give a keynote address on the “creative class” and economic prosperity - photo courtesy Creative Class Group
Richard Florida will give a keynote address on the “creative class” and economic prosperity - photo courtesy Creative Class Group

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 5 | May 1, 2008

Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2008

By Lorraine Chan

Some call it summer camp for scholars. Others see it as a nine-day banquet of ground-breaking ideas and debate.

Between May 31 and June 8, UBC will host the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, North America’s largest multidisciplinary gathering of academics.

An expected 10,000 scholars and post-graduate students will explore pressing social and cultural concerns through workshops, panels and presentations. The conference will see on average 120 sessions taking place concurrently on any given day.

As the major academic event of UBC’s centenary celebrations, Congress will also feature art exhibits and theatrical performances. This year’s theme, “Thinking Beyond Borders: Global Ideas / Global Values,” is meant to provide a framework for participants to probe ethical issues and dilemmas that arise with globalization, says Richard Cavell, Academic Convenor for Congress and a professor in UBC’s English Department.

UBC is jointly organizing the 77th annual Congress with the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS), which represents 50,000 scholars, graduate students and practitioners. The mandate of CFHSS is to promote research, scholarship and teaching. It houses the permanent secretariat of the Congress.

The conference will bring together almost 80 scholarly associations from a multidisciplinary array of fields including linguistics, ethics, international development, political science, social work, literature and religion.

Cavell notes that this year’s Congress will be the first ever to convene on four campuses: UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan, Robson Square and Great Northern Way.

On May 29th, UBC’s Okanagan campus will kick off Congress with an opening panel dialogue that looks at the role of culture in the global knowledge economy. Speakers will include fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, UBC Okanagan Canada Research Chairs and UBC Killam scholars. Proceedings will be podcast to the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and archived on the Congress website at www.fedcan.ca/congress2008.

A major highlight at Congress is the Research in Society (RIS) lecture series, which features internationally distinguished academics commenting on current issues. Much anticipated is the address by Richard Florida, an economist and urban theorist who’s currently teaching at the University of Toronto. Florida posits that cities with higher concentrations of the “creative class” will generate higher levels of economic development.

The RIS lecture series also features renowned ethicist Margaret Somerville. A professor in law and medicine at McGill University, Somerville will tackle in her keynote address some of the most exciting and pressing ethical challenges we face today.

Another favourite Congress event is the Breakfast on Campus speaker series, which highlights prominent public figures -- novelists, poets, journalists and politicians -- from outside academe.

This year’s speakers include: journalist and author Stevie Cameron; International Olympic Committee member and former Olympic athlete Richard W. Pound; and Vancouver novelist and publisher David Chariandy, whose debut novel Soucouyant was nominated for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General’s award.

As well, the ever-popular Congress Book Fair welcomes more than 150 publishers and government agencies to UBC’s Student Recreation Centre (the Bird Coop).

Cavell says a sub theme of Congress: Culture in the City will be drawn from programming that explores the role of humanities and social science research in the urban context.

For example, UBC Robson Square will host a discussion on UBC’s Community Service Learning initiatives on June 2. That will be followed by a June 5 panel on the role of culture in the global economy with Florida and other speakers including UBC Theatre Prof. Robert Gardiner, author Timothy Taylor and urban planning expert Larry Beasley.

At Great Northern Way campus, the Ottawa-based national theatre company Magnetic North will present Hive2 during June 4-14. This interactive event will introduce 11 Canadian theatre companies performing 11 pieces in continuous rotation -- followed by a musical performance.

Making Congress a green event has also been a priority for UBC and the Federation, says Cavell. In consultation with James Tansey, a professor at the Sauder School of Business, UBC’s Congress will be the most sustainable Congress in history, setting the benchmark through enviro-friendly practices such as compostable plates and cutlery.

As well, CFHSS is partnering with the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) in support of its initiative toward reducing the ecological footprint of the Congress. As part of the society’s “sustainability challenge,” CSSE members are encouraged to bring their own bag when picking up their registration receipts and delegate’s kits. A full list of greening activities can be found online at www.fedcan.ca/congress2008/GREEN.html.

More Congress 2008 details are available at: www.fedcan.ca/congress2008.

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Last reviewed 29-Apr-2008

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