Canadian Studies profs hold conference on how to stay critical without Harper around

While Twitter commentary has been biting, my take is that it is refreshing to have a group acknowledge its implicit (and sometimes explicit) biases.

A similar reflection others (e.g., public servants, the media) might also be warranted, although my sense is the media is becoming more critical as the government’s time in office becomes longer, with the related decisions (or non-decisions):

Canadian Studies professors slammed Stephen Harper’s Conservative government so much that they’re literally holding a conference in Ottawa to discuss how to keep their critical edge now that he’s gone.

“The loss of the Harper government for Canadian academics is not unlike the loss of George W. Bush for American comedians,” the description of the conference’s theme says.

“The question in this moment of optimism (which may well have passed by the time this conference comes around) is…What do we do now?”

Called “After the Deluge: Reframing/Sustaining Critique in Post-Harper Canada,” the conference will take place at Carleton University on Oct. 28 and 29.

The conference’s theme notes Canadian Studies professors have “long prided themselves on a robust critique of the Canadian State,” and outlines how the Conservative government under Harper antagonized scholars.

 It singles out the elimination of the long form census and budget cuts to Library and Archives Canada as examples of “attacks” on research infrastructure.

“The Harper government also hit the world of Canadian Studies at its doorstep by cancelling the Understanding Canada program in 2012,” it says.

The theme also questions whether Canadian Studies in general has become too “premised on oppositional critique of the state,” and whether that’s really the best approach for their research.

“Are generative, collaborative, appreciative, and assets-based approaches to Canadian Studies a failure of critical vigilance, or a long-overdue paradigm shift?” the conference’s theme ponders.

Peter Thompson, an associate professor at Carleton who’s helping organize the conference, said the event will be less blunt than the theme implies.

“The idea is not just bashing the Harper era,” he said. “It’s about to what extent is there a change, and looking at that with clear eyes. We’re not assuming that there’s a change in government so things are automatically better.”

Thompson — who was very careful to keep the discussion apolitical — did acknowledge that with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overturning some of the Conservative government’s most controversial policies, there is the potential for contemporary research to become too soft.

“I don’t want to assume what people are going to say at the conference,” he said. “But yeah … it’s about making sure that critique, and that the sharpness of the critique, is still there even though things have changed.”

Papers presented at the conference will touch on areas such as national security, national symbols, and cultural policy, Thompson said.

The conference is organized as part of the Canadian Studies Network, and will also host the network’s annual general meeting.

Source: Canadian Studies profs hold conference on how to stay critical without Harper around | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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