The 2019 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences wraps up in Vancouver

Largest academic gathering in Canada concludes after a week of presentations and dialogue

Courtesy of Dr. Maite Taboada

By Paul Choptuik, Coordinating News Editor

The 2019 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences has wrapped up in Vancouver. Running from June 1–7, Congress was hosted by the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress was comprised of over 70 scholarly associations including the Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) and the Canadian Historical Association (CHA). It is the largest academic gathering in Canada, with over 5,000 papers being presented according to the event’s media kit.

It is hosted by a different Canadian university every year, with Congress 2020 set to be held at Western University in London, Ontario. The last time Congress was held in Vancouver was in 2008, also at UBC.

The theme for Congress this year was “Circles of Conversation.” Specifically it “aims to foster and encourage circles of conversation among scholars, educators, students, political leaders, activists, and the public at large, so that people can speak with one another, listen and learn together.”

Members of the public could get a complimentary Community Member Pass, which enabled them to attend a section of the programming. This included the lectures in the Big Thinking series, with keynote speakers like environmentalist David Suzuki and author Esi Edugyan, the latter of whom’s talk can be viewed online.

A number of academics from SFU were present as attendees, presenters, or both. SFU academics presented papers on areas that included but were not limited to: Indigenous matters and reconciliation, business and economics, Canadian politics, identity, diversity, equity, and religion.

Dr. Maite Taboada, a professor in the department of linguistics, gave three different presentations. One presentation, presented with colleagues Rada Trnavac, a former member of the Discourse Processing Lab at SFU, and Cliff Goddard, a professor at Griffith University, dealt with a “quirky little construction in English” that they are calling the “adverb-ly adjective” construction.

“Think of ‘extremely interesting’ or ‘terribly boring.’ It turns out, it’s a very productive structure, with thousands and thousands of examples in corpora we have studied. It seems very frequent in book and movie reviews, and there are lots of creative examples like “howlingly funny” or “breathtakingly incompetetent.’”

Speaking to The Peak, she described Congress as “like Coachella, but for academics and perhaps with a more geeky dress code.

“It’s wonderful, because you are often presenting to a small audience of peers interested in your topic of research, but there is something very special when you are in a setting where hundreds of people are doing the same thing in parallel . . . ”

Another SFU academic present was Dr. Stewart Prest, a lecturer for the department of political science. Prest had two papers at Congress, one of which (co-authored by Ian Bushfield) dealt with Vancouver’s municipal election and how it was affected by the housing crisis.

Responding to The Peak via email, Prest wrote, “In brief, we argue that the housing crisis in the city triggered a period of change – a sort of political evolutionary event. The existing strategies didn’t seem to be working, so parties started to experiment with different kinds of responses, and some entirely new parties emerged as well.”

When asked what his favorite aspect of Congress was, Prest noted that he loved reconnecting with colleagues. Even after not seeing some for years, they are able to carry on from where they left off.

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