Ideas That Matter series launches

Ideas That Matter series launches

By ALEX CRESS, The Brunswickan | link to original article

The Arts Faculty at UNB is providing New Brunswickers with another forum for discussion on provincial issues with the Ideas That Matter speaker series.

Similar to Congress 2011 scheduled for May, which is a conference of researchers showcasing their work to the public, Ideas will offer five speakers and opportunities for dialogue on topics like the forestry industry and New Brunswick’s population and shifting demographics.

Susan Blair is the first speaker for the series and will kick off Ideas with a lecture on the stereotypes and attitudes many share about living in a ‘have-not’ province on the receiving end of others’ charity.

Blair is one of few archaeologists in the province and said these attitudes are not supported by historical evidence. In fact, New Brunswickers pioneered early water travel with the technology of the canoe and were able to make trips from Quebec in four or five days that would have taken other travellers significantly longer.

“This is what really interests me, this distinction between what we think we know about the past here and what the evidence suggests about the past here,” said Blair.

“We constantly are cast as the periphery and the edges and the margins and the place that is the recipient of other people’s innovation. Truthfully, that is not evident in the archaeological record here.”

She wondered why we are unable to shift to an understanding that involves recognizing the “cultural richness and the wealth of people here,” and said if we don’t challenge pre-conceived notions about New Brunswick, we can’t build and move forward to develop respectful relationships within our own society. She thinks the history books need to be rewritten to make this clearer.

“History teachers are all over changing the narratives and rethinking things, but they need us to work with them,” Blair said, which is why she feels so strongly about keeping local talent in the Maritimes.

She lined up to do her PhD with a supervisor in the Middle East and she remembers someone having said, ‘There’s a tiny handful of archaeologists in the Atlantic Region and there’s, like, 2000 in the Middle East… Why would you go there? Where you’re needed is here.’

Blair and other archaeologists are concerned about the effects of global warming on their research because precious historical evidence is being washed away.

“The storms we had this fall…we lost things, archaeological things. Sites that we will never know about because we couldn’t get to them in time.”

These are the kinds of issues Stephanie Slauenwhite, Dean of Arts, wants to engage New Brunswickers in with the Ideas series.

“I was looking at all of the incredible research that was happening across the faculty and thinking the people of New Brunswick should know about it…and we wanted to do it in a way that would stimulate discussion,” said Slauenwhite.

“It’s clear the province as a lot of issues facing it. Often those issues have social, or cultural or economic complexities attached to them, and that means the way we address them is probably based on research that comes out of the humanities or social sciences. We want to let people know there’s research happening in their own backyard that’s relevant to the issues we face today.”

Topics range from looking at the future of the forestry industry to the state of Canadian peacekeeping, to discussing implications of the internet and sex for youth.

About 25 New Brunswick businesses have become sponsors for the speaker series, including the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

“I think the sponsors we have for the series, who are also sponsoring Congress, don’t see the economic viability of the province being separate from the social and cultural issues that we also face.”

Slauenwhite said she hopes Ideas will become an annual event, encouraging the engagement of public New Brunswick with university research so the province’s issues can continue to be tackled.


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