Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Politics of Food Prices

The Wall Street Journal blog recently posted an interesting article about the politics of food in Egypt, looking at the price of available food to citizens. One of the possible questions of the Stewardship of the Planet theme asks how the politics of food have been used to push political objectives. Do you think that the prices of food in Egypt will have an impact on their political development in the coming months or years? Do you think that the state of food prices was an impetus in the recent revolution?

Check out the article and weigh in on the comments section.


The Themes.

For each research cycle, KIAS will be working within three research themes that will guide the projects, events, conferences, and day-to-day proceedings of the institute. The themes are modern and interesting, and will allow for research that will directly impact the society which KIAS is a part of. Through a large-scale consultation, KIAS tweaked and adapted the themes to represent three specific areas of research, while allowing for a wide range of topics to be examined. In no particular order, we invite you to examine these themes and explore how your own research may fit into these lines of questioning.

As an interdisciplinary research institute, KIAS genuinely believes that research is at its best when it works across departments and faculties.

Stewardship of the Planet

The World Bank has predicted that by 2030 more than a billion people in the developing world will belong to the “global middle class,” up from just 400 million in 2005. That’s a good thing. But it will be a hard thing for the planet if those people are eating meat and driving gasoline-powered cars at the same rate as Americans now do. It’s too late to keep the new middle class from being born; it’s not too late to change how they and the rest of us will produce food and energy.

                                              Robert Kunzig, National Geographic (January 2011)

Ethically informed stewardship of the planet can be pursued from a number of points of view and in a variety of contexts, but there is an urgency to examine the issue now, and to propose tenable responses to this challenge.  Recent months have seen ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, food riots in Africa and India, renewed focus on global population growth, and a heightened concern for mitigation of environmental risk.  The questions posed below frame some of the major issues. Researchers and creative/performative artists are invited to consider these as the basis for their grant proposals, or may propose others that align with the overall theme. 

  • What defines ethical environmental stewardship?
  • What are the ethical limits of development?
  • What roles should Albertans assume as informed environmental citizens?
  • What does environmental sustainability mean as the global population approaches seven billion?
  • How can responsible, sustainable development occur in an increasingly interdependent world where competitive demands for such things as energy, metals, minerals, food, fiber, and water are accelerating? How can these demands be mitigated, reduced, or eliminated?
  • What are the social, political, economic, and cultural implications of the potential crisis in global food supply that may arise from climate change and other factors?
  • What are the environmental implications of gas and oil development and the pursuit of affordable energy in a climate-change world?
  • How has the politics of food been used in the past to advance political objectives?

Place, Belonging, and Otherness

Talking about place, where we belong, is a constant subject for many of us. We want to know if it is possible to live on the earth peacefully. Is it possible to sustain life? Can we embrace an ethos of sustainability that is not solely about the appropriate care of world’s resources, but is also about the creation of meaning—the making of lives that we feel are worth living.

                                          bell hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place (2009)

bell hooks eloquently encapsulates a foundational human concern to understand one’s place in, not only the physical world, but also in the social spaces in which we move, and to which we may feel affinity or distance. The theme of Place, Belonging, and Otherness encourages an examination of a broad range of relationships in order to better understand the human social condition, whether in the early twenty-first century or at antecedent historical points. Researchers and creative/performative artists are invited to consider these as the basis for their grant proposals, or may propose others that align with the overall theme.

  •  What is the meaning of place, and how has it been constructed historically? How is it being constructed today?
  • What is the social and political force of narratives of belonging and otherness?
  • How has the movement of peoples, especially during periods of great social duress (e.g., war, revolutions, and natural disasters) affected notions of place and belonging?
  • How do borders and boundaries constrain, or produce, notions of personal and group identity?
  • How do place and belonging affect spirituality? How do borders and boundaries affect diasporic and minority communities in Alberta and beyond?
  • How do they affect people with disabilities?
  • How do they affect indigenous peoples in Canada?
  • How has the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms shaped notions of place and belonging in Canadian society? (2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter’s passage into law.)

Culture, Media, Technology

As the unity of the modern world becomes increasingly a technological rather than a social affair, the techniques of the arts provide the most valuable means of insight into the real direction of our own collective purposes.

                                       Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride (1951)

 In an age saturated with new technologies and a proliferation of representational media, there is a need to reconsider both traditional forms of cultural expression and new ones enabled by technological advancement. This topic encourages an engagement of the imaginative, material, and social conditions of arts’ production and reception. The questions posed below frame some of the major issues. Researchers and creative/performative artists are invited to consider these as the basis for their grant proposals, or may propose others that align with the overall theme.

  • How will live theatre and music performance as well as traditional approaches to presentation of the visual arts evolve as technology increases its hold on our discretionary ‘free’ time?
  • What strategies can be employed to ensure the preservation of live cultural interaction?
  • How will print-based literary works evolve in a time of technological changes and multi-media representations? How will the folkloric arts?
  • How have evolving social patterns and economic models affected artistic creations?
  • How are the arts making use of new technologies to develop innovative and novel artistic forms and expressions?
  • How can education in the arts, and through the arts, influence the quality of life within and beyond the borders of Alberta?
  • How has the critical intelligence of media theorist, and Edmonton native, Marshall McLuhan, advanced our understanding of the power of the media in our everyday lives? (2011 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of McLuhan’s birth.)

Tomorrow’s Ideas, Now

One of the most exciting programs that KIAS is embarking on in its first year as an institute is the undergraduate student conference, Tomorrow’s Ideas, Now.

Undergraduate student research is an area that is often overlooked on the priority lists. KIAS believes that research begins at an early stage in the life of an academic, so undergraduate students should not be left behind. In this spirit, KIAS is very happy to be organizing an international undergraduate student conference for students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program, working in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Fine Arts.

The conference will take place from August 17 to 20, 2011 on the beautiful campus at the University of Alberta, one of Canada’s most prestigious research universities. Students from across the world will have an enormous opportunity to present their research work in front of their most gifted peers. As acceptance is based on merit, attendees will come out of the conference with an academically-reviewed paper for the curriculum vitae, as well as a great experience.

All of the research must be within one or more of the KIAS Research Themes, which are topics of crucial global importance. Stewardship of the Planet. Place, Belonging, Otherness. Culture, Media, Technology.

KIAS is looking for a dynamic group of presentations and accept applications of all types: scholarly papers and posters, to artistic performance, dance, musical composition, multimedia, and literary expression. Spoken word? You bet. Interpretive dance? Absolutely. Research paper? Yep.

Even if you aren’t looking to go forward with a post-graduate level of schooling, employers are looking for graduates who have set themselves apart from their colleagues. Participating in a conference of this nature is a fantastic way to show prospective bosses that you have something different. Leadership, public speaking, research skills – you have so much to gain from an event like this.

The nitty-gritty: the conference has a registration fee of $100 which will take care of food and event costs for the duration of the conference. As well, KIAS is offering a number of Travel and Accommodation Grants available on a competitive bases to meritorious conference attendees. You must be 18 years or older and be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at the time of your application. Deadline to submit the application form and the 300-word abstract is May 9, 2011.

All the application forms, guidelines and FAQs are available on the KIAS website, located here. More information will continue to be posted as we have it.

If you would like to volunteer at the conference, another great idea for those looking for leadership opportunities, just email KIAS Executive Manager Gillian at: and you can be added to the list.

Looking forward to meeting all the great young minds in August!

Greetings from KIAS

KIAS is excited to begin its life as a leader in Social Sciences, Humanities, and Fine Arts research both at the University of Alberta and beyond. KIAS has a clear goal and mission: to facilitate transformational interdisciplinary and comparative research at the highest level. KIAS will push boundaries in an effort to increase collaboration and cooperation between faculties, departments, scholars, students, campuses, and society.

We hope that this will be a space for informal discussion and feedback about the work of KIAS. We want to encourage researchers to meet new colleagues and for the public to become involved in research that can affect their own lives.

KIAS looks forward to working with all of you and to getting the ball rolling on ground-breaking outcomes.