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.)
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