UBC hosts Congress 2019

UBC is gearing up to host the interdisciplinary academic conference, Congress 2019 from June 1 to 7. This year’s event is centred around the theme “Circles of Conversation,” with a focus on literature, visual arts and music.

Annual Congresses are organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences in partnership with that year’s host university as an interdisciplinary convergence of conferences on those areas.

“Every Congress has its own personality,” said Laura Moss, Congress 2019's academic convener. That personality is determined by the university hosting and the theme chosen, which draws influence from current international politics and topics of interest.

Moss sees the theme of “Circles of Conversation” as creating “a place to talk, a place to really share ideas, share opinions, maybe differing opinions, but get at some key issues across various disciplines.”

The conference includes nearly 300 free events that are open to the public, ranging from art exhibitions and theatre performances to traditional keynote talks and panels.

Speakers in the “Big Thinking” series are all artists themselves, and according to Moss, their talks will focus on three major questions: “Who speaks for whom, who listens and who benefits?” The talks will also focus on the relationship between art and society.

“I think the theme of using the arts to provoke intellectual debate, conversation, is unique to this Congress and the selection of the five big thinking panels and speakers based on that, I think is going to cast a really interesting light on on Congress at UBC,” Miller said.

Professor George Belliveau, who is featured in the theatre performance “Unload: Theatre with Veterans,” emphasized the importance of the arts as an alternate way to convey research and scholarship.

“With theatre as a mode of sharing the work, it humanizes the data and it brings life into the research,” Belliveau said. “We bring body, mind and heart into the work.”

Also unique to UBC’s Congress 2019 is the Pedagogy Hub.

“[The Hub is] where people come and talk about all aspects of teaching, the scholarship of teaching and learning and really think through questions around things like risk in the classroom, or how to teach to a big class or a small class,” Moss said.

This accompanies the already existing Career Corner, which focuses on professionalization but has discussed teaching in the past.

The AMS Nest will be used as a “hub for Congress 2019,” according to AMS President Chris Hakim.

The Great Hall will be used for registration and many additional programmed events will be taking place in the Nest, including one in the Hatch Gallery. The AMS is also working with Conferences and Catering in the Social Zone in the West Plaza, featuring customized beer and daily barbecue specials.

“It's very exciting to see such a widely regarded interdisciplinary conference coming here, and especially using the Nest as a hub for the conference,” Hakim said.

Miller said that UBC’s and Vancouver’s “rich context” make this year’s Congress stand out from previous ones.

“It is an absolutely unique event, not just in Canada, but in the world,” he said. “We are a country that has the unique opportunity to bring together scholars across more than 70 fields of study in one place.”

“There's such a huge buffet of topics and conversations and people to meet that if you're interested in ideas, there's no better place to be,” Miller said.