Faculty of Arts - News
Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda has been crowned the winner of CBC’s Canada Reads 2014, an annual “battle of the books” competition to find the one book all Canadians should read.
Five Canadian personalities championed five different books during the literary contest – The Orenda was defended by First Nations journalist Wab Kinew, beating out Rawi Hawe’s Cockroach, Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, and Kathleen Winter’s Annabel.
Boyden, a lecturer in UBC’s Creative Writing Program, has found great success with The Orenda (Hamish Hamilton, 2013). The book, which explores the tumultuous relationship between indigenous groups and European settlers in the days before the formation of Canada, was also a contender for the Governor General’s Award and longlisted for the Giller Prize.
The novels shortlisted for the Canada Reads 2014 contest were chosen based on the theme: what is the one novel that could change Canada?
Boyden’s first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award.
UBC’s Creative Writing celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a gala reception on March 15.
Georgia Straight, Thu Mar 6 2014
By: Charlie Smith
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Theatre director Klaus Strassman, a UBC professor for more than two decades, has died.
He was 88.
Global News, Thu Mar 6 2014
By: Carmen Chai
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Springing forward can be deadly for some people, says UBC’s Stanley Coren.
The professor emeritus of psychology points to the spike in traffic accidents after the clocks move ahead by one hour.
“We live in a society that is chronically sleep-deprived, and very bad things happen when chronic sleep deprivation is an issue,” he said.
SF Gate, Thu Mar 6 2014
Link to full text
The U.S. recession has forced college graduates to compete or displace those less educated for low-wage jobs, according to a new article in SF Gate.
According to Paul Beaudry, a UBC economist who studies U.S. employment trends, young adults without a college degree end up unemployed the most.
“At the complete bottom, we see people picking up the worst types of jobs or completely dropping out,” he said.
March 15, 2014, 9 am – 4 pm
University of British Columbia, ANSO 207
6303 North West Marine Drive
Archaeology Day is an annual event that showcases to the UBC community and wider public current archaeological research being done by students and faculty in the CNERS and Anthropology departments. Each year a symposium is organized based on a particular theme and featuring talks by an invited keynote speaker and archaeology faculty and students from UBC and other universities.
DIGITAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST: NEW METHODS AND RESEARCH IN DIGITAL ARCHAEOLOGY
Digital methods are revolutionizing the way most archaeologists do their work. New geospatial technologies, including ground-based and airborne methods of remote sensing (e.g., laser scanning, or the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones”) now allow for the rapid and accurate 3D recording of archaeological phenomena from single artifacts to excavation units and even entire landscapes. Analog data from earlier projects are being digitized, providing fresh insights and re-interpretations as they are analyzed in new ways. Geographical Information Systems have become increasingly important as a means of integrating these digital data streams and have moved beyond traditional uses in predictive modeling to more nuanced ways of looking at human-environment interactions. The visualization of data in 3D is allowing the virtual exploration of various archaeological discoveries, providing not just an important means of public engagement, but allowing us to ask new questions of the things we find. Archaeologists are only beginning to come to terms with the practical and ethical implications of this rapid digital transformation. This symposium explores some of this new terrain, while showcasing current work in the digital realm by archaeologists working at UBC, SFU, University of Victoria, and beyond.
Dr. Fred Limp (Leica Geosystems Chair in Geospatial Imaging, University of Arkansas)
Seeing into the Past: New Technologies for the Measurement of the World’s Heritage
Fred Limp is the holder of the Leica Geosystems Chair and is a University Professor in the departments of Geosciences, Anthropology and Environmental Dynamics at the University of Arkansas. His pioneering work bridges the fields of archaeology, heritage studies and geomatics/geo-informatics. Limp’s research has taken him to six continents and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, USGS, Department of the Interior and many other sources – he has been PI or Co-PI on more than $45 million (US) in grants and awards. Limp has written or edited 9 books and more than 95 journal articles and edited chapters and published more than 100 articles in national and international professional magazines. He is the immediate past-president of the Society for American Archaeology. He was appointed by Interior Secretary Salazar to the Board of the US National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. He also serves on the boards of the Institute for Field Research and Digital Antiquity. As part of his contributions in geomatics/geo-informatics he was founder and served on the Board of the Open Geospatial Consortium, as well as the Intergraph Geospatial Executive’s Board, AmericaView, SPOT Image Academic Advisory Board, The OGC Interoperability Institute, and Oracle North America Users Forum. He is on the editorial board of Advances in Archaeological Practice and was a contributing editor for GeoWorld magazine, a contributor to Earth Imaging Magazine and writes and lectures extensively on spatial technology issues. He was the founding director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST). A current series on National Geographic TV, “Time Scanners,” and a forthcoming one on the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) feature the CAST’s research in locations around the world. Articles on his work have been published in the popular press including USA Today, Omni, New Scientist, Americas, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Delta Sky, ComputerWorld, eWeek, and InformationWeek.
9:00–9:25 Free Breakfast and Coffee
Nick Waber (University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology)
Digital Archaeology in 4D: Examining the Potential of Combining Digital Multiview Photogrammetry and GIS as a Scalable Method for Analysis and Conservation Monitoring of Archaeological Features and Finds
With recent advances in the fields of computer vision and 3D digital modelling, the ability to digitally capture and record complex objects and scenes is becoming increasingly common. These 3D entities then provide a great deal of potential for analysis, especially in regards to objective, quantitative examination and comparison. One particularly interesting aspect of this is the ability to periodically record an entity, and then to analyze how it has changed over time. This provides a valuable tool for anyone interested in monitoring and measuring site, feature, and artifact degradation. This paper proposes a method of adapting photogrammetrically derived 3D modelling with GIS landscape analysis techniques to the issue of recording and monitoring archaeological entities over time, with case studies to illustrate the scalability of the digital toolset.
Maude Côté-Landry, Lisa Tweten, Patricia Taylor, Heather Odell (University of British Columbia, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies)
From Stone to Screen: A CNERS Digitization Project
UBC’s department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies (CNERS) owns a small artefact collection and over 1000 epigraphic squeezes (three-dimensional impressions of stone inscriptions). Unfortunately, these collections are fragile and difficult to access. To address this problem in spring 2013 we, a group of graduate students in the department, began the project From Stone to Screen in order to digitize the two collections. We are working with the UBC-based organization Digital Initiatives to produce high quality digital images of the epigraphic squeezes, which will be accessible online and searchable on UBC’s library database, while the artefact collection will be photographed and hosted by the CNERS department. This paper will address the unique challenges facing a student-driven, small-scale digital archaeology project, including photography, collaboration, research, and data management. Additionally, it will explore the pedagogical and research benefits of making these collections widely accessible as a digital resource.
Suzanne Villeneuve (Project Director, Keatley Creek Archaeological Research Project. Simon Fraser University, Department of Archaeology)
Digital Approaches to Archaeology at Keatley Creek
The Keatley Creek Project has incorporated digital methods into excavations since 2006, which has benefited investigations of major theoretical issues concerning the processes surrounding early cultural developments. The original objective behind new methods was to assist with the recording, analysis and interpretation of complex stratigraphy. Methods have advanced to a very practical, cost efficient, digital paperless approach involving GIS, auxiliary software, video, high resolution imaging, remote sensing and other techniques. Work flow can be made efficient enough to view and produce results (including graphics) as excavations unfold. It is now possible to complete in weeks (with greater detail, accuracy, data and analysis capability), what used to take multiple research seasons to complete. This has led to new ways of analyzing and correlating results, and ways in which we engage with, learn from and interpret the past. Benefits also extend to collections management, student training and learning experiences.
10:30–11:00 Questions, Coffee Break and Snacks
Kevin Fisher (University of British Columbia, Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies)
A Digital Revolution? 3D Modeling of Built Environments and Landscapes Using Photogrammetry
Photogrammetric methods are beginning to revolutionize the way we record the archaeological record, providing a relatively low cost alternative to laser scanning/LiDAR for many applications. This paper discusses the potential for photogrammetric modeling at various scales through case studies from two regions. The first examines efforts to record a series of polychrome stucco masks adorning the façade of an Early Classic temple at the Maya site of El Zotz, Guatemala. The second looks at the integration of close-range photogrammetry for the daily recording of excavations of urban spaces at the Late Bronze Age site of Kalavasos-Ayios Dhimitrios, Cyprus with the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as a digital photography platform to produce 3D models at the scale of an entire urban landscape.
Katie Roth (University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology)
Connecting Through Collections: Digital Collections Management at the Laboratory of Archaeology
The Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA) is a facility dedicated to education and research through its archaeological collections. Over the last five years, LOA has utilized digital technology to dramatically expand its capacity to share those collections with researchers, community members, and students. The use of an object database, complete with thousands of images, has improved daily lab operation and has enabled LOA to be a partner in the Reciprocal Research Network (RRN). The RRN provides researchers with the ability to search LOA’s collections, create projects, and start dialogues with LOA staff and other project collaborators before even visiting the lab. This presentation will provide an introduction to the RRN, including a tutorial on how LOA engages researchers and community members through this virtual network. This will demonstrate how LOA is using digital technologies to encourage collaborative research, enhance access to its collections and, ultimately, further our knowledge of the past.
Darcy Mathews (University of Victoria, Department of Anthropology)
Hiding the Powerful Dead: Ancestral Presence and Funerary Ritual at Rocky Point
Rocky Point is one of the largest recorded mortuary landscapes on the Northwest Coast, with more than five hundred visible funerary petroform burial features distributed within and between two neighbouring cemeteries. Using a novel suite of morphological and spatial analyses, a patterned use of stone and soil is evident in the making of these burials. With these results in hand, an intra-cemetery scale visibility analysis was conducted at one cemetery using LiDAR and high precision GPS derived data. Despite patterning in the building of these funerary petroforms, these burials are hidden in the landscape, or built at the threshold of perception. This anti-monumentality is seemingly paradoxical, but when considered within Coast Salish frames of reference, there is power in the unseen. Visible yet hidden, the dead exist as inherently liminal and dangerous but retain a posthumous social, economic, and political life among the living.
12:00–1:00 Free Lunch
Fred Limp (Leica Geosystem Chair in Geospatial Imaging, University of Arkansas)
Seeing into the Past: New Technologies for the Measurement of the World’s Heritage
“The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there” was the lead sentence in a 1953 novel by LP Hartley. The first part of that sentence later became the title of a hugely influential book 1993 by David Lowenthal. “Discovering” the past(s), “understanding” it, “explaining” it, “(re-)creating” it, “interpreting” it, communicating it: all of these are key roles of professions such as the historian, classicist, and archaeologist. But how do we do this? How can we tell others what we have found on our journeys there? Travelers into the past return and report. They create narratives, texts that describe what they have seen and what they think it means. Sometimes they draw plans and sometimes generate images. In all these endeavors they must convert a lived, multidimensional world into a linear narrative: words on a page. They shrink the world and pull the past back to us through the rabbit hole. They have no choice and this is no criticism of them – they are doing the best they can. But for those who don’t see the past as linear and narrative driven, and especially for those communities today where the past is real and central to their current lives, this text-based account is, at best, a pale simulacra of the past’s richness and complexity.
While no panacea, we are now provided with new tools and approaches to how we record the evidence of the past and the ways in which we communicate it. New technologies make it possible to make high-precision high-quality recording of physical evidence of the past and new visualization and representation technologies give us new tools to interpret, analyze and communicate our understandings. We can now (virtually) walk through our (re)creations and, most importantly, change them to reflect multiple perspectives and voices. Seeing the past looks at a number of these new approaches and how they are changing, once again, how we see the past. While powerful, these new approaches also raise challenges and tensions in our fields. How we can adapt to these and respond is a key part of the presentation.
R.G. Matson (University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology)
Determining Chacoan Great Kivas at Cedar Mesa, Utah: Adventures in Remote Sensing
During investigations of two Chacoan Great Houses on Cedar Mesa in 2009 several putative Great Kivas were located and mapped. Two of these were associated with the two Great Houses and two were isolated. If these were all Great Kivas this would be an anomalous concentration and include an association with a ceramic tradition not found before. In 2012 we (Lipe and I) investigated these using augering, GPR and electromagnetic conductivity. First Chacoan Great Houses and Great Kivas are introduced, then Cedar Mesa and its archaeology, prior to the 2012 remote sensing presentation.
2:20–2:40 Free Coffee and Snacks
Lisa McLean (University of British Columbia, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies)
Visual Effects and Digital Animation for Archaeology
Recreation and restoration utilizing 3D art in archaeology involves digital artists working collaboratively to accurately represent artifacts or sites for recording or sharing purposes. Lisa McLean talks about creating geometry that can be textured and viewed as a 2D image or manipulated with 3D viewing software, achieving a better understanding of how things or places looked thousands of years ago. See the six minute video, ”The Many Layers of Time of the Ishtar Temple” and view digitally created Images of the Pithos hall from the ongoing Kalavasos and Maroni Built Environments (KAMBE) Project in Cyprus and observe a walkabout demonstration using the latest in film industry 3D software.
Kate Hennessy, Michael Blake, Natasha Lyons, Dave Schaepe, and Andy Phillips (Simon Fraser University; University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology; Stó:lō Research and Resource Management)
Digging into the Scowlitz digital archives: the Sq’éwlets Virtual Museum of Canada Project
Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lo-Coast Salish community in the Fraser River Valley is a Virtual Museum of Canada-funded exhibition being collaboratively produced by a team of Sq’éwlets andStó:lo community members, archaeologists, anthropologists, and new media designers. The exhibit will highlight the important roles that archaeology and oral history play in theSq’éwlets community today, and feature interviews with and commentary from Sq’éwlets community members, archaeologists, historians, and field school students who collaborated on research at the Sq’éwlets site from 1992 to 2006. In this presentation, we will discuss the evolution of this project, the role of digital and social networks in our communicative process, and the emergence of participatory design practices that facilitate the development and sharing of concepts and ideas. The long history of community-based archaeological practice at Sq’éwlets represents a guiding framework for our digital exhibit production process, and for the representation of the digital collection from theSq’éwlets site, the broader history of the contemporary community, and the significance of these to Sq’éwlets people today.
Bryn Letham (University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology)
Refining the Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Sea Level Curve in the Prince Rupert Harbour, British Columbia: Old Methods and a Few New Tricks
Since the end of the Last Glacial Maximum the west coast of British Columbia has undergone dramatic changes in relative sea level. These sea level histories vary between areas due to locally different isostatic responses to deglaciation and tectonic conditions. Early human occupation of this area was influenced by this dynamic landscape, and therefore knowing where the coastline was at different times in the past is critical for surveying for archaeological sites from these time periods. This paper describes the field methods used and the utility of digital core scanning, LiDAR imaging, and GIS analyses for refining our understanding of the sea level history of the Prince Rupert Harbour, one of the most densely occupied areas on the Northwest Coast prior to European colonization, yet an area where no Late Pleistocene or Early Holocene sites have been identified. Preliminary results of this ongoing field and lab research suggest that the post-glacial sea level curve for this area may not have been as extreme as previously assumed.
3:40–4:00 Questions and Discussion
Sponsored by the UBC Faculty of Arts, Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, and the Department of Anthropology
OMNI, Fri Feb 28 2014
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A controversial passage from the Koran is reinterpreted in a new book by a UBC professor.
Ayesha Chaudhry, a professor of Islamic studies, examines a specific verse that has traditionally been known to condone domestic violence.
“I was surprised to see a text in the Koran that had been translated saying husbands were allowed to hit their wives,” she said. “I started doing research and found that there were lots of non-violent interpretations of this verse that Muslim scholars had offered.”
Segment starts at 5:57
HuffPost Canada, Wed Mar 5 2014
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Turning your clocks ahead can save your life, says a UBC professor.
According to Stanley Coren, professor emeritus of psychology, the time change means people drive home from work when it’s brighter out.
“People die during the period directly following the spring shift, but the data on traffic accidents show that accidents occur much more often during the dark or lower illumination than during daylight hours. So although daylight saving time causes an initial hazard, in the end there is a life-saving benefit.”
Financial Post, Wed Mar 5 2014
By: William Watson
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More than half of Canada’s top earners work more than 50 hours a week, according to a report by UBC economists Thomas Lemieux and Craig Riddell, who presented their findings at a recent conference on income inequality.
The article also mentions Kevin Milligan, another UBC economist, who found that tax hikes on the rich, which some believe would help address the issue of income equality, would not lead to an increase in revenue.
Globe and Mail, Wed Mar 5 2014
By: Janet McFarland
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Increasing the cap on maximum income covered by the Canada Pension Plan would benefit retirees, suggests a new study co-authored by a UBC economist.
UBC’s Kevin Milligan and Wilfrid Laurier economist Tammy Schirle argue this reform is simpler than other proposals.
Globe and Mail, Wed Mar 5 2014
By: Barrie McKenna
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A damning report has come out about Canada’s dairy rules, calling for the industry to be deregulated.
According to the report, co-authored by UBC economist Rick Barichello, the current system used to manage the industry “effectively transfers resources from poorer Canadians to wealthier Canadians. This is especially pertinent, given concerns about food security, particularly among low-income Canadians.”
Shane Koyczan is an award-winning Canadian spoken word artist, poet, and writer known for tackling loaded social and political issues with furious honesty and tender humanity.
In the intimate setting of the Telus Studio Theatre at the Chan Centre as part of the Beyond Words series, Shane will present, among others, his spoken word poem “To This Day.” This anti-bullying manifesto performed as part of TED Talks went viral on YouTube in February of 2013 and now has over 12 million views and counting.
Shane is an extraordinarily talent that has blown the dust off the designation “poet.” His highly acclaimed collection of poems Visiting Hours includes “We Are More”, performed by Shane at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“And if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror. Look a little closer. Stare a little longer. Because there’s something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit. You built a cast around your broken heart and signed it yourself, you signed it ‘they were wrong.’ ” – Shane Koyczan, “To This Day”.
There will be two performances on Wednesday March 26, at 12:00pm and 6:30pm.
Please visit the event page for ticket information.
Conan, Wed Feb 26 2014
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Late night comedian Conan O’Brien used a UBC study as part of a joke in his opening monologue last week.
The study, led by linguistics professor Molly Babel, evaluated voice attractiveness. Conan joked: “New research suggests people are attracted to voices that are similar to their own. It’s why I’ve always had a thing for dolphins.”
Segment starts at 4:19
Professor emeritus Stanley Coren, a psychology expert on sleep deprivation, is the author of Sleep Thieves (Free Press, 1996), a book that explores the world of sleep and sleeplessness.
Ahead of Daylight Savings Time on March 9, ArtsWIRE spoke with Prof. Coren about the importance of sleep and its affect on intelligence, motor skills and the ability to fight disease.
ArtsWIRE: Why do we have Daylight Savings Time?
Coren: The original suggestion for Daylight Savings Time came from Benjamin Franklin. He suggested that if time was adjusted so that work hours were centered during daylight, people could save money on candle wax, which was expensive. Nothing happened, however, until the First World War when resources were being taxed due to the war effort and items like oil were at a premium.
Daylight Savings Time was introduced to save resources. Some countries switched the time back after the war, but when the Second World War arose there was pressure again on resources and Daylight Savings Time was reintroduced. Since then it has been adjusted and extended to optimize daylight hours.
ArtsWIRE: How much sleep does the average person need?
Coren: Data suggests that the average person needs between nine and ten hours of sleep. Humans were supposed to get eight or nine hours of sleep per night and one or two hours of sleep during the afternoon. Today individuals, if they are lucky, sleep for eight hours and more often sleep between six-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half hours per night.
This is not particularly good for them.
Sleep debt, which is defined as the amount of sleep that you get minus the amount of sleep that you should have, is like debt on a credit card; it builds up over time. The psychological tests that we have conducted suggest that mental performance gradually drops as a function of sleep debt. Beyond the first hour of sleep debt, for every lost hour one actually loses about one point in terms of their IQ when faced with novel problems.
If one sleeps about seven hours per night, then at the end of a five-day work week about ten hours of sleep have been lost. Functionally, one also loses between nine and 10 IQ points. For the average person with an IQ around 100 losing 10 IQ points places them at around 90 in terms of cognitive functionality, which indicates borderline impairment. And it starts to show.
The good news is that one can make it up, or at least some of it, and people tend to do that fairly automatically by sleeping in on the weekend. However, there is still a physical downside. The immune system works best during times of deep sleep and Natural Killer Cells (NKCs) which kill off bad cells in the blood system, including precursors to certain cancers, are regenerated during sleep. So although people can make up the cognitive deficit by sleeping in, they have lost that time during which they were highly susceptible to colds, flus, and serious diseases.
ArtsWIRE: That must be especially relevant for students, who often stay up late to complete assignments.
Coren: Stanford University conducted an experiment a number of years ago where they set up a separate residence on campus and paid students to sleep in eight-and-a-half to nine hours per night. Many student participants complained that they would not be able to complete their work. However, when their grades were compared to a group of students who were not sleeping the extra time, the students showed a 10 to 15 per cent increase in their grades.
So, sometimes instead of pulling an all-nighter a student might be better off to sleep in and catch an hour at the library the next day.
ArtsWIRE: What are the effects of spring Daylight Savings Time?
Coren: We live in a society that is chronically sleep-deprived, and very bad things happen when chronic sleep deprivation is an issue. Spring Daylight Savings Time is a period when a lot of people lose a little extra time.
When one has chronic sleep debt, micro-sleep occurs. Micro-sleep, which is a situation where the brain enters a sleep state regardless of the activity that the individual is doing, can last anywhere between ten seconds to a minute at a time. If you have chronic sleep debt, and you are driving your car at 50 kilometers per hour and have a ten second micro-sleep, your car will travel more than the length of a football field while you are asleep.
We looked at different types of accidents, including traffic accidents and workplace accidents, in Canada and found that there was a five-to-seven per cent increase in accident fatalities during the three days following spring Daylight Savings Time.
After the fall Daylight Savings Time, however, there is not always a decrease in the number of accidents because people do not always use the extra hour to sleep.
ArtsWIRE: Should we continue to use Daylight Savings Time?
Coren: There are two reasons why society continues to use Daylight Savings Time. First of all, there are energy savings across the country. The second reason is that Daylight Savings Time actually saves lives. People die during the period directly following the spring shift, but the data on traffic accidents shows that accidents occur much more often during the dark or lower illumination than during daylight hours.
Over the time that Daylight Savings Time is in effect people get up and return home while the highways are brighter. This occurs over a period of months, so although Daylight Savings Time causes an initial hazard, in the end there is a life-saving benefit. There is nothing that comes without its cost, and in this case the cost of saving lives in the long-term is losing lives in the short-term.
ArtsWIRE: Is there anything that people can do to prepare for an upcoming time change?
Coren: Yes, go to bed earlier on the day of the change. It is harder to sleep later because humans tend to awaken fairly automatically. Our eyelids are not opaque and most people are sensitive to increases in light, so we tend to wake up before our alarms go off because of that.
UBC professor emeritus Stanley Coren specializes in cognitive science. The former director of the Human Neuropsychology and Perception Laboratory at UBC, he is best known for his work on sleep, sensory processes and dog behaviour.
* Banner image Creative Commons
A UBC prof. hopes to reduce violence against women in the Muslim community by exploring various interpretations of a verse of the Qur’an
Verse 4:34 of the Qur’an has traditionally been understood to allow husbands to hit their wives. In the new book, Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition, UBC Prof. Ayesha S. Chaudhry offers non-violent readings of the complex passage and aims to reduce gender violence in the Muslim community.
What inspired you to explore this topic?
Growing up as a young Muslim girl in Toronto, I struggled with verse Q. 4:34 for obvious reasons. It appeared to say that husbands could hit their wives if they were disobedient. Later, when I learned of Muslim scholars who interpreted this verse in ways that do not condone violence or inequality, I was puzzled as to why these interpretations were considered by some to be outside the Islamic tradition. My book traces the many interpretations of this verse, and argues that Muslim communities have the ability to embrace non-violent interpretations, because religious texts mean what religious communities say they mean.
How does this verse affect Muslims?
Domestic violence is a problem in every community. Each community must address this problem in its own way. For Muslims trying to address domestic violence, this passage of the Qur’an could be a hurdle if it is interpreted as saying that husbands are allowed to hit their wives, or it could be helpful by condemning domestic violence as an un-Islamic practice.
Is it possible to read 4:34 of the Qur’an in gender-equal terms?
Yes. For example, the first sentence of Q. 4:34 can be translated as “men are in authority over women.” However, if we see this statement as describing life in 7th-century Arabia when the Qur’an was revealed, rather than necessarily prescribing what must happen for eternity, gender-equal interpretations become possible. This line can be re-read to mean that “men were the protectors/breadwinners of women” in 7th century Arabia and can be understood as a historical statement of how things were in the past rather than how they should be in the present. This allows the Qur’an to represent the past while also reflecting social changes that allow for greater gender equality.
What changes do you hope to come as a result of your book?
The fact is religious texts only mean what religious communities say they mean – and the meanings of these texts can change over time. The first goal of this book is to show that verse 4:34 can legitimately be read non-violently, and that the interpretation a Muslim chooses – violent or non-violent – says more about them than it does about the Qur’an. Muslims can and must hold themselves responsible and accountable for their interpretations.
The second goal is to give Muslims the interpretive tools to choose non-violent readings of this verse over readings that permit violence against women. It is only natural that modern Muslims look to our sacred text to protect women against gendered violence.
Finally, I hope that Muslims will see the relationship between the Islamic tradition and today’s Muslim scholarship as more harmonious, so that modern conversations enrich and carry on the Islamic tradition.
Ayesha S. Chaudhry is an assistant professor of Islamic Studies and Gender Studies in the UBC’s Dept. of Classic, Near Eastern and Religious Studies (CNERS) and Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ), and an Early Career Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
Find other stories about: Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Dept. of Classic Near Eastern and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, Islam,Islamic Studies
Professor Yukiko Toda is a member of the Canadian Literature Society of Japan, the only Japanese-based organization dedicated to the study of Canadian literary works. Prof. Toda has been visiting UBC’s Vancouver campus since Spring 2013 to research and translate Canadian literature into Japanese.
An associate professor of English literature at Sugiyama Jogakuen University in Nagoya, she is one of a team of Japanese scholars who are translating The Cambridge History of Canadian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2009), a history co-edited by UBC English professor Eva-Marie Kroller. Her work involves translating chapters on Canadian authors Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields and Mavis Gallant.
ArtsWIRE spoke with Prof. Toda about her interest in Canadian literature.
ArtsWIRE: Canadians are always delighted when the international community celebrates our culture. What is it about Canadian literature that interests Japan’s scholars?
Toda: One of the things that draws scholars in Japan to Canadian literature is probably its unique positioning — it is influenced by British, American, and French literature (in Francophone literature), and yet its particular sociopolitical, historical, and geographical landscapes produce something unique and different.
Many scholars are also drawn to Canadian fiction that deals with various issues that arise in a multi-ethnic society — identity politics, location/dislocation, belonging/not belonging, etc. Interests in immigrant stories as well as experimental fiction that portrays worldviews of a specific ethnic culture, and fiction written by First Nations writers arose in Japan after the questioning and redefining of the traditional literary canon in North America in the 1970s. The civil rights movement in the U.S., feminism movements, multicultural policy in Canada, which lead to the reframing of the literary canon, also affected the study of English literature in Japan that had until then focused mainly on American and British literature — more scholars started to focus on ethnic minority and women’s writings, and also on English literature of other English-speaking nations including Canada.
It also led us to such questions as: Why do we study mainly British and American literatures and not literature from other parts of the English-speaking world? Why do we study English literature in Japan and what does it mean to us? Personally, these questions generated interest in Canadian literature, which depicts various frictions that arise when different world views come into contact. In a world today where the English language and Western thought is prevalent, studying various literatures written in English literature is one way for me to understand what is happening around the world, and to seek possible ways for co-existence and a better world.
ArtsWIRE: Does Canadian literature have any unique qualities or traits that aren’t found in British or American literature?
Toda: Canadian critics have used terms such as “survival” and “garrison mentality,” in an attempt to define “Canadianness” that differs from both Britain and the States, and I think it is precisely in this continual search for a non-British/American/French literature that is unique in Canadian literature.
The most famous Canadian book in Japan, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, is no exception. Another translation recently came out in Japan by Yuko Matsumoto with notes on a plethora of literary allusions that the book contains — from Shakespeare, Scottish literature, and American literature. Yet, what is interesting about the book is that Montgomery portrays a character who is different from English or American characters — Anne insists that “a rose in any other name would not smell as nice,” and cuts her hair, not for a worthy cause like Joe in Little Women, but for having dyed her hair green.
Contemporary writers today continue to search for stories written from a non-American, or non-Eurocentric subjectivity. Japanese-Canadian author, Hiromi Goto, for instance, says that Canadian fantasy and science fiction needs to “move beyond vampires, hobbits, and witches,” and introduce a person to see the world in different ways than those that are already inscribed in Canadian popular culture and education. Yet it is difficult to point out exactly the unique quality of Canadian literature because it is so diverse.
ArtsWIRE: What would you say is your favourite book by a Canadian author and why should other Canadians read it?
Toda: I do want to recommend Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, a story of the Japanese Canadian internment camp and relocation during WWII, which I understand is part of Canadian history not taught at school. The book is well-known among scholars in Japan, and it is praised, not only for its historical significance as a text that prompted the Redress movement in Canada, but also for effectively capturing the aesthetic of Japanese language and culture — aesthetic of the subtle Japanese language where silence represents just as much meaning and significance as the language of speech.
Western critics often view this novel as a ”bildungsroman“ (coming-of-age story) of the protagonist who moves from silence to speech; whereas, the Japanese critics tend to read it as a story where the protagonist achieves her revelatory understanding toward the depth of meaning behind “silence.” I find the difference in such interpretations extremely interesting.
The novel reveals an aesthetic based on high-context Japanese culture, which is very different from most Western cultures that favour direct speech and consider silence as lack of self-assertion and interest.
“Shikataganai” (there is nothing we can do, it can’t be helped), “gaman” (to persevere with dignity) — two terms that appear repeatedly in the novel, are untranslatable because they embody cultural ethos deeply rooted in our culture and worldview. Non-Japanese readers often consider this negatively, saying it is merely giving up, instead of rebelling; for Japanese readers, it is a culturally specific expression, which means to accept their fate and persevere with dignity for the sake of their children and the community.
Yukiko Toda is an Associate Professor of English Literature in the Department of Foreign Studies at Sugiyama Jogakuen University in Nagoya, Japan. Her research interests include contemporary women’s fiction, 19th and 20th century American literary and cultural history, African American literature, Asian Canadian literature, and children’s literature.
UBC swimmers from the Faculty of Arts helped the UBC Thunderbirds win the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s national championship this past weekend in Toronto.
UBC’s women cruised to their third straight and CIS-leading 19th national title, ending with a combined team score of 802.5 points, 397.5 points ahead of the Montreal Carabins (405), setting the CIS championship record for the largest margin of victory.
A list of UBC’s women’s swim team is below:Erin Assman 3 5-6 Arts Oakville, ON Brittney Harley 5 5-8 Arts Saskatoon, SK Melissa Jung 2 5-7 Science Vancouver, BC Savannah King 4 5-10 Kinesiology Vernon, BC Heather MacLean 4 6-0 Kinesiology Toronto, ON Sarah McLean 1 5-10 Applied Biology Gilford, ON Colleen Nesbitt 4 6-0 Science Calgary, AB Charlotte Philpotts 1 Arts Manotick, ON Fionnuala Pierse 4 5-7 Kinesiology Edmonton, AB Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson 1 5-9 Arts Ottawa, ON Stefanie Serka 1 5-8 Arts Richmond, BC Erin Stamp 2 5-10 Kinesiology Guelph, ON Mckenzie Summers 1 5-11 Kinesiology Richmond, BC Rebecca Terejko 3 5-8 Kinesiology Brantford, ON Laura Thompson 5 5-6 Arts Uxbridge, ON Tera Van Beilen 3 5-9 Kinesiology Oakville, ON
Vancouver Sun, Mon Feb 24 2014
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Canada’s natural resources boom has helped to slow down the growing gap between the rich and the poor, says UBC’s Thomas Lemieux and Nicole Fortin.
“The resources boom appears to have lifted all boats, including the less educated and women, and contributed to a small decline in inequality” the economics professors said during a joint presentation in Ottawa Monday.
Vancouver Sun, Mon Feb 24 2014
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UBC professor Ayesha Chaudhry reinterprets a controversial passage in the Koran in her new book, Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition.
Many believe the passage, verse 4:34, sanctions violence against women, but Chaudhry offers an alternative reading.
“My book traces the many interpretations of this verse, and argues that Muslim communities have the ability to embrace non-violent interpretations, because religious texts mean what religious communities say they mean,” she said.
Global BC, Fri Feb 21 2014
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People prefer voices that sound like their own, according to a new UBC study on voice attractiveness.
“The voice is one of the first things that we get about an individual,” said lead author Molly Babel, a linguistics professor. “We can look at someone, but their voice is going to often tell us more than their visual appearance.”
According to Babel, hearing similar voices to that of our own fosters a sense of belonging.
The Faculty of Arts and CiTR 101.9 FM present Arts on Air.
Wednesday, February 26
Join Ira Nadel (English) as he interviews UBC’s top writers, philosophers, singers and actors in the Humanities and Creative Arts. Provocative interviews, expert commentary and the latest updates from the Faculty of Arts make for an informative and entertaining segment.
All eyes have been on Russia over the past year and even more so over the past two weeks as the nation hosted the Olympic Winter Games. As athletes and their supporters leave Sochi, Arts On Air is dedicating this week’s episode to the host country. Anne Gorsuch, chair of the history department at UBC, joins Ira Nadel to discuss culture and tourism in Russia. An expert on Russian history, Gorsuch uncovers a side of the country that may have been glossed over as the athletes, medals and ceremonies stole the spotlight.
Arts on Air is heard across the lower mainland every second week at 6 p.m. on CiTR 101.9 FM.
An archive of Arts on Air episodes can be heard at this link.