Archive for September, 2008

Eakin Fellowship

Notice of this fellowship has been posted by the Canadian Political Science Association, but here it is again in case you missed it. It doesn’t pay much. Looks a lot like slave labour! But there’s the honour of the thing! More important: something’s happening in Quebec and it would be fun to be at the centre. The historians are rewriting our common past; they’re ousting the culture of complaint. And political party lines are shifting. McGill is asking for someone who can bring a “fresh perspective” on Canadian studies.

Who better than someone from this list!

The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for the Eakin Visiting Fellowship in Canadian Studies for the 2009-2010 academic year.

The Fellowship will be awarded to high-level scholars focusing on studies related to Canada. It will be awarded for periods of one or two academic semesters to a scholar with a Ph.D., normally on sabbatical from their own academic institution. The position is open, in terms of rank and discipline, to a dynamic scholar who can enrich the study of Canada with fresh perspectives. The Fellowship may also be awarded to an individual outside of the academic community, whose writing, research or public career have made a significant contribution to intellectual life in Canada.

The incumbent will be expected to teach at least one undergraduate course in Canadian Studies, deliver the Eakin Lecture (part of the MISC’s Distinguished Lecture Series), participate in the activities of the Institute, and pursue exchanges with colleagues at McGill and other institutions.

The Fellowship will offer a stipend of $15,000 per semester, plus $2,500 per semester for research-related expenses.

Applicants are invited to send:
Letter of Application
Curriculum Vitae
Letter of Reference
Indication of preference for Fall (2009), Winter (2010)
or for the full 2009-2010 academic year

Please send application materials by December 5, 2008 to
Eakin Visiting Fellowship in Canadian Studies
McGill Institute for the Study of Canada
3463 Peel Street
Montréal (QC), H3A 1W7
Phone: (514) 398-8346
Fax: (514) 398-7336

The Eakin Visiting Fellowship in Canadian Studies was created with the generous support of the Eakin Family in memory of William R. Eakin.


Consulting Chris Moore

We’re in the middle of an election and watching one to the south and this political blog has posted nothing on the subject. Nothing about the divine Sarah Palin. (At the Kiddush on Shabbat the rabbi says: Janet, I understand everything about her except the guns. Why the guns?) I’ve said nothing about fixed electoral terms. (John Locke would have allowed them, but then he’s a famously tolerant guy.) Nothing about majorities, broadsides, “voting from home.” Our lawn sign has been stolen and returned. (Not news. And it will happen again.) I’m deep in the groves of academe, reading about elections that took place 144 years ago. I will return.

I recommend a visit to Christopher Moore’s blog.

Moore’s the author of 1867, How the Fathers Made a Deal, the best general book on Confederation. Open to page 1: “In the 1860s, Western alienation began at Yonge Street, and George Brown was the Preston Manning of the day.”  Moore’s the one Canadian historian who understands parliamentary institutions. How rare that is! And at the moment he is spending time in the present.

Free Speech in Academe

Years ago when I first shuffled off the shackles of thesis-writing and struck out in the larger world of academe, I encountered the – to me novel and fascinating – idea that the attempt to maintain objectivity and neutrality in academic discourse demeans women. (I was reviewing a book edited by philosopher Christine Overall and colleagues.)

Men use the “standards” of objectivity and neutrality to dismiss women’s intuitive, sympathetic, and communal approach to the understanding of human relations. So said the women philosophers.

When I began the study of constitution making I encountered the idea that attempts to create an “objective” and “neutral” political constitution entrench the advantages and privileges of the founding class, and, given that founders are usually drawn from a certain stratum of society, entrench the interests of the bourgeoisie and capitalists. The search for standards and objectivity precludes marginalized people; it freezes discussions in a way that is profoundly anti-democratic. The rules of the truly democratic and inclusive constitution should be always in play. Etc. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Now I read in articles by Joyce Green that the imposition of objective and neutral standards in the study of Canada’s First Nations is “colonialist.” It’s an attempt by entrenched and self-satisfied interests to demean the aboriginal way of knowing. The demand for objectivity precludes understanding. I am no longer astounded.

So: what about free speech in academe? One’s first impulse is to argue that: “both sides must be heard.” Lets have both the objectivists and the – what shall I call them – those with doubts about objectivity. I’ve no doubt that at the session on aboriginal methodologies at the Learneds at UBC this spring, Peter Russell, who was in the chair, inclined to that position. “Let’s hear from both sides, in a civil discussion.” He must have said something like that. Professor Russell was my Ph.D. advisor.( See my blog entitled, Harvey Mansfield’s Canada, and the illuminating comments on it by Frances Widdowson and Andreas Krebs. Widdowson and Krebs were at the session.)

But the discussion that followed was not civil. And one can see why. The argument for hearing both sides evokes ideas of neutrality and objectivity. The argument for hearing both sides is one-sided. So says one side, at any rate.

Ain’t it interesting?

CBC 2:The Change

What have we lost? Fans of classical music ruled the roost at the CBC. Now we don’t. But maybe we shouldn’t. Why should taxpayers underwrite the few – the relatively few – Canadians who want to have classical music available all the time at a flick of the switch?

Cultural snobs in this country ask the taxpayers to fund many of their pleasures: art galleries, the opera, concert halls. People who don’t go to the galleries, don’t attend the opera, have never heard a string quartet, help to keep my ticket prices down. Where’s the justice?

Harvey Mansfield suggests that people who don’t go to classical concerts nevertheless think it’s a good thing that their country has them. And for that matter, people who don’t watch the Olympics tolerate subsidies to amateur sports. We’re willing to fork over. It’s appropriate. Is Mansfield’s argument sufficient? Maybe.

I regret most about The Change that we’ve lost the morning request program. It had this distinctive feature: requesters dedicated their selections to parents, children, spouses, teachers, friends, workmates. Shelly or Catherine would read letters and e-mails commemorating births, deaths, family anniversaries, friendships, happy memories, success in life.

Gratitude was the dominant note. Canadians have lost a program that celebrated the bourgeois life, the ordinary business of the ordinary day in this country, from coast to coast to coast. A program that said, hour after hour, to the accompaniment of glorious and affecting music: life is good. Canada has been good to me.

Those of you who worry about social and cultural supports for the institutions of liberal democracy take note. Are we seeing another prop kicked away?

Those of you who think that liberal democracy needs especially the support of religious sentiment will remember that classical music is one of the most powerful vehicles in our time for belief in the Deity. There are the hymns, masses, texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. And there’s the music that overwhelmed the classical world in the 1990s: the music of “holy minimalism,” which incorporates a profound sense of religiosity defying category. Gorecki, Hatziz, Pärt, Kancheli, Tavener.

I guess it’s goodbye holy minimalism, hello minimal holiness.