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CBC Massey Lectures

The 2018 CBC Massey Lectures - "All Our Relations"

Prize-winning journalist Tanya Talaga (author of "Seven Fallen Feathers") explores the legacy of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples — in Canada and elsewhere — in her 2018 CBC Massey Lectures, "All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward".

A Peasant vs The Inquisition: Cheese, worms and the birth of micro-history

Celebrated historian Carlo Ginzburg uncovers the past by telling the stories of the marginalized, the forgotten, and the suppressed. His most famous work, "The Cheese and the Worms", recounts the story of a 16th century miller who was tried twice by the Inquisition and eventually put to death. The trial records reveal a fascinating worldview that might have been lost forever -- and given the Fascist persecution of Ginzburg's family, he's got a stake in revealing histories that would otherwise be lost.
Ideas Afternoon

World on fire: What wildfires teach us about living in the forest and a challenging climate

They're bigger, faster and hotter than before, torching more of our world: wildfires, like those now ravaging British Columbia, the one that ripped through Fort McMurray in 2016, or through Slave Lake, Alta. in 2011, levelling a third of that community. What's fuelling this increase in fire power? Adrienne Lamb explores the factors altering how we have to live with wildfire. New technology and new ways to think about fire and its behaviour could save lives.
Us & Them

​Fighting at the table: Conflict as successful integration

Sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani sees anti-immigrant cries to build walls, and hate-fuelled politics counter-intuitively: a sign that integration is working. Conflict, he argues in his talk delivered in Berlin, is the necessary consequence of new arrivals at a metaphoric dinner table. The more people taking their place at the table, the more jostling and arguments there inevitably will be.

Generation Mars, Part 1

The day might well be approaching when humans set foot on Mars. We'll be driven by a desire to find life -- or what remains of it -- and to colonize the planet. Stephen Humphrey and a stellar crew of authors, astronauts and Mars scholars confront the hazards, risks and challenges of getting humans to Mars, and then of surviving -- and living -- on the Red Planet.
CBC Massey Lectures

'Justice cannot bring back the dead': Payam Akhavan recalls Rwanda horrors

In his third Massey Lecture, Payam Akhavan revisits the genocide in Rwanda, talks about the work he did there, and what can be done to prevent such abuses from happening again.

The disappearing company job

For most of the 20th century, everyone — from the janitor to the CEO — was employed by "the company". But increasingly, large corporations are outsourcing work to small companies, often abroad. For workers, this change means lower wages, fewer benefits and an intensified widening of income inequality, with huge financial gains going to the top one percent.

Into the Gray Zone with neuroscientist Adrian Owen

We've usually thought that people in comas or 'vegetative' states are completely cut off from the world. But groundbreaking work shows that as much as 20 per cent of patients whose brains were considered non-responsive, turn out to be vibrantly alive, existing in a sort of twilight zone. Neuroscientist Adrian Owen guides Paul Kennedy into that “gray” zone, in conversation and in a public talk.
Us & Them

What happens when we stop asking questions: Why India must be secular

Political scientist Neera Chandhoke makes a heartfelt argument for a secular India at a talk delivered in Mumbai. Against the growing tide of Hindu nationalism and India's history of inter-religious strife, she draws on Western and Indian thinkers to make the case for diversity — not simply a social nicety, but as a condition for civilization itself.

The resistance of Black Canada: State surveillance and suppression

Canada's history of suppressing Black activism is coming to light like never before, thanks to researchers like PhD student Wendell Adjetey. Wendell's historical research uncovers evidence of clandestine government surveillance in the 20th century, while also bringing to life overlooked parts of this history.
CBC Massey Lectures

Bringing 'bad guys' to global justice: Payam Akhavan on prosecuting war criminals

In his second Massey Lecture, Payam Akhavan details just how hard it is to punish war criminals, recalling his time with the UN as a prosecutor at The Hague and on the streets of Sarajevo, among other conflict zones.

Less work and more leisure: Utopian visions and the future of work

Technological change has always provoked both utopian and dystopian visions of the future. Part 3 of Jill Eisen's series on the future of work looks at the promise of technology — how it can lead to a world that’s environmentally sustainable and one in which we have the time and the financial security to do what really matters to us.

Dust to Dust: Notes on rituals for the dead

The human body at death: it looks like us, but it is not us. So what are we to do with it? How do we meet the needs of the dead and our own? Barbara Nichol talks with anthropologists and historians about the role that ritual plays in our attempts to cope with the conundrum of the corpse.
Us & Them

The new tribe of Israel: The immigrant underclass

Anthropologist Galia Sabar has devoted her professional life to what she calls the new tribe of Israel: Jewish-African and non-Jewish labour migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Galia believes that Israel must be vigilant about its security. But it also has a moral duty, as a state established for Jews persecuted as the ultimate "other", to be humane and welcoming to the disadvantaged.

Have insomnia? Blame the Romantic poets

Scientists still don't fully understand why and how insomnia strikes. But how we talk about the condition may be found in the works of those who first wrestled with the disorder frankly and openly: the poets of England's Romantic era.
CBC Massey Lectures

'Struggling for justice': How Payam Akhavan lost his home in Iran and found human rights

In the first of his CBC Massey Lectures, human rights lawyer and scholar Payam Akhavan describes how fleeing Iran and watching his homeland from afar helped him discover human rights.

Platform capitalism, digital technology and the future of work

Digital platforms have been well received by customers, but for workers, they often have a dark side. And they present a major challenge for governments who are grappling with how to regulate them. Part 2 of a 3-part series.

Decoding Death: The science and significance of near death experiences

People have reported "near death experiences", or NDE's, over centuries and across cultures. The nature of them has historically been the territory of religion and philosophy. But now science has staked its claim in the discussion. And the questions the research asks are profound: where is consciousness produced, in the brain, or somewhere else? Can consciousness continue to exist even after the heart and brain have stopped working?
Us & Them

Eyes on the back of our heads: Recovering a multicultural South Africa

Journalist and activist Sisonke Msimang speaks at a former prison complex in Johannesburg which once held Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. She pulls down the old binarism of black versus white to make way for a truly multicultural South Africa, one that welcomes other African migrants as it embraces its own racially diverse past.

The edge of musical thinking: Capturing the spirit of tango and vibrato

There’s a purity to music. It takes us into its own world, far removed from frustrations and challenges of daily life. But hidden within those innocent-sounding musical flourishes, there often lies a history of passionate disagreement.

How filmmakers and fishers saved Fogo Island

A little over fifty years ago, while the rest of the country was celebrating Canada's Centennial, the friendly folks on Fogo Island — most of whom were fishers — were ordered to abandon their homes and resettle in larger communities on the larger island of Newfoundland. Memorial University's Extension Department invited the National Film Board of Canada to visit Fogo, and interview people about their future. At the end of what is now called The Fogo Process, they voted to stay put, form a cooperative, and take over the fish plant. It became a model for alternative democracy around the world.

Artificial intelligence, robots and the future of work

AI and robots seem to be everywhere, handling more and more work, freeing humans up -- to do what? Contributor Jill Eisen takes a wide-angle lens to the digital revolution happening in our working lives. What will happen when robots and algorithms surpass what our brains can do? Some say digital sweatshops -- repetitive, dull, poorly paid and insecure jobs -- are our destiny. Others believe that technology could lead to more fulfilling lives.

Making a better world with a culture of 'citizen eaters'

Michael S. Carolan is the author of No One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise. He gave a public talk in Toronto in the autumn of 2017, and made the following provocative argument: we can change our relationship to food — how's it's made, distributed and even consumed — by changing our relationships with each other, and maybe open up the possibility of creating a better world.

Alcohol: Tonic or Toxin?

As we move towards legalization of cannabis, we look at that other drug that many of us already have in our homes and use on a daily basis: alcohol. How did we start using it? How does it affect our health and society? And given the latest scientific research, should we still drink it?

Bread: Salvation or damnation?

Bread is a simple food and a staple item across the world. Bread is life. But for some, it represents a wrong turn in our species' evolution. Through conversation with bakers, religious leaders, historians and bread aficionados, producer Veronica Simmonds asks whether bread has led us to salvation or damnation.