UBC hosts Canada's largest academic conference this week
Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences runs until June 7
Renowned Victoria, B.C.-based author Esi Edugyan took the stage Sunday at the University of British Columbia as part of the largest annual academic conference in the country.
Edugyan, who spoke about her most recent and Man Booker nominated novel Washington Black, took time to reflect on a key theme of this year's conference — listening across, not just within, communities.
"The act of reading a book, and reading about somebody who is completely unlike yourself … when you are forced to confront their lives on this very granular level and are privy to their thoughts ... this is something where you are forced into this fellowship, this relationship with somebody," Edugyan said during her lecture.
"That's the beginning of empathy."
It's a lofty goal for the nearly 8,000 attendees who will be attending workshops, networking and sharing ideas on campus this week. It's the 88th annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which rotates across the country every year and brings together over 70 academic disciplines.
The theme this year is "circles in conversation," and part of the conference's goal is to break down barriers to make space for dialogue, debate and dissent.
Patrizia Albanese, president of the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences, which organizes the event, says the conference is also making an effort to break down barriers between academia and the general public.
"It's not just a bunch of professors sitting around talking to each other about things that only interest us. A lot of the things that the social sciences and humanities do have profound impact on social policies [and] on people's lives," says Albanese.
She noted there are a number of events open to the public this week, including a speaker series held throughout the week at the Frederic Wood Theatre and several exhibitions.
Highlights include presentations by David Suzuki and Stan Douglas, a theatre series exploring the challenges of being a veteran, and a roundtable discussion on Indigenous women's rights.
The conference runs until June 7 at UBC's Point Grey campus. It is separate from the Women Deliver conference, which is also taking place this week in Vancouver.