Celebrating 40 years of community engagement

Since 1983, the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University has been a home for research, public programming, and the development of ideas concerning social issues within the following interrelated themes: humanities and modernity; community education; cultural roots of violence and nonviolence; and human rights and democratic development. The Institute was one of the first such Institutes in Canada to pursue these goals and it will continue to do so as it celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2023.

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Below the Radar: The Reason for Reason — with Samir Gandesha

In this podcast episode of "Below the Radar," hosted by Am Johal, Samir Gandesha, the Director of the Institute for the Humanities and Professor at SFU's Department of Global Humanities, discusses in-depth the history and 40th anniversary of the Institute for the Humanities and the importance of challenging ideas in academia.

Special Issue of Contours

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message from the director

Being director of an organization such as the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University (SFU) requires vision, dedication, passion, and hard work. But this is more than off-set by the numerous satisfactions of the position. It is particularly gratifying to be able to lead the Institute through not one but two significant milestones: its 30th anniversary in 2013 and now its 40th anniversary this year. 

At these moments, one is given an opportunity to cast a glance back over the years and decades of the Institute’s activities. It is at such times that one realizes not only the important achievements of an institution dedicated to illuminating––through an engagement with the rich tradition of the humanities––the difficult economic, social, political, and spiritual problems of the day, but also the way in which such achievements constitute a shared endeavour, a truly collective project. 

Over the past decade and a half, it seems clear that the academic and political landscape has changed enormously. While academic freedom and the freedom of expression has always been under fire from various groups and organizations in society, this pressure is being felt ever more keenly today. This has been, for me as director, a rather eye-opening experience insofar as significant pressures have been brought to bear on the Institute to desist from certain kinds of programming from all points of the political spectrum. 

This only redoubles our resolve to keep precious space open for challenging and difficult dialogues. The kinds of discussion that we host will not be palatable to every member of our university community, nor every member of the various communities served by it. Nor should they be! Abiding with intellectual disagreement and contradiction is simply the condition of living in a democratic society. It needs to be reiterated forcefully that such disagreement and contradiction may well generate offence, but this does not necessarily amount to harm. Without such an open space for dissensus, it is simply not possible for us to fulfill our mission of engaging in a robust way with the rich tradition of humanistic inquiry and questioning. 

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