Joanne Brown Symposium on Violence and its Alternatives


The State of Extraction: Corporate Imperatives, Public Knowledge and Global Struggles for Alternatives

The funds for the 2015 annual "Joanne Brown Symposium" went to co-sponsoring "The State of Extraction" conference, which highlighted the structural and systemic violence of extractionism, as well as its impact on affected communities. The goal of the conference was to bring together indigenous leadership, academics, scientists, artists, activists, and public intellectuals from a variety of disciplines to examine the new face of resource capitalism in Canada and its influence on the world, with special attention to alternative models oriented towards social and environmental justice. The intention was thus to move through the full range of issues: from the economics and politics of mining, through its varied social and ecological impacts, across the terrain of social struggle and public debate, to the various alternatives to fossil fuels and current mining practices. For further details, list of participants, videos, etc., please visit


Psychoanalysis and Social Theory: From Clinical practice to Social and Political Praxis

Starting with Freud and moving from Ferenczi, Fromm, and Lacan to contemporary relational psychoanalysis and hermeneutics, the 2013 symposium revisited and challenged standard definitions of psychoanalysis. Using the format of a workshop to encourage audience participation, the symposium presented a diversity of viewpoints on the social, political and psychological fabric of human beings and the multiple contexts in which we live and act. Invited speakers included John Abromeit, Philip Cushman, Jay Frankel, Roger Frie, Hilda Fernandez, Christopher Fortune, Samir Gandesha (Director of the Institute for the Humanities), Marilyn Nissim-Sabat, and Jerry Zaslove.


Place and Dis-Placement

Invited presenters included Chinmoy Banerjee, Samir Gandesha (Director of the Institute for the Humanities), and Ian Angus, with responses by Sourayan Mookerjea, Sophie McCall, Peyman Vahabzadeh, Jerry Zaslove, Gregory Cameron, and Smaro Kamboureli.


Peace and Social Change: Pondering the Texts and Ideas of Select Nobel Peace Laureates

The fifth symposium was organized by Eleanor Stebner (J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities since 2005) and meant to gather together an interdisciplinary group of individuals to discuss several of the significant texts written by select Nobel Peace laureates. The chosen texts addressed ideas regarding militarism, humanitarianism, human and civil rights, religion, environmentalism, and so on, and have been amazingly powerful in creating public awareness and, in some cases, have facilitated movements of social change. Invited presenters included Maurice Hamington (Democracy and Social Ethics, by Jane Adams), Wayne Knights (Memoir of Solferino, by Henri Dunant), June Sturrock (Lay Down Your Arms, by Bertha von Suttner), Michael Kenny (No More War, by Linus Pauling), Jerry Zaslove (Night, by Elie Wiesel), Barbara Smith (Stride Toward Freedom, by Martin Luther King, Jr.), Trish Graham (I, Rigoberta Menchu, by Rigoberta Menchu), Steve Duguid (The Philosophy of Civilization, by Albert Schweitzer), Pearl Hunt (Hope and Suffering, by Desmond Tutu), and Larry Green (Freedom from Fear, Aung San Suu Kyi). Information on the Nobel Peace prize can be found at


Exile as a Response to Violence and as an Alternative to Violence

Participants gathered to explore issues related to "Exile as a Response to Violence and as an Alternative to Violence." Invited speakers included David Kettler, from Bard College, and formerly Professor of Political Science at Trent, who delivered a presentation on the German-speaking exile as a contemporary paradigm, and Martha Langford. Martha Langford has published on memory, displacement and the photographic representation of memory. She and Jerry Zaslove (Emeritus, Director of the Institute for the Humanities) made presentations on the consequences of Vietnam draft resisters on the art, culture and society of Vancourer and Canada.


Technology and Violence

In the third annual Joanne Brown symposium to take place on Bowen Island in October of 2002, 16 participants gathered to explore issues related to "Technology and Violence." Invited presenters included Richard Lee, professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto, Joy Parr, holder of the Farley Chair and a member of the Department of the Humanities, and Robert Menzies of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University.


Violence and Poesis

The 2001 symposium featured Stephen K. Levine from the faculty of Social Science and the program in Social and Political Thought, York University. Professor Levine brings a background in social thought, arts therapy, philosophy and anthropology to the questions of violence and poesis in the arts and trauma in life. His background in poetics and the theatre provided a foundation for fifteen invited academics, psychologists and and social praxis individuals to discuss violence and its alternatives.


Systemic Violence: An Interdisciplinary and Comparative Approach to Understanding, Experiencing and Responding to Violence

The first of what is to be an annual "Joanne Brown Symposium" (named for a generous benefactor of the Institute for the Humanities) was held at the Lodge at the Old Dorm on Bowen Island. Thirteen people attented the symposium. Three individuals were asked to prepare papers; John O'Neill from York University (Sociology), WolfDieter-Narr from the Free University of Berlin, and Debra Pepler from York University (Director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution). These papers along with the Introduction to the seminar by Jerry Zaslove (Institute for the Humanities, SFU) provided the substance around which the discussion and debate took place. The format meant that each paper could be presented and discussed at length and the speakers had the opportunity to prepare responses to the discussion. Two points seemed to be salient in terms of where the Symposium should go in its commitment to engaging with the issue of systemic violence. First, there was the feeling that such a phenomenon cannot be understood in the abstract. While it is important that we attempt to create and sustain a theoretical perspective on violence, that attempt needs to be enriched by analyses of specific types or case studies. Second, we must be aware of the danger that 'understanding' violence can often lead to excusing or condoning it and hence the very practice of studying violence with the aim of understanding can have violent implications.