Reimagining the Western Humanities Alliance

The Calgary Institute for the Humanities is honored to be taking on the leadership of this venerable organization for the next couple of years.  At the most recent conference of the WHA, held at Banff, we discussed how we might remake the organization to better serve the interests of our member organizations.  As the director of a relatively small humanities institute, I found the WHA to be a welcoming place to get advice and discuss professional issues specific to running a centre, and because it was regionally focused, the cost of sending a director to the annual meeting was within our budget.  I was very appreciative of the funding support that the WHA offered when my centre hosted the annual meeting in 2018, and the opportunity to edit a special issue of the Western Humanities Review helped to raise the profile of my centre (and give me something tangible to show senior administrators).  More recently, it has occurred to me that a regionally focused organization such as the WHA could be very useful for helping to build research networks that addressed issues common to us (water, indigenous rights, resource-based economies, the environment).

All of which is to say, I think there is still a role for the WHA to play, particularly if we are clear about what we would like it to be or to do. 

In the coming academic year, we’ll be organizing a few informal zoom sessions to discuss professional issues.  At the annual meeting, we discussed possible topics such as fundraising and donor relations, advocacy inside and outside the university, whether annual reports are worth it, the role of associate directors, and more.  If you have suggestions for such a session, or are interested in leading a conversation, let me know.

Finally, I do hope that the annual conference can continue, possibly with professional issues and regional collaborations more at the fore.  I’m imagining that if we go forward with it (along with the special issue of the Western Humanities Review), it will likely happen in Fall 2024.  If your centre is interested in having a conversation about hosting it (then or at another time), please let me know.

We welcome inquiries from other humanities centers and institutes. Please contact us at


Jim Ellis (he/him)
President, Western Humanities Alliance
Director, Calgary Institute for the Humanities
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta 
T2N 1N4

Energy Security, Energy Sovereignty and Energy Justice

Image by Fusun Tut on Unsplash

In April 2023 the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) co-hosted, along with the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), the Western Humanities Alliance Annual Conference. The conference and related activities provided a humanist perspective on pressing energy challenges, a dimension which is often neglected in current discussions on energy transition and decarbonization of economies.

As public discourse on the current energy crisis and climate action are dominated by the search for technological solutions and formulation of policy responses, more sophisticated understandings of the social and cultural factors of our energy problems remain in the background. With this conference, Alberta-based humanities centres CIH and KIAS tap into cutting-edge research in the energy humanities and social sciences to disseminate important insights that will benefit other researchers as well as society at large while training the next generation of energy scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
Supported by a SSHRC Connection Grant, the activities included a two-day international academic conference at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (21-23 April 2023), and will include future public events in Calgary in fall 2023, and a special issue of the Western Humanities Review (manuscript by 31 December 2023).

The academic conference brought together leading humanities and social sciences scholars to discuss the various human dimensions of energy security including energy justice and energy sovereignty. All three themes were covered by separate panels with three speakers each, including graduate students, emerging and senior scholars. The themes were also be addressed by three keynote speakers: Sheena Wilson, University of Alberta, who spoke on Energy Justice; Kirsten Westphal, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, on Energy Security; and, Raylene Whitford (Canative Energy, Edmonton), on Indigenous Energy Sovereignty.

The goals of the conference, public events, and the publication of a themed special issue of the Western Humanities Review are: 1) to create critical and humanist knowledge around the concepts of energy security, energy sovereignty and energy justice for an academic audience; 2) to engage with the public in discussions on these concepts and highlight the social and cultural origins and meanings of these terms which are used by politicians and decision-makers to justify wide-sweeping energy policies; 3) to introduce graduate students and emerging scholars into research networks and train them in collaborative humanities and social sciences research, as well as partnership building, networking, conference organization and editorial work; and, 4) to consolidate existing collaboration between KIAS and CIH on energy research in the humanities and social sciences.

Call for Papers: Human Matters – Engaging Publics in the Humanities

Human Matters: Engaging Publics in the Humanities
July 8-11, 2020, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Kelowna, Canada

Deadline for paper and session proposals: January 15, 2020

The humanities profess to help societies to understand themselves better and to tackle enduring questions about the human condition – and yet, scholars in the humanities often struggle to speak with broader publics about their work. The public humanities are an attempt to put engagement with publics at the heart of humanistic inquiry. This conference is an opportunity for researchers in all fields to come together to make the public humanities more visible and to discuss core questions in public-facing scholarship:

What is public scholarship? In what respects, if any, is public scholarship to be distinguished from other humanities research practices? Is it a core value of humanities research, or does it distract scholars from their vocations? Who are the publics in this kind of scholarship? How can people outside the academy contribute to and shape humanities research? How can public scholarship be recognized within academia in professional evaluation and promotion? How can public scholarship benefit the public most effectively?

‘Human Matters’ will be the annual conference of the Western Humanities Alliance, which exists to foster interdisciplinary research in western Canadian and American universities. It will also launch the Public Humanities Hub Okanagan, part of a new cross-campus initiative at UBC. The conference is intended to raise the profile of the humanities at UBC Okanagan and in the surrounding Valley. Please learn more about our keynote speakers below.

We invite proposals for the following sessions:

Panels consist of prepared papers on a chosen topic or theme, followed by a question and answer period. A complete panel must have three (3) to four (4) papers, with an option for one discussant. The chair may also serve as a discussant. Panels may propose a chair, or else make a request for the program committee to find a chair.

Roundtables/symposia consist of structured discussion of a chosen topic or theme, without any formal paper presentations. A complete roundtable must have a chair and three (3) to five (5) roundtable speakers. If necessary, the chair may also serve as a roundtable speaker.

Public-facing presentations or installations are opportunities to share your research with, and engage with, the publics during a day of public engagement during the conference in downtown Kelowna.  Proposals for such presentations should clearly explain the format of such presentations and any logistical requirements. If necessary, a budget request may be submitted.

Submissions of individual papers will also be accepted.

Keynote Speakers

Jeannette Armstrong (Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies, University of British Columbia Okanagan) is an award-winning writer and activist, novelist and poet. Her writings have share the struggles of the Okanagan people with broad audiences.

Colleen Derkatch (Associate Professor, English, Ryerson University) focuses on how language motivates and shapes human activity. Applying this inquiry to health and medicine, she has analysed the use of language in scientific studies of alternative medicine, as well as the language of “wellness” and natural health.

Nick Groom (Professor, English, University of Macau) is an award-winning scholar whose interests include the connections between culture and the environment, British identity, Shakespeare, and Gothic literature. He is a regular contributor to television, radio, and literary festivals.

Dale Jamieson (Professor, Philosophy, New York University) is the author of Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed–and What It Means For Our Future (Oxford, 2014), and most recently, Love in the Anthropocene (OR, 2015), a collection of short stories and essays written with the novelist, Bonnie Nadzam.

Hannah McGregor (Assistant Professor, Digital Humanities, Simon Fraser University) proposes that we can think of podcasting as a scholarly method that opens out new possibilities not just for the kinds of audience our work will reach but also for the nature of our work itself—and that it also has the potential to be a feminist method.

Henry Yu (Associate Professor, Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies: University of British Columbia Vancouver) is active in the collaborative effort to reimagine the history of Vancouver and of British Columbia through the lens of “Pacific Canada,” a perspective that focuses on how migrants from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the Americas engaged with each other and with First Nations peoples historically.

To Submit

Please upload the following to the conference website by January 15, 2020:

For a roundtable, submit roundtable name, abstract, list of participants and their positions, affiliation/s, and biographical statements (50 words each).

For a panel, submit panel name, abstract for the panel, list of participants and their paper titles and abstracts for each paper (250 words). Also include each panel members’ positions, affiliation/s, and biographical statements (50 words each).

For an individual paper submission, submit your paper title and abstract (250 words), position, affiliation/s, and a biographical statement (50 words).

For a public humanities project and/or exhibition proposal, submit your project title and proposal/abstract (250 words), position, affiliation/s, a biographical statement (50 words), and a budget and/or accommodation request if relevant to your project/exhibition.

Please make sure that the biographical statement includes your current interests and/or works in the public humanities. If you are a graduate student who would like additional support for the conference (e.g. accommodation), or would like to volunteer for the conference, please indicate your interest in doing so in the conference website.

Announcing the 2019 Western Humanities Alliance conference on “Engaged Humanities: Partnerships between Academia and Tribal Communities” at Oregon Humanities Center on November 8-9, 2019

Poster for the 2019 Western Humanities Alliance Conference at the Oregon Humanities Center on Nov 8-9, entitled "Engaged Humanities: Partnerships between Academia and Tribal Communities"

In partnership with the University of Oregon’s Native American Studies program, the Oregon Humanities Center will host the 2019 Western Humanities Alliance conference on November 8 and 9, 2019 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, United States of America. The University of Oregon and the City of Eugene are situated on Kalapuya Ilihi, the traditional homelands and political territories of the Kalapuya peoples, whose descendants are now citizens of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

“Engaged Humanities: Partnerships between Academia and Tribal Communities.”

Humanities scholars, universities, and centers across the West are increasingly thinking about ways to leverage institutional strengths and resources for the benefit of the public good, what many are now calling the “Public Humanities.” Centered around three thematic axes—Climate Change, Sovereignty, and Place—this conference explores the challenges and opportunities of such work as it relates to partnering and collaborating with the First Peoples and Nations of the lands our institutions occupy. Responding to the calls of scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith to decolonize methodologies, archives, and institutions; to center Indigenous knowledge, culture, and voices in contemporary work; and to improve relationships with and responsibilities to tribal communities, this conference explores how institutions might productively engage tribal communities based upon core principles of respect, reciprocity, consultation, stewardship, and service.

The conference is free and open to the public. For program details visit the OHC conference page.

New Summer Program in Critical Theory, Film and New Media Studies at UC Irvine

Are you looking to gain mastery of the most important issues in critical theory, cultural studies, new media and social media studies for future job prospects and academic study?

Apply by May 8, 2019, for UCI’s inaugural Summer Program in Critical Theory, Film and New Media Studies. This five-week, intensive program is part of a unique collaboration with Tsinghua University’s top-ranked School of Journalism and Communication and supported by the Division of Continuing Education at UC Irvine.

Why apply?

  • UCI is ranked #1 in literary criticism and theory by U.S. News & World Report
  • Learn from distinguished faculty from both UC Irvine and Tsinghua University
  • Strengthen your knowledge of film, new media, social media and gaming industries
  • Gain preparation for careers in these fields and further study for advanced degrees
  • Broaden your academic horizons through weekly guest lectures, seminars, film screenings, and workshops led by experts in their field
  • Network with industry experts through field trips at film studios, new media companies, and gaming companies and explore legendary California neighborhoods where local subcultures thrive
  • Participate in personalized writing workshops geared to your abilities, interests, and goals


  • Application Deadline: May 8, 2019
  • Summer 2019 dates: July 22 – August 23
  • Tuition: $6,000 including course materials
  • Dorm housing upon request: $1,725
  • Course schedule: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (seminars and guest lectures) and 1-4 p.m. (workshops and student presentations); Thursdays include field trips, site visits and walking tours (exact schedule TBA)

Do not miss this opportunity to engage intensively with peers and faculty in a creative and intellectually rich campus environment!

All course material costs are included in the tuition. Students will be awarded a certificate of completion through the UCI Division of Continuing Education.

For more information, please email