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Both UBC and UBCO are creating a Public Humanities Hub

Humanists are stepping up

Two humanities professors from UBC are joining together to use the power of philosophy, history and art to tackle some of the world's most urgent issues.

UBC will create a public humanities hub in an effort to bring awareness to the human side of research, at both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

This initiative focuses on bringing humanities students together to focus on ways to address public policy questions, which are currently emerging in society.

“We’re faced with a number of critical problems and we have a tendency to turn to scientists and engineers for the answer,” said associate professor Brigitte Le Normand, director of the Okanagan hub.

“Technology certainly has a lot to contribute, but humanists can step in by asking how can we even frame the problems in the first place and how does that shape the solutions we develop.”

The new Public Humanities Hub will bring together the two campuses while amplifying the work done at the Okanagan campus.

Greg Garrard, a professor of environmental humanities at UBCO believes reasonable voices and critical thinking both contribute to finding solutions to issues and the need for different voices in research is important.

Having a humanist voice in the conversation might help change hearts and minds when it comes to issues that may polarize society.

“We might turn to technology to solve our issues but it may be that technological solutions are not the best for addressing the problem,” said Garrard. “Perhaps the problem is bigger than that and you need to find an opening for other kinds of conversation. This is a great example of where humanists can step in and change the terms of the discussion.”

The hub will focus on medical ethics, the environment, digital humanities and public history while some examples of issues that humanities can assist include medically assisted death, justice by social media and climate change. 

“One of the biggest challenges of our day is the climate emergency,” said Le Normand. “It’s polarizing and that very polarization prevents us from addressing problems. If you can step around that inherent conflict, you can change the very terms of the conversation. Suddenly the doors open for a productive conversation that didn’t previously exist.”

Throughout the next year, the Okanagan Public Humanities Hub will host speakers for the public to engage with, to learn about multiple topics.

For more information click, here.



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