Tag Archives: higher education

  • Winning Hearts and Minds: Publishing that Matters

    In our second blog post for University Press Week (running November 6-11), our Executive Editor, Anne Brackenbury, discusses how academic publishing needs to go beyond just the facts in order to truly engage a wider public. She uses as her example our soon-to-be-published graphic ethnography, Lissa, and how decisions around the publication of this book will hopefully help capture both hearts and minds. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters.

    Objective. Rigorous. Evidence-based. Peer reviewed. This is what university presses do best, right? We appeal to reason over passion, evidence over opinion, intellect over emotion. Or do we? While I have published many books that would fall under this description, I have published others that actually critique this assumption of pure reason and scientific objectivity. These works criticize scientific approaches for their hubris, their lack of attention to the human lives that are impacted by this work, and the messy, often uneven, contexts in which this research is produced.

    And yet we find ourselves in a moment where critique—once the norm in the humanities and social sciences—has suddenly gone out of fashion. The response to the new normal where “alternative facts” often carry more weight than peer-reviewed research is to consider ourselves the protectors of the scientific process, and as the channel in which the “truth” needs to be made available as facts. Even some high profile critics are now joining the mission to save science from the unbelievers. Others have decried the death of expertise at the hands of postmodernism, which they believe has emptied all authority of value, encouraging a rampant anti-intellectualism that privileges personal opinion over evidence, and passion over reason.

    And yet, as Alex Golub suggests, the growth of populism and its associated anti-intellectual tendencies isn’t going to be solved by facts alone. The people we want so desperately to convince are not going to hear facts that they don’t want to hear unless we can somehow tap into the culture they are part of. Because that’s the thing. People (including those of us who consider ourselves liberal) understand facts in the context of a broader belief system, a culture if you will. And if we don’t somehow account for that culture, relying solely on a discussion of the facts means we will only ever be talking to ourselves.

    So what does that mean for scholarly publishing? There’s no question the work has to start with solid, rigorous, peer-reviewed research. After that, however, opportunities abound. Research can be cast in many different ways that win not only minds, but hearts as well. For belief is located as much in the heart as it is in the mind.

    Case in point: the launch of a new series, ethnoGRAPHIC, and the publication of our first graphic ethnography. Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution is a project that emerged out of a collaboration between two academics who have done related but very different medical anthropology research. One dealt with kidney transplants in Egypt, the other with genetic pre-testing for breast cancer in the US. When put into conversation with one another, the authors were able to ask larger questions about not just the limitations of science and medical technology, but the ways in which we understand this technology vis-à-vis our own bodies. These very different ways of understanding health, and bodies, and risk, and the future end up offering an opportunity to make connections where they are often not easily made.

    Two important decisions were made that I think move this book from being a traditional academic venture with a relatively limited audience to potentially exploding across age, culture, national, and disciplinary boundaries. The first was to develop a fictional story with two fully relatable and human main characters from very different cultures. Layla and Anna are not just instruments developed to further a message—they are living, breathing, human beings with complex emotions and even more complex motivations. This is what moves readers to feel empathy for them. Even when set in far-away Egypt, in a context that feels foreign, the characters and the relationship that develops between them makes it possible to explore beliefs and cultures in a fresh, non-threatening way.

    The second choice was to render this in graphic novel form, using the unique power of this format—a sequential narrative realized in image form that can make visible the invisible, bend and twist time, and create places and spaces that become characters in their own right. Comics aren’t what they used to be (or maybe we’re only now discovering how powerful they are in their simplicity). Both sophisticated and accessible, engaging and subversive, comics combine the best of text (linear narrative) with the strength of images (quick, affective, and holistic interpretation) to speak to both young and old, skeptic and believer, and hearts and minds.

    As a comic Lissa stands on its own. But it was clear from the beginning of this project that we wanted to make sure the real world context and the research that supported the story wasn’t erased, but made visible in the form of supplementary material (both in the book and on a companion website). Timelines of real world events, a teaching guide with probing discussion questions, links to further resources—on breast cancer and genetic testing, on kidney disease and organ transplants, and on the Egyptian revolution—as well as a documentary film that explores how the authors and artists transformed their research into a comic, create a supportive scaffolding for the book.

    It has been a massive collaborative experiment on a number of levels, and while a more commercial press could easily have published the comic, I’m not sure they would have shown as much interest in the intellectual contribution that constitute the supplementary materials surrounding the comic. The mandate of a trade press is to engage readers in a good story. Ours, as a university press, is to engage readers in a good story that might also lead to a change in public discourse and public policy, and to ongoing scholarly discussions.

    We can’t control how people use the book. Some might only read the graphic novel and ignore the rest (unless smart instructors assign it as required reading!). And that’s okay. They will still learn a lot in the process. But for those who become curious, or those who want to use the story as a way to probe more deeply into issues of modern technology and its limits, bioethics, religion, gender, health and political inequality, and the comic medium itself, we hope they will find this scaffolding useful. In the process, who knows? Maybe reading, discussing, and teaching this book can build a tentative bridge across a cultural divide, and in the process a new neural pathway will be reinforced that allows us to talk about these issues differently.

    In my experience, that isn’t just publishing that provides evidence for the mind, it’s publishing that matters for both hearts and minds.

    Anne Brackenbury
    Executive Editor, Higher Education

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

  • The Power of History to Galvanize and Energize

    In honour of University Press Week (November 6-11), our history editor, Natalie Fingerhut, reflects on how she sees scholarship making a difference in her everyday world, both on and off the page, and in her day-to-day job as an editor of higher education materials for students. This year's theme for UP Week is #LookItUP: Knowledge Matters

    In my day job, I spend a lot of quality time in the fifth and fifteenth centuries, acquiring books that teach students about the Middle Ages. After hours, my personal reading is focused on the twentieth century and specifically on the territory that Yale historian Timothy Snyder refers to as the “Bloodlands”: the area of Europe that ping-ponged between Hitler and Stalin and where millions of men, women, and children, including Jews, Poles, and Russians, were massacred by bullets, starvation, disease, and gas. In Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, Snyder references the work of Jewish journalist and fiction writer Vasily Grossman, who in 1944 visited the remains of one of the death camps located in the Bloodlands, Treblinka, and wrote a searing account entitled “The Hell of Treblinka.” In a particularly graphic passage, Grossman describes final moments in the gas chambers:

    The door of the concrete chamber slammed shut […] Can we find within us the strength to imagine what the people in these chambers felt, what they experienced during their last minutes of life? All we know is that they cannot speak now… Covered by a last clammy mortal sweat, packed so tight that their bones cracked and their crushed rib cages were barely able to breathe, they stood pressed against one another; they stood as if they were a single human being. Someone, perhaps some wise old man, makes the effort to say, “Patience now—this is the end.” Someone shouts out some terrible curse. A holy curse—surely this curse must be fulfilled? With a superhuman effort a mother tries to make a little more space for her child: may her child’s dying breaths be eased, however infinitesimally, by a last act of maternal care. A young woman, her tongue going numb, asks, “Why am I being suffocated? Why can’t I love and have children?” Heads spin. Throats choke. What are the pictures now passing before people’s glassy dying eyes? Pictures of childhood? Of the happy days of peace? Of the last terrible journey? Of the mocking face of the SS man in that first square by the station: “Ah, so that’s why he was laughing…” Consciousness dims. It is the moment of the last agony… No, what happened in that chamber cannot be imagined. The dead bodies stand there, gradually turning cold.

    Around the same time I first read this essay, private sponsorship of Syrian refugees began in earnest in Toronto. Under the influence of Grossman and the horrors he had witnessed, I volunteered to do communications work for my synagogue’s refugee efforts and I am pleased to report that we managed to bring in a set of grandparents, parents, and a little boy. Five people saved from another inferno.

    This is the power of history to galvanize and energize. And while I realize that there are educators who stamp “Trigger Warning” on material such as Grossman, doing so suppresses the energy that causes those readers impacted by such horror to act.

    As a history editor at a university press, I am constantly privileged to speak with professors who are galvanized and energized to bring out the best instincts in their students—more so now than when I started a dozen years ago. I have medievalists who are trying to tell another and more complicated story of pre-modern relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: a story that looks at cooperation rather than just conflict. They hope, I think, that if their students see that interfaith relations are more complex, that understanding will trickle into their consciousness when they look at the Middle East today and maybe, just maybe, they will spend their careers trying to repair that troubled region.

    I have authors who spend their time curating powerful primary sources related to trials in order to teach students about justice and agency and gender and superstition. They believe that the trial of a sixteenth-century literate woman who was put to death for being a witch has lessons to teach budding lawyers, judges, and leaders of women’s groups.

    In the last year, I have received brilliant proposals for projects that teach Canadian undergraduates our sordid history of Indigenous relations by emphasizing the invaluable skill of “reading against the grain.” What isn’t being said? By asking questions to reveal silences, lies, and contradictions, students learn to empathize with the silenced and hopefully take that empathy into their futures as activists.

    There has been a dramatic change in the proposals I have received in the last two years especially. I used to receive proposals for books that covered dates and personalities and events. Now, the proposals contain sections such as “Historical Skills for Students.” This is not a coincidence. We seem to be moving forward into the backwardness of the century we have just left. My authors feel compelled to do their part to put on the brakes. To ask their students to read and read carefully. To think carefully. To remember that the past is a teacher, and then ideally, to have this generation armed with the skills of the historian to act positively on the future’s behalf.

    Natalie Fingerhut
    History Editor, Higher Education

    *  *  *

    This post is part of the University Press Week Blog Tour. Please visit our colleagues' blogs:

    WLU Press: A post from Indigenous scholar and fiction writer Daniel Heath Justice on the importance of Indigenous literatures and scholarship.

    Temple University Press: A post about books and authors that focus on racism and whiteness.

    University Press of Colorado: A feature on the press's Post-Truth-focused titles.

    Princeton University Press: Al Bertrand on the importance of non-partisan peer reviewed social science in today's climate.

    Cambridge University Press: A post about Marie Curie and her struggle for recognition within a French scientific community dominated by male scientists.

  • An Introduction to the Crusades

    To start off the fall semester, UTP is proud to post the following words from author S.J. Allen on the importance of understanding, teaching, and debating the Crusades. Her most recent book, An Introduction to the Crusades, published earlier this year, provides an excellent overview of a very complex time period. We hope that the book, as part of our new Companions to Medieval Studies series, will help to clear up some modern misconceptions of the Middle Ages.

    The Crusades have drifted in and out of my life from my first secondary school research paper (thankfully now lost in the mists of time) to this year’s publication of An Introduction to the Crusades. My fascination for these events lies in that fact that they embrace a myriad of medieval cultures and regions. It is also a topic that continues to be revived and redefined in the succeeding centuries, including our own.

    Crusade studies are today one of the most popular of undergraduate history courses, and reasons for this are not difficult to understand given current East/West tensions. The subject is, however, a controversial one, for as much as we seek to understand the interactions of eastern and western societies within the medieval crusading context, modern events and circumstances have enabled some to commandeer and manipulate the period to serve modern ends. This “management” of history, no matter its origin, is nothing new, but as both Emilie Amt and I argued in our related sourcebook: “…the Crusades, more than any other medieval event, have become inextricably linked to present-day political and religious debates.” This is perhaps why I believe their study to be important, not just for future medievalists, but for students of all backgrounds and all academic interests. With this in mind, the book’s final chapter, “The Crusades and Modern Memory,” aims to offer students a clear and relevant example of how historical events—their interpretation, remembrance, and use—can change over time, influencing, for good or ill, not only our view of the past, but also how we perceive and interact as contemporary societies. I am certain it is a topic that will stimulate discussion and debate, no matter what the make-up of the undergraduate classroom. For myself, I would share Umej Bhatia’s hope that:

    "…a better understanding of the [Crusade] period may offer the scaffolding for an informed dialogue between the west and the Muslim world. As the poster conflict of civilizational clash, the history of the Crusades is an ideal subject for the foregrounding of such dialogue." (quoted in An Introduction to the Crusades)

    I would also anticipate that students would come away from the book with a deeper understanding of the nature of the crusading period, that is, to see this not simply as a time of violent conflict, but also one of peaceful coexistence, exchange, and cooperation—a period where truce, treaty, and negotiation played as much a role in the lives of these peoples as armed confrontation.

    I would hope that An Introduction to the Crusades proves a useful teaching tool, enabling instructors to deliver engaging exercises and stimulating class discussions, as well as to facilitate further student research. As an interactive text, it is designed to develop a student’s ability to adopt a critical approach. As noted above, it can be read as a stand-alone work, although its use with The Crusades: A Reader should lead to a more developed understanding of the subject and its related issues.

    Considering the book as a whole (and with instructors in mind), An Introduction to the Crusades is the second publication in UTP’s Companions to Medieval Studies, a collection of introductory histories that can be used in conjunction with the Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures series. The idea behind the Companions series is to offer both an introductory history as well as texts and topics that engage and encourage students to interact directly with the subject’s primary sources and current academic debates. In my own teaching, I’ve always valued that moment when a student progresses from a descriptive to an analytical approach. The Companions series aims to facilitate this development.

    I was fortunate to have, as an exemplary model, UTP’s first volume in this series, The Vikings and Their Age (2013). I also greatly benefited from the advice and guidance of the series editor, Paul Dutton, history editor Natalie Fingerhut, and the knowledgeable, professional, yet incredibly humane team at UTP.

    S.J. Allen is Associate Lecturer in Arts and Humanities at The Open University, UK.

  • Education Titles for Back to School

    With school starting up next month, we thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight a few of our new education titles.

    Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education: Philosophies of Iethi'nihstenha Ohwentsia'kekha (Land)

    By Sandra D. Styres

    Indigenous scholars have been gathering, speaking, and writing about Indigenous knowledge for decades. These knowledges are grounded in ancient traditions and very old pedagogies that have been woven with the tangled strings and chipped beads of colonial relations.

    Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education is an exploration into some of the shared cross-cultural themes that inform and shape Indigenous thought and Indigenous educational philosophy. These philosophies generate tensions, challenges, and contradictions that can become very tangled and messy when considered within the context of current educational systems that reinforce colonial power relations. Sandra D. Styres shows how Indigenous thought can inform decolonizing approaches in education as well as the possibilities for truly transformative teaching practices. This book offers new pathways for remembering, conceptualizing and understanding these ancient knowledges and philosophies within a twenty-first century educational context.

    Succeeding Together?: Schools, Child Welfare, and Uncertain Public Responsibility for Abused or Neglected Children

    By Kelly Gallagher-Mackay

    Growing attention has focused on the education of children in the child welfare system, particularly those in foster care, but ninety-two percent of children in the child welfare system stay with their parents and their educational needs receive little attention.

    Succeeding Together? is an institutional ethnography that analyses front-line accounts from mothers, teachers, and child welfare workers to explore the educational issues facing abused and neglected children outside of foster care. Kelly Gallagher-Mackay examines the complex policy framework and underlying assumptions that shape the practice of collective responsibility for this vulnerable group, shining a light on the implications of their status in-between private and public responsibility. Gallagher-Mackay breaks down collective responsibility into three areas: surveillance and the duty to report, child welfare’s poorly defined responsibility to provide educational supports, and the privatized nature of teachers’ professional responsibility for caring. The involvement of child welfare represents a public judgment that there should be strong, proactive, and coordinated intervention to ensure protection and well-being. Succeeding Together? reveals significant shortfalls in coordination and commitment to the well-being of society’s most vulnerable.

    Classroom Action: Human Rights, Critical Activism, and Community-Based Education

    Edited by Ajay Heble

    Building on the concept of a “teaching community,” Heble and his contributors explore what it might mean for teachers and students to reach outside the walls of the classroom and attempt to establish meaningful connections between the ideas and theories they have learned and the broader community beyond campus. Utilizing a case study approach, the chapters in this volume are conceptually and practically useful for teachers and students involved in thinking about and implementing community-based forms of teaching and learning.

    Classroom Action links teaching and research in genuinely innovative ways, and provides a range of dissemination strategies to inspire broad-based outcomes and impact among a diverse range of knowledge-users. It marks a major advance on the ways in which the relationship among pedagogy, human rights, and community-based learning has hitherto been theorized and practiced. The community-based learning at the centre of Classroom Action prompts a radically new means of thinking about what teachers do in the classroom, and how and why they do it.

  • May Round-Up

    Here is a recap of what went on at UTP in the month of May.

    Conferences:

    Richard Ratzlaff attended the Association for the Study of Nationalities 2017 Annual World Convention in New York from May 4th to May 6th.

    Suzanne Rancourt, Natalie Fingerhut, and Anna Del Col had a great time as always at Kalamazoo (or, the International Congress on Medieval Studies) from May 11th to May 14th.

    Finally, we were thrilled to be at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences again this year, from May 27th to June 2nd, and loved that it was in Toronto hosted by Ryerson University. It was great to see so many people interested in our books, and to see so many of our authors and future authors. We are looking forward to Regina next year!

    Author Events:

    On May 9th, a standing room only crowd gathered at Clinton St Public School for the launch of Making a Global City: How one Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Rob Vipond.  A more intimate, but no less enthusiastic crowd attended a book launch at The Munk Centre for Global Affairs on May 25th.

    Awards:

    We are thrilled to announce the following awards:

    John Borrows’ Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism won the Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association.

    Ronald Rudin’s Kouchibouguac: Removal, Resistance, and Remembrance at a Canadian National Park won both the Clio Atlantic Region Prize and the Canadian Oral History Association Prize, from the Canadian Historical Association.

    Maureen Lux’s Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s won the Aboriginal History Book Prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association.

    Norman Hillmer’s O.D. Skelton: A Portrait of Canadian Ambition won the 2015 Stacey Prize awarded by the Canadian Commission for Military History and the Canadian Committee for the History of the Second World War.

    George O. Liber’s Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine, 1914-1954 co-won the Best Book in the fields of Ukrainian history, politics, language, literature, and culture awarded by the American Association for Ukrainian Studies and Maxim Tarnawsky’s The All-Encompassing Eye of Ukraine: Van Nechui-Levyts'kyi's Realist Prose was an honourable mention in the same prize.

    Maria Luisa Ardizzone’s Reading as the Angels Read: Speculation and Politics in Dante's Banquet won the Medieval Book Prize awarded by the American Association for Italian Studies.

    Amber Dean’s Remembering Vancouver's Disappeared Women: Settler Colonialism and the Difficulty of Inheritance was a co-winner of the Women’s and Gender Studies Association Outstanding Scholarship Prize.

    Jennifer Hubbard, David Wildish, and Robert Stephenson’s A Century of Maritime Science: The St. Andrews Biological Station won the John Lyman Book Award awarded by the North American Society for Oceanic History, in the “Naval and Maritime Science and Technology” category.

    Karen Foster’s Productivity and Prosperity: A Historical Sociology of Productivist Thought was an honourable mention in the John Porter Prize awarded by the Canadian Sociological Association.

    Congratulations to all!

    In the Media:

    Blacklocks Reporter reviewed Spying on Canadians: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service and the Origins of the Long Cold War by Gregory S. Kealey.

    The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber was profiled by Frontiers in Psychology.

    BizEd Magazine reviewed Rick Nason’s It's not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business.

    MidWest Book Review declared Gentrifier by John Schlichtman, Jason Patch and Marc Lamont Hill to be a "must-read" and said it was "highly recommended."  Schlichtman was interviewed about the book by NPR Wisconsin. 

    Rob Vipond was interviewed about Making a Global City: How one Toronto School Embraced Diversity by Steve Paikin, host of TVOntario’s The Agenda.

    Lions or Jellyfish: Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations Since 1957 by Raymond Blake was reviewed in a collection of key titles for Canada 150 by Margaret Conrad for Atlantic Books Today.

    New Releases:

    An Introduction to the Crusades by S.J. Allen

    The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber (New in Paperback!)

    Conflict and Compromise: Pre-Confederation Canada by Raymond B. Blake, Jeffrey Keshen, Norman J. Knowles, and Barbara J. Messamore

    Conflict and Compromise: Post-Confederation Canada by Raymond B. Blake, Jeffrey Keshen, Norman J. Knowles, and Barbara J. Messamore

    Latin American Politics: An Introduction, Second Edition by David Close

    Asian Canadian Studies Reader edited by Roland Sintos Coloma and Gordon Pon

    Edging Toward Iberia by Jean Dangler

    Beau Monde on Empire’s Edge: State and Stage in Soviet Ukraine by Mayhill C. Fowler

    Canada’s Department of External Affairs, Volume 3: Innovation and Adaptation, 1968–1984 by John Hilliker, Mary Halloran, and Greg Donaghy

    Revitalizing Health for all: Case Studies of the Struggle for Comprehensive Primary Health Care edited by Ronald Labonté, David Sanders, Corinne Packer, and Nikki Schaay

    Homelands and Empires: Indigenous Spaces, Imperial Fictions, and Competition for Territory in Northeastern North America, 1690–1763 by Jeffers Lennox

    The Art of Subtraction: Digital Adaptation and the Object Image by Bruno Lessard

    It's not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity in Business by Rick Nason

    Confessional Cinema: Religion, Film, and Modernity in Spain’s Development Years, 1960–1975 by Jorge Pérez

    Josep Pla: Seeing the World in the Form of Articles by Joan Ramon Resina

    A Nobel Affair: The Correspondence Between Alfred Nobel and Sofie Hess edited and translated by Erika Rummel

    Victimology: A Canadian Perspective by Jo-Anne M. Wemmers

    Value Change in the Supreme Court of Canada by Matthew E. Wetstein and C.L. Ostberg

    The Near Abroad: Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine, 1956-1985 by Zbigniew Wojnowski

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