Spring 2016 – Great Minds at Work

Great Minds at Work

Thursdays, April 7 to May 26, 2016 – 10:00 am to 12:00 noon

April 7       The Most A-maize-ing Story in Ontario Archaeology   Gary Crawford

Maize, or corn, was instrumental in transforming indigenous societies in the New World into a variety of powerful economies that remodelled landscapes wherever maize grew. Ontario was no exception. Professor Crawford, his colleagues and his students have been investigating the earliest maize in Ontario and the subsequent impact of agriculture on indigenous people and the landscape of southern Ontario. We will explore how maize evolved from an unassuming grass in Mexico more than 6,000 years ago and ultimately made its way to the Grand River 4,500 years later to stimulate a revolutionary transformation of indigenous lives.

Gary Crawford is Professor of Anthropology at U of T Mississauga. His archaeological research has taken him throughout eastern North America, China and Japan. Among his many accomplishments are papers on ancient human ecology, the origins of agriculture, and plant use in the ancient past, a research monograph, two editions of a textbook, and a TV Ontario series Archaeology from the Ground Up, which aired from 1989 to 1993. His specialization is the study of the relationship between plants and people in the past, a field called palaeoethnobotany.

April 14     Who Opened this Door?           Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak

When technologies are involved in the production of art, what role does the artist play? Drawing examples from their own interdisciplinary artworks, visual artists Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak will not so much answer their own question as pose new ones.

Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak have collaborated since 1983, producing videotapes, performances, public artworks and serial photoworks that have been exhibited in festivals, museums and galleries around the world. They teach in the Visual Studies Program in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

April 21     Making the Move: Moving Minds          Paul Bedford

As the number-one issue facing our region, transportation is a source of frustration forecast to get much worse unless bold action is taken. Massive public investment in transit of all types is needed to provide a range of choices beyond the car. In order to pay for it, we will have to embrace a variety of funding mechanisms, including road pricing, gas taxes and income taxes. We must also move minds in order to build, operate and maintain the transportation network needed to serve a future GTA population estimated to reach eight or nine million by 2041.

Paul Bedford is an Adjunct Professor at U of T and Ryerson U. As Toronto’s Chief City Planner for eight years, he championed numerous innovative planning strategies with Jane Jacobs for the King-Spadina and King-Parliament districts, a new City wide Official Plan, and a principles plan for the Central Waterfront called “Making Waves” that was the basis for the creation of Waterfront Toronto.

April 28     Evolution Explosion: Mankind as the Agent of Natural Selection Arthur Weis

Everyone knows evolution is a long, slow process – but not always! While it is true that it took a long time for the first mammals to diversify into the mice and elephants we see today, each of the many steps along the way could be rapid. When the environment favours it, evolving from a small mouse to a smaller mouse can occur in a few generations. Human impact on the environment induces selection pressure: agriculture radically changes the landscape, and there are many examples of crop, weed and pest species adapting to farming practices. But also, over-fishing leads to evolution of smaller fish, water pollution leads to evolution of tolerant water fleas, and climate change is leading to evolution of early flowering in some plants. By altering the environment, humans exert selection pressures on species, and many – the weeds in our fields, the fish we haul from the ocean, the wildflowers we pick in the spring – evolve in response.

Arthur Weis is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the former Director of the Koffler Scientific Reserve at the University of Toronto. His recent work centres on climate change as an evolutionary selection force.

May 5        The Struggle for Human Rights in Olympic Sport           Bruce Kidd

Sport has long been a site of advocacy and activism for human rights. Those excluded from its opportunities and benefits turn the “moral” claim of sport to be a level playing field and the symbolic status accorded to athletes into powerful arguments for inclusion and dignity, not only within sport but for all people. Feminism, civil rights, the campaign against apartheid, and other mobilizations have all fought successful battles over and through sport. Most recently, the 2012 London and 2014 Sochi Olympics brought two more significant issues into the international arena – gender identity and the rights of LGBT.

This talk provides a historical overview of the struggle for human rights in sport, outlines the campaigns precipitated by London and Sochi with their successes and failures, and recommends a way ahead.

Bruce Kidd is Vice President and Principal, University of Toronto Scarborough, and a U of T Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education. An Olympian, he has  been directly involved in the campaigns for human rights in sport for many years.

May 12      Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence           Nicholas Terpstra

Numbers of Florentine women pooled their resources to open the Florentine orphanage known as the House of Compassion in 1554. It soon grew to become the largest girls’ shelter in Florence and the most innovative orphanage in Renaissance Italy. Yet this safe house was also a dangerous place. Before long, girls started dying there by the dozens. Was it forced labour that killed them? Prostitution, sexual abuse or possibly even syphilis? Where were the authorities? We will look at all these questions as we recreate the world in which teenage girls lived and died in Renaissance Florence.

Nicholas Terpstra is the Chair of the History Department at the U of T and Editor of Renaissance Quarterly. Most of his work has been around politics, gender,  charity and religion in early modern Italy, with recent research on exiles, religious refugees and digital mapping of early modern Florence. His most recent publication is Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation.

May 19      Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan Rita Leistner

Photojournalist Rita Leistner returned from a military embed in Afghanistan in the spring of 2011 with an iPhone full of photographs and a bad case of the blues. Looking for McLuhan, whom she knew almost nothing about, began as a kind of prophylactive therapy to keep from sliding into full-blown depression, and it ended in a journey of process and discovery. Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan is both self-help book and guidebook to this moment in history when smartphones and war first collided.

Rita Leistner is an award-winning conflict photographer, artist and writer. She teaches at Victoria College, U of T. Her new book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, was described as “a gateway drug to a new way of thinking.”  She is co-author of numerous other books, including Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq.

May 26      Why We All Signed Up: the Emotional Impact of Music    Don McLean

Music trains and entrains the emotions. Its capacity to move us, to drive body and mind, to medicate and manipulate, to trigger memory and feeling, accompanies us from cradle to grave. What in our biological and social makeup makes this possible? What in the sonic and structural character of music makes it so powerful? What do we know? What should we be trying to find out? What is music’s potential as a technology for educational and medical applications? Illustrated with musical examples, the talk addresses the current range of teaching and research at UofT Music, including MaHRC, its Music and Health Research Collaboratory.

Don McLean, described in 2010 in Maclean’s as “perhaps one of the most successful faculty heads in any discipline in any university in the past decade,” is Dean of the Faculty of Music at U of T. His research interests include Schenkerian analysis, the Second Viennese School, the emotional impact of music, and international higher education policy.