Grad student studying conceptualism in Canadian art and literature

This is the third in a five-part series profiling graduate student recipients of the 2016 Jack Miller Excellence in Research Awards. 

 Jesse Abbott – MA, History; Supervisor: Professor Renée Lafferty-Salhany

Jesse Abbott’s master’s research presents an important new avenue for understanding the War of 1812.

Abbott is investigating the role that alcohol played in regulating relations between the British and their Iroquois allies in the War of 1812. He argues that the commanders’ view of themselves as white, masculine and superior – which was constructed, in part, and reinforced by their drinking habits – informed the way they dealt with those they saw as racially, culturally or socially inferior.

Jesse Abbot

Jesse Abbot

His study is unique, says Abbott’s supervisor in the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Renée Lafferty-Salhany, as a departure from the bulk of historiographical examinations of 1812 that are rooted in tactical and diplomatic studies.

“With only a few exceptions, historians of 1812 have shown little interest in the interplay between 19th century conceptions of manliness and the conduct of either officers or soldiers, during the war,” Lafferty-Salhany says. “Jesse is correcting the imbalance.”

As well, she adds, the role of First Nations’ warriors is one of the most understudied – and consequently least understood – aspects of the war.

“The exchange of alcohol, in social settings, as well as during negotiations for alliances and as barter for native support, has received only the most cursory of notices, despite the fact that it was an essential trade good, and one which inspired enormous anxiety amongst British officers and warriors,” Lafferty-Salhany says.

“By examining the fractious relationship between officers and natives through the exchange of alcohol – both as a commodity and in the rhetoric of intoxication – Jesse’s project will present a unique insight on this conflict, particularly within the culture of the British officer class.”

Abbott is delving into a subject matter — alcohol — deeply fraught with negative stereotypes, particularly for First Nations people.

And while Abbott’s research necessarily comes from a British perspective, due to the nature of the available primary sources, his approach nevertheless promises to expose some of the deeper cultural assumptions about native drinking which were so crucial in the construction of political relationships between these two groups, both during and after the war.

 Julia Polyck-O’Neill – PhD, Interdisciplinary Humanities; Supervisor: Professor Gregory Betts

Julia Polyck-O’Neill is poised to create a groundbreaking study that will make a significant contribution to the study of Canadian art and literature.

Polyck-O’Neill’s research project offers a complex analysis of Vancouver’s conceptualist movements in visual arts and literature. She is focusing on four interdisciplinary artists as part of a study into the complex and theoretically infused practice of conceptualism.

Professor Gregory Betts, who supervises Polyck-O’Neill, says the project is a bold undertaking, one in which “no scholar of Vancouver or Canadian literature has previously attempted to study… , despite their international influence and prominence.”

“I can think of no other student who I would encourage to take on such a challenge,” Betts says. “It requires versatile, informed knowledge of literature, Canadian literature, literary theory, avant-garde practices, visual arts (photography and painting), Canadian visual art, aesthetic theory, and interdisciplinary comparative practices.”

Betts says there is much for the art world to gain by Polyck-O’Neill’s original and important topic.

“She treats the geography of literature and visual art in Vancouver as a portal to a complex web of ideas about the nature of art and language and the limits of representation,” Betts adds.

“Her study will offer an extremely important overview of approximately 40 years of art production in the city of Vancouver, contextualized by a further half century of international art currents.”

About the Jack M. Miller Excellence in Research Awards

The awards were established as the Excellence in Research Awards by the late Jack Miller when he served as Vice-President Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, from 1999 to 2004.

As a tribute to Miller, the Faculty of Graduate Studies renamed the awards in his honour in 2013 and, at the same time, increased the number of awards available and the value of each award.

Since then, as many as 11 graduates students, in research-based programs, are selected annually from within the six academic faculties to receive between $1,000 to $1,500 to support their research and scholarship.

Other stories in the series:

Faculty of Applied Health Sciences

Goodman School of Business

Read more stories in: Featured, Front Page, Graduate Students, Graduate Studies, Humanities, News, People
Tagged with: , ,