Graduate Student Symposium 2023

This event is in the past.

Adaptability: Crossing Boundaries in the Humanities

Brock University, Pond Inlet, Saturday, March 25, 2023

Interested in interdisciplinary Humanties research?

Brock University’s first ever Humanities Graduate Student Symposium is an opportunity to foster dialogue among graduate students in different Humanities disciplines. Presentations will explore the intersections between various humanities research methodologies and encourage opportunities for cross-disciplinary research.

This symposium is open to all Brock University graduate students, upper-year undergraduate student, and faculty. The symposium is free to attend. Snacks and lunch will be provided. Please register in advance on ExperienceBU.

Symposium Schedule

10:10 a.m. Opening Remarks

10:15 a.m. Keynote Speaker

Finding connections between seemingly different fields has provided me with a background for engaging work in a variety of disciplines. Whether in the archive, a gallery, or located deep in the stacks, interdisciplinary work keeps me fully engaged in meaningful ongoing research, teaching and scholarship.

Dr. Heather Calloway is the Executive Director of University Collections at Indiana University. Her work focusses on new  approaches to museum tours, exhibits and collections access, and finding innovative ways to engage new audiences with  primary sources and collections.

11:00 Session 1: Interacting with Stories

“Until the lions have their storytellers, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”(Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 2017)

Non-traditional and habitually discounted resources and methodologies for knowledge production are becoming exceedingly important for today’s humanities students. Interest in contemporary, decolonial, and inclusive practices for knowledge production are increasingly informing the process of finding fulfilling and generative research projects that allow the university to adapt to the work that they do. “Storywork,” as coined by Professor Jo-ann Archibald, shows us that Indigenous storytelling has always been embedded in how we create meaning out of the theories, texts, experiments, and histories that we study. It not only comes from spaces of trauma and injustice but provides a framework for alternative understandings for our relations with one another and with study as a way to better understand these relations. There is a myriad of potential ways of using Storywork in a scholarly context, and implementing Storywork will allow students to become more adaptive to the types of projects they engage with and the methodologies they use – consciously, interdisciplinarily and with a sense of familiarity (we have all been told stories).

This paper, indebted to “Decolonizing Research: Indigenous Storywork as Methodology,” edited by Jo-ann Archibald, Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Jenny Bol Jun Lee-Morgan, and Jason De Santolo, will explore the methodological possibilities inherent in including Storywork consistently in syllabi across the humanities and beyond. I will use a story myself, provided by Archibald in the introduction of the aforementioned text to foreground my connection between Storywork and the academic structure that so often disregards its latent power in order to bolster a deeply colonized canon of knowledge. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate that the inclusion of Storywork as a methodological process in the university
research space – from an Indigenous perspective – will shift not only the projects that students endeavor to complete, but the methods through which they cultivate good relations with study and the stories that create meaning out of it all.

Abbey is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in the English Language and Literature graduate program at Brock University titled “Text, Community, Discourse.” She received her undergraduate degree in 2020 and has spent her time away from academia editing and writing for various online publications. Her research areas include studying adaptations as subversive spaces that bring together story and embodiment in order to destabilize and decenter the expectations for transformation and learning in patriarchal and colonial narratives and spaces.

The phrase “crossing boundaries” brings Amitav Gosh’s Shadow Lines to mind. The idea of borders being not only arbitrary but also ‘shadowy’*, and existing in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes when borders are implemented, what we try to  contain manages to permeate through the cracks and occupy foreign spaces creating new formations and identities. One of these phenomena, in my opinion, is folklore(s).

For this paper, I am interested in understanding how folklores translate themselves into other cultures, permeate within the space of those cultures and leave imprints in people from different walks of life and different communities. I believe the way we – it must be noted, when I say we, I am mainly referring to the Bangladeshi diaspora community – receive certain folklores or are introduced to them and changes our relationship with them. I am interested to look into how folklores of different cultures impact people – mainly children and teenagers – and how they react to them, as well as the impact these stories have in their lives, behaviour, thought patterns etc. But specifically, I will explore the impact folklores from other cultures have in certain spaces in Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi diaspora community. As these stories adapt and find ways to fit into one’s culture, the way they are delivered and received changes our relationship with them in a way that’s bigger than one could expect. It has an impact that is ingrained within our unconscious and at times also decides how we behave and react to other folklores and spaces that we occupy. Ultimately, the way these stories interact within certain spaces, also changes our relationships with those spaces indefinitely.

*“ Amitav Ghosh in The Shadow Lines challenges the conventional portrayal of the nation as a unique entity. He considers the lines that demarcate nations as “shadowy” and unreal. Shadow lines appear not only between countries, but also between imagination and reality, the past and the present, memory and desire.” See Cross-Gendered Imagination. Hansraj College, 148.

Samia Hanif, (she/her) a Bangladeshi diaspora, is currently pursing her MA in English from Brock. Her main areas of research include young adult literature, folklore and mythology, and dynamics of brown women in feminist critique. She  enjoys studying the nuances of young adult literature, identifying themes and motifs that speak to the intricate experiences of modern-day youth, and also exploring the way folklore and mythology are intertwined with our cultural and social identities. Outside of books and journals, she enjoys unwinding with long walks, indulging in true-crime podcasts,  and basking in the cozy atmosphere of rainy days.

11:30 Lunch

12 noon Session 2: Innovative Approaches to Study

Video games are a tantalizingly powerful teaching tool, in part because they can afford a lot of agency to a traditionally rote education system. Empirical studies performed over the past few decades have confirmed that the implementation of Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) in public education is both feasible and highly beneficial under the right conditions (Clark et al., 2016; Chee, 2016; Homer et al., 2018), and yet there is still a very low adoption rate of this approach (Van Eck, 2015, Waarvik, 2019). One of the greatest problems elementary and secondary school teachers currently face with DGBL is not to do with a lack of games that have the potential for appropriate learning outcomes, but a lack of understanding and confidence in how to access and properly implement games as a teaching tool (Almeida & Simoes, 2019; Farjon et al., 2019; Sailer et al., 2021). When implemented effectively, DGBL techniques are shown to not only increase students’ enjoyment of the subject matter, but also increase knowledge retention and foster an intrinsic motivation to learn that can extend beyond the classroom (Clark et al., 2016; Tsai & Tsai, 2020). When implemented ineffectively, the results can inhibit the learning process; a long history of poor implementation has contributed to educators being hesitant to adopt these techniques (Tay et al., 2022). Very recently, there has been an increased call to action from game scholars to disseminate practical information to educators, particularly those in pre-service (Rüth, Birke, & Kaspar, 2022; Tay et al., 2022).

This presentation outlines just one example of a framework that blends the study of games & play (ludology) with educational theory (pedagogy), which can be used for the effective implementation of games within the classroom. It further suggests some other ways to approach DGBL, with the chief intent to have aspiring educators and scholars think critically about how to incorporate interactive and playful elements into their own discipline to enhance both teaching and learning.

Jack Sparaga is a game scholar from the first cohort of Brock’s brand-new MA in Game Studies, having joined right after graduating a 4-year BA in Game Design at Brock and 3-year Advanced Diploma in Game Development from Niagara College. He specializes in Digital Game Based Learning, and aims to destigmatize the use of educational games for personal enjoyment. In time, he plans to open his own game studio and work with community partners to develop commercial, off-the-shelf games that can make heavy use of game-based research to achieve their design goals.

Maps have traditionally been used to situate a people in a spatial area to graphically represent aspects of their culture. However, historical cartography had colonialist biases and misrepresented Indigenous peoples’ views of their territory, their cultural knowledge, and their histories. Colonial mapping in general have often portrayed Anishinaabe people as static and uncivilized and thus distorted their traditional territory as empty landscapes that were available for occupation. This  served the interests of colonial powers as these lands were then acquired through European/Indigenous treaty relations.

Treaties with Indigenous peoples have been misrepresented in this same context, as nation to nation relationships that no longer evolve. How can critical cartography demonstrate and visually represent the ongoing treaty relationships which are in constant flux? Treaties with people, animals, plants, and water creatures are embedded within Anishinaabe oral history (diibaajmowin). This presentation will envision how decolonial mapping can portray treaty relations with the land, water and sky through the Dish With One Spoon Wampum treaty. It will also demonstrate through storytelling how Anishinaabe occupancy of Odawa Mnis is ongoing. Interactive mapping will be examined for its potential to address the limitations of static mapping in presenting an accurate Anishinaabe perspective We will examine mapping strategies that incorporate traditional ways of imparting knowledge, such as storytelling and oral history. From the user’s perspective, this type of modern technology for constructing digital maps can offer alternative perspectives of Indigenous cultural representations while simultaneously providing new insights within contested areas of space between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Josh Manitowabi is an Odawa/Potawatomi from Wikwemikong, Ontario. He completed his Honors B.A degree with a major in History and a minor in Indigenous Studies and his MA degree in Cultural Anthropology both at McMaster University. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the History department at Brock University. His interests include helping Indigenous youth work towards decolonization and cultural resurgence. He strongly believes in creating curriculum that conveys an accurate portrayal of Anishinaabe people’s history, oral stories and culture. His current research includes Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee eighteenth century treaty and governance history by integrating Anishinaabe knowledge within contemporary education systems.

12:40 Break

12:55 Session Three: Beyond the Classroom

What are you going to do with an English degree? This is a question that most English majors will hear countless times throughout their post-secondary education and is reflective of a greater societal mindset around the value of obtaining a degree within the humanities. The negative perception of such programs comes to many as no surprise, given that as Anna Moro notes, “The pragmatic, empirical disciplines of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as business have risen to prominence” (Moro). The increasing commodification of university degrees means that the various skills gained through a degree in the humanities continue to be undervalued despite all indications that future jobs will prioritize “critical thinking, coordination, social perceptiveness, active listening, and complex problem solving.” (Moro). Nevertheless, with an increase in funding for STEM programs, there is an inevitable decrease in funding for the humanities. What this means is that it is time for the humanities as a discipline to adapt, shifting away from the siloed style of learning that is being promoted within other disciplines and towards an interdisciplinary model that reflects the intersectional potential of our research. At Brock University our only doctoral program for the faculty of the humanities is a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities. Brock’s website claims the program will be “committed to providing a rigorous  interdisciplinary teaching and research environment that nurtures scholarly and creative activity”. While I believe this is the style of learning that all of the humanities should strive for, I argue that it is ineffective to gatekeep this level of interdisciplinary learning until you become a Ph.D. student. This paper will highlight the continued importance of a degree in the humanities and ultimately go on to discuss potential methods and benefits of restructuring the various areas of research and study within the faculty, so that collaboration and interdisciplinarity are key components of learning at all stages of education.

Ron McCallum (he/him) has completed his B.A. in English Literature at Brock University and is currently a graduate student in the department of English Language and Literature at Brock University. While his academic interests are broad, his current area of research is children’s literature.

Grad school is an all-consuming experience, where we spend a glorious year or two immersed in our passions. But what happens when, either through choice or circumstance, we leave the academic setting? While MA programs train us for continued studies at the PhD level, that is not a possibility for everyone. But leaving the traditional academic route does not mean leaving your academic training and the passion you have for your discipline behind. In fact, I argue those who engage with academia from outside the traditional structures are critical for the ongoing survival of our disciplines. In this presentation I will share some of what I have learned about doing academia “from the edges” in the ten years since I finished my MA, exploring the ways people can stay connected with their disciplines while continuing to learn and grow as independent scholars.

Alison Innes (she/her) has just been accepted into the PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities program where she will continue her research into podcasting and social media under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Mauro. She is the Strategic Initiatives and Outreach Officer for the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University, where she hosts and produces the podcast Foreword. She has pervious experience as an independent podcaster as cohost and producer of MythTake (2016-2020). She holds an MA in Classics from Brock University (2013) and undergraduate degrees from both McMaster University (2009) and Glendon College, York University (2003). Alison has written about her experiences leaving academia after her MA in Independent Scholars Meet the World: Expanding Academia Beyond the Academy (University Press of Kansas, 2020).

1:45 Keynote Speaker

In this keynote presentation, Dr. Sarah Stang will reflect upon her recent experience as an interdisciplinary graduate student in the Humanities as well as her new role as an advisor and mentor for graduate students in a similarly interdisciplinary field. Through a candid discussion of both the challenges, risks, and barriers as well as the possibilities, rewards, and opportunities of interdisciplinary graduate studies, Dr. Stang’s talk will open up space for graduate students to reflect on and discuss their own experiences, strategies, concerns, and hopes.

Dr. Sarah Stang is an Assistant Professor in Brock University’s Department of Digital Humanities. She is a feminist game scholar who approaches her work from an intersectional feminist perspective and draws on media studies theories and methodologies.

2:45 Closing Remarks

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Graduate students represent the future of academia. In the field of humanities, there has been a shift to working together, across disciplines, over the past several years. This has led to the adaptability of graduate student research within the humanities. Brock University’s first ever Humanities Graduate Student Symposium 2023 will be an opportunity to foster dialogue among graduate students in different humanities disciplines, to explore the intersections between various humanities research methodologies so as to create opportunities for cross-disciplinary research.

“Adaptability: Crossing Boundaries in the Humanities” is a formal, graduate student-run symposium consisting of three sessions, each with their own topic. Each session will consist of three 10-minute paper presentations followed by a 30-minute round-table discussion with attendees.

We invite papers that fit within and contribute to one or all of the following session topics:

Finding a research topic: As our disciplines expand their boundaries beyond traditional canons, topics, and methodologies, students often struggle to find a viable research topic. How can students’ interests in contemporary issues, such as social justice and environmentalism provide an impetus for cross-disciplinary research? How do you go about seeking mentorship and opportunities for dialogue outside of your own program?

Doing research: Students who engage in interdisciplinary research are often confronted with the problem of learning new methodologies and theoretical frameworks not a part of their previous academic study. How do you approach the problem of learning new methods and theories that will enable you to conduct your research? Examples may include adapting to non-traditional knowledge production media, such as oral histories, digital/interactive media, virtual/augmented realities, and performance-based art.

Applying research in the classroom: Today’s graduate students are also the present and future teachers. How can we bring our approaches to research and knowledge production into the classroom? How can different types of assignments inspire students to engage in knowledge production? How can we evaluate these non-traditional assignments?

This symposium is open to any Brock University Humanities graduate student, or upper-year undergraduate student with a letter of support from a Brock University faculty member.

Please send your abstracts (250-350 words) along with a brief bio (name, pronouns, program of study) to our committee at by March 6, 2023.