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Humanities conferences attract over 1000 delegates to Dunedin

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 10:59am

Making the Disability Matters conference accessible to all was a priority of Otago organisers. The conference is one of eight major Humanities conferences being held in late November/early December. Photos: Sharron Bennett.

Keynote talks were translated into New Zealand Sign Language and live captioned, while programmes were provided in Braille, as day one of a major international conference into disability issues got under way at the University of Otago yesterday.

The Disability Studies conference - Disability Matters: Making the Convention Real is one of eleven hard-hitting and internationally significant conferences being hosted by the University’s Division of Humanities over late November/early December.

The conferences will bring more than 1000 delegates to Dunedin, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Humanities Professor Tony Ballantyne says they underscore the strong connections built by Humanities scholars at Otago.

“In developing and hosting these conferences, our academics are drawing on their expansive networks and they are going to spur important new conversations.”

Disability Matters: Making the Convention Real – 26 to 29 Nov

Delegates mix at the Disablity Studies conference yesterday.

The Disability Studies conference brings together about 260 delegates from New Zealand and overseas, to discuss the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The conference welcomes individuals and family-whānau from self-advocacy, community, professional, and government organisations, as well as students and researchers.

Organiser Gill Rutherford, of the College of Education, says issues raised at the conference will be included in a shadow report that will be presented to the 2018 meeting of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Geneva.

Making the conference as accessible as possible for everyone across disability sectors is a priority, she says.

New Zealand Asian Studies Society (NZASIA) conference – 27 to 29 Nov

Also beginning yesterday was the New Zealand Asian Studies Society (NZASIA) conference, which brings about 150 delegates to Dunedin from all over the world, including Australasia, East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia and North America.

An organiser, Head of the Department of Languages and Cultures and current NZASIA President, Associate Professor Paola Voci, says this is the first time since 2007 that NZASIA's international biennial conference has been held at Otago.

“Otago's Asian studies are an area of research excellence and offer a growing teaching curriculum,” Associate Professor Voci says.

“The large multidisciplinary conference aims to bring together scholars from an extremely wide range of disciplines working in the contested site of Asian studies, including experts in history, education, linguistics, media, geography, politics, business, music, arts and literature.

“As this year’s hosts, we have particularly sought contributions from emerging scholars and postgraduate students and a number of events are specifically targeted to support the new generation of researchers.”

University of Otago Centre for the Book Symposium: Books and Users - 28 and 29 Nov

The University's Centre for the Book symposium got under way today - with a number of scholarly presentations and discussions exploring the many ways people interact with books, as well as probing the meaning of ‘user’. It asked the question "As books and print become increasingly available in multiple formats and media, do our uses change, and do we expect different things from books?".

New Zealand Political Studies Association conference – (Dis)ordering Politics: Exclusion, Resistance and Participation – 29 Nov to 1 Dec

Next in the conference circuit is the New Zealand Political Studies Association annual three-day conference (Dis)ordering Politics: Exclusion, Resistance and Participation, which begins today with a postgraduate workshop, and runs through to Friday.

The Department of Politics is hosting this conference as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Head of Department Janine Hayward says the conference, which is being held mainly in the Arts building has attracted 113 delegates from around the world.

It features three public events – a keynote lecture by Professor David McNally of the University of York (Canada), and two panel discussions on Indigenous Politics and the New Zealand Election.

New Zealand Association of Philosophers conference – 4 to 7 Dec

The excitement continues next week, with the New Zealand Association of Philosophers (NZAP) 2017 Conference running from Monday 4 to Thursday 7 December.

That conference has attracted about 70 participants, mainly from New Zealand and Australia.

One of the organisers, Philosophy Associate Professor Andrew Moore, says this is the annual conference of the NZAP, which will cover all fields of philosophy currently practised in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“This year our highlighted themes include Diversity and Philosophy, and Māori and Philosophy,” Professor Moore says.

“We are also running a theme to honour our loved and respected former (2005-11) colleague Josh Parsons, who died in April 2017.”

Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference – A Meeting Place – 6 to 8 Dec

Then, from next Wednesday 6 to Friday 8 December Otago will host the Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand’s (LSAANZ) 2017 Conference – A Meeting Place.

Co-organised by the Faculty of Law’s Professor Jacinta Ruru as Co-director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (New Zealand's Māori Centre of Research Excellence) and Otago Legal Issues Centre Director Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, the conference aims to promote and foster scholarship – broadly focusing on the interactions and intersections between law and society.

Professor Ruru says this is just the second time this international conference has been held in New Zealand, and the first time it has been hosted in the South Island.

Bringing 160 participants from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, USA, South Africa, Canada, Singapore and India, Dr Toy-Cronin says the conference is called “a meeting place” to encourage the idea of coming together both on the land and at the intersection of various social science disciplines to have an interdisciplinary conversation about the meanings of justice.

Professor Ruru says both Centres are thrilled to have the opportunity to co-host this conference.

“Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga has 21 partners around the country including the University of Otago. The occasion of this conference is enabling the development of a really exciting and tangible research relationship to flourish and we’re really looking forward to together hosting a group of incredibly talented scholars from around the world at this conference.”

Sociology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand conference – Respect Existence or Expect Resistance – 7 to 10 Dec

Finally, from next Thursday 7 December, through to Sunday 10 December, Otago will host the Sociology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand’s annual conference Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.

Organised by Dr Melanie Beres of Sociology, Gender and Social Work, it will bring 120 delegates to Dunedin, mainly from New Zealand, plus some from Australia, the United States and United Kingdom.

“Our theme is respect existence or expect resistance,” Dr Beres says. “Many of our presentations focus on this theme by offering critiques and possible solutions to current social problems.”

2017 International Forum on Cross-Cultural Discourse Studies

Meanwhile, last week saw four additional conferences hosted by Otago – three in Dunedin and one in China.

Professor Ballantyne says the 2017 International Forum on Cross-Cultural Discourse Studies was hosted by Fuzhou University and co-sponsored by the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture at Otago and our Humanities Division.

Five Otago scholars spoke at that event, with two Otago professors – Takashi Shogimen and Professor Ballantyne himself – also giving public lectures at Fuzhou University.

National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies conference – Rethinking Pacifism for Revolution, Security and Politics: 22 to 24 Nov

Otago’s National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) also held a conference last week with the theme “Rethinking Pacifism for Revolution, Security and Politics”.

It attracted around 60 participants from New Zealand, as well as the United States, Sweden, Ireland, China, Australia and elsewhere.

Organiser NCPACS Deputy Director Professor Richard Jackson says the conference looked at how theories of pacifism and nonviolent resistance can help us think about positive social transformation towards a more peaceful world, and how nonviolent methods can be used to help create security and safety for vulnerable people.

“The conference was a great success in bringing together some of the leading scholars on pacifism and nonviolent resistance, as well as some prominent activists, helping to create bridges and connections between them.”

Mediating the Real 2: Mediations in a 'post-truth' era - 22 to 24 Nov

Last week also saw the University's Performance of the Real Research Theme and Department of Media, Film and Communication host Mediating the Real 2: Mediations in a 'post-truth' era.

Education, Migration and Translation Research symposium - 26 Nov

The University's Centre for Global Migrations hosted a one-day, multidisciplinary research symposium on Sunday 26 November, which examined the connections between education, migration and translation.

A wonderful time for Humanities

Professor Ballantyne says he is delighted that Otago is hosting this sequence of scholarly gatherings “because they address a range of questions that are not only important for our academics, but that are of very real social, cultural and political relevance.”

“I wish my colleagues all the best for these events and I am sure that they will help build new relationships, initiate new research initiatives and underpin a number of very significant publications.”