March 28, 2024 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

During the weekend of March 23-24, four King’s students and one alumnus presented their research from History Professor Dr. Stephanie Bangarth’s HIST 3218E: Movers and Shakers: Social Movements in Canadian History at the Crossing Borders Conference, held at Brock University.

Dr. Bangarth says that it was an incredible opportunity for intellectual, personal, and professional growth for all five participants: Addie Broadhurst-Ahlers, Nika Merrikh-Kaluza, Hannah Mankulich, Emma Lee Stevens, and James Van Schaik ’23.

“This is a very important experiential learning opportunity that our students are able to undertake. It was so wonderful to see them enthusiastic about their work and it translated into some very impactful presentations,” says Dr. Bangarth.

Emma Lee Stevens, a fourth-year Criminology and Human Rights Studies student, presented on “Indigenous performance art as resurgence: Alanis Obomsawin,” about the prolific Indigenous documentarian whose films are a form of a resurgence of Indigenous languages, values, and culture. Stevens’ analysis looks at the effect of settler colonialism, cultural genocide, colonial heteropatriarchy, and colonial narrative on the disappearance of Indigenous cultures and peoples. Alanis Obomsawin comes into play to show how language, gender dynamics, and voice in the selected films are a resurgence and resistance to the colonial structures.

Stevens calls presenting at her first conference “liberating.”

“Gathering with scholars, some starting out and some seasoned, was beautiful because the academic community proved to be welcoming and recognizes that we all have ideas to share, no matter if I am almost done my first degree or someone has a PhD. The conference showed me what I am capable of when I not only put my heart into my work but also make small steps in my academic and professional career to land where I'm dreaming of,” she says.

“I have always loved presenting, but the mentorship from professors who have presented research at conferences or defended PhD theses is unmatched. In particular, Dr. Stephanie Bangarth was my rock in this research from the proposal, to submitting my abstract to the conference, to how to prepare an effective 20-minute conference presentation,” Stevens adds.

Addie Broadhurst-Ahlers, a fourth-year Human Rights major, presented on “Re-queering Canadian history: Remembering the movements the ’69 decriminalization myth erased,” which discussed the rich history of 2SLGBTQIA+ social movements in Canada. In addition to discussing Canadian queer and trans history, Broadhurst-Ahlers’ paper looks at the modern reality of queer and trans rights in Canada. “The idea behind my paper was to use historical precedence to show why and how Canada is not doing enough to protect its queer and trans citizens,” they said.

“The interdisciplinary nature of my program has allowed me to take an intersectional lens to social issues, allowing me to have a better ability to critically engage with new information. This is incredibly helpful for a conference such as Crossing Borders, which engages with a multitude of subject matters. My program has also helped me to feel more confident in myself and my expertise in my field, which is so essential for presenting at a conference,” says Broadhurst-Ahlers.

“A student from another university remarked that Addie Broadhurst-Ahlers’ work prompted them to delve into the issues out of interest,” says Dr. Bangarth. Broadhurst-Ahlers says that presenting at the conference was an extremely positive experience. Several of those in attendance from Western Washington University took the time to let Broadhurst-Ahlers know how much they enjoyed learning about Canadian queer and trans history, including one who said their presentation was one of their favourite parts of the conference.

James Van Schaik ’23, who is now doing his MA in theory and criticism at Western, presented on “The failure of economic and social rights in Canada,” which examines economic, cultural, and social rights in international theory versus Canadian human rights’ public policy, comparing it to the ethnographic experiences of a frontline social worker. His paper explores the experience of homelessness in Canada and the lack of access to basic rights. The study uncovered that while Canada has a duty to uphold these rights, the lived experiences of the homeless in Canada indicate they face significant discrimination and barriers regarding access and practice. The implication of this essay suggests a political and policy failure to live up to our international commitments to economic and social human rights, and a failure to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Van Schaik says the conference offered an amazing opportunity to share his research and gain valuable experience in presenting at academic conferences. He received a lot of valuable feedback about new directions to go with the paper and how to improve his presenting skills.

“Dr. Bangarth was a great mentor for not only developing this research but also helping me overcome the many hurdles of academic research. The Human Rights program at King’s prepared me for my continued studies by giving me an invaluable foundation in human rights that has now become the focus of my continued research, and the knowledge base that is implemented daily in my graduate studies at Western,” says Van Schaik.

Nika Merrikh-Kaluza presented on “The fight for queer rights across North America.” The research paper explores different queer social movements that have impacted Canadian history, what this history does for queer rights today, and what can be learned from our history to reach a better future. The paper specifically focuses on Canadian social movements with some eminent influences from American movements to fully understand the interconnective history.

Hannah Mankulich presented on “AIDS activism in Canada: The making of a successful social movement.” This paper argues that the broader Canadian AIDS movement was one of the most successful and effective social movements in the country’s history, and explains how exactly this movement managed to have such a profound impact on society. The analysis uses the framework of measuring success that was proposed by Dr. William Gamson, who argues that a social movement has been successful if it has shifted public acceptance and if it has created new advantages for the affected group. The paper emphasizes the accomplishments of Canadian activists by contributing to the pre-existing literature that has sought to challenge Americentrism.

Crossing Borders is an interdisciplinary conference for undergraduate and graduate students to present their research on topics in Canadian Studies, American Studies, Indigenous Studies and aspects of cross-border relations. The event is a bridge-building and networking opportunity for students from many different disciplines and from universities in Ontario, New York, and even Saskatchewan, that serves as an introduction to the structure and process of an academic conference and is an opportunity for students to gain public presentation skills while getting to know other Canadian and American students who share their interests.