UMIH 20th Anniversary
In 2010, the Institute for the Humanities celebrated its twentieth anniversary.
The success and ongoing importance of the Institute was captured in reflections written by those closely involved with UMIH. These messages were published in the Institute's newsletters over the course of the year, and have been archived on the Institute's website.
We are pleased to share the supportive messages
from directors, research affiliates, and support staff.
Message from Former Director Dr David S. Churchill    

The Fall of 2010 marked the 20th Anniversary of the establishment of the University of Manitoba Institute for the Humanities. Though always modest in scale, the UMIH has made a tremendous contribution to the intellectual and collegial life of the Faculty of Arts and the University as a whole. It is one of the genuine privileges of being the Director to be able to work and interact with so many active and dedicated scholars. It is also vitally important to me, as Director, to continue the legacy of peer mentoring and support for faculty, graduate students, and affiliates that has been part of the UMIH since it founding.

Over the course of 2010, we  shared reflections from past Directors and Affiliates in Institute newsletters about their time at the UMIH. We are pleased to make these available through our website, below.  These contributions provide a personal perspective of the people who have animated the UMIH over past two decades, and helped to shape the scholarly community within which we live and work.

The last 20 years have also seen some dramatic technological changes that are particularly important to the future of the Humanities. The Internet, new media and the digital revolution have opened up entirely new realms of possibility for teaching and research.  These technologies have the potential to make texts, images, and a host of other materials, more inclusive and accessible. Initiatives such as the National Endowment of the Arts’ “Looking for Whitman” point to the potential of knowledge sharing and pedagogy between students and faculty beyond the limits of a physical campus.

Finally, I want to take this anniversary year to reflect more on the position of the Humanities within the academy. The two decades of the UMIH’s existence have not been the easiest of times for Humanities scholars. Across North America scholars in Literature, Philosophy, History, Classics and other Humanities Departments have come under criticism for their relevance and utility. At the UMIH we have sought not only to illustrate our contemporary relevance, but also to provide space for scholars whose research programs are not simply epistemological instruments. Intellectual diversity is the key to a dynamic educational and research environment; something the UMIH continues to build and nurture.

David S. Churchill, Associate Professor
Department of History, U of M
Director, Institute for the Humanities, 2007-2012

Reflections from Past Directors

My time as director of the UMIH stands out as one of the highlights of my career at the U of M.  The Institute serves as a place for the presentation and exchange of new ideas and research and I had an indisputable reason for being present at each and every event for two years.  I learned a great deal about the kind of research being done here and about new ways of looking at things.  It was intellectually stimulating in a way that I miss now that I can no longer justify attending every talk I see advertised.

I was fortunate to serve at a time when the funding and very existence of the Institute was no longer in jeopardy, due entirely to the efforts of the directors before me.  The energy invested by them and the great care in overseeing day to day matters taken by assistant to the Director, Natalie Johnson (since retired) ensured the Institute’s place in the Faculty and the University.  But while there was no immediate fear or uncertainty about the future of the Institute, there was nevertheless a clear mandate from the Institute’s Board to engage in fundraising.  And so it was that I was in contact with the ever-changing cast at the Department of Private Funding, which itself underwent a transformation into the Department of Development and Advancement during that time.  It was interesting to be exposed to an entirely different aspect of university life with its own culture and structure and I consider this kind of experience of the many benefits of the Director’s job.  (I didn’t, however, succeed in raising any funds.) 

Again, following in the footsteps of the directors before me, I continued on with partnerships with the Winnipeg Art Gallery and McNally Robinson and was struck by the enthusiasm with which Institute events were greeted by staff in the planning stages and then by the public at the events themselves.  This enthusiasm mirrored that of the Arts faculty when we launched the research clusters program.  I had been fully prepared to spend a lot of time explaining and promoting the program but clusters seemed to form instantly and we had strong and interesting applications from the outset.

The Institute also provided me with a model for organizing my own research cluster with scholars in linguistics across Canada.  I was able to hold a workshop on Determiners in November 2006 and to co-edit a book on the same topic with my colleagues which was published in 2009. 

In looking over what is going on at the Institute now, I am even more proud to have been associated with it in the past.  Its activities provide the kind of sustenance that sustain me through the more trivial and bureaucratic activities that make up my daily life as an academic.

Jila Ghomeshi
Linguistics, U of M
Director from 2005-07

In July 2004 I became Acting Director of the Institute for the Humanities, after having served as Chair of the Institute Board of Management the previous year. The Institute was a great place to be, in what felt like the centre of Humanities research activity on campus. Obsessed as I was (and for the record, remain) with emotional response to texts, I used the theme Aesthetics and Affect to organize the Institute’s yearly colloquium series. Dr. Linda Williams, from UC Berkeley, was the first of those excellent presenters. More students began to attend talks and New Faculty presentations throughout the year, which meant that 409 Tier was often crowded enough to require more cookies on our refreshment plates. The Institute also managed the City Limits conference that year, and held an extremely successful lunch time Round Table discussion and celebration of the work of Jacques Derrida.

The best part of that time for me was the pleasure I received creating opportunities for people from the Faculty of Arts and beyond to come together to present, debate, and explore the Humanities in a collegial setting. To pursue difficult and contentious ideas wherever they may lead, in the company of ferociously engaged scholars, is one of the most exhilarating and productive features of our academic work lives. This is what the Institute for the Humanities enabled then, and continues to support now, and why my association with the Institute is one of the things I credit with my growth as a Humanities scholar.

Brenda Austin-Smith
English, Film and Theatre, U of M
Acting Director for 2004--05

It was my privilege to serve as Director of UMIH from 2000-2004, at a time when there were important changes in the Institute, most notably its establishment in a permanent suite of offices with adjacent seminar room in 407 and 409 Tier Building. There was also significant renewal in the Faculty of Arts during this period. Every year brought new faces and new ideas, which UMIH was able to showcase in the New Faculty Colloquium Series. It was tremendously rewarding to have the opportunity to provide a venue for new scholars to share their interests and enthusiasm, to meet each other, and to meet established faculty members. I also strove to ensure that the Institute was a venue for the exchange of ideas among all interested humanities scholars through the regular faculty colloquium series as well as annual series and panel discussions based on themes and issues of current research significance. I feel that I learned and grew as a scholar through the interactions in these series and in all the Institute’s programmes. It is gratifying to know that the Institute continues to play a vital role in the intellectual life of the Faculty of Arts and of the University as a whole.

The outreach component of the Institute’s mandate provided especially rewarding opportunities to work with other organizations that play a part in fostering public knowledge, such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery and McNally Robinson Booksellers. The Institute’s engagement with the outside community allowed it to act, in a sense, as a collective public intellectual through panel discussions at the WAG and presentations at McNally Robinson’s. The open exchanges between scholars and audience members at these events cultivated an important rapport between the University and the community that it serves.

Arlene Young
English, Film and Theatre, U of M
Director from 2000-2004

I take the Humanities to be the study of non-biblical literature: simply for the love of it, and because together with the Bible it embodies the collective memory of our civilization. Both love of learning for its own sake and the assumption that there is any connexion between our past and the present are unfashionable in Canada today. The Humanities do little to raise GDP, and their public support wins few votes. As education budgets get squeezed by ever-rising health costs the Humanities are the first to go.
During my term as Director (1992-95, 1998-2000) therefore, I tried to make UMIH the flagship for the Humanities in Manitoba. Funding for survival was first and foremost, particularly in view of the UM policy that all research institutes should be self-supporting through revenue from contract research, virtually impossible with the Humanities. My strategy was to get at least temporary immunity from UM policy rules whilst developing a convincing fund-raising campaign. With the help of the late Harry Duckworth I put together an Advisory Council of business and professional leaders in Winnipeg who believed in the Humanities, and which planned a campaign to raise an endowment sufficient to guarantee the permanent survival of the Institute – about $3 million at that time. The plan was approved by the President’s development committee, and twice we secured the offer of a lead gift of $1 million which would get us started. On each occasion however, the prospective donor was diverted to other units in the UM by some higher authority. A small endowment now exists, but it is essential for the viability of UMIH that this be much augmented.
My other strategy to raise the profile of the Humanities in Winnipeg was to bring in a series of Distinguished Visiting Lecturers, funded by the UM, from leading universities in the USA and Britain. Many of these were colleagues and friends of mine, and were willing to come for expenses and the small honorarium ($3,000) we could pay. I tried to revive the Humanities Association of Winnipeg without success; but did begin a series of regular colloquia on campus to provide an opportunity for UM Humanities scholars to present their work and to advertise the Humanities at least locally.

Anthony Waterman
Economics, U of M
Director from 1992-95 and 1998-2000

In response to my memo to him complaining about the neglect of resources for scholarly researchers in the Humanities and urging the formation of an institute to help address the problem, in early 1990 the then Dean of Arts (John Finlay) appeared at my office door in the Department of Religion offering his support (moral and financial) and challenging me to take up the project. 
I served as founding Director 1990-1992, and those were busy years for UMIH.  In addition to gaining University approval for UMIH and setting up offices in Isbister Building, we launched a suite of activities.  At that point many faculty members in Arts were still just learning about email and other uses of computers for their scholarly needs, so we ran several hands-on sessions to teach colleagues (ca. 75) about email, Telnet access to online libraries, and multi-lingual word-processing.  We set up an multi-disciplinary seminar series highlighting key researchers.  We co-sponsored a lecture series with the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  In cooperation with the University’s office for research funding we held sessions on grant applications, with special focus on the SSHRCC (and with some consequent successes).  With funding from the Dean of Arts, we also offered UMIH fellowships to Arts colleagues for research projects (targeting promising junior colleagues).  I think that UMIH immediately raised the spirits of colleagues, especially in Humanities disciplines.
I am very pleased that UMIH continues to provide support and encouragement to scholarly research and researchers, and I congratulate all those who have contributed to its twenty years of contributions to the University.

Larry W. Hurtado
Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology
University of Edinburgh
Founding Director from 1990-92

Updates from Former Research Affiliates

I was an affiliate with the Institute in 2008-09 as a doctoral student in History at University of Toronto, and spent my time at the Institute working on preliminary research towards my dissertation.  I was also reading towards comprehensive examinations, and found the office space valuable when I couldn’t focus at home.  Even more valuable were the lively discussions with Natalie Johnson about everything from my research to vegetarian cooking.  I had the benefit of being invited by the Director to participate as a discussant in a Thinking Out Loud Series session at McNally Robinson on Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, which introduced me to the difficulties of applying my academic training to a forum far removed from the comfort of other scholars in my field.  I was also fortunate enough to be asked to help organize a major conference at the U of M during my affiliateship, which introduced me to graduate students and faculty at the U of M who I had yet to meet, as well as students and scholars from around the world who presented at the conference. 

After my affiliateship, I took some time away from my graduate program and, since Natalie’s retirement in 2009, I have been the Assistant to the Director of the Institute.  As the UMIH office assistant, I have found the work of the Institute engaging and have been active in organising conferences, talks, and colloquium series, overseeing research initiatives, and writing the newsletter and web content for the UMIH.  While working at the Institute has left less time than I anticipated for focusing on my own research, the contact with students and faculty while immersed in a research environment has encouraged me to continue studying while on maternity leave from the Institute over the coming year.  I am grateful for my time at the Institute as an affiliate and office assistant, and for the people I’ve met through the UMIH in both capacities.
Krista Walters
Institute for the Humanities, U of M
Affiliate from 2008-09

Emily Downing Muller, an Affiliate of the Institute in 2007, is currently working as an Administrative Assistant for the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics and as a sessional instructor in the department of Philosophy at the University of Manitoba. Emily is also the Administrative Co-ordinator for the International Human Rights Lecture Series, a series of public lectures co-hosted by the Ethics Centre and the soon to be opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This series will present eight lectures at the Museum, to be aired on CBC Radio One’s Ideas Program, beginning in September 2013. Athough no longer a doctoral candidate at Cornell, Emily continues to think philosophically and is considering a range of non-academic venues in which to read widely, and think critically. 

Emily Downing Muller
Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, U of M
Affiliate from 2006-07

I am very grateful to have been an affiliate at the Institute for the Humanities twice, in 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.  The Institute not only generously supported my research and provided me with a venue for presenting ideas and receiving feedback and criticism, it also introduced me to an entire scholarly community in Winnipeg.  In 2001, my wife and I moved to Winnipeg knowing very little about the University or City.  I spent the year going to the office everyday and working with Arlene Young, Natalie Johnson, and Youngok Kang-Bohr, some of the first people I met in Winnipeg.  Through a very busy calendar of Institute events I met people from across the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg, was exposed to a lot of exciting research and formed many new friendships.  To this day, almost all of my knowledge about the work done by colleagues outside of history comes through the Institute.  I also learned a lot about the city, as the Institute sponsored a number of events off campus, raising the profile of the University in the community.  During my time at the Institute I wrote much of the dissertation that would eventually form the basis of my monograph Master and Servant Law (2010).  As a research affiliate I was provided with the opportunity to give many talks on different chapters that were in progress, allowing me to receive vital comments and suggestions from historians, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, legal scholars and experts in Victorian literature, almost all of which found their way into my book. 
In 2005 I was hired by the Department of History and the Institute continues to play a significant role in my professional and social life.  The formation of research clusters, and the Law and Society Research Cluster in particular, has been very valuable to my work and put me in touch with a large community of scholars in Winnipeg doing law-based research.  The events sponsored by the Institute have greatly widened my horizons by exposing me to the different types of research being done across the university, and providing a venue for the discussion of questions that are important to our community.  The Institute has also been a vital forum for exploring issues related to the University’s human rights initiatives. 
The Institute has been so good for so long at bringing together scholars from across disciplines in the Faculty of Arts that it often gets taken for granted and we forget how isolated we would be in our own university had it not been created and maintained by a string of skilled and deeply committed directors.  In our university, the Institute is the absolute center of interdisciplinary scholarly discussion, it is essential to the dissemination of research within the university and the promotion of collaboration and collegiality between members of the Faculty of Arts.  The intellectual environment of the university and the work we produce would suffer greatly in its absence.  This institution has been very successful in raising the profile of the University within the community and bringing our work to a wider audience.  I benefited a great deal from my time as an affiliate at the Institute, and continue to appreciate the opportunities it provides.

Chris Frank,
History, U of M
Affiliate from 2001-02 and 2003-04

When we arrived in Winnipeg in 1999, I was still writing my dissertation, and it was a big step to relocate in the midst of finishing that up. Anthony Waterman was the director of the Institute then, and I recall having a handful of daunting conversations with him, mostly about the giants of eighteenth-century thought and the history of religion. These conversations were daunting in the best possible way, because they reminded me that we often set ourselves adrift in our own universes, and neglect to properly listen to others. This is, of course, the road to ruin. UMIH helped make my work better at that time because it forced me out of my comfort zone. A memorable example: I recall encountering the term ‘civil society’ for the first time in conversation around the Institute and being puzzled, then immediately delighted by it because I had been using a variety of other terms and images to express the concept in my own thinking and writing. I viewed it as a great kindness that the people I was speaking to at the time didn’t marvel at this spot of ignorance or mock it. In fact, it was at that moment I began to sense the difference between graduate school and a scholarly community. As the long-serving administrative assistant in this community, Natalie Johnson was the anchor of the place – encouraging, knowledgeable, and respectful. It was clear that she took pride in her own work and the work of the affiliates. When I came back to the Institute during the Arlene Young era, a couple of years after my first affiliateship, it was such a nice feeling to be among this group of supportive colleagues and friends again, and my work went along well. Since my time at UMIH, I’ve joined the History Department at the U of M, and though it’s difficult to make it to all the Institute events, my admiration for its goals and the people who make it a positive scholarly community has only grown.

Len Kuffert
History, U of M
Affiliate from 1999-2000 and 2002-03

I was an affiliate for a 6-month term from January-June 2002, while ABD in the Linguistics department at the University of Toronto, and working on my thesis, entitled Domains in Michif Phonology.  I spent my time at the U of M doing field work on the language of study of my thesis: Michif, a Métis language spoken still by a number of Métis Elders in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  The time spent in Winnipeg was invaluable as it allowed me to be closer to the speakers and materials I was researching, not to mention it made planning my Winnipeg wedding for Sept 2002 much easier!  I completed my thesis in 2006 while on maternity leave from my just-obtained position at the University of Lethbridge.  In 2007, I was awarded a SSHRC Aboriginal Research Grant entitled ‘Word-building in Michif’, to build an online Michif-English dictionary. This dictionary, which will be available at in 2011, will focus on oral language by including audio files for terms and texts to allow learners to hear the pronunciation in context.  Earlier in 2007, I was awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge, where I live with my husband Dave and two sons: Oscar, 5 and Leo, 2.  I continue to pursue the study of language as spoken on the Prairies, and plan to branch out to doing more work on local French and English varieties.

Dr Nicole Rosen
Department of Modern Languages
University of Lethbridge
Affiliate in 2002

I was an affiliate at the Institute in 2000, and like many others, it served as an important introduction to academic life and a diverse set of possibilities available here.  I had just moved to Winnipeg because my partner was hired in the History Department.  Having a space 'physical, intellectual and social' was crucially important at that juncture in my life.  In addition to working on several articles, I was revising my doctoral dissertation which was eventually published by University of Toronto Press, Gramsci's Politics of Language: Engaging the Bakhtin Circle and the Frankfurt School (2004).  I was also teaching in the Sociology Department at the time, and would relish the transition from the hustle and bustle of the classroom to the quieter, contemplative space of the Institute.  Natalie Johnson was always wonderful and encouraging company.  The following fall, 2000, I was hired to teach political theory in the Politics Department at the University of Winnipeg where I am currently an Associate Professor.  As important as the Institute was for me as an affiliate, have been the many talks, workshops, conferences and other events that it has put on in the years since.  The Institute for the Humanities is a part of the intellectual fabric of Winnipeg.

Peter Ives
Politics Department, Univeristy of Winnipeg
Affiliate from 1999-2000

Message from former Assistant to the Director Natalie Johnson

As the assistant to the director of the Institute for the Humanities from December 1998 to July 2009 I worked with five directors and over twenty research affiliates. When I consider my eleven years at the Institute what stands out is the strength of commitment to the humanities by everyone associated with the Institute, the remarkable diversity of programs and research the Institute supported, and the large numbers of people who participated in the Institute's presentations.

Each of the directors was innovative in the development of new programs - yet they also built on the work of their predecessors.  Programs like the New Faculty Colloquium - in which new faculty members in the humanities disciplines present their research to the Faculty of Arts - have been in existence for more than twelve years.  The Institute's long association with the Winnipeg Art Gallery - which was established before I became the assistant - continues to develop, from lectures for the general public to open forums on topics of public interest.

The directors all shared a firm commitment to the double mission of the Institute; developing and sustaining off-campus presentations for the general public and designing and organizing on-campus programs to support humanities research within the university.  Food for Thought - short talks by UM faculty members - and Thinking Out Loud - discussion forums of bestselling non-fiction books by UM faculty members - were two of the numerous off-campus programs established during my time at the Institute.  Both programs attracted large public audiences and resulted in lively discussions.  In this same period on campus, the Institute presented a themed  interdisciplinary lecture series every fall, featuring talks  by a combination of UM faculty members and guest lecturers. The sessions attracted significant numbers of both faculty and students.  The research cluster program, which is still flourishing, involves UM students and faculty members who meet regularly to discuss shared research interests. Guest speakers from other universities give public lectures as part of this program, and in some cases the research clusters sponsor conferences on campus.

The assistant to the director's job reflects the Institute's diversity and as a consequence was always interesting. I worked on several international conferences managed by the Institute, I did event planning with staff from other institutions, I assisted the directors with their own research projects, I helped to plan and advertise the many Institute on-campus lectures and colloquia, and I assisted the research affiliates with the process of settling into the UM campus - getting them library cards and photocopying privileges, and ordering books to help them in their research.

The Institute's research affiliates reflect both the Institute's diversity and its strong  support of research.  During my time the Institute sponsored a visiting faculty member from a Chinese university, a visiting doctoral candidate from a German university, several post doctoral fellows as well as doctoral students from a variety of North American universities.  There were - among others - Russian, British and Canadian historians, English scholars, a novelist and a poet, a philosopher,  political scientists, a linguist and an art historian. The affiliates participated actively in the University of Manitoba community. They gave public presentations on their work, and met with senior academics in their field. Some of them became members of the research clusters.  A significant number of the doctoral candidates obtained their degrees during or shortly after their time at the Institute and subsequently went on to academic positions.   All the postdoctoral fellows became academics.

It was the assistant's job to list all publications by Institute members in the annual report. It was always encouraging to see  both the number and the variety of publications that resulted from the conferences and the research clusters, and the number and variety of publications written by the research affiliates and the directors.

I hope the Institute will continue to flourish and to be a support both for humanities research and writing, and for humanities outreach for another twenty years.

Thank you to all past Directors and Research Affiliates, as well as
Natalie Johnson, for sharing in the Institute's celebrations!