Excellence Lectures

Discover the Faculty of Arts’ best in teaching and research at the Excellence Lectures. These free lectures are open to the general public.

2015 Awards

Anne Gilbert, Professeure, Department de Geography, Environment and Geomatics
« Vers trois solitudes? La géographie des langues dans la région de la capitale nationale »

Anne Gilbert

Wednesday, March 23, 12 pm
Simard Hall, room 125
The conference will be in French. A light lunch will be served.

The National Capital Region is one of the most important meeting places between Francophones and Anglophones in Canada. Although English clearly dominates in Ottawa, and French is the language of public life in Gatineau, the two groups have a strong foundation in both cities, where they cross paths in several neighbourhoods, in the workplace, in shops, and other spaces of daily life. This appears to be the one place in Canada where it does not seem very appropriate to speak of boundaries between French and English, or to discuss the "two solitudes". Is it justified, however, not to use this cult concept of analyzing the relationships between languages and cultures in Canada, especially when it comes to the capital?

The geographical distribution of languages reveals that the historical boundaries between francophone and anglophone districts in Gatineau and Ottawa are still clearly visible. It also illustrates that for twenty years, the growing immigration and the addition of other languages in the linguistic demographics of the capital, far from having erased the "two solitudes”, have instead accentuated the divide between one and the other. Allophone neighbourhoods that appeared in the capital region are peculiar in that they are indeed inserted between the other two groups to form what increasingly looks like a third ‘solitude’, at least from a geographical perspective.

Registration: This is a free event. Register online or call 613-562-5972 to reserve your seat.

2014 Awards

Denis Lacelle, Department of Geography - 2014 Young Researcher of the Year
“The mountains are melting”: Thawing of ice-rich permafrost terrain alters landscapes and fluvial systems in northwestern Canada.

Photo of Denis Lacelle

Wednesday, March 11 at noon | SMD129 | RSVP

The mountains are melting” – Robert Alexei, resident of Fort McPherson.
Retrogressive thaw slumps are a dynamic form of thermokarst and a significant agent of geomorphic change in ice-rich permafrost landscapes in northwestern Canada. Based on the Tasseled Cap linear trend image, more than 212 thaw slumps were identified in the Richardson Mountains – Peel Plateau region, of which 189 have been active since at least 1985. The surface area of the slumps ranges from 0.4 to 52 ha, with 10 slumps exceeding 20 ha – termed mega slumps. The thaw slumps in the region are all situated within the maximum westward extent of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Based on relations between frequency distribution of slumps and that of terrain factors in the landscape, the slumps are more likely to occur on the ice-rich hummocky rolling moraines at elevations of 300–350 m and 450–500 m and along east-facing slopes (slope aspects of 15° to 180°) with gradients of 8° to 12°. The 20-year average retreat rates (1990–2010 period) for 10% of the active slumps ranged from 7.2 to 26.7 m yr-1, with the largest slumps having higher retreat rates. At the regional scale, the 20-yr headwall retreat rates are mainly related to slope aspect, with south- and west-facing slopes exhibiting higher retreat rates, and large slumps appear to be generating feedbacks that allows them to maintain growth rates well above those of smaller slumps. Thaw slumps not only modify the landscape, but they also impact aquatic environments by releasing large amounts of previously frozen organic and inorganic sediments into nearby waterbodies. The mega slumps can displace 10-6 m3 of materials from slopes to valley bottoms, reconfiguring slope morphology and drainage networks. Disturbances of this magnitude have significant and enduring consequences on slope and fluvial geomorphology, and downstream ecosystems. Analysis of the spatial dimension of the impact of slumps on fluvial ecosystems revealed that it is the surface area of slumps that has the most impact on stream geochemistry, as opposed to the number or density of slumps within a hydrological unit. Larger single slumps (>5ha) contribute more to changes in stream geochemistry than clusters of smaller slumps. The large slumps can alter the geochemistry of the water to such levels as to exceed limits for freshwater aquatic life. Overall, the findings presented in this study allow highlighting of key sensitive landscapes and ecosystems that may be impacted by the presence and growth of thaw slumps in one of the most rapidly warming regions in the Arctic.

Juana Muñoz-Liceras, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures - 2014 Professor of the year
Grammatical gender in the mind of the bilingual: La house, el house or the casa?"
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Photo of Juana Munoz-Liceras

Code-switching experimental data provides a powerful tool to investigate how language is represented in the mind of the bilingual. Using gender, the highly grammaticalized feature that is lexicalized in French and Spanish but not in English (la maison/la casa/the house – le livre/el libro/ the book), we show that in a bilingual situation, speakers whose dominant language is the gendered language, classify the nouns of their non-gendered language according to the translation equivalent in their dominant language (the so-called “analogical criterion”). Namely, while Spanish-dominant English-Spanish bilinguals abide by this criterion (i.e. la house, el book, the house es roja, the book es rojo), English-dominant bilinguals’ preferences are a factor of the type of construction (la house versus the house is roja) or the actual task (interpretation versus production). We argue that this behavior is determined by feature valuation and lexical selection factors.

Jan Grabowski, Department of History - 2014 Professor of the year
"The Solitude of the Victims: Germans, Bystanders and Local Enablers in the Holocaust."
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Photo of Grabowski

The study of the Shoah focussed, to a large extent, on the German perpetrators and on their Jewish victims. The third group, the so-called “bystanders”, received much less historical scrutiny.  With time, however, questions were raised as to the alleged “impartiality” of bystanders and their direct impact on the fate of the European Jews. Seen from this perspective, the phenomenon of popular, pan-European, assistance in the Shoah raises new and troubling questions about our understanding of one of the greatest tragedies in history.

2013 Awards

Mitia Rioux-Beaulne, Department of Philosophy - 2013 Young Researcher of the Year
“Does Science require a mirror? Thoughts on the 18th century birth of the history of science (in French only).”


Photo of Mitia Rioux-Beaulne

In 1700, Bernard de Fontenelle was named permanent secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences of France and was charged with writing a history of that institution, namely Histoire raisonnée de l’Académie royale des sciences.

In a sense, this document could be considered the birth certificate of a discipline that today enjoys indisputable institutional legitimacy: the history of science. This lecture will explore this birth certificate to try to understand the theory that underpins it, the political aims it sought to achieve, and how Fontenelle gave it a particular philosophical status by employing a very specific rhetorical framework.

Fontenelle did not believe that he had been tasked to simply record past discoveries to satisfy future historians; instead, he felt he should tell the story of science as it was being practiced at the time in order to both disseminate information to the general public and encourage scientists themselves to question scientific practices, standards and methods.

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