What is this thing called Congress?

In Conferences by Steve Palmer0 Comments

No, not the joint Conference of the Canadian Society for the History of Medicine and the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing — we all know what that is (or do we?) — but “Congress”: the bizarre Canuck behemoth annual late spring multi-conference, the former Learneds (or, as it was fondly and not so fondly known, the Stupids), the Congress of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences (the bizarre federation of learned societies and lobby group for academic interests that unsuccessfully tried to rebrand itself “FedCan” a few years back).

Confused yet?

I’ve tried to explain this phenomenon a number of times, without much success, to Latin Americans and francophone Quebeckers back when the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies occasionally held its congress — er, conference — in conjunction with Congress.  Perhaps I’ll have more luck this time, especially by perusing the interesting-looking feature, “The Story Behind Congress — a Unique Canadian Invention”, on the Congress 2015 website.  Alas, when I click on it I receive the message “Access Denied: You Are Not Authorized to Access this Page” (which I note is both redundant and uninformative about how I might exit said purgatory).


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Not sure why the general Canadian public is not allowed to know this fascinating story made with its tax dollars, and posted on a website built with its tax dollars, but presumably it has something to do with not being officially registered yet (even though I pre-registered on line months ago).

Which I’m trying to do now.  But what, as Latin Americans and francophone Quebeckers used to ask me, are we registering for?  And why are we doing it in a place far from where our society is meeting even though we’re late for our session?  And why are we paying money to register with an academic society that is not our own to boot?  In short, just what is “Congress 2015 of the Humanities and Social Sciences” anyway, and who came up with its Marxist-Woosterism meets Bay Street catch-all sub-title, “Capital Ideas”?  Oh, right, now I get it — we’re in Ottawa, the capital city and we all have good, valuable ideas!  That’s so cute.

Well, if you’re an anglophone-university-based Canadian scholar you will by now be chuckling to yourself about this maddeningly quaint little conundrum that ultimately is so telling about the nature of Canadian academia.  Or, at least, I think it is.  If only I could confirm that by reading the interesting-looking feature, “The Story Behind Congress” — ok, now I’m risking the loop.

In the time-honoured Canuck academic tradition, let’s just fork over the dough and get over to the joint CSHM-CAHN 2015 conference.  We’re late.  It’s already started.  We’ll try to explain the Congress thing later.

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