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Leading, including, and transforming

Twelve students spent the weekend in training to prepare for fall orientation. 

[Queen's AMS Ramna Safeer Myriam-Morenike Djossou]
Myriam-Morenike Djossou (Artsci’18) and Ramna Safeer (Artsci'18) are among those involved in delivering some key inclusivity training to student Orientation leaders this fall. (University Communications)

A dozen Queen’s students are now ready to train 1,300 of their peers on the effective ways to create an inclusive environment during orientation.

These 12 students were selected and trained as ‘peer facilitators’, a new role created to help improve the experience of this year’s orientation.

In this role, they will be responsible for delivering a 90-minute workshop to orientation leaders in August called Leading, Including and Transforming (LIT). The training was jointly developed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Equity and Human Rights Office.

Enhancing student leadership training for orientation was a recommendation of the Undergraduate Orientation Review Working Group – and that review of Orientation Week stemmed from a recommendation of the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI).

“This initiative will help us strengthen the student transition experience by creating a common understanding of what a respectful and welcoming and accessible Orientation program would look like for a diversity of students. It will help to foster, for all members of the incoming class, a sense of belonging at Queen’s,” says Corinna Fitzgerald, Assistant Dean, Student Life and Learning. "We are proud of the inclusive living and learning environment here at Queen’s, and we are committed to continuous improvement through initiatives such as this one.”

The agenda for the two-day training session included learning the presentation, practicing the presentation, a session on presentation skills, and a session for facilitators on self-care delivered by the Cultural Counsellor. Having students serve as facilitators was a deliberate choice, according to organizers.

Coordinating the weekend session was Ramna Safeer (Artsci’18), Student Life Assistant with Student Affairs and past Social Issues Commissioner for the Alma Mater Society.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for student leaders to learn tangible skills for dealing with difficult conversations in contexts that are specific to them,” she says. “With my own experience, I am really passionate about the fact that all students are leaders in some capacity, which means every student should feel like they are agents in making their environments more inclusive and accessible. I feel honoured to be a part of an exciting new initiative that furthers the conversations about accessible, hands-on equity training that we're having right now.”

Myriam-Morenike Djossou (Artsci’18), one of the facilitators, believes delivering this training will help Orientation leaders understand the opportunity they have to help build an environment at Queen’s that is welcoming for everyone.

“Even though Queen’s is a big institution, and sometimes it can be hard to see how each of us, as individuals, have the ability to influence what happens on campus, there are in fact many ways through which we can shape the Queen’s experience and culture,” she says. “By reflecting and thinking critically on the activities we engage in, and what we witness, by knowing how to safely intervene when it is necessary, and by fostering inclusiveness in our daily lives, we have that ability to make a difference. It may not always be on a large scale, but that may make an important difference for one student, and that is already a win.”

The 1,300 orientation leaders will be trained on Thursday, Aug. 30 just ahead of Orientation Week.

Queen’s welcomes new Vanier Scholars

Four doctoral students earn prestigious national honour.

Four Queen’s University doctoral students have earned Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships designed to help Canadian institutions attract and retain highly qualified doctoral students. The four winners’ areas of study include Indigenous public protest, kidney function, low income populations, and assisted dying.

The scholarships provide each student with $50,000 per year for three years during their doctoral studies. Scholarships are funded by either the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

"Our heartiest congratulations are extended to each of the four recipients of this year’s Vanier award," says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the Queen's University School of Graduate Studies. "As Canada’s premier graduate scholarship, the Vanier award recognizes outstanding academic achievements, extraordinary leadership skills, and an unwavering commitment to fostering excellence and innovation in research in service of the global society. The School of Graduate Studies is looking forward to supporting our new Vanier scholars in continuing to pursue cutting-edge research in the disciplinary realms of social and health sciences."

This year’s recipients include:

Miles Howe

Miles Howe (Cultural Studies) - Howe's SSHRC-funded research focuses on analyzing policing tactics in relation to episodes of Indigenous public protest. Specifically, he is exploring how developments in policing theory and crowd theory have influenced Canadian policing practices, and how recent trends in “strategic incapacitation” have impacted the work of police and security agencies in regards to Indigenous public protests.

Christine Moon

Christine Moon (Kinesiology and Health Studies) - Moon’s dissertation project, funded by SSHRC, will explore experiences of racialized Canadians with medical assistance in dying. Her proposed doctoral work will help the public understand what assisted dying means to racialized Canadians and provide a previously unexplored, qualitative, and in-depth look at how they think about, request, or receive assisted dying.

Sarah Sharma

Sarah Sharma (Political Studies) – Sharma’s doctoral research examines how financial and environmental inequalities affect low-income populations in major global cities. Specifically, she is studying informal settlements to understand the economic and environmental threats to attaining safe and secure housing in growing urban centres. Her work is funded by SSHRC.

Mandy Turner

Mandy Turner (Biomedical and Molecular Studies) – Funded by CIHR, Turner’s work combines laboratory research with clinical research in an innovative way to better understand the negative impact of phosphate on blood vessels and the heart, especially in patients with impaired kidney function. Her research team is generating a new clinical test to identify those with phosphate imbalance at an early stage in order to manage these patients and decrease the risk of heart disease in this population.

For more information, visit the website.

Scientist earns prestigious international honour

Queen’s University researcher John Smol earns elite recognition from Royal Society.

Queen’s University professor John Smol (Biology) recently joined elite company when he was named a Fellow of the Royal Society (London). Only two other Queen’s professors have ever been named to Fellowship – Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering), and Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy).

Formed in 1660, Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS) include eminent scientists such as Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, and it is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. Fellows are elected in recognition of their exceptional contributions in the fields of science, engineering and medicine. The mission of the RS is to recognize, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

Queen's University Professor John Smol poses with original Royal Society member Isaac Newton after his official induction in London.

Fellows are elected based solely on the merit of their scientific work.

“An FRS is something I had known about since I was an undergraduate, largely reading about Darwin and other famous scientists, and the history behind the society,” says Dr. Smol. “Of course, it never occurred to me that those letters would ever be behind my name. Just as I was honoured to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada over 20 years ago, I am elated at being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and to be asked to sign the Charter Book that includes the signatures of people like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.”

In 1991, Dr. Smol founded the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL), a group of about 40 students and other scientists dedicated to the study of long-term global environmental change. Much of his research deals with using lake sediments to study climate change, acidification, eutrophication, contaminant transport, and other environmental stressors. A significant portion of his research focuses on environmental change in the Arctic, where he has completed over three decades of fieldwork and data collection spanning the entire circumpolar region.

His research has played a key role in moving the study of paleolimnology from a largely-descriptive discipline to a quantitative and precise science, with a wide range of applications. Many of the novel approaches he and his colleagues developed have been adopted around the world and have influenced changes in public policy. Part of his citation read during the induction ceremony emphasized “his tireless efforts in bringing his socially-important scientific conclusions on climatic and environmental change to public attention.”

”I often work in contentious circumstances, identifying new environmental problems,” says Dr. Smol. “Many industries and certain politicians would certainly prefer that our work would simply disappear, as we frequently provide ‘pesky and inconvenient data’ for CEOs and shareholders.  One thing I learned is that the more prestigious the awards, the greater the likelihood that our research will be shared and valued.”

Dr. Smol has received over 60 national and international research and teaching awards. These include three medals from the Royal Society of Canada (RSC): the Miroslav Romanowski Medal for Environmental Science, the Flavelle Medal for Biological Sciences, and, recently, the McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science. He is the first scientist since the establishment of the RSC (1882) to win three individual medals.

“It is an immense individual honour to receive a fellowship in Britain’s Royal Society, but also one for Queen’s in having one of its researchers join the ranks of the world’s most respected and accomplished scientists,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I offer Dr. Smol my most profound congratulations.”

In addition to his Royal Society accolades, he has won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, and he was co-winner of the Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering, Canada’s highest honour for interdisciplinary research excellence in science and engineering. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Weston Lifetime Achievement Prize for Northern Research as well as being named an Einstein Professor by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Amongst his 13 teaching and mentoring awards is the 3M Teaching Fellowship, considered to be Canada’s highest teaching honour.

For more information visit the Royal Society website.

Creating the future workforce

NSERC’s CREATE Program supports Queen’s researchers in student training.

Two Queen’s University researchers are leading groups that have been awarded a combined $3.3 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) as part of their Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program to provide innovative training to students in the areas of photonics, and water sustainability.

The CREATE program will provide groups led by Queen’s associate professors James Fraser (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) and Stephen Brown (Chemistry) with support for the training of teams of highly qualified students through the development of innovative training programs, and facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce.

“The CREATE program highlights the often inextricable link between research and student training,” says Jim Banting, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “Impressively, Queen’s secured two of 18 CREATE grants distributed nationwide, and we look forward to seeing the unique and transferable learning and training opportunities presented to the undergraduates and graduate students who participate in the MAPS and LEADERS projects.”

Dr. Fraser will receive $1,649,185 over six years for his CREATE – Materials for Advanced Photonics and Sensing (CREATE-MAPS) project, which will provide 42 graduate students and 22 undergraduate students with comprehensive training designed to help them compete in a photonics industry that has been experiencing unprecedented international growth. Demand for photonic materials and their manufacturing – including novel light sources, optical sensors, and more – has grown from a $2.5 billion global industry in 2011, to a $10.9 billion industry in 2017.

Dr. Brown has been awarded $1,650,000 over six years for his Leaders in water and watershed sustainability (The LEADERS Project), which will bring 44 graduate students and 24 undergraduate students to the forefront of water research through interdisciplinary approaches to developing water-related science and policy. The project will ensure students develop the broad base of skills required of contemporary water professionals – including working with environmental samples and data, liaising with stakeholders and presenting expert information clearly, and working with sustainability programs and environmental assessments. Industry experts are predicting a five per cent annual growth in the $2 billion environmental consulting and services sector, with a demand for 500,000 new employees in the sector.

The NSERC CREATE grants were announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, at the Université de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Québec on July 16.

For more information on the program and for a full list of recipients, please visit the NSERC website.

Surveilling surveillance

Queen’s professor David Lyon recognized for career contributions to field of surveillance studies.

David Lyon, Queen's University
Queen's University sociology professor David Lyon (Credit: USI Università della Svizzera Italiana)

In the 1930s, famed poet and dramatist T.S. Eliot wrote:

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

These days, with issues of online privacy and mass data collection in the news regularly, Queen’s University sociology professor and surveillance studies pioneer David Lyon says we should now be asking: Where is the information we have lost in data?

“As a society, we always need to ask whether or not technological and surveillance developments are right, truthful, wise, and fulfilling,” says Dr. Lyon, who was recently recognized with an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Surveillance Studies Network for his scholarly and intellectual contributions to the field. “With the sharing, collection, and use of our personal data becoming increasingly prevalent, it is important to make sure it is done ethically and with sound reason, so as to protect ourselves, and especially vulnerable groups, from exploitation.”

Long before the Edward Snowden or Facebook-Cambridge Analytica revelations, Dr. Lyon and his colleagues were trailblazers in what would become the surveillance studies discipline. He coined one of the most widely adopted definitions of surveillance – “focused, systematic, and routine attention to personal details for purposes such as influence, entitlement, or management” – and developed key ideas in the field, including one of his most lauded concepts: social sorting.

“Social sorting now uses data analysis to divide groups of people into various categories and segments, including by income, education, race, ethnicity, gender, occupation, or otherwise,” says Dr. Lyon. “As technology has advanced, so too has the ability for those in positions of power to gather and categorize us, so as to treat us differently. Sometimes this can be in the name of good – be it for welfare distribution or hospital triage – but it can also be used for more controlling or even nefarious purposes, like using credit scores or consumer histories that may deny people opportunities.”

Twenty-five years ago, concerns held by academics or members of the public could be grouped into several different siloes of surveillance. As well as worries about public video cameras, some were concerned with issues surrounding the security of telephone services – particularly with the advent of technologies like Caller ID. Others were concerned with workplace surveillance at the hands of their employers, and another group feared state tyranny as government databases became more interconnected, thus allowing bureaucrats to amass ‘dossiers’ of information with records of your government interactions.

“Nowadays, those siloes have dissolved,” says Dr. Lyon. “Between the exponential rate of technological development, the commercialization of the internet, political and social crises, and the growth of social media, we’ve forfeited much of our personal data to private corporations and governments in the name convenience, consumerism, and a sense of security. As a result, it is more important than ever that we as citizens demand proper oversight, accountability, and social justice when it comes to collecting and handling personal data.”

In his role as Director of the Queen’s Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC), Dr. Lyon is leading a team of scholars who conduct high-level research and are actively engaging in communities to promote awareness and action so the public is better equipped to protect how their personal data are used. The SSC experts are engaged on committees concerning emerging surveillance issues - like the controversial Sidewalk Labs ‘smart city’ project in Toronto – and they mount outreach events to discuss, for example, social media with parents, teachers, and children so families can navigate the issues together.

The SSC has received millions of dollars in funding from SSHRC and has gained worldwide recognition for its interdisciplinary work involving sociologists, lawyers, political scientists, business leaders, computer scientists, health researchers, professors, and students – all under Dr. Lyon’s leadership.

“It is encouraging to see the public’s rising awareness of issues related to personal data and surveillance, especially among parents whose children are becoming more and more ‘data dependent’,” says Dr. Lyon. “I am hopeful because young people do care about privacy – only their definition of privacy is slightly different than a classic understanding of the term.”

This also affects adult users of social media. When asked by researchers about the importance of online privacy without actually using the word ‘privacy’ in the questions, many narrow in on ‘fairness’ as a more essential concept when it comes to the evolution of our online lives, rather than complete personal confidentiality or privacy.

“Mass media accounts often assume ‘technological inevitability’ as if technology itself is forcing unavoidable social change, but I disagree,” says Dr. Lyon, whose latest book explores ‘everyday surveillance’. “There is an interactive relationship here, but in the end technology should be governed by humans and our interests and not the other way around. If we collectively demand a just and meaningful approach to tech innovation, then we can shape a respectful, inclusive, collaborative, safe, and open online future.”

The Surveillance Studies Network Outstanding Contribution Award is not Dr. Lyon’s first career award. In 2005, he was awarded a Queen’s Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, and then received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association Communication and Information Technology Section two years later. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2008 and in 2012 he received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Canadian Sociological Association. Over the next five years he won an Insight-Impact Award from the SSHRC, an honorary doctorate from the Università della Svizzera Italiana in Switzerland, and the Queen's University Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.

Learn more about Dr. Lyon and the work of the Surveillance Studies Centre.

Welcoming new faculty

New faculty members and their families gathered to meet their peers at a special welcome barbecue.

  • Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris speaks with recently-arrived faculty members during a special welcome event at the University Club. (University Communications)
    Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris speaks with recently-arrived faculty members during a special welcome event at the University Club. (University Communications)
  • Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Barbara Crow talks about the opportunities that are available not only at Queen's, but also within the Kingston community. (University Communications)
    Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Barbara Crow talks about the opportunities that are available not only at Queen's, but also within the Kingston community. (University Communications)
  • Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), speaks with a group of new faculty members on Friday, July 13 during a welcome barbecue at the University Club. (University Communications)
    Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), speaks with a group of new faculty members on Friday, July 13 during a welcome barbecue at the University Club. (University Communications)
  • Faculty members who have recently arrived at Queen's University introduce themselves during a welcome event Friday at the University Club. (University Communications)
    Faculty members who have recently arrived at Queen's University introduce themselves during a welcome event Friday at the University Club. (University Communications)

Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris hosted a welcome barbecue for new faculty and their families at the University Club. They had an opportunity to meet new colleagues from across the university as well as members of the university administration.   

“Queen’s is pleased to welcome our new faculty. We hope that the opportunity to meet one another in a less formal setting, will help them establish friendships and professional connections both for them and their families,” says Dr. Harris.

Principal Daniel Woolf identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of our academic mission. The five-year renewal plan will see 200 new faculty hired.

The facts of the (dark) matter

World leading researchers gather at Queen’s to discuss dark matter, galaxies, and the universe.

The Andromeda galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy (Photo credit: Jonathan Sick, Queen's University)

Top scientists from around the world have gathered at Queen's University this week to celebrate fundamental discoveries in the fields of dark matter and galaxy astrophysics, and to honour ten of the top minds in dark matter astrophysics. The symposium, entitled The Physics of Galaxy Scaling Relations and the Nature of Dark Matter, will feature a public lecture, and spotlight research results in the studies of dark matter, galaxy structure, and particle astrophysics during a time of unprecedented intellectual productivity and discovery in the field.  

“To have these giants of dark matter and astroparticle physics gathered here in Canada is a truly rare opportunity that befits the prominent role that Queen’s scientists are developing in these research areas,” says Stéphane Courteau, Chair of the conference organizing committee and Queen’s Professor of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy.  “Our guests of honour are the pioneers of these study areas and architects of models of our Universe in which a very large fraction of the matter is completely dark, so this is a unique and exciting opportunity to discuss the future of dark matter physics and to recognize our guests’ tremendous accomplishments.”

Running from July 15-20, the conference will not only feature panel discussions and invited lectures on some of the universe’s biggest mysteries, but will also serve as a celebration of the career contributions of the event’s ten guests of honour.

Among the distinguished guests is Sandra Faber, Professor Emerita from the University of California, who co-leads a Hubble Space Telescope project looking at galaxy formation back to the time of the Big Bang. She has been the recipient of major international awards, and was recognized most notably by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013 with the National Medal of Science.

On July 19, Michael Turner from the University of Chicago – the researcher who originally coined the term dark energy – will be giving a free public lecture open to attendees, faculty, staff, students, and the Kingston community. Entitled The Dark Side of the Universe, his talk will explain what we know about the crucial roles of dark matter and dark energy play in shaping our universe.

“The complexities of the universe are vast and intricate, so the public lecture will be an excellent opportunity for the Queen’s and Kingston community to gain a clear, thought-provoking understanding of this research,” says Dr. Courteau. “It will also be valuable for current and prospective students who are considering pursuing this field of study, especially with the recent launch of the new McDonald Institute marking Queen’s University’s leadership role in astroparticle physics.”

Queen’s University recently launched the McDonald Institute (Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute) in partnership with eight universities and five research organizations, cementing its reputation as a world leader in astroparticle physics. This week’s conference marks the most high-profile event hosted by the McDonald Institute since its May 2018 unveiling ceremony, organized in honour of its namesake, Queen’s professor emeritus and Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald.

You can learn more about the conference or reserve your free space at the public lecture now.

The Conversation: The 100-year-old rallying cry of ‘white genocide’

Fear of an imminent 'white genocide' fuels modern white supremicist groups, but the concept behind it began well over 100 years ago.

White supremacists hold shields in Charlottesville, Va.]
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017 (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

When white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, it woke the world up to the mobilization of extremist groups in our North American cities. With the recent announcement that the white supremacist who organized the Charlottesville rally is planning to mark the anniversary with an event in Washington, D.C., it becomes undeniable.

What ideas fuel such groups? A clue lies in the Charlottesville cry of “you will not replace us,” which morphed into “Jews will not replace us.”

The rallies are an indication of a fear of an imminent “white genocide,” a propaganda term used by white supremacists to indicate their beliefs that the “white race” is dying. This fear is so central that it’s inscribed in their infamous slogan known as “the fourteen words”: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

White genocide?

As it turns out, the idea is not original. The current ideas of the white nationalist movement are old ones full of myths and unscientific, obsolete “research.”

The idea of white genocide comes from the concept of “race suicide” first articulated by intellectuals and politicians well over 100 years ago.

[Anti-racism protestors]
Anti-racism demonstrators participate in a rally in Atlanta in August 2017. Protests took place across the country to denounce white supremacists after the racist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Race suicide

Talk of “race suicide,” the idea that the white population could die out, was so popular in its day that it shaped laws and policies in both the United States and Canada, including: Immigration law, eugenics programs and the prohibition of abortion. Support for these initiatives were mainstream and expressed by white folks from all social classes and political positions.

Today, that discourse has shifted from mainstream to extremism as contemporary white supremacist groups galvanize members around their trumped-up panic about their eventual demise.

Believing their dominance as a white “race” is threatened, along with their unearned entitlements and conferred dominance, extremist groups promote violence to achieve their desired end — a fictive nation of whiteness.

Their targets are not only racial, ethnic and religious minorities, but also sexual minorities and women. Why? Because power is not restricted to whiteness; it is accomplished intersectionally. In other words, whiteness wields maximum power when it intersects with masculinity and heteronormativity.

Scientific racism

“Race suicide” can be traced to the scientific racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A popular literature, it flourished at that time, and was promoted by political leaders and the intellectual elite.

One contributor was Lothrop Stoddard, whose 1920 book, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy was the most inflammatory in a line of such books. Stoddard built on his mentor Madison Grant’s 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History, which in turn was built on his friend William Z. Ripley’s 1899 book, The Races of Europe: A Sociological Study. With little to no references, research or documentation to support their claims, these writers asserted the inherent superiority of the “Nordic” group of Europeans.

But Stoddard went a step further. He wrote that Nordic superiority needed protection from more numerous, inferior traits of other races. He reasoned that Nordic superiority was “genetically recessive” and therefore unstable and in need of political intervention to ensure the segregation of groups.

In his introduction to Stoddard’s book, Grant wrote: “(if) the white man were to share his blood with, or entrust his ideals to, brown, yellow, black or red men…This is suicide pure and simple, and the first victim of this amazing folly will be the white man himself.”

Francis Amasa Walker, president of Michigan Institute of Technology from 1881 to 1897, and the first president of the American Economic Association, published the first comprehensive statistical case that documented a discrepancy between the birth rates among newly arrived immigrants and that of “old-stock Americans.”

Walker concluded that “inferior foreign-born groups” would effectively displace the superior “native” population. The latter would not compete with immigrants from the “low-wage races.” These “peasants” from southern Italy, Hungary, Austria and Russia were “beaten men from beaten races.”

Another economist, Edward A. Ross, is attributed with coining the term, “race suicide.” In his 1901 book, Ross wrote that despite the superiority of “native” Anglo-Saxons, “Latins, Slavs, Asiatics, and Hebrews” were better adapted to the conditions of industrial capitalism and thus would outbreed the superior Anglo-Saxon race. “Race suicide” was therefore inevitable, he concluded, because modern urban life promoted the survival of racially inferior immigrant races.

A president and a prime minister

“Race suicide” scares were heard from the highest offices. In the U.S., President Theodore Roosevelt adopted it as a cause. Calling race suicide the “greatest problem of civilization,” he pronounced: “The New England of the future will belong, and ought to belong, to the descendants of the immigrants of yesterday and today, because the descendants of the Puritans ‘have lacked the courage to live,’ have lacked the conscience which ought to make men and women fulfil the primary law of their being.”

In Canada, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was in full support of measures to prevent race suicide. He said: “What physical and mental overstrain, and underpay and underfeeding are doing for the race in occasioning infant mortality, a low birth rate, and race degeneration, in increasing nervous disorders and furthering a general predisposition to disease, is appalling.”

Women were targets too

The targets of campaigns to prevent race suicide were not only new immigrants, but also women.

Fears about the consequences of immigration intersected with fears of women’s sexual freedoms. As early as 1867, Horatio Storer, professor of obstetrics and medical jurisprudence at Berkshire Medical Institution and an anti-abortion activist, asked: “Shall the West and the South be filled by our own children or by those of aliens? This is a question that our own women must answer; upon their loins depends the future destiny of the nation.”

[Are modern women cheaters poster]
The dangers of women’s indulgences were portrayed in a poster for the 1938 movie, Race Suicide. IMDB

Fears of race suicide arose from dual sources. One was perceptions of immigrant women’s higher fertility. The other was the reproductive freedom enjoyed by modern urban women. The belief was that too few babies were born to desirable segments of society, and too many were born to the rest.

On this theme in 1917, University of Michigan academic Warren Thompson wrote: “The presence of a large number of unmarried women or women who marry late in life, as in our city population at present, is in itself a proof of race suicide.”

Treatises on the issue implored white women to save the race through stringent adoption of conservative moral standards and the prohibition of abortion.

Current attacks on immigrants

In the absence of an authentic political vision shared among extremists today, race substitutes for belongingness —not to the kind of civic nation-building of the past, but to an imaginary society of white purity.

Then as now, white supremacists lean on the discourse of intellectuals and political leaders to convey legitimacy to their claims.

Then as now, the cry of race suicide inverts the status of victim in which white supremacy is at risk of annihilation.

It is white extremists who insist that they are at risk of annihilation rather than the source of oppression. It is “the Other” that must be controlled through various means, whether sanctioned by the state or not.

Then as now, the perceived risk of “race suicide” is not only to white supremacy, but to the preservation of an entire way of life upon which white supremacy is projected. In other words, they seek to establish a way of life built on a power and a status whose enjoyment is unquestioned.

In response to this risk, white supremacists advocate for a multi-pronged attack against immigrants and other groups.

The Conversation“Race suicide” turns out not to be about whiteness after all. Then as now, it is about violent power operating intersectionally through race, gender and nativism. The oppression of groups deemed “naturally inferior,” whether they are refugees, sexual minorities or religious minorities, is the organizing principle of white extremist groups who fear that they could be “replaced.”


This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

By asking people their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why each person experiences illness and disease differently.

File 20180621 137717 6m9mqe.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
There are now many gender categorizations, from the traditional ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ to ‘gender fluid’ and ‘undifferentiatied.’ Health researchers can work with these to gain a more accurate understanding of disease susceptibilities. (Shutterstock)

When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

[The Conversation]Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

[Gender identity]
Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease. (Shutterstock)

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

Self-Report Gender Tool
Self-report gender tool. (Lisa Carver), Author provided

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

The ConversationBy asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.


This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Professor emeritus receives honorary degree from University of Saskatchewan

A noted statistician, Agnes M. Herzberg researches the statistical design of experiments including contributions to the design of clinical trials in medicine.

Agnes M. Herzberg, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Queen’s, received an honorary degree from the University of Saskatchewan on June 6.

[Agnes M. Herzberg]
Professor Emeritus Agnes M. Herzberg received an honorary degree from the University of Saskatchewan. (Photo by V. Tony Hauser)

Dr. Herzberg received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at Queen’s and then earned her master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Saskatchewan. She was one of eight honorary degree recipients during convocation week.

While she was unable to make the trip, Dr. Herzberg recorded her speech which was played at the ceremony. She spoke to the new graduates about the importance of education, independent thought, intellectual curiosity, and thinking in the long term.

Dr. Herzberg began her academic career with a National Research Council of Canada Post-Doctorate Overseas Fellowship at Birkbeck College and Imperial College of Science and Technology, colleges of the University of London (1966-1968). She then became a lecturer at Imperial College (1968-1988). During these years, she accepted brief engagements at the University of California, Berkeley (1975); University of Washington, Seattle (1977) and the Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1981). She came back to Queen’s in 1988 and was appointed a professor emeritus in 2004.

Dr. Herzberg’s research interests include the statistical design of experiments and contributions to the design of clinical trials in medicine. Recently, she collaborated with fellow Queen’s faculty member Ram Murty on a paper examining the properties of the Sudoku puzzle, including its potential for data compression.

Believing that individuals are enriched by exchanges with those in other disciplines, Dr. Herzberg introduced the idea of inviting scientists and others to statistical conferences. As a result she organized the Conference on Statistics, Science and Public Policy, held annually at Herstmonceux Castle in England since 1996. At the conference, which honours the work of her father, Gerhard Herzberg, winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, a diverse mix of scientists, politicians, civil servants and journalists from many countries address significant policy issues. The conferences are summarized in proceedings that Dr. Herzberg edits herself.

Dr. Herzberg was the founding editor of Short Book Reviews, a publication of the International Statistical Institute and during her 26 years of editorship, the journal handled over 12,500 volumes. Her participation in the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC) included serving as the organization’s’ president (1991-92) and as a member of many committees. In 2008 she was elected to the Royal Society of Canada “for her pioneering contributions to statistics”.

Dr. Herzberg is a generous supporter of not only academic but also cultural projects, and her worldwide circle of colleagues and friends represents her far-reaching interests. She is an inspired and inspiring model of loyalty and commitment to the individuals and institutions that have been part of her life.


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