Atwood, Negroponte, Appadurai mark York U’s 50th birthday with interdisciplinary discussions of “pretty much everything”


TORONTO, March 24, 2009 -- Author Margaret Atwood, global cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai, and technology guru Nicholas Negroponte are among a select group of prominent Canadian and international thinkers to be featured Friday and Saturday at York University’s York’s 50 + 50 Symposium.

This two-day meeting of the minds will be an “interdisciplinary discussion of pretty much everything” in which guest speakers explore what we have collectively learned over the past 50 years and how that knowledge will help us through the next 50. 


The symposium, taking place at the Price Family Cinema in York’s Fine Arts complex, is the pre-eminent academic event of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations throughout 2009.  Tickets can be purchased online, by phone or in person. 


“We’ve collected ideas from a lot of people and the result is that we are bringing eight great thinkers and doers together with moderators from among York’s best and brightest,”  said Seth Feldman, the York film professor who will host the conference.   “The symposium is going to be a microcosm of a university at its best, thinking out loud about the shaping and reshaping of our world.”


Program highlights:


Friday, March 27, 2009


Sheila Watt Cloutier: “Environment: The Right to be Cold”

Watt Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit and environmental activist and politician, has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including a nomination for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


Arjun Appadurai: “Global Society: No Place Like Home”

Appadurai is an anthropologist and the Goddard Professor of Media, Culture and Communications at New York University.  He is the originator of the term “global cultural flows.”


Nicholas Negroponte: “Technology:  Change You Have Counted on”

Founder and chairman of the One Laptop Per Child non-profit association and co-founder and director of the MIT Media Laboratory, Negroponte is the author of the 1995 best seller, Being Digital.  He has provided start-up funds for more than 40 companies, including Wired magazine.


Jeffrey Simpson: “Wasted Crises: A Past and Possible Future Of Ottawa's Economic Policies”

Simpson is The Globe and Mail’s national affairs columnist and the winner of the Governor-General's award for nonfiction book writing, the National Magazine Award for political writing, and the National Newspaper Award for column writing.


Saturday, March 28, 2009


Rosalie Silberman Abella: “Justice: Balancing the Scales”

A Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Abella is the sole commissioner and author of the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, which created the term and concept of employment equity.


Edward O. Wilson: “Health: Mind, Body and Planet”

Wilson is an academic and one of the most highly respected scientists in the world today. He has been hailed as "the new Darwin" by Thomas Wolfe, and as one of "America's 25 Most Influential People" by TIME Magazine. He has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for The Ants and On Human Nature.


Lloyd Axworthy: “International Relations: What’s a Nice Middle Power Like You Doing in a World Like This?”

Axworthy is the President of the University of Winnipeg and a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, the first global initiative to focus on the link between exclusion, poverty and law. He is also a former federal Minister of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.


Margaret Atwood: “The Writer as Citizen: The Last 50 Years and the Next 50”

International literary star, Margaret Atwood, is one of the world's most celebrated authors.  She has published more than 25 books in which she has explored the issues of our times, capturing them in the satirical, self-reflexive mode of the contemporary novel.


Each 50+50 Symposium speaker will be paired with a York University scholar to present compelling and challenging views of the world around us.  Speakers will take questions from the audience and will engage in a roundtable discussion with the other speakers after each afternoon session.


50+50 is one of a number of ‘U50’ activities that will take place throughout 2009, particularly surrounding March 26th, the University’s official birthday.  U50 events aim to celebrate York’s academic achievements, to communicate its vision for the future and to engage the community surrounding its campus.


The symposium will take place Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 in the Price Family Cinema, 102 Accolade East Building, Keele campus (number 92 on the York U map).


York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as more than 200,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 11 faculties and 26 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.





Media contact:

Keith Marnoch

York University, Media Relations,

416 736 2100 ext. 22091,