Panels at York U to examine cultural impact of car


TORONTO, November 26, 2010 –Three upcoming panels at York University will look at social, economic, technological and political issues arising out of the automobile.

The first panel, “Technological Futures: Automobility and Beyond,” will take place Monday, Nov. 29, from 5 to 7pm on the 7th floor of the York Research Tower, Keele campus.

The event is hosted by York’s Canadian Centre for German & European Studies (CCGES) and organized by centre affiliates Professor Roger Keil, director of York’s City Institute, and Professor Emeritus Bernard Wolf of York’s Schulich School of Business.

The series of panels will attempt to shed light on the most important shifts that are shaping both the auto industry and society's relationship to it.

Keil and Wolf suggest that European and North American societies of the 20th century were transformed by the automobile more than by any other commodity. The car is at the centre of industrial society, household mobility and financial decision-making, the most iconic symbol of modern life and a lightning rod for environmental critique. Its perceived role has changed due to accelerated shifts in the global manufacturing landscape and an unprecedented credit crisis, higher demands on connectivity, changing family structures, more flexible labour markets, and climate change, they argue.

The revolutions that surround the car are not restricted solely to the machine itself, but now extend to the way cities are built and people are moved, Keil notes. “Car companies such as BMW are searching for ways to tie their vehicles into intelligent networks of traffic guidance, which are intended to reduce inefficiencies, save energy and lower the number of accidents,” he says. “As citizens around the world witness such cultural shifts, angry drivers see any attempt to lure them out of their cars as an assault on their entitlement as free citizens. In the recent Toronto mayoral election, the slogan ‘stop the war on the car’ had remarkable traction,” says Keil.

The first panel, "Technological Futures: Automobility and Beyond,” will feature Christian Feilmeier, vice-president, finance & administration for BMW Canada; Steven Logan, a PhD candidate in the York & Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture; Robert Latham, director of York’s Centre for International & Security Studies; and Christopher Hume (BA ’73), architecture critic and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star.

Peter McIsaac, director of CCGES, says the centre is well-positioned to look at this important theme from a variety of angles. “Through the expertise of scholars from the centre, York and the broader community, I expect that we'll be able to approach these topics in unusual and productive ways,” he says.

The second panel, "The Changing Political Economy of the Global Automobile Industry," will take place Monday, Jan. 24, from 5 to 7pm on the 7th floor of the York Research Tower, Keele campus. It will include panelists Greg Chin,China’s Automotive Modernization: The Party-State and Multinational Corporations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); York political science professor and author of Scott E. Paradise, vice-president of marketing & new business development for Magna International; and Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The panels are open to the public. Attendees are asked to register in advance at For more information, visit the CCGES website or call ext. 40003.


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 200,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 10 Faculties and 28 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:

Melissa Hughes, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 x22097,