2019 Fellows

Manuel Cárdenas is a doctoral candidate and course lecturer in the Department of English studying early modern English poetry and epistemology. His SSHRC-funded dissertation focuses on Milton and knowledge, taking seriously the interrelated logics, discourses, and practices of science and literature as enterprises concerned with making knowledge. The poet’s engagement with the philosophical and scientific milieu of the seventeenth-century is well-established. Less documented are Milton’s fundamental assumptions about how knowledge is made—whether it is acquired subjectively or objectively, in solitude or collaboration. These are major preoccupations not only for philosopher-scientists like Descartes and Hobbes and the English exponents of what would become modern science, but also for Milton, whose life work culminates in Paradise Lost, a poem about the gaining and losing of knowledge. The dissertation considers singular and communal epistemology at precisely this juncture, challenging the enduring caricature of Milton as a prototype of the modern subject who knows the world in solitude and by virtue of his self-sufficiency. Questions about the bounds of knowledge, the mode of its acquisition, and its ideal expression—all held in inchoate tension in Milton’s early writing—manifest themselves in his late major poetry, refracting through his curtailed confidence in self-sufficiency. In coming to see the limits of the self, Milton accepts the impossibility and undesirability of knowledge without bounds, and he moves towards a communal epistemology wherein the fullness of knowledge is found only collectively by virtue of the mutual self-constitution of subject and object. In so doing, the poet both attenuates his own individualistic impulse and revises the assumptions of the ascendant new science and philosophy.

Daniel Harris is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University working in the philosophy of artificial intelligence (AI). His work focuses on the mitigation of the potential risks which could emerge from current and future advanced AI systems. Research in the field of AI is developing at a rapid pace. As this technology continues to mature it is likely to embed itself more and more in the social structures that shape our lives. With these changes come tremendous opportunities for human advancement; equally, though, such changes also pose a substantial danger. In his dissertation he poses the question: what sorts of prediction can we make regarding human-AI interaction and, of those predictions, can we identify certain scenarios that represent a serious threat to humanity? Using game theory, Daniel takes a step towards answering this question through an analysis of risk related issues pertaining to the design of ethical AI, the AI arms race, and human-AI coexistence more generally. He holds a MPhil Studies in Philosophy (King's College London), a M.A. in Theory, Culture & Politics (Trent University), and a B.A. in Philosophy & Information Systems (Trent University). In addition to theWolfe Fellowship, his doctoral research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dahye Kim is a PhD candidate in the East Asian Studies Department at McGill University. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Korean Literature from Yonsei University, where she also completed PhD coursework in Korean Literature prior to joining McGill. Dahye’s research focuses on the techno-cultural historicity of national literature and digital writing practices, especially in relation to global media circulation and local Korean development of media technologies. She is now writing her dissertation under the working title, Technofiction: the Cultural Techniques of South Korean SF Fandom. This project connects early online science fiction fan culture, the developmental history of hangul (the Korean alphabet) digital input technology, and cultural techniques of typing, coding, and writing in the 1980s and 1990s South Korea. The term technofiction emphasizes the new social condition under which the modern distinction between the semi-autonomous cultural realm and a distinct technological realm is increasingly blurred and transcended, and her project fully incorporates the analysis of technological issues in her study of literary texts and fan culture. Focusing on the generation of fans who grew up reading the heated techno-cultural debates surrounding the thorny problem with national language code and keyboard development in popular computer magazines, this study will explain how an understanding of the development of these writing technologies, as well as the embodied cultural techniques of writing and typing, are crucial to understand the literary pieces produced by them, while at the same time exploring the complicated junctures between neoliberal reformation since 1980, the development of information infrastructure in South Korea, globalization, techno-nationalism, and related subject formation. For example, the technologies of Korean digital language input appropriated by the sf fan-writers were a byproduct of the neoliberal government’s partnership with “global” conglomerates like Samsung and LG on a project of informatization, while also a product of the linguistic and technological nationalist discourse of anti-American leftist. Accordingly, the tension between such competing forces is one of major thematic concerns of technofiction. Dahye received a Korea Foundation Graduate Studies Fellowship for three full award years and was a Visiting Graduate Researcher in Korean Studies at UCLA.

Ferran Pons Raga is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. His research inquires about the recent land and landscape transformations undergone in the Catalan High Pyrenees, northeastern Spain. By taking political ecology and anthropology of infrastructure literatures as the main theoretical framework, his approach aims at understanding how the (in)compatible interplays among alpine skiing, environmental conservation programs, and extensive farming have resulted in crucial changes on land value and landscape valuations. Coinciding with the staggering decline of the farming sector during the 1980s, both the most famous ski station in Spain—Baqueira Beret— and conservation politics steadily began to redesign the landscapes in line with the tertiarization process undertook by this region. A set of technological performances not only has shaped current landscapes, but they also claimed to improve them. Economic development and moral progress intersect by setting a new linkage between land value and landscape valuations. These peripheral mountainous rural territories are thus framed within an urban-centered chromatic idiom: greening. Strikingly enough, greening presents itself as the common goal shared by the ski station, environmental conservation programs, and even by the farming sector. However, greening requires complex engineering processes in which apparent compatibilities may jeopardize the actual power relations among these three domains. This study coins the neologism ‘greeneering’ to bring together both the greening and the engineering sides of these land(scape) changes in order to tease out the political economy relations that underpin them. Ferran holds a MA and BA in anthropology from University of Barcelona, as well as a BS in Biology from Pompeu Fabra University.

Cynthia L. Tang is a PhD candidate in the Departments of Social Studies of Medicine, and History & Classical Studies at McGill University. She has a BSc. in toxicology from the University of Toronto and an MSc. in immunology from the University of Waterloo. Her dissertation, “Technological Change in ‘Ordinary Medicine’: The Emergence of Minimally Invasive Gallbladder Surgery, 1970-2000” uses the case of laparoscopic cholecystectomy to analyze the economic, social, and technical conditions in which technological change in medicine occurs. The adoption of laparoscopic cholecystectomy for the treatment of symptomatic gallstones in the early 1990s is often referred to as the beginning of the “laparoscopic revolution.” This description alludes both to the effect that the laparoscopic technique had on surgical practice, as well as to the rapid pace at which it supplanted open cholecystectomy as the “gold standard” treatment for symptomatic gallstones. At least 80% of gallbladder removals in Canada and the US were already being performed laparoscopically just four years after its introduction to the surgical community. This is an incredible rate of adoption considering that it required practicing surgeons to be trained in a technique that drastically changed the very basic motions of surgery, as well as the development and production of new surgical instrumentation. Cynthia’s research examines the different stages in the rise of laparoscopic cholecystectomy (i.e. motivation, development, spread, and acceptance) to understand the factors that allowed this major transformation in modern surgical practice to occur so quickly. Cynthia holds a SSHRC doctoral fellowship and is co-investigator on a CIHR Project Grant for “Medical Innovation and the Patient Consumer.” The Wolfe Fellowship will allow her to spend Fall 2019 as a Visiting Student in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

Sophie Toupin is a Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholar and PhD candidate in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. She has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com) with a speciality in information technology, and a Master of Social Science in Development and International Relations. Her dissertation research examines the relationship between communication technologies and revolutionary movements in the context of liberation struggles. More specifically, her object of study is an encrypted communication system that was developed and used by the South African liberation movement. In the 1980s, anti-apartheid freedom fighters built an encrypted communication system that allowed activists on the ground in South Africa to communicate secretly and transnationally with the senior leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) based in Lusaka, Zambia via London, UK. Under the working title “Revolutionary Communications: Encrypted Communication and the South African Liberation Movement,” Toupin investigates this system through the history of media and communication, the politics of infrastructure and hacking. The primary research conducted for this dissertation was carried out in South Africa, the Netherlands, Canada and Great Britain. It involved archival work and semi-structured interviews with those who developed, operated or supported the encrypted system. It was funded by a Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement and a Mobility Grant from the Graduate and Postgraduate Studies at McGill University.

Samantha Walker is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. Her PhD project combines archaeological and oral-historical research with earth sciences to explore place-making and settlement strategies among Tuniit (i.e. Paleo-Inuit) groups in the Igloolik area of Foxe Basin, Nunavut. 3000 years ago, Tuniit populated key areas in Northern Foxe Basin which continue to endure as important cultural places among modern Inuit. Samantha’s work questions how the deep connections that people share with places might have historically shaped Tuniit settlement strategies during the Paleo-Inuit Period (1700 BCE-1000 CE). As the first large-scale analysis of Tuniit settlement strategies, her project extends our knowledge of human-land relationships in the Canadian Arctic beyond recent encounters between Inuit and European colonists. Her research design takes an inclusive, community-oriented approach to archaeology by emphasizing the social and cultural continuity of Inuit Owned Lands, and by including Iglulingmiut Inuit as advisors and colleagues. Related to her community-oriented approach, Samantha is the Executive Director of the Walker Education and Research Foundation (www.walkerfoundation.ca), an organization dedicated to improving education and capacity-building opportunities within remote Indigenous communities in Canada.

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