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Andrew Woolford: New Member of the Royal Society of Canada

Andrew Woolford, department head of Sociology, has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, and will be inducted at the RSC’s Annual General Meeting on November 18. The College is Canada’s first national multidisciplinary recognition system, which honours emerging and productive academics for their contributions to society, with an emphasis on those who take interdisciplinary approaches to their research.

Woolford has contributed not only to the recognition of settler colonial genocide within Canada, but also to international acknowledgment of Canada as a viable case study for genocide scholarship. Woolford uses the tools of contemporary genocide studies scholarship, sociology, and history to demonstrate not only how the genocide concept applies to the Canadian context, but also how our understanding of genocide derives from a colonial context.

In his recent work, Woolford has moved from a more traditional academic to a community-based approach. He is currently Principal Investigator on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Development Grant for a project entitled “Embodying Empathy: Fostering Historical Knowledge and Caring through a Virtual Residential School.” The purpose of the project is to work with residential school Survivors to design and build a virtual Indian Residential School that will serve as a story space to connect users to the experiences of life at a residential school, but also as a gateway to the archives collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The project is community-led, with decisions about ownership, control, access, and possession resting in the hands of Survivors. The academic/industry team established by Woolford works at Survivors’ behest to build and test the virtual world. Although still in its early stages, the project has generated significant media, community, public, and scholarly interest.

Woolford is also working with a group of Survivors from the Assiniboia Indian Residential School, which was located in Winnipeg’s River Heights neighbourhood, to create a multi-media historical record of the school and advance commemoration activities in relation to the school. Woolford has applied for funding to support a four-day reunion and educational event for Survivors, including a reconciliation feast to take place between long-time River Heights residents and Survivors from the school.

Most recently, Woolford’s goal has shifted from documenting the wrongs of the past (and their present-day mutations) toward contributing to a decolonizing reconciliation in Canada.

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