November 2017, 6-7:30 pm
Topic: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Contributions to our November event are still being accepted! If you are interested in presenting, please email Hamza at
Tuesday, October 17, 6 - 7:30 pm
Global Affairs and the Rule of Law
Haim Abraham, SJD Candidate (Faulty of Law)
"The Combatant Activities Exception and The Rule of Law"
a person carelessly breaks your arm, she will have to compensate you
for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. This notion
is enshrined in tort law, the body of law that is applied by courts in
civil cases to provide compensation for individuals wronged by others.
Yet, if such injuries are inflicted by states on civilians during war,
no compensation is awarded, leaving civilians with no mechanism of
obtaining a remedy for their injuries. The reason for this lack of
liability lies in the "combatant activities exception" that states have
in their domestic legislation, which provides them with blanket immunity
from any tort liability for injuries inflicted during war. However,
this immunity from liability for losses caused by states during battle
is an exception to the rule of law, as it provides states special
privileges. Hence, the immunity increases the risk of infringements of
rights on the battlefield. This presentation will offer a review of the
combatant activities exception and its development. Furthermore, it will
demonstrate the risks the exception poses to the rule of law by drawing
on examples from Canada, Israel, and the United States.
Omar W. Bitar, MGA (Munk School of Global Affairs)
"Responsibilities Without Rights: Debating the Legality of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)"
in recent memory by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO)
illegal use of force in Kosovo in 1999, "just" military interventions
conducted in the name of human protection pose a moral challenge to
contemporary international law. The converse scenario, a technically
legal albeit iniquitous breach of a state's territorial integrity for
humanitarian reasons, is no less problematic. Where moral and legal
rationales for employing military means toward humane ends do not
overlap, the so-called "humanitarian intervention dilemma" arises from
the tension between law as it is and law as it ought to be. In response
to the international community's failure to avert multiple instances of
mass atrocities in the 1990's, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) arose
as a normative attempt to reconcile the moral imperatives of the
international human rights regime with the prerogatives of state
sovereignty laid out in Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United
Nations (UN). By shifting the emphasis from a moral right to intervene
to a legal responsibility to protect, R2P's norm entrepreneurs sought to
consolidate moral qualifications into an otherwise absolute legal
concept of sovereignty, thereby rendering it conditional and dependent
for its legitimacy on the fulfilment of the basic duty of human
While this new language of humanitarian intervention
might incentivize states to "work" to achieve the legitimacy of their
sovereignty rather than simply take it for granted, I argue that it has
failed to address the very question by which it was initially motivated:
Under what conditions does the validity of international law become
compromised? How one approaches this question determines their legal
interpretation of NATO's military interventions in Kosovo and Libya;
President Donald Trump's recent military strikes on a
government-controlled airbase in Syria; and retroactive justifications
of the Iraq War. Largely absent from academic and policy analyses of
such contentious cases involving the use of force against a sovereign
state, the landmark debate between H.L.A. Hart and Lon Fuller in 1958
indirectly attempted to address this question by offering competing
perspectives on the nature of the relationship between law and morality.
In support of my argument, I revive the exchange between the two legal
theorists, employing each of Hart's legal positivism and Fuller's
natural law theory to reveal the legal shortcomings of R2P as an
institutionalized norm of human protection in the international
Tuesday, September 19, 6 - 7:30 pm
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Jielai Zhang, PhD candidate (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics)
"Discovering the unknown unknowns: Milky Way's Dark Twin"
happens when you can suddenly see parts of the Universe you could never
see before? You are bound to learn new things. The Dragonfly Telephoto
Array is a novel telescope hidden in high altitude regions of New
Mexico, USA. It has been observing the faintest, never seen before parts
of the Universe for the last 5 years. In this talk, you will learn
about the new discoveries made by this telescope, including Milky Way's
Ryan Cloutier, PhD candidate (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics)Wednesday, July 26, 5:30 - 7 pm
"The Long Path Towards Finding Habitable Exo-Worlds"
we are still decades away from discovering life on worlds outside of
our own solar system, much progress is being made today to identify the
best potential candidates for hosting such life. In this talk I will
discuss what we currently know about so-called exoplanets and how we
know it. I will then highlight the steps that will be taken in the
not-so-distant future to further our understanding of exoplanetary
atmospheres and potentially even their surface conditions using extreme
telescopes in hope that one day these efforts will culminate with the
probable detection of Earth-like life elsewhere in the galaxy.
Michael Chrobok, PhD candidate (Human Geography)
"Disrupting the Food Desert/Oasis Binary: Ethnic Grocery Retailers and Food Access in Humbermede, Toronto"
term "food desert" has been used to identify residential areas where
people may have a limited ability to access healthy, high quality, and
affordable food due to an absence of grocery stores. Such food deserts
have been seen by some to exist in opposition to "food oases," areas
where grocery purchasing venues are abundant. The recent literature on
food deserts, oases, and access more broadly, however, often disregards
'"ethnic" grocery retailers as sources of food, or assumes them to be
attractive shopping sites for all individuals. Moreover, this body of
research frequently frames access as an issue of spatial proximity to
grocery stores. Drawing on interviews I conducted with residents of
Humbermede, Toronto, I explore how food accessibility is perceived and
experienced in a culturally-diverse neighbourhood where the only grocery
retailers present are ethnic in nature. I argue that cultural
identity-related factors and class-based aspects of one's life
circumstances -- not merely distance -- coalesce to influence
understandings of one's food retail environment and one's store choices.
Because these characteristics can differ on individual bases, multiple
interpretations of the level of food retail provision in a neighbourhood
are possible. These findings highlight the limitations of using simple
labels ("deserts" or "oases") to describe grocery shopping landscapes;
as this research shows, food shoppers are not homogenous, all retailers
are not equally attractive to all consumers, and food access has
important socio-cultural, economic, and spatiotemporal dimensions.
Isa Urrutia, PhD candidate (Human Geography)
"Eating disorders in the margins. On troubled eating experiences in the Latinx community"
presentation provides a brief overview of my doctoral research, which
lies at the intersection of inquiries on bodies, mental health,
activism, experiences of living "in between" cultural experiences and
across borders, and experiences of being racialized or otherwise
marginalized through the presumption of being "out of place." My
research asks: how might one create grassroots organizing spaces of
healing and recovery that empower latinx folks to heal and reclaim our
bodies, and how might they best be configured to help us understand
experiences of eating disorders and troubled eating practices?
Roxana Escobar, PhD student (Human Geography)
"Afro-Peruvians and Citizenship in Peru"
presentation will address issues arising from my doctoral project,
which focuses on how territorial identity and notions of blackness are
constructed in Lima, a self-identified mestizo city. Using frameworks of
feminist political ecology and
black geographies, I aim to initiate a theoretical and empirical
conversation on how blackness has been negotiated in a territory where
only whites and mestizos are given the possibility of establishing a
relationship with the land. Moreover, I attempt to unveil the power
relations between the Peruvian governments and the Afro-descendant
population that have determined the latter's exclusion from the city's
identity and the full benefits of citizenship. Key questions include the
following: How are land and territory conceptualized by the Peruvian
state? More precisely, how is the indigeneity to the land defined in
Peru? Can Afro-Peruvians be considered among the indigenous peoples from
Peru? My research will blend qualitative and quantitative methods to
map how Afro-Peruvians shape space through land and housing in Lima.
Wednesday, June 28, 5:30 - 7 pm
Canadian History: Celebrating Canada 150
Julia Rady-Shaw, PhD candidate (History)
"Between Earth and High Heaven": Canadians and Christianity in the Early Cold War
Julia's dissertation unsettles historical assumptions made about secularization in Canada and incorporates ideas of "diffusive Christianity" (a concept used by historians of modern England) in order to examine the influence and impact of religion in Canadian society after 1945.
Dale Barbour, PhD candidate (History)
"Undressed Toronto: Tracking the history of vernacular bathing and the commercial beach in a turn-of-the-century Canadian city, 1850-1930"
Dale's research demonstrates how bathing in the nineteenth century was a predominantly male nude practice, often done in Toronto's semi-industrialized areas, and that bathers, more often than not, were coddled rather than policed by a middle-class elite who harboured their own fond memories of similar experiences. In this narrative the beach, as both a physical and social space, emerges as a conscious product intended to initiate a new heterosocial system of bathing.
Tuesday, May 30, 5:30 - 7 pm
Women's and Children's Health
Bona Kim, PhD candidate (Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine)
"Preterm Birth - Socioeconomic Factors, Biological Causes and Current State of Research"
Rohan D'Souza, Maternal and Fetal Medicine Physician; Assistant Professor, OBGYN; PhD candidate (Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation)
"Choosing the optimal blood thinner for pregnant women with mechanical heart valves - a novel three-step approach"
Wednesday, April 26, 5:30 - 7 pm
Education in the 21st Century: Issues, Challenges, Social Justice & Policymaking
Dr. Abdurrahman Wahab, PhD (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
"Education in Kurdistan Region of Iraq at the Intersection of nationalism and Democracy: Educational policymaking as endeavors of state building"
Mimi Masson, PhD candidate (Department of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning, OISE)
"French as a Second Language (FSL) teacher flight in Ontario: where is everybody going!?"
Wednesday, March 22, 5:30 - 7 pm
Medicine & Public Health: A Sociologic and Anthropologic Perspective
Debra Kriger, PhD candidate (Department of Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education)
"Body size stigma and risk in public health - How do we make sense of the body, as a social entity, moving through time?"
Kaitlyn Vleming, MA candidate (Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts & Science)
"Lived experience of people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) - diagnosis in social context from a medical anthropological perspective"
Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 - 7 pm
Embodiment, Mind and Body in Social Justice Discourses
Olivia Aiello, PhD candidate (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
"Healing through the body: Using yoga as embodied healing practice in community social work"
Kimberly Todd, PhD candidate (Department of Social Justice Education, OISE)
"Dreaming our way to new colonial futurities - Charting Pathways of Hope"
Wednesday, January 25, 5:30 - 7 pm
Nutrition and Public Health Policy
Marie-Elssa Morency, MSc candidate (Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine)
"The perceived benefits of foods - influences, credibility and population health outcomes"
Jodi Bernstein, MPH, RD, PhD candidate (Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine)
"Building an evidence base to inform sugar related policies"
Wednesday, November 23, 5:30 - 7 pm
Biomedical Sciences - A Historical and Modern Perspective
Shawn Xiong, PhD candidate (Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine)
"Great scientific achievements, narcissism in the sciences and modern science commercialization"
Samantha Yammine, PhD candidate (Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine)
"Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine - The current state of the research, challenges and ethics"
Wednesday, October 26, 5:30 - 7 pm
Sociology & Politics - The Syrian refugee Crisis and the Venezuelan Political Crisis
Angela Xu, PhD candidate (Department of Sociology, University of Toronto)
"The Syrian Refugee Crisis - Media Coverage, National Identity and Political Ideology"
Giancarlo Fiorella, PhD candidate (Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies)
"The recent political fallout in Venezuela with a focus on the trial of Leopoldo Lopez and the future of Venezuela"
Wednesday, September 28, 5:30 - 7 pm
Concussions - Biology and Policymaking
Concussions are a major public health issue affecting a large range of ages.The first half of the talk will take you on a journey of the science behind concussions, and will highlight some of the major directions in the field today. The second half outlines what's being done to address the problem at the policy level in government, schools, and sports organizations.
Swapna Mylabathula, PhD candidate (Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine)
Sandhya Mylabathula, PhD candidate (Department of Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education)