Bringing it All Together: Returning to Old and New Themes in my Work

Research that I have been doing with the Internet Archive.

Research that I have been doing with the Internet Archive.

Reader note: One of my goals has been to blog more often about my research, both in order to keep writing every single day, but also to hopefully engage with people in between sporadic pubs.

Plus, this is research I wish I’d submitted for the summer conference season, but didn’t.

I’ve been working on an article this semester, addressing the role of children and youth in early debates over Canadian World Wide Web regulation (the stirrings of which began in 1994, peaking roughly around 1996-1998). Beyond being a fun way to actually use the Internet Archive for research (a combination of playing with WARC files, Voyant Tools, Mathematica, and good old fashioned historical research – i.e. plumbing through Government Documents), it sort of brings together several disparate intellectual threads I’ve been playing with.

* Censorship. My first article, “Sedition in Wartime Ontario: The Trials and Imprisonment of Isaac Bainbridge, 1917-1918,” grew out of my BA thesis and subsequent Master’s work. While it is my outlier in terms of time period (dealing with the First World War), it looked at wartime censorship and how the courts were simultaneously repressive and opened up an avenue of resistance.

But out of this, I grew increasingly fascinated in the state and censorship. The article featured as a coda that we could learn much from the case, as we continued to grapple with issues of free speech (especially around terrorism).

* The Role of the State in Balancing Minority/Majority Rights. Some of this theme appeared in “Sedition in Wartime Ontario,” but was more fully developed in my 2011 article “‘This Board Has a Duty to Intervene’: Challenging the Spadina Expressway Through the Ontario Municipal Board, 1963-1973.” So much attention had been paid to citizen activism, but – as the OMB was in the news frequently in Toronto where I was undertaking my PhD – I wondered what the legal mechanisms at work were.

With the OMB, I found a fascinating intellectual discussion about minority and majority rights, NIMBYism, and the emergence of this additional avenue to tie Toronto urban planners into broader, international issues.

* Youth. Finally, youth – as a category of analysis and as an emerging historical phenomenon – have captivated much of my previous work. My book manuscript with the University of British Columbia Press, tentatively titled Rebel Youth (just waiting for Aid to Scholarly Publication review now), explored how youth emerged and were perceived. These themes were also explored in two other articles.

So in a way, this new work brings together my interests in censorship, my interests in how the state balances minority and majority rights, and how youth continues to be mobilized as a powerful tool. They all came together in the early 1990s, and I’m really looking forward to pulling it all together over the next few months.

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