Cathryn van Kessel (B.A., UBC; M.A., UBC; B.Ed., UBC; PhD, UAlberta) is currently an Assistant Professor in Secondary Social Studies Education at the University of Alberta. In the decade before completing her PhD she taught junior and senior high social studies and Latin.
Cathryn’s doctoral research began with a specific concern: teaching about constant recurrences of genocide, and how educators might engage pedagogically with atrocities often (and understandably) labelled as evil. Studying evil is more than just qualification or socialization; it is about subjectification—developing subjects who think and act independently from authority, but at the same time interdependently with others. Social studies education is an opportunity to arrange curriculum and pedagogy for subjectification with a driving question, how might we live together?
Her current research focuses on how we might teach more successfully toward better relations between and among divergent social groups, particularly through the work of Ernest Becker and terror management theory (TMT) as a framework for engaging with conflicting perspectives in classrooms and beyond.
Cathryn's research seeks to encourage teachers, curriculum designers, researchers, and the general public to engage with conceptualizations of evil in order to subvert socio-political invocations of evil that shut down thinking/thoughtfulness. How might conceptualizing evil philosophically empower us to change the status quo? Or, how might the ever-widening imaginary of domesticated or empathetic evil present in popular media add complexity to historical discussions? Cathryn is looking for ways to open up possibilities for how we might reconceptualize the past, live in the present, and ponder the future.