Cathryn van Kessel

Assistant Professor, University of Alberta

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.

Experience

  • –present
    Assistant Professor, University of Alberta

Education

  • 2016 
    University of Alberta, PhD in Secondary Education

Publications

  • 2018
    Teaching as immortality project: Positing weakness in response to terror, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 52(2), 216-229.
  • 2017
    Villainification and evil in social studies education, Theory & Research in Social Education, 95(4), 427-455
  • 2017
    A phenomenographic study of youth conceptualizations of evil: Order-words and the politics of evil, Canadian Journal of Education, 40(4), 576-602
  • 2016
    The transparency of evil in The Leftovers and its implications for student (dis)engagement. , Educational Studies, 52(1), 51-67
  • 2015
    Evil, agency, and citizenship education, McGill Journal of Education, 50(1), 1-18

Grants and Contracts

  • 2018
    Teacher Education, Diversity, and Worldview Threat
    Role:
    Principal Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2015
    Youth Conceptualizations of Evil and Social Studies Education
    Role:
    Principal Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada