Ian Kenny

Programme Coordinator and Communications, Graduate School of Social Sciences Summer Programmes Office, University of Amsterdam

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.), Early Modern Studies and Classics, 2014

I would love to be able to inspire people, in ways I have been inspired myself.

On a special shelf in Ian Kenny’s room at the University of Amsterdam sit three letters. He treasures them.

They are glowing letters of reference from three of his professors at King’s that helped him win the prestigious Amsterdam Merit Award. It covers all his costs for pursuing his master’s degree in cultural analysis in the Dutch capital.

They also represent how the community he found at King’s inspired and prepared him for an amazing intellectual and cultural adventure.

“[King’s] was a tough environment to leave but I believe I am all the richer for starting out with it,” he says. Ian graduated in 2014 with a degree in Early Modern Studies and Classics. He began his program in Amsterdam in August 2015.

His current research examines how Canadian society sees and treats Aboriginal Canadians through studying, in particular, the iconic paintings and travelogues of Group of Seven painter Emily Carr. “They, Ian argues, show a Haida culture that was disintegrating, not the rich culture that once thrived, albeit irrevocably altered by settler impact. And that darker view is how many Canadians continue to view indigenous cultures. Ian explains that it is an assumption of settler culture that makes Aboriginal Canadians the “Other”, not a valued part of Canadian society.”

“By looking through the lens [through which] we see indigenous societies I am trying to draw attention to the fact that it needs to be changed. This is a task in educating that ourselves we can all undertake.”

Ian believes the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined the disastrous effects of the Indian Residential School System provides momentum to change the way we see Aboriginal Canadians, “because questioning it and imagining an inclusive future is the only way that Canadians can create something sustainable.”

Ian loves the independence he has studying in Amsterdam. He directs his own research, some of which he will talk about at a global conference on Transparency and Opacity at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis in March 2016.

His years at King’s, whether in class, or talking with professors and other students in the quad, was about learning about other perspectives and developing the courage to defend his own. And this helped Ian immeasurably he says. “It prepares you to think.” And what’s more; “It gives you the resources to think.”

Ian is a natural fit for academia. He calls it “a challenging environment in a very good and stimulating way.” And he would like to stay there when he finishes his time as a student. He wants to teach.

“I would love to be able to inspire people in ways I have been inspired myself.”

Now all he has to do is perfect his Dutch. But even that is coming along nicely.

Posted: Apr. 2016

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