Humanities at Large

Fellows' Spotlight: Julie Zatzman

Submitted by Sonja Johnston on April 02 2020.
Portrait of Julie Zatzman
Julie Zatzman

Julie Zatzman is a doctoral candidate in the OISE Department of Adult Education & Community Development and JHI’s Amilcare Iannucci Graduate Fellow in the Humanities for 2019-2020.

Julie's doctoral research aims to shed light on an increasingly urgent question: why, with all the alarming news concerning the state of the environment and climate change, do some communities take progressive action, while others do not? It does so from an unusual perspective, the role of collective learning processes in times of economic and social change. It employs critical ethnography and a novel application of Jean Lave’s (1988) situated learning theory (SLT) and argues that the unique conceptual framework of this theory can help explain the unpredictability of collective learning described in adult education literature.

The background to this study is the 1992 collapse of northern cod stocks off the coast of Atlantic Canada and the subsequent restructuring of the fishery by the Canadian government. The differing responses to the restructuring by two communities – the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island, and a nearby Acadian community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – form the focus of this qualitative study.

JHI: Why did you apply for a JHI Fellowship?

JZ: I didn’t hesitate to apply for this fellowship. There aren’t too many opportunities for collegial interdisciplinary discussion in my department (OISE, Adult Education and Community Development), especially one that relates to environmental concerns. Plus, I was interested to hear the topics and points of view from the other disciplines.

JHI: What experiences were you hoping for?

JZ: I was hoping for discussions from very different points of view, which was the case.  I would never have had an opportunity to attend presentations from such diverse fields – archeology, even!

JHI: How has being at the JHI added to your research?

JZ: Interestingly, when I see the word ”humanities” now, I know that it very well could apply to my interests. For example, I found an environmental humanities group based in Ireland online, which ultimately resulted in my receiving a scholarship to do research in Ireland, later this year. I would never have followed this path if it were not for JHI and the fellowship I received.

JHI: Has the interaction with other Fellows informed your research and if so, how?

JZ: For a long time, I worried that there would be no intersection between my interests and those of the group when it came time for my presentation. Then, a few presenters spoke about how issues are framed and how we perceived them. Immediately, I saw a connection between my focus on adult learning and how people frame and perceive environmental issues. Seeing this connection opened up new audiences for potential knowledge-sharing for me. At some point, the matter of how phenomena are perceived and understood applies to all issues.

JHI: Any final general comments about your experience at the JHI so far?

JZ: Yes – I wish it could be longer! It takes a while to find one’s bearings in a new environment and to figure out where we might fit in. If I had had more time, I would have explored the opportunity to become involved in one of the working groups. If there are opportunities for JHI fellowship alumni, please count me in!