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Concordia’s 2 new Trudeau Scholars bring an Indigenous lens to their next-gen research

PhD candidates Suzanne Kite and Diane Roberts will receive up to $180,000 over 3 years
May 23, 2019
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2019 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship recipients Suzanne Kite and Diane Roberts

From artificial intelligence (AI) to performance-based research-creation, Concordia PhD candidates Suzanne Kite and Diane Roberts apply an Indigenous lens to their respective fields, shaping the way we view the past, present and future.

Kite, a Lakota artist, and Roberts, an Afro-Indigenous dramaturge and director, are each recipients of a 2019 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarship.

Suzanne Kite: 'I'm thrilled at the possibilities before me'

Kite is a member of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the diasporic urban Indigenous community in Los Angeles. She is currently a candidate in Concordia’s Individualized Program (INDI). Kite’s work addresses the application of traditional philosophies of the Lakota people in the shaping of new technologies, particularly in the realm of AI.

Her project challenges the Western rational slant now being used as a basis for developing AI. She provides alternative ways to approach the concept and shape of AI, a phenomenon that promises to have a profound impact on human lives, rights and dignity.

“Receiving this scholarship will allow me to do research I would never have been able to do, to make work that was not possible before and to reach a much wider audience,” Kite says.

“I am thrilled at the possibilities before me. I say, Lila wophila thanka hecha to my parents, partner, mentors, family and ancestors who have paved the road before me and philamayaye to the foundation for this amazing opportunity.”

Kite works under the supervision of Jason Edward Lewis, Concordia University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary. She is a research assistant for the Initiative of Indigenous Futures — a project of the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace research-creation network — and a performance artist, She also co-runs the experimental electronic imprint Unheard Records.

Diane Roberts addresses race, memory, belonging, identity

Roberts is an artist researcher of Garifuna (Afro-Indigenous Caribbean) heritage. The humanities PhD candidate in the Faculty of Fine Arts has been actively involved in cross-cultural theatre and performance for three decades. She is supervised by Luis Carlos Sotelo Castro, Canada Research Chair in Oral History Performance.

Her work addresses questions of race, memory, belonging and identity, with a focus on African and Indigenous ways of knowing.

Roberts describes her project, Arrivals Personal Legacy Process, as “a performance-based research-creation methodology that facilities the emergence of re-remembered connections with ancestors.” It explores issues such as intergenerational trauma, racialized existence, displacement and return.

“Receiving this scholarship is a testament to the shifting role of interdisciplinary arts based on research in academia," says Roberts.

"The Arrivals Legacy Project draws on the personal, through ancestry, as well as the political and spiritual, and addresses the disruption of social norms. The fact that it's being recognized at this level as a sound research methodology is thrilling.”

Roberts was an artist-in-residence in the Department of Theatre in 2016 and 2017.

The Trudeau Scholarship

The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship Program recognizes as many as 22 outstanding doctoral candidates in social sciences and humanities programs whose research contributes to one of four themes: human rights and dignity; responsible citizenship; Canada’s role in the world; and people and their natural environment.

A three-year program, the scholarship provides leadership training and up to $180,000 in total funding per scholar.


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