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Concordia’s Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy prepares to throw an epic birthday bash

The all-day conference celebrates Kari Polanyi Levitt’s 100 years
June 9, 2023

A collage of six images of the same woman from different stages in her life, from a young girl to an old woman.

Concordia’s Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy will host a conference to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kari Polanyi Levitt on June 14. Polanyi Levitt, a professor emerita of economics at McGill University, is co-founder and honorary president of the research centre named in honour of her late father.

“I thank my parents for the gift of life they gave me, growing up in Vienna,” says Polanyi Levitt, who has long been the literary curator of her father’s archives. These are the cornerstone of the institute.

Polanyi Levitt, herself a respected economist, was the mentor of current institute director Margie Mendell, distinguished professor emeritus of the university’s School of Community and Public Affairs.

“It is an honour for the institute, and for Concordia, to mark the centenary of Dr. Polanyi with a celebration of her contributions to political economy scholarship,” Mendell says.

A day of celebration

The conference will feature several Concordia colleagues, including Christine DeWolf, vice-dean of Faculty of Arts and Science, and Steven High, professor of history. Other participants include András B. Göllner, a professor emeritus, from the Department of Political Science, and Daniel Salée, who is currently the acting chair of the department.

“We will pay tribute to her scholarly contributions to political economy and to critical perspectives on contemporary society,” Mendell reports.

Polanyi Levitt says she’s grateful for the friends and colleagues who have remained close over the years. “Their support has kept me going throughout my career.”

The June 14 event will be followed by further festivities over the subsequent four days, culminating in a birthday party. Guests are attending from around the world.

Reflections on a long career

Polanyi Levitt has contributed to the study of economics in the Caribbean and has received numerous accolades over the years, including becoming a Member of the Order of Canada.

Discussing her legacy, Polanyi Levitt says she never worried about the challenges of being a young female economist in a largely male field.

“It was not a problem,” she says. “As a matter of fact, some of them were quite intimidated by the fact that a woman can have a lot of authority.”

Advice for young economists

Today, Polanyi Levitt encourages aspiring economists to broaden the scope of their studies. “I would tell them that to make sense of economics you also have to study sociology and history.”

A keen follower of world affairs, Polanyi Levitt is currently preoccupied with the war between Ukraine and Russia and its implications for the world at large.

“I am looking for anything — any country, any book — that can contribute to peace in the world,” she says.

Mendell adds of Polanyi Levitt, “She continues to inspire all who engage with her on contemporary debates and the need for critical thinking.”

Learn more about the
Conference in honour of Kari Polanyi Levitt’s 100th birthday.

Donate to the Kari Polanyi Levitt Fund at the Karl Polanyi Institute.


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