Because the world doesn’t exist in neat categories…who would have thought we would have a global pandemic line up perfectly with our latest INTD Concept Course, giving us all a very visceral experience of CHAOS? You’d think we’d planned this.

CHAOS is out 9th iteration of these amazing classes and as with all of them, we can always tell you more about that Ariadne’s thread that runs like vein through each and every class, connecting their amazing diversity, at the end. It’s one of the most unique things about these classes. We collectively step onto the ride without being fully aware of where, precisely, we’re going to end up and that’s more than half the fun. But up front here’s what you can expect from some of our amazing returning faculty who we affectionately call frequent fliers as well as many new ones.  We’ll be covering everything from the the CHAOS of health pandemics like the one we’re in to the extraordinary opportunities for all of us that this level of social chaos provides – it’s not all gloom and doom as it turns out. Check out our amazing collaborators below to get a better sense of just how much fun this version of the CHAOS journey will be.

Susan Srigley                                                              Religions and Cultures 

Creation Myths, Women and the Dark Waters of Chaos

In many creation myths, or cosmologies, the concept of “order” (cosmos) is seen as the corrective to chaos. Cosmological myths suggest that the human search for meaning is forged in the overcoming of chaos and the establishment of an ordered universe. In the Babylonian creation story, the Enûma Elish, the goddess Tiamat is the symbol of chaos who is destroyed by the male god Marduk. In the Genesis creation myth, the Hebrew word used for the chaotic watery depths prior to creation bear remarkable linguistic similarities to the Akkadian word for Tiamat, echoing the personification of chaos as female in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In this class we will read and discuss these creation myths and cosmologies, collectively think about the dichotomy between order and chaos and what it implies, and consider why women took the rap for being identified as unwieldy chaos.

Arja Vainio-Mattila                              Vice President Academic and Research

Chaos in Higher Education

We like our systems predictable, orderly. But are chaos and order opposites, or are there, as some have suggested, structures of order “contained within chaotic and unpredictable systems”. Is it possible that learning within chaotic systems actually allows us to develop stronger critical thinking skills as we are dealing with more complex systems of information and knowledge. The original meaning of chaos refers to the abyss, or emptiness, that exists before something new came into being. In as much as we are now living within a chaotic context for learning, there seems to exist an extraordinary opportunity to engage in imagining the new.


Stacey Mayhall                                          Gender Equality and Social Justice

Fear of the Diseased Other

When an infectious disease outbreaks occurs, two parallel processes are set into motion, one is epidemiological (scientific). This means experts are looking at the distribution patterns of a disease including who gets it, where and when.It involves asking questions like what is the aetiological agent? (a fancy way of asking what is the cause). Who is at risk? And how might the disease be spread and therefore contained and controlled? The second process is social and it is just as important – maybe more. The social processes surrounding an outbreak have a profound effect on things like the speed and spread of disease, the psychological effects on its victims and their families, the health (mental and physical) of health care workers, and the social stability and cohesion of the wider community at large. One of the key forces driving the social processes around infectious disease is fear. What influence does fear have in the face of epidemics and pandemics? In particular, what role does ‘fear of the diseased other’ play in the history of recent epidemics like AIDS, Ebola and COVID-19? These are just some of the questions and ideas we’ll be reflecting on in this class as we consider the way infectious diseases create and enforce ideas of othering between and among groups of people and what some of the costs of this might be for everyone.

Rob Breton                                                                             English Studies

Dystopia and Disorder

Dystopian literature tends to represent order – regimented structures and routines, internalized rules and systems – reducing life to meaninglessness.  Disorder, or even chaos, then takes the side of the human, or is human. Reading Karel Čapek’s R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), we will evaluate images of order and disorder in the context of dystopia, automation, AI, and humanity.

Laura Rossi                                                                                         Biology

SARS-CoV-2, Contagions and the Chaos of Viruses

At their very core, contagions push the populations they infect to their limits, taxing host immune systems and the depths of the knowledge we have about containing and treating the diseases they cause.  When a never-before-seen pathogen emerges and begins to spread from person to person, there’s a fine line between infections that can be effectively eradicated, or the alternative: complete and utter chaos tied to the extreme of a global pandemic.

Ali Hatef                                                                                              Physics

Nano-Scalpel: The Engagement of nanotechnology and medicine

Nanotechnology is an exciting new field that deals with structures and machines on the atomic scale. Recent experiment have shown that nano-sized structures could have a transformative impact on a wide range of applications such as solar energy, sensors, and medicine. One important areas of cancer research involves injecting new genetic material into cancer cells, but current methods, which use electricity or viral carriers, can affect cells in unwanted ways and have other challenges that make this process difficult. In this introductory presentation I will speak about a new method of inserting genes into cells using a nano-scale machine made of gold and activated by light. This emerging technology has the potential to revolutionize cancer research and to enable powerful new therapies that hunt and kill only cancer cells leaving healthy cells alone.

Herminio Texiera                                                                   Political Science


This lecture will examine three complex relationships between the concept of anarchy and the experiences of chaos: firstly, we will briefly survey a history of anarchism that distances itself from chaos so as to constitute itself as political doctrines and regimes that are never the mere absence of order — that see themselves, rather, as refusals of any social order where central rulership is not directly under the control of communal and civic associations; secondly, we will examine indigenous forms of anarchic political thought and practice that do not simply keep the chaotic at a distance, but transform it into meticulous tactics aimed at preventing the emergence of any central organs of power that would claim decisive power over living communities — Helene and Pierre Clastres’ seminal thesis (still largely underexplored in the Anglo-American world) on societies against the state, will prove decisive, as will its parallels in the works of indigenous scholars and activists such as Alfred, Battiste, Youngblood-Henderson, etc; and lastly, we will engage the recent, ground-breaking work of Catherine Malabou that sees in the intimacy between the chaotic and anarchic nothing less than the “plasticity of life” — as in the searches for the meaning(s) of the feminine, or in understanding the status of mutations in the neuro-science of the brain, or especially in the creative and destructive potentials of the phenomena of crowds.

Tammie McParland & Karey McCullough                                              Nursing      

 A Healthcare Perspective on Chaos During Pandemics

We depend on our healthcare system and the members of the healthcare team to care for us in our personal moments of individual chaos.  However, what happens when chaos engulfs the stability of the very system we depend upon? Increasingly, hallway medicine, healthcare personnel shortages, an aging demographic and global challenges have created unstable and rapidly changing healthcare workplaces.  Additionally, the past 8 months has seen the emergence of a global pandemic that has stressed the already changing healthcare environment even more and has resulted in increasing complexity and unprecedented chaos that here-to-for has not been experienced in the lifetime of most of the global population.  This lecture will explore the history of major pandemics impacting humanity from the Black Death of the 1300s, to the Influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, and the current COVID-19 pandemic.  The roles and reaction of nursing (and medicine, as required) will be presented. The development of emergency / pandemic preparedness in the context of both disasters and pandemics will be discussed.  The role of the educational institution in preparing nurses for this “new normal” will be discussed.  Students will experience an opportunity to undertake a virtual game to help them understand the impact of chaos on nursing practice and education. We hope to help students answer the question: How can nurses ensure they provide the best care as possible for us (their clients) when the worst (chaos) is happening?

Carly Dokis                                                                                Anthropology                        

 Chaos and (Dis)Order: Indigenous Land Claims in the North

In this class we are going to start by talking about how Indigenous land uses and governance have been conceptualized as chaotic and unmanaged (and unused) by settlers from the early stages of contact, and how these same cultural underpinnings have shaped federal government policy and the ways in which colonial structures have been imposed on Indigenous peoples, especially with respect to land and governance. We will then turn to how, after landmark court cases such as Calder, Delgamuukw, and Tsilhquot’in, the government then sought to achieve “certainty” or “order” with respect to Aboriginal title, mostly in order to facilitate further extractive industries. Finally, we will talk about how in settling the “land question” through comprehensive land claims, land claim structures have likewise disordered Indigenous forms of governance and relationships. My research and relationships in the Sahtu will be the basis of much of the class but the issues will equally apply to other situations of land and resource conflict like the Wet’suwet’en opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Steve Connor                                                                                     History

 “Submitting to Chaos”: Battle and its Meaning in Historical Perspective

Carl von Clausewitz, certainly the most (in)famous theorist of the western way of armed conflict, wrote: “war is based…in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”  This fog of war (Nebel des Krieges) ensures that all participants, whether friend and foe, act in an environment in which precision and certainty are impossible. In effect, war-fighting is the management of chaos.  Of course, von Clausewitz was not referring to the experience of individual soldiers in battle but rather those of the generals who commanded them.  But the chaos of war, the fog, confusion and dislocation, as we shall see, proves a dominant reality for those at the ‘sharp end’ whether in battle or in its aftermath.  Our discussion will focus on these experiences and consider some of the ways in which historians have attempted to impose order onto this chaos and some of the consequences of doing so.  We will also listen closely to the voices of those who have experienced the chaos of battle and felt its effects, sometimes long after the shooting has stopped.  To that end, we engage a variety of sources from written and oral testimony to participating in a conversation with veterans of Canada’s longest war, Afghanistan.

Tony Parkes                                                                                       Biology          

How Chaos Drives Evolution and Evolution Chaos

This discussion entails how, contrary to the popular notion of evolution as a gradual, ordered, progressive process, it is in fact almost entirely the consequence of random, unpredictable events.  Considering three principle mechanisms of evolution – mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection – we will ponder the pre-eminent role of chaos in each.  Perhaps counter-intuitively, we will also examine how the chaotic process of natural selection acts as a filter upon the chaotic process of genetic mutation to generate what we tend to perceive as the ‘harmonious order’ of our natural world.  Finally, we will consider how the vagaries of evolutionary history produce what can only be described as chaos in our daily lives – from the catastrophic ‘design flaws’ of the human body to the devastating (but unsurprising!) appearance of a viral pandemic.

April James                                                                                    Geography    

Upending the Water Cycle 

In this new age of the anthropocene, humans are recognized as the dominant influence on climate and the environment.  These influences extend to our study of water, a resource on which we all heavily rely. This lecture will explore changes we are experiencing in the water cycle and ask: What are the changes we are seeing? Can we predict natural and human-related changes to the water cycle?  What will be society’s response to change?


Nipissing University
100 College Drive, Box 5002
North Bay, ON, Canada
P1B 8L7
Tel: 705.474.3450
Fax: 705.474.1947