Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer in the City, Oh the Humidity

By Frances Reilly, Ph.D. Student

Summer in Montreal is hot. The cicadas’ electric buzz was broken only at night by the soft chirp of crickets in the garden across from the apartment where I sat for months, reaming through old RCMP surveillance files. But the process of writing and research, a predominantly sedentary activity interrupted occasionally by revelation, requires rewards and so my otherwise deskbound existence was broken up by historical tourism.

Battle Fields Park, Québec

Among the various sights in Montreal are the remains of Expo ’67, one of the many events celebrating Canada’s Centennial. Visible from Montreal’s Old Port on the St Lawrence is the Île St. Hélène the site of the Expo Pavilions, one of the more iconic structures being the American Pavilion or the Biosphere.

Osheaga Music Festival, Montreal

The city of Québec is a three hour bus ride from Montreal. As many Canadians are aware, 1759’s epic 20 minute battle between the French and the English took place outside of the city. The Plains of Abraham Battlefield now contains the classic historical monuments, along with a Museum of Fine Arts and a green space for community activities like Saturday morning Pilates.

Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec
Most of my activity however took place at home and as I sorted through last summer’s research I could hear the student demonstrations parading through the downtown streets outside. Printemps Érable, a clever play on the French for “Arab Spring,” began in the winter semester. By May the demonstrations extended to address the right to protest in addition to questioning the current trends of education’s commodification. These concerns have been compounded by local politics and police surveillance, the latter having several parallels to my research on RCMP profiles of communist subversives and the construction of a Cold War enemy. The summer events provided the delicious reminder that historical research is indeed relevant to contemporary concerns.

22 August Student Demonstration, Montreal