Guelph welcomes Belfast, Mexico City, and Ottawa!

The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI), hosted at the University of Guelph, is expanding its research partnerships and is delighted to welcome three new partners next week, for planning and project development meetings.

New IICSI partners include international and Canadian organizations: 

  1. Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK), directed by Dr. Paul Stapleton;
  2. 17, Institute of Critical Studies (17, Instituto de Estudios Críticos), Mexico City directed by Dr. Benjamin Mayer-Foulkes;
  3. Carleton University, Ottawa, led by researchers Jesse Stewart and Ellen Waterman.

These partners are coming to Guelph October 7th  and 8th, 2019, to take in the City and the University, and to meet with other researchers, partners and graduate students. The visitors would welcome any opportunities to speak about their work.

We are honoured to welcome these three eminent research bodies to our ongoing work at our Institute,” says Ajay Heble, IICSI’s Director and a Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.  “Their scholars and community partners will help us mobilize national and international networks to do ground-breaking work that resonates beyond our immediate scholarly contexts and will help us address the needs of an interconnected, evolving global landscape.”


Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University in Belfast is a globally recognised institute for musicology research. It has its own Sonic Laboratory and works with associates in computer engineering, anthropology, psychology and architecture.  Paul Stapleton specializes in sound design and has written on a variety of topics, including improvisation’s role in law and sonification feedback in motor skill learning.


Benjamin Mayer-Foulkes is a psychoanalyst and founder of 17, Institute of Critical Studies, which offers degree programs that accommodate innovative research in the fields of Literature, Philosophy, Art, Political Thought and Psychoanalysis. The Institute organizes two international colloquia per year in which all students converge. The Institute has a formal plan to extend all aspects of their critical work to the fields of “disability,” gender, law, management, cultural management, visuality, media, curating, translation, religion, history, violence and peace, urban and environmental studies.


Carleton University is home to IICSI researchers Ellen Waterman and Jesse Stewart. Waterman is the Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada at Carleton University where she is developing a research program committed to investigating issues of diversity and decolonization of music in Canada through scholarship, research creation, and experiential learning.  Jesse Stewart teaches courses on music composition, jazz history, music and social justice, improvisation, music and visual culture, and popular music studies. As a composer, he writes mainly for percussion, found objects, and instruments of his own design. Both participate in developing the AUMI, an adaptive use musical instrument that facilitates inclusion in improvisational music making. 

These new partners represent three of the most active researchers in the field of improvisation.  With IICSI, these researchers will explore topics with our graduate students, provide them with opportunities to present at conferences and study beyond Guelph, and work with our current researchers to broaden and deepen our knowledge in a field that is young but ambitious, transdisciplinary, and vigorous in its research designs, publishing activities, and desire to explore new research realms.

Even More Exciting: 

Benjamin Mayer-Foulkes will give a public talk in IICSI’s Thinking Spaces series on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 from 3:30-5:00pm in McLaughlin Library, Rm 265, University of Guelph.  In his talk, entitled “Improvisation as institution: the post-University,” Mayer-Foulkes will discuss, among other things, the philosophical and political underpinnings of universities, and why he started his own University in Mexico City. 


The IICSI is a partnered research organization that collaborates with a dynamic team of 50+ researchers from over 20 institutions and at least 30 community-based organizations.  The Institute holds international conferences, runs a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, and produces a book series with an academic press.  The Institute’s work focuses on creating positive social change through improvisational arts, innovative scholarship, community-embedded work, and collaborative action. 

The addition of three new partners takes IICSI’s core executive partners from six to nine, adding scholars from Belfast, Mexico City and Carleton to existing partners at these six universities:  Guelph, McGill, Regina, Memorial, British Columbia, and University of California at Santa Barbara. 

For press inquiries, please contact Ajay Heble, Director, [email protected]

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