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World-renowned activist Raj Patel to give Whelen lecture

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Raj Patel: the rock star of social justice.

Often referred to as “the rock star of social justice writing,” Raj Patel will be in Saskatoon Oct. 25 for the University of Saskatchewan’s 2011 Whelen Lecture.

Patel, a best-selling author, economist and activist, will speak on “How to Feed the World.”

According to the university, “Patel will argue that while humanity produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet, the world is disfigured by inequality.” With a booming world population expected to reach 10 billion by the end of the century, Patel feels the solution to the hunger crisis will come from the sustainability of the Global South.

Patel has earned degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University, and has worked for the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. He currently lives in San Francisco as a visiting scholar at UC Berkley’s Centre for African Studies.

His most recent book, The Value of Nothing, made it on to the New York Times’ bestsellers list in February 2010. The book revolves around Oscar Wilde’s observation that “nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Patel joins the likes of Nobel prize-winning medical physicist Rosalyn Yalow, author and essayist John Ralston Saul and historian and politician Michael Ignatieff who all have been honoured with giving the Whelen Lecture since its inception in 1986.

The lecture is co-ordinated through the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education as a service for the office of the provost and vice-president academic.

“We require that the lecturer be an expert in a field that is offered by our university… Also we ask that they be someone who has international recognition, strong academic credentials as well as a large public following,” said Bobbi Mumm, conference and program coordinator for CCDE.

According to Mumm, the Whelen talk is known as the university’s crown lecture series, due mostly to the large cash endowment left by U of S alum Myron Whelen. Whelen was raised in rural Saskatchewan, and thus was aware of the limited opportunities people in remote parts of the country have to attend lectures and events featuring individuals of international renown.

Mumm says the lecturer is selected by an open nominations process, submitted primarily by the campus community but occasionally from the community at large. The final choice is made by the Whelen steering committee.

Since the inaugural speech in 1987, Whelen lectures have regularly been recorded by CBC’s Ideas radio program, and this year it will be streamed live through the university’s website.

[box type=”info”]Tickets to the Oct. 25 event are free, held at 7 p.m. in the Adam Ballroom at the Delta Bessborough Hotel. Seating, however, is limited, as Patel is expected to draw a large crowd. A public reception and book signing will follow.[/box]


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