VANCOUVER — There was Patrick Stewart, PhD candidate, defending his final dissertation before a handful of hard-nosed examiners at the University of British Columbia late last month. The public was invited to watch; two dozen curious onlookers saw Stewart attempt to persuade five panelists that his 149-page thesis has merit, that it is neither outlandishly “deficient,” as some had insisted it was, nor an intellectual affront.
Unusual? It is definitely that. Stewart’s dissertation, titled Indigenous Architecture through Indigenous Knowledge, eschews almost all punctuation. There are no periods, no commas, no semi-colons in the 52,438-word piece. Stewart concedes the odd question mark, and resorts to common English spelling, but he ignores most other conventions, including the dreaded upper case. His paper has no standard paragraphs. Its formatting seems all over the map.
“I like to say that it’s one long, run-on sentence, from cover to cover,” Stewart laughs. And so what? “There’s nothing in the (UBC dissertation) rules about formats or punctuation,” he insists.
A 61-year-old architect from the Nisga’a First Nation, Stewart explains that he “wanted to make a point” about aboriginal culture, colonialism, and “the blind acceptance of English language conventions in academia.”