Department of Historical and Cultural Studies

HCS Statement of Solidarity with the People's Circle for Palestine, University of Toronto

The Department of Historical and Cultural Studies firmly stands in solidarity with the students at the People’s Circle for Palestine, University of Toronto. We support the students’ demands that the University of Toronto disclose and divest from its direct and indirect investments in the Israeli military industry, and in companies that sustain Israeli apartheid. We also support their demand that the University of Toronto cut ties with Israeli universities that are complicit in illegal settlements on Palestinian lands and that support the ongoing occupation and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Cutting ties to such Israeli institutions does not curb individual academic freedom, as the students have clarified. Not doing so contravenes long-standing international law (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2024/01/israel-must-comply-with-key-icj-ruling-ordering-it-do-all-in-its-power-to-prevent-genocide-against-palestinians-in-gaza/) and U.N directives (https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/03/1147976).

Our students have encamped at the Circle after their every effort to meaningfully engage the University’s senior administrators was dismissed, misrepresented, and met with threats. Despite these harms, the People’s Circle for Palestine has become a precious space. By using their rights to free expression and assembly to demand an end to the destruction of Palestinian life and freedom, our students are modelling what a university should and can be: A place to learn and care about the world, and have difficult, courageous, conversations. The Circle’s multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith community embodies respect for Indigenous teachings. Indigenous elders are protecting the circle with a sacred fire. There are tents for food, medics, art, care counselling, and a beautiful library filled with books about social justice movements, poetry, and history from all over the world. There are spaces to dance, create, play, and pray. In this circle, students reflect, mourn, imagine, and demand a better world than the one they have inherited. As teachers we are humbled by their leadership.

We urge the administration to maintain its verbal commitments to refrain from threatening students with police violence. As we see from events at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta, violent police repression is disastrous and will invariably impact racialized, Indigenous, and other vulnerable students the most. Instead, we sincerely urge the President’s office to continue to engage in good faith negotiations towards divestment by the June 30 Governing Council meeting. 
 

HCS Statement of support for faculty speaking about Palestine/Israel 

The Department of Historical and Cultural Studies is resolute in its support for all faculty who speak up about the current war in Palestine/Israel, and who bring their expertise to bear on public conversations. It is not only permissible, but essential for scholars to situate the current war in its broad historical contexts, including those of settler colonialism, US imperialism in the Middle East, and global movements for Indigenous rights. In the wake of the TRC here in Canada, anti-colonial solidarity is not simply a legitimate ethical position, but a critical analytical perspective that has opened up entire bodies of scholarship. This scholarship remains occluded in public debates by nationalist frameworks that present the situation in Palestine, as in other world regions, as one of “national conflict” or primordial enmity. Scholars—and especially those whose research and/or lived experience bear on these issues—have a responsibility to bring their knowledge to the public sphere and question myopic and amnesiac discussions. Their voices cannot be silenced. 

Welcome to the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies!

Individually and combined, the five academic programs that comprise HCS — Classical Studies, Food Studies, Global Asia Studies, History, and Women's and Gender Studies – offer a critical lens on the processes that shape our world, situating them in multiple global and local contexts. Our programs equip students with a range of skills such as critical thinking, oral and written communication, collaboration, and research and analytical skills, that will prepare them to be successful in a variety of fields including law and public policy, government, education, community and social services, communications, business, management and much more.

We invite you to discover and learn more about our fascinating programs and courses, and to get in touch if you have any questions.