Welcome from the Chair
Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year. This is not how we had hoped to welcome you into the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies on the first day of classes. Working, teaching, and learning remotely is not our ideal of how we come together—far from it. Trying to focus, learn, and grow in the midst of a global pandemic that has laid bare all the longstanding structural inequities of our society, our city, and our institutions is harder than ever.
And yet, if the past few months have taught us anything, it is that our collective response to unprecedented global challenges, as well as to longstanding anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism here in Canada and across Turtle Island must begin with our own actions—in our communities and in the relationships we cultivate. As students, you may hear from your instructors this week about the Scholar Strike
, and we encourage you to educate yourself on what brought it about and to participate in virtual Teach Ins
happening across UofT and beyond on Sept. 9th and 10th.
As a department, we have strengthened our resolve to confront racism, colonialism and Islamophobia throughout our curriculum and in our co-curricular initiatives. Last year, we sponsored several well-attended events, including a workshop on Islamophobia on Campus
, a talk on State Surveillance, Technology, and Capitalism in Northwest China, and a Teach-In on the Wet’suwet’en Crisis
in BC. We also concluded searches that have brought to the department two wonderful new colleagues, Dr. Mariam Sheibani
and Dr. Esmat Elhalaby
, who specialize in the legal history of Islam and in the transnational history of South-South anti-colonial connections, respectively. We look forward to many conversations with them both, and to the greater richness and depth that their research and teaching will bring to our community.
This coming year, we are thrilled to be launching an Indigenous Graduate Fellowship Program that will welcome to HCS the first cohort of Indigenous Graduate Students. Fellows will participate in the life of the department, organize events, support curriculum development in their respective areas of research, and receive and offer individualized mentorship. We are equally delighted about searches for two new faculty positions in Black Feminist Histories and Thought and in Late Antiquity/Early Islam, respectively. Stay tuned for more details about virtual campus visits, talks and opportunities to meet with the candidates in a few months!
Finally, we know that you, our students, may be living only a few blocks from campus or across the ocean; you may have called Scarborough home your entire life, or have experienced immigration many times over; you may be refugees or the children of refugees, live in a shelter, be underhoused, or have experienced various forms of state violence, discrimination, or deprivation. You may speak multiple languages, be involved in a wide range of organizations and cultural and religious communities. You each bring a wealth of lived experiences to our classes that are directly relevant to how you understand yourself and the world around you. We want to build on this richness—it is what makes us a stronger department and campus. We want to empower you to make sense of history as it unfolds in front of our eyes (2020, anyone?). Better yet, we want you to be part of this history, to acquire the tools you need to shape a more hopeful future for yourself and for those around you; we want to accompany you on your journey of education and discovery.
As part of this journey, we are immensely excited about our wide range of course offerings this fall, and hope you are too! HCS faculty have worked hard throughout the summer to make our courses as interactive and stimulating as possible despite the limitations of remote teaching. More than ever before, our Fall 2020 courses span the globe--from Africa (HISA08, HISB50, HISC52, HISD52) and the Mediterranean (CLAA04/HISA07, CLAB05/HISB10, WSTC28) to Europe (HISD14), the Arabian Peninsula (CLAC67/HISC67), Asia (GASD59), and the Americas (HISC46)--and cover over two millennia of biospheric transformations (GASD54/HISD54), human creativity (RLGA01, CLAA05), cultural resourcefulness (CLAC12), and revolutionary action (HISB30). Our course themes are more relevant than ever, addressing issues from food resiliency (FSTA01) to the history of racialized thinking (HISC18), and from the roots of capitalism (HISA09) and the nature of multi-faith empires like the Abbasids (HISB63) and the Mughals (GASB53/HISB53) to contemporary global cities (GASB74/HISB74, GASD02) and media landscapes (GASC40). Our courses will ground you in a range of methodologies, from historical writing and research (HISB03) to feminist qualitative research (WSTC02) and from critical development studies (WSTC10) to the study of language and gender (WSTC28). Our courses on LGBTQ activism (WSTB25), on immigration and race relations (HISC45), on feminist policy change (WSTC14), and on Islamophobia (WSTD09) will equip you with tools to take action for social change.
Wishing you a healthy and exciting year ahead,