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Humanities students are required to take two 3-credit mandatory core seminars in their first year: HUMA 888 (Methodology) and HUMA 889 (Thematic). The specific content of these courses may vary from year to year. See below for current and selected past course descriptions.

Humanities 2024-2025 Courses

Fall 2024

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 Credits)

Sensory Ethnography

Professor: David Howes, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Course Description

This course delves into two breaking areas of anthropological research – sensory ethnography (also known as multimodal anthropologies) and legal anthropology (or cross-cultural jurisprudence).

In Part I, we shall explore the space that has opened up “between art and anthropology” in recent years. In Part II, we will take up the question of whether justice should (or even can) be culture-blind, and of what a cross-cultural jurisprudence might look like. In Part III, we shall focus on that which exceeds the bounds of sense, the bounds of law, and humanity itself – namely, the extrasensory, the postcolonial, the “posthuman.”

The course will be organized in seminar format with a premium placed on participation. It is also designed to hone your analytic skills (e.g. writing reflection pieces), your writing or blogging skills (e.g. the first and second assignments), and your presentation skills (e.g. the conference style oral presentation based on one or other of the assignments toward the end of the course).

It is important to emphasize the exploratory nature of this seminar. The work you do should be probing; it is not so important that it be polished.

Winter 2025

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Protests and the Politics of Refusal

Professor: Nalini Mohabir, Department of Geography

Course Description

Montreal has long been a site where transnational struggles, anti-colonialism, and Black Power movements intersect. For instance, Kamau Brathwaite (1977) linked the demands of student protests at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica, 1970), Cornell (USA, 1969), Kent State (USA, 1970) and Sir George Williams (now Concordia, 1969). This pivotal time of world-wide protest and overlapping relations in the late 60s early 70s, is temporally linked not only to student organizing at various institutions across the world, but also coincided with other societal shifts including the opening up of Canadian immigration policy, the wider context of human rights struggles including women, disability and queer rights activism across North America and independentist movements across the world (Cummings & Mohabir, 2022). More recently, we have seen protests linking local, diasporic and transnational activism, from calls for Indigenous sovereignty, to global Black Lives Matter protests, to Palestinian human rights solidarity encampments. These moments and markers are one way of positioning protests at the crossroads of histories and futures.

In examining protests, resistance, and resistant knowledge (past and present), we must acknowledge that inhabiting certain bodies carries more risk than others. The politics and scale of the body that shape regimes of difference and influence subjectivity, can lead to differently imagined outcomes of protest – especially in the wake of racial capitalism, policy inaction, and/or state violence.

Yet those who struggle, protest, resist, and survive maintain the right to opacity (Glissant, 1990), that is to remain unknowable with imaginations beyond capture. The politics of refusal can help us appreciate the need to carve out spaces of refuge or dissent, whether as part of a wider social movement or everyday life, where refusal might be a needed act of collective or self- care (Campt, 2019). This course aims to look at both protests and the politics of refusal through critical interventions and reading practices across scale, affective, and multisensory routes, as well as different cultural repertoires, political or subjective formations. Our goal will be to not just read or discuss the world around us, but to foreground being in the world, to think deeply about our commitments, who we choose to be in conversation with, and the kind of world we want to see in the beyond.


In addition to the two core Humanities courses, students take a selection of elective coursework usually distributed as 3-credit courses in their three fields. These elective courses normally consist of a combination of 3-credit directed study tutorials and regularly scheduled graduate courses offered by other departments that are relevant to the student's program of study. Please note that the selection of courses is determined in consultation with the student’s advisory committee, in accordance with the needs of the student’s program of study and available faculty resources. The number of elective courses a student is required to take is dependant on their curriculum stream:

  • Curriculum stream 2017 and after: 4 courses (12 credits)
  • Curriculum stream pre-2017: 6 courses (18 credits)

Electives chosen from regularly scheduled graduate courses

Humanities students may take graduate courses offered by departments at Concordia that are relevant to the student's program of study. A course description and a completed and signed  Humanities Graduate Course Registration form is required for each regularly scheduled graduate course registration. With the approval of the advisor in the field, Humanities students may also register, through CREPUQ, for a graduate course offered by another Quebec university.

To identify relevant graduate courses to fulfill the 18 credits of elective courses, students are encouraged to consult with their advisors and browse the graduate course offerings on the websites of the departments relevant to their fields of study (or find that information from the respective graduate program assistants).

Electives as directed study tutorials

Directed study tutorials provide Humanities PhD students with the opportunity to pursue advanced and focused work with individual faculty members in the three fields that constitute the student’s program of study. Tutorials can be taken with the advisor in the field or another faculty member, but each tutorial is subject to the approval of the student’s advisor in that field. Tutorials involve regular meetings and on-going assignments, in addition to at least one major final paper or project. A tutorial course description and bibliography as well as a completed and signed Humanities Directed Study Tutorial form is required for each directed study tutorial registration.

HUMA special topics courses

Humanities students may also take special topic courses offered by the Humanities program when relevant to the student's program of study.

Winter 2017


HUMA 887, Section C, Performance Studies
Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., MB S2.245 and FB-620 (Active Learning Classroom)
Professor: Emer O'Toole, School of Canadian Irish Studies

Performance Studies is a radical field. Some consider it an “anti-discipline.” Arising in the ‘70s at the intersection of theatre and anthropology, it had a double impetus: first – to do battle with the dominion of the Western canon and give due scholarly consideration to the art forms and cultural practices of Othered cultures; second – to use performance as a lens through which to understand human activities outside the realm of art, including religious rituals, political events, play, language, day-to-day interactions and even things we might intuitively suppose are the opposite of performance – our genders, sexualities, ethnicities or nationalities. Performance Studies has an inherent politics – dissident, queer, anti-hegemonic – encouraging us to think beyond fixities and hierarchies. This graduate course is for any student who wants to break down barriers between academic disciplines; tug at the boundaries of what education is for; and interrogate what kinds of knowledge are valued versus what kinds are valuable. Over the semester we’ll engage with the theories of seminal thinkers including Jacques Derrida, JL Austin, Judith Butler, Diana Taylor, Rustom Bharucha, Richard Schechner, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, and Shannon Jackson. We’ll also work from our own embodied knowledges and experiences, becoming attuned to how we perform our identities, and where we learned our scripts.

Download the course outline here

Past HUMA core courses

Fall 2023

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 Credits)

Anthologizing Across Disciplines

Professor: Jens Richard Giersdorf, Department of Contemporary Dance

Course Description

The value of this course for beginning Ph.D. students lies in the simultaneous survey of established methodological models in academia and the challenge of them. These challenges extend into the important questioning of the practice-theory binary, the politics of disciplinary formations, the investigation of alternative models of knowledge production away from universal assumptions, and a careful consideration of the impact of our work on object and subject of research.

To do so, we will ask who decides how an academic discipline defines itself as a field of knowledge in relation to its object of study and how it relates to other disciplines and social structures? This course addresses this question by using historical and contemporary approaches to anthologizing in dance studies to investigate core methodological concerns in post-graduate interdisciplinary education. Anthologization is a critical editorial procedure that reflects through its editorial structures how an academic discipline develops, canonizes, and changes. We will follow and contextualize the shift from earlier anthologies’ focus on contents as well as historical and methodological investigations in a discipline to current anthologies’ exploration of decolonization, indigeneity, environmental protection, ecology and globalization.

Dance studies lends itself to this investigation, because it entered academia as the youngest of the art studies. As such, it had to engage not only with methodologies in the humanities, social sciences, and all other art studies, but it also had to be nimble enough to respond to and incorporate developments in broader society. Dance studies’ focus on physicality and choreographic structuring will allow us to investigate how embodiment reflects and impacts political and cultural systems in today’s society. This broad investigation of dance as knowledge production then allows us to engage with cross-disciplinary methodologies for the exploration of physicality in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts.

No prior dance training is required for this course, yet an openness to thinking about society as individually and collectively embodied is the goal. As such, we will not only understand anthologies as printed material, but expand anthologizing into alternative formats, such as curation, collection, improvisation, and lecture performance without losing the rigour of academic and scholarly investigation.

Winter 2024

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Scale and the Environmental Humanities

Professor: Jesse Arseneault, Department of English

Course Description

This course aims to expose students to a dynamic body of research in which Concordia is a key player, the Environmental Humanities (EH). A primary goal of the course is to offer participants an interdisciplinary range of cultural theory under the umbrella of the humanities—including animal studies, the so-called new materialisms, critical posthumanism, post- and de-colonial thought, Indigenous thought, Black studies, and queer theory—via these fields’ contributions to EH. More specifically, we will look at readings for how notions of scale inflect framings of the environment and the humanities. The course explores what Neel Ahuja calls the “queer scales of relation” that structure our world of shared material and multispecies belonging, “from the grand vantage of planetary geology and climate … down to the microbial, molecular, and quantum worlds of matter” (2016, p. viii). While Dipesh Chakraborty reads the Anthropocene as a marker of the disproportionate “geological agency of humans” (2009, p. 208), the course will examine the material and multispecies planetary relations that make that geological agency possible.  
The course will approach questions of scale embedded in a range of topical units that subtend how we conceptualize environments of concern in EH research. Potential units in the course might include: how cultural theories negotiate between the transcendent planetary scale of climate effects and the immanent arena of individual and collective affect, response, and action; how, in the era of post-pandemic speculation, theories of contagion navigate between global pandemic forces and the microbial pathways of viral transmission; vast geological timescales and the immediate threat of climate change’s apocalyptic temporalities; the distance between the Global Northern/whitened discourse of EH (what Sheelah McLean calls the “whiteness of green” [2017]) and climate change’s disproportionate effects on Black, colonized, and Indigenous peoples, as well as communities of colour; decolonial and critical race theory that frames ecological imperialism as a vast process of planetary terraforming; relations between humans and other-than-human life ranging from microbes to megafauna, from discrete entities to entire species; the energy humanities; and the critical geologies of the inhumanities.

Fall 2022

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 Credits)

Positioning research creation: Theory, History and Practice

Professor: Cynthia Hammond, Department of Art History

Course Description

This course will address core questions that arise as students enter their first, doctoral-level seminar in an interdisciplinary degree setting: How does one move from mono-disciplinary training to an interdisciplinary research mode? What is the difference between a research method and a research methodology? How does my planned work count as “knowledge”? And if I don’t (yet) know the answers to these questions, do I really belong in this program (am I an imposter?). By helping students answer these and other questions for themselves, the course will help students to articulate and frame their work for the purposes of grant applications, research proposals, and ethics protocols. Relatedly, the course plan is designed to introduce students to degree expectations, and some of the key steps that they should anticipate along the way.

We will take a case study to orient our collective learning: the still-emerging theory and practice of research-creation. Traditionally, western universities have considered the creative arts to be separate from other disciplines, because it was assumed that the arts could not produce objective truths, reasoned arguments, and thus could not “contribute to knowledge.” In recent years, however, new forms of inquiry have surfaced, including research-creation, social practice, autoethnography, and creative oral history methods, none of which make claims to objectivity or universal truth. All insist, in fact, on breaking down the purported barrier between the researcher and the researched. What, then, do such approaches produce, as knowledge? The answers are important to Humanities PhD students because, as part of their journey as doctoral candidates in a scholarly program, they must ultimately be able to defend their own work as having produced knowledge, no matter what disciplines and methods they have chosen to employ.

This course will be useful for students who are planning to take a research-creation approach in their doctorate, likewise for students who want to better understand what methodology and interdisciplinarity are, and mean, for their own work in the Humanities program. It will be of great interest to students who have wondered about the (perhaps covert) creative aspects of their own prior training, in any field.

Winter 2023

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Embodiments: Reciprocity

Professor: Dr. VK Preston, Department of History

Course Description

This course brings interdisciplinary conversations on embodiment, performance, and theory into shared focus with contemporary reflection on reciprocity. It builds on the research-creation focus of HUMA 888 (Fall 2022) to take up themes traversing knowledge-sharing through the affordances of our class’s location between faculties, practices, and facilities. This enquiry extends to co-relationship as taken up in the work of Indigenous scientists as well as writers in fields from performance theory to queer phenomenology.

The aim of the course is to support incoming doctoral students’ access to university resources, processes, and programs. Coursework includes perception-based scores, instructions, and experiential worldings as well as close reading and assignments that engage in collective study of both works of art and writerly theoretical enquiry. This approach draws from critical dance studies, performance theory, research-creation, media history, archival theory, and embodiment studies. Engaging with work by artist-scholars across disciplines, alongside cultural and critical theory, this course considers pluralism a keystone of enquiry shaping interdisciplinary speculation.

This course’s objective is to support graduate-level research. Particular attention turns to questions of the public, of the library, and the activation of spaces between us. More finely, this course explores arguments regarding the concept of embodiment in writing on kinesthetics, theories of capital, illness, movement, disability, politics, and resistance. These sites of enquiry necessarily take us towards Indigenous-settler relations, critical university studies, race, gender, and intersectional enquiry. In addition, we’ll look at writing on editing, revision, and the circulation of ideas—reaching towards artists, authors, and editors who engage with expanding possibilities of publication.

Fall 2021

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 Credits)


Professor: Dr. VK Preston, Department of History

Course Description
This course brings interdisciplinary conversations on embodiment, cultural production, and methods into shared focus. It takes up questions on embodiment traversing disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

This course’s aim is to support graduate-level research projects and shape interdisciplinary conversation, promoting reflection on the scope and outcome of methods. In keeping with this goal, this term’s readings support conversations on practice and perception.

We’ll investigate key texts on technique and methodology, addressing frameworks of appropriation, the body, decolonization, gesture, the senses, and media. The course emphasizes intersectional and social dimensions of experience; it traces interdisciplinary discourse traversing queer and critical race studies, ageing, dis/ability, gender, and feminist research.

The aim of the course is to explore arguments regarding the concept of embodiment in writing on kinesthetics, theories of capital, illness, movement, ontology, and resistance.

Coursework includes attending to movement-based practice and tasks’ imbrication in art and everyday life. It draws in particular from dance, performance, and movement studies as well as research on historical trauma and the body that addresses both theory and practice.

Winter 2022

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Photography Within the Humanities: Persistent Concepts and Current Perspectives – Theory into Method

Professor: Dr. Martha Langford, Department of Art History

Course Description

Both learned and popular interest in photography is based on its powers of description, evidentiary authority, indexicality, and contextual unfolding, essentially on its truth-value, which is not taken lightly as an optional feature, but as a fact of photographic technology and the prime motivation for its everyday use (Elkins; Freund; Kelsey and Stimson; Krauss; Maynard; Walton). This widespread belief is expressed and reinforced each time a scientific notation or a snapshot is posted on the net (Freedberg; Sheehan; Tucker). Play-acting, propaganda, all manner of fictions and deceptions notwithstanding, a photograph is neither the perfume of the real, nor its prismatic distortion, but its visible and legible trace – some version of the truth (Barthes; Cadava; Damisch; Didi-Huberman; Lambert).

Photographic theory has clung to this article of faith, which was only strengthened by the early scandals of illusion, distortion, and crude propaganda (Adatto; Bear 2015; Goffman; Jaubert; Kaplan 2008; Payne). From the 1960s onward, photography was neither window, nor “illustration” (Kaufmann); the medium was “at the dock” (Solomon-Godeau), charged with mass-manipulation and violence (Sontag 1973; Tagg 1988; Virilio). As a visual construction, the image was slippery, changing meaning, depending on its use or context of circulation (Biber; Bolton; Phu and Brower; Paquet 2011, 2014). Feminism, Marxism, postcolonialism, and poststucturalism battered photographic authority (Baudrillard; Bright; Buchloh and Wilkie; Burgin 1982, 1986, 1996; Butler; Debord; Edwards, S.; Grundberg; Kuhn; Mitchell; Phillips; Pinney 2003, 2011; Rossler; Sekula, 1981, 1984, 1986; Spence; Tagg, 2009; Williams). Such sustained critical assaults should have weakened photography’s claims on reality and knowledge production. The digital revolution should have finished it off (Barboza; Druckrey; Mitchell 1992; Ritchin 2009). Nothing of the sort has occurred.

Photography shrugs, secure in its inheritance of nineteenth-century Realism, firmly established as a tool for observation and provider of proofs (Bajac; Bean; Breitbach; Maresca 1996, 2014; Mitchell 2005, 2006; Moschovi, et al; Morris). Archival practice and theory – research and research-creation – make a place for the photograph in historical narratives and states of consciousness (About and Chéroux; Brown; Crary 1999, 2000; Derrida 1995, 2010; Kelsey; Kessler and Locks; Roelstraete, Roth; Schwartz and Cook; Schaffner and Winzen Tuer; Wakimoto, Bruce, and Partridge). Theorists debate whether faith in photography builds democracies or nurtures passivity (Azoulay; Hariman and Lucaites; Zelizer 1998; see also Hüphauf); at least one semiotician sees a collective will to credulity (Lambert). “Belief in the veracity of visual signifiers” and “doubt” over what they convey are reception’s new normal (Jones (2012, xviii). Citizen-photographers become unimpeachable witnesses (Andén- Papadopoulos and Pantti). Indigenous artists enact their territorial repossession through photography and performance (Langford 2014; Taunton 2017). Snapshots upend the authority of observer ethnographies (Farrell Racette 2009, 2011). Affect theory empowers reception of even the most coerced photographic performances with new authorities (Bassnett; Brown and Phu; Gregg and Seigworth; Olin; Phu and Steer; Sedgwick; Stewart). A medium supposedly stripped of its truth-claims by influential critiques of representation continues to run at full throttle, generating real-life imagistic experience with persuasive claims to knowledge – a remarkable epistemological turn.

This course derives from photography studies but is intended to serve a much broader range of research questions within the humanities. For just as scholarship needs to situate itself, knowledgeably and reflexively (Haraway), its uses of photography need to be located on the very wide epistemological spectrum that the medium presents. Just as words matter, photographs matter, and not only for what they show, but for what they do.

Fall 2020

HUMA 888: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Theory Tetris: Concepts & Cases in Interdisciplinary Research Design
Professor: Dr. Carolina Cambre, Department of Education

Brief Course Description
This introduction to concepts and cases for interdisciplinary investigation germane to the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts addresses awareness of the role of conceptual frameworks and institutional practices in the shaping of interdisciplinary scholarly and creative practices and provides students with opportunities to think through theoretical issues vital to their diverse projects. Through the semester we will explore ways to bring together different disciplines into coherent and compelling research designs: as well as ways of bridging theoretical and substantive inquiries, including the comparative aspects of these. We will experiment with thinking through the lenses provided by various philosophical concepts and their usefulness in designing projects.

Winter 2021

HUMA 889: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)

The Methodology, Theory and Ethics of the Oral History Interview
Professor: Dr. Steven High, Department of History

Brief Course Description

Oral history is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that has grown up on the margins. As a field, oral history has a strong commitment to marginalized voices whose histories are rarely heard or make it into traditional state archives. Unlike ethnography, which has a disciplinary home in anthropology, oral history can be found in many places. Oral history interviewing has been undertaken for many reasons: artistic, community-building, truth and reconciliation, political action, preservation, storytelling, and for research. There is therefore no one-way to design an oral history project or to conduct an interview. This course will introduce students to oral history methodology, theory and ethics. Students will have the opportunity to design their own research-creation project, go through ethics, and share their work with others. The course therefore combines practice-based learning with extensive cross-disciplinary reading into the issues raised by this practice. Graduate students can use this course to pilot their interviewing methodologies for their wider PhD thesis project. The practice-based conversations that result typically create a strong bond between participants.

FALL 2017

HUMA 888 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies 
(3 credits)

Theories, Histories and Practices of Interdisciplinarity

Thursdays, 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Room MU-101
Professor: Viviane Namaste, Simone de Beauvoir Institute

Brief Course Description

This course will introduce students to some of the fundamental theories, histories, methods and practices of interdisciplinary work.  By considering different models and case studies related to interdisciplinarity, students will be able to explicitly reflect on the theories and practices of interdisciplinarity that will inform their own research practices.  Course readings and assignments have been designed to help students think both conceptually and concretely about how to plan their own interdisciplinary doctoral research.


HUMA 889  Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies  (3 credits)

Representation/s Otherwise
Thursdays, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Room: FG5-335
Professor: Carolina Cambre, Department of Education

Doing violence to those we seek to represent comes with the territory. Misrepresentation is part of telling stories about people’s lives, our own included. The issue is whether to skirt or to face head on such complicities. (Lather, P. 1999:4)

What does the word representation do? Representation is an essential part of the process by which meaning is produced and exchanged and involves the use of language, of signs and images but it is not a simple or straightforward process. This seminar considers theories of representation current across disciplines in philosophy of art, language and semiotics, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, and other fields as well as a variety of representational practices, especially the representation of collective selves and others through narratives, collections, and displays. Among topics to be confronted are the politics and poetics of representation; representation and historical memory, objectification and appropriation; postmodern and postcolonial crises of representation/representationalism, and anti-representationalism coinciding with the performative turn; contemporary experiments in representation; and misrepresentation and the unrepresentable.

Based in interdisciplinary scholarly and creative explorations, and providing students with opportunities to think through theoretical and methodological issues vital to their diverse interdisciplinary projects, this doctoral seminar will guide an inquiry into the role of representation based in image, text, sound, and performance. The course will combine seminar readings and presentations with studio experiences to critically trace past practice, present direction and trends in theories of representation.

A new paradigm attitude towards “truth” and the production of knowledge has legitimized many alternative approaches for doing research in the social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Alternative or arts-informed research metholds challenge empirical forms that reduce human experience to knowledge claims of certainty and truth, rather seeing truth and knowledge as contextual, contingent and processual. We will problematize the relationship between knowledge and power, exposing knowledge as socially constructed and creating open texts that provide spaces for knowing “otherwise.” We will ponder questions of how to judge the quality of alternative representations of research, and the ethical implications of arts based portrayals.

The culmination of this course saw the organization of, Dissident Vectors, an exhibition by doctoral students highlighting the research-based practices across theories of representation. Read more about the successful show here. 

Fall 2016

HUMA 888 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 credits)

Translation, Transformation

Tuesdays, 1:15 p.m. – 4 p.m., LB 619


(Provisional copy)

As a figure of thought and as a practice, translation stands for the shifts in meaning that inevitably occur when ideas and cultural products circulate. With the intensification of global traffic, translation is increasingly recognized as a key figure for the humanities. It highlights the gaps and dissonances across memories; it questions the nature of difference; it expresses the trauma of displacement.  This course will use translation as a posture of inquiry by asking what it means to transport material from one idiom, discipline or medium into another.  What changes when the mode of expression is altered? In particular, translation will become a key to exploring interdisciplinarity as a conversation across discourses and forms.  The principle guiding this exploration is that any exchange involves mediation, critique, response, transformation.

The reading materials for the course will explore concept and practice,  ethical reflection and imaginative exercise. Students will be invited to track down, explore or invent translation projects that are relevant to their own work.  There will be a number of invited speakers in the course of the term.

Topics that will be explored will include: translation as memory, redress and cultural activism; the politics of translation (the forced translations of colonialism and imperialism,  the imbalances in global cultural trade);  the debate over world literature (Damrosch, Apter);  the poetics of translation (Anne Carson);  translation and migration, concepts of bordering;  (Mezzadra, Cronin);  multiple modernities;; retranslating systems of thought;  travelling theory;  translating images (visual arts, film); translation and digital humanities;  cosmopolitan cities and sites of translation; translation as a critique of origin (Derrida, Sakai, Cassin, Berman, Liu).

Course objectives:

  1. To introduce students to a range of critical materials that will allow them to engage with the politics of difference as they play out in multicultural cities, to understand the implications of equivalence as an ideal and to understand cultures and identities as intrinsically translational.   The broad reach of translation (as a poetic process, as a figure of political critique, as a mode of ethical subjectivity)  will encourage connections across student projects.
  2. To involve participants in the collaborative production of interdisciplinary knowledge and encourage students to think of themselves as active researchers.

Winter 2017

HUMA 889 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Diversity in Montreal

Thursdays, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., H-1120


(Provisional copy)


The issue of diversity in Montreal has a long history. The contacts with the indigenous peoples and the massive immigration of the nineteenth century have profoundly influenced local practices and institutions. Proudly displaying four flowers symbolizing four distinct groups of migrants (French, English, Scottish, and Irish), the Montreal flag bears testimony to this crossbreeding.

However, it seems that in the last 10 years, the issue of diversity has acquired a new urgency, as evidenced by the reasonable accommodation crisis (2006-2008) or the debate around the so-called Charter of Values ​​(2013).

For some, Montreal offers an innovative and efficient integration model. To others, municipal initiatives, building on deficient provincial policies, are poorly adapted and betray significant bias. Beyond the traditions of Republicanism (France), the melting pot (United States) and multiculturalism (Canada), Quebec has offered since 1974 a formal policy of interculturalism which definition itself is very much open to debate.

Certainly, the dynamics created by the presence of a majority of Francophone Quebecers significantly impacts the local context. The questions of the dominant language (French), religious heritage (Catholic) and collective affirmation (national) confuse public deliberations and make dialogue difficult.

To nourish debates around diversity in Montreal, the seminar "Diversity in Montreal" intends to adopt a resolutely interdisciplinary perspective and will focus the discussion on issues specific to the metropolis. It is inviting researchers to a crossover that promotes a multiplicity of interpretative approaches. Also, the course will draw on the study of other cities considered more archetypal (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, London, Hong Kong, etc.).

Globally, the course aims to answer the following questions: How can one characterize the ethnic neighborhoods in Montreal? How can academics foster a better approach to diversity in Montreal? How can various disciplines make a contribution to scholarly knowledge and the public debate? What needs to be changed in order to arrive at a more inclusive polity? These questions - and many more - will lead classroom discussions and help students to understand the past and future evolution of "minority groups" in Montreal.

Thus one can say that the seminar’s objectives are threefold:

  1. Provide students with an opportunity to tackle the vast and complex question of diversity in Montreal and address the pressing issues of tolerance and inclusiveness using the tools and approaches of the humanities and social sciences. This will allow students to acquire a basic knowledge about communities in Montreal that is useful to their general education and their future career.
  2. Explore the issue of managing cultural and religious diversity. The students will be introduced to social and cultural strategies adopted by the various communities, and the different reactions that these strategies have generated within the mainstream society. The students, therefore, will comprehend the dynamics through which operates the recognition (or misrecognition) of minority groups.
  3. Introduce students to important theories on diversity in urban contexts that have been developed in Canada and abroad. Beyond the case of Montreal, the course aims to generate a global scholarly framework that can guide students in contexts that go much beyond the local situation.


Fall 2015

HUMA 888 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 credits)

Mess and Method  "What Is A Media Lab?"

Thursdays, 1:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., LB 646
Professor: Darren Wershler, Department of English

This course will introduce students to a range of contemporary critical and philosophical approaches to humanities research whose focus is contextual and discursive rather than textual and hermeneutic. The primary touchstones will be discursive analysis, Actor-Network Theory, theories of cultural techniques, everyday life theory and material media studies.

The job of “Mess and Method” is to encourage students to think about culture in terms of a set of interrelated concepts: controversies and messes, assemblages and networks, materiality, practices and techniques, and circulation. Many of the texts we’ll be looking at consider some or all of these concepts simultaneously, but they each have their particular strengths.

The course will begin as a survey that will provide students with enough information to pursue particular trajectories of their own devising later in their studies. This year, our particular object of study will be the space in which interdisciplinary research increasingly takes place: media labs and humanities labs of all shapes, sizes and inclinations. As part of their term work, each student will locate and describe the activities of a lab in their field or another area of interest.

Like much contemporary scholarship, all writing for the course will take place in public, on a course-related research website. As Ian Bogost has noted, too many scholars write to have written rather than to be read. At the same time, though, we’ll also be beginning from the axiom that writing is iterative. Rather than aiming to produce definitive work on our subjects, we will be approaching writing as part of the ongoing process of critical thinking.

Course Objectives

  1. Expose participants to key texts in discourse analysis, Actor-Network Theory, articulation theory, materialities of communication, controversy mapping, circulation theory, etc.
  2. Provide participants with the opportunity to develop an effective scholarly online writing style 3. Involve participants in the collaborative production of interdisciplinary knowledge 4. Give participants some basic training in textual markup and blogging practice 5. Encourage participants to think of themselves as active researchers


Winter 2016

HUMA 889 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Constructing History

Mondays, 3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., LB 1014

Professor: Ronald Rudin, Department of History

Imagine that you were given the responsibility for creating a marker (either a physical marker such as a monument or something more ephemeral such as a projection) in a public space to commemorate something from the past. In this course, we will reflect on questions of public memory and explore different forms that have been used to mark moments from the past. During the first weeks of the course, we will be discussing readings from a wide array of disciplines -- from history to geography, and from art history to anthropology; and we will be guided through the issues of public commemoration by reading the thought-provoking work of the art historian, Kirk Savage: Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).

In addition to class discussions, students will be engaged in the main project for the course in which they will select some person, event, or process from the past, read the relevant literature on the subject, and ultimately propose a marker to be created. Your job is to use your imagination to propose a commemorative project (as if you were writing to a potential funder), taking into account such matters as where the structure should be built; what story it should tell; what materials will be employed; what costs will be incurred and what sources of funding can be found. Prior to the submission of the final projects, we will discuss early versions in class, with the students paired off so that they will receive detailed feedback from one of their peers, in addition to the feedback from the seminar.

This course has been inspired by my involvement in directing the Lost Stories Project, so if you want to see my own interdisciplinary interests (in history, public art, and film), go to: If anyone wants to discuss the course during the fall term, feel free to write to me at


Winter 2016

HUMA 887 Advanced Seminar in Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 credits)

Research-Creation Methods

Thursdays, 1 p.m. – 3:45 p.m., FB 620 SGW

Professor: Mark Sussman, Department of Theatre

In a post-Enlightenment world dedicated to, in the words of Max Horkheimer, “the extirpation of animism,” the eternally recurring notion that objects have agency is deeply disturbing. Since Marx gave us the anthropomorphic image of the dancing table as an icon of the interchangeability of commodities and people, it has been increasingly clear that, to paraphrase Tim Morton, anthropocentrism, not anthropomorphism, is the problem. Artists, curators, and ethnographers both know and practice decentered distributions of agency very well, but the scholarly study of the agency of materials is still catching up with the deeper consequences of this orientation to the object world.

This seminar will examine how objects – from the everyday to the extraordinary – acquire and perform agency, and conversely how bodies perform in objectified ways. Machines, artifacts, souvenirs, toys, puppets, and automata all engage with agency and materiality, while dance and performance, by definition, objectifies the body. How, then, to build a research methodology that incorporates keen awareness of the materiality of experience lived through objects and bodies? This seminar will engage with critical theories of things and objects as they play across a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, art history, and cultural and performance studies. Classical works by Marx, Mauss, Benjamin, and Bataille will be read alongside contemporary texts by Agamben, Brown, Moten, Taussig, Boon, and Bennett (among others.)The class will also involve exhibitions, screenings, and hands-on performance creation workshops as occasions for analysis and written response.

Fall 2014

HUMA 887W 2A Distant Reading and Related Methods (3 credits)

Darren Wershler, cross-listed with ENGL 668C/2

Download the syllabus

Summer 2014

HUMA 887G/1A Archiving the Ephemeral (3 credits)

Monika Kin Gagnon

Download the syllabus

Winter 2015

HUMA 888  Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I

Practice as Method – or How to Create Movements of Thought

Professor: Erin Manning

Thursdays, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., EV 10-785


HUMA 889   Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II

Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places

Professor: Erica Lehrer

Tuesdays, 3 p.m. – 5:50 p.m., LB 1014

HUMA 888/2-A, Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I

"Distant Reading and Related Methods"

Darren Wershler, Department of English

HUMA 889/4-AA, Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II

"Corporeal Inscriptions, Surface Readings"

John Potvin, Department of Art History

Fall 2012

HUMA 888 – Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I

Reshaping the City: Exploring the Geography, Governance, and Practice of Creativity

Professor: Norma Rantisi, Geography, Planning & Environment


Winter 2013

HUMA 889/4  Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II

Searching for the Past: How Can We Possibly Know How It Actually Was?

Professor: Virginia Nixon, Liberal Arts College

Fall 2011

HUMA 888/2 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 credits)

Spaces and Boundaries of Knowledge

Professor: Anya Zilberstein (History)

Winter 2012

HUMA 889/4 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

First Person Experience and the Argument from [Human] Creativity

Professor: Tim Clark (Studio Arts)

Winter 2011

HUMA 888/4 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 credits)

'Acts' Across  Disciplines

Professor: Greg Nielsen

This is a foundations seminar for studies in the Humanities that develops immanent methods for reading, writing and critique of inter and post-disciplinary theory. Our focus will extend last year's discussions on 'acts' as events of being and becoming toward broader debates over the status of the subject in society and culture.  How are subjects of  ethical acts, aesthetic acts, acts of citizenship, acts of war, as well as gendered, classesd, and  racialized acts — Emancipated? Dominated? Subjected? Consummated? Performed? Framed? Dialogized? Constructed? Deterritorialized? Networked?  Several contrasting sets of approaches will be considered in terms of how each might treat the theme of  ‘acts’ and the events that create subjects or are created by them: i) Critical sociology and aesthetics  (from Kant-Hegel-Marx to W.E. Dubois, Mikhail Bakhtin; and the early Frankfurt School); ii) Postructuralism, existentialism (Deleuze and Guattari, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, J.P. Sartre, Agnes Heller) ; and iii) Deconstruction, contemporary critical theory, and justice as fairness (Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas, John Rawls, Chantal Mouffe, Giorgio Agamben, Nancy Fraser).

Seminars are student centered based on discussions of summaries of readings and will also include occasional conversations with guest humanities faculty. Students are asked to post short summary presentations of readings to the class list and present them in the seminar, post an abstract for a comparative book review or essay on a theme that includes half  (or all, if preferred) of its content from work studied in the seminar. The paper is due at the end of term.

Some primary and helpful secondary readings for the main approaches are available during the summer at Concordia Library online reserves from last years Huma 888.

A full syllabus will be distributed in December 2010. Here are a few suggestions for reading in advance of the seminar:

  • Mikhail Bakhtin. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. U. of Minnesota Press; and Toward a Philosophy of the Act, University of Texas, 1993.
  • Judith Butler. (2009) Frames of War: When is Life Grievable. Verso.
  • Engin Isin and Greg Nielsen. (2008) Acts of Citizenship. Zed Publications, 2008.
  • Ian Angus. (2009) Love the Questions: University Education and Enlightenment.

Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2009

GREG M. NIELSEN is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Concordia Center for Broadcasting Studies ( He teaches and publishes in the areas of social and cultural theory as well as media studies. His current research includes: dialogical critiques of contemporary journalism and press coverage of immigration and poverty in Montreal and New York City;  as well as several long term team projects in progress that include: a CCBS  research team on civic journalism;  a film project on a  “paths to housing” experiment with inner city  homeless; an audio mining project on the BBC World Radio News (1968-86),  and a digitalization project of the entire CCBS collection of CBC Radio Drama scripts (1928-). He is the  co-editor of Acts of Citizenship (London: Zed Books, 2008); author of The Norms of Answerability: Social Theory Between Bakhtin and Habermas (Albany: SUNY Press, 2002); and Le Canada de Radio-Canada: sociologie critique et dialogisme culturel (Toronto: Editions GREF, 1994).  His forthcoming co-authored book is Mediated Society: A Critical Sociology of Media.  Oxford University Press.

Winter 2011

HUMA 889/4 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Performativity, Materiality and Knowing

Professor: Chris Salter

Course Description

Recently, the humanities and social sciences have witnessed a shift away from their earlier emphasis on language, discourse and texts and instead, towards the study of sensation, affect, materiality and socio-technical practices. As part of this shift, the term “performance” is increasingly gaining traction in all kinds of disciplines that never before described their practices as ‘performative’: science and technology studies (STS), the media arts, sociology, anthropology and architecture, to name but a few. This focus on dynamic, temporal and material processes over static objects, schemas, systems or representations may be indicative of an even broader paradigmatic change. Historically, scholars have pointed to two specific “performative turns”, the first emerging from anthropology in the late 1960s-1970s and the second from cultural studies and feminist theory in the 1990s. The new one that is currently emerging on the horizon has however, for the most part, escaped the watchful eye of performance studies and performing arts scholars. This is the performative turn emerging in science studies which no longer sees human agencies and actions as the sole loci of performance but instead, seeks to move towards what sociologist of science Andrew Pickering terms “performative ontologies;” a grappling with the “agency” of things, processes and technical-vital environments themselves. Indeed, performativity seems to have increasingly become a concept for a heterogeneous group of artists, scientists and scholars to understand the political-aesthetic-ethical ramifications of a seemingly incoherent, out of control contemporary techno-culture.

This course aims to address the epistemological, ontological, aesthetic and ethical repercussions of the concept of performance and to disentangle its use across a broad range of epistemic cultures (Knorr-Cetina). Performance and performativity not only describes dynamic, temporal phenomena through its methods (what Dwight Conquergood called its “emergent, temporal, contingent, provisional, indeterminate, dynamic, destabilizing” characteristics) but also ontologically: how performative practices constitute the very objects of knowledge that they purport to study.

Chris Salter is an artist, Assistant Professor for Computation Arts at Concordia University and researcher at the Hexagram Institute in Montréal. He collaborated with Peter Sellars and William Forsythe and co-founded the collective Sponge. Salter’s performances, installations, research and publications have been presented at numerous festivals and conferences around the world, including the Venice Architecture Biennale, Ars Electronica, Exit Festival-MAC Creteil, V2-Rotterdam, Place des Arts, Elektra Festival-Montréal, Dance Theater Workshop, Shanghai Dance Festival, Transmediale, Attakkalari India Biennial and many others. He is the author of the forthcoming book Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (MIT Press, 2010). 

Fall 2009

HUMA 888/2 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies I (3 credits)

'Acts' Across  Disciplines

Instructor: Prof. Greg Nielsen (Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

This course is an introduction to the methodology of interdisciplinary studies. The  seminar focuses on developing immanent  methods  for the  reading, writing and critique of an interdisciplinary  body of work focused on the theme of  'acts' as  events of being and becoming: ethical acts, political acts, aesthetic acts, acts of race, acts of  gender, class acts, bodily acts. Three contrasting sets of approaches will be compared regarding how they each might treat the theme of  ‘acts’: i) Critical sociology and aesthetics  (from Kant-Hegel-Marx to W.E. Dubois, and Mikhail Bakhtin); ii) Postructuralism,  existentialism, pragmatism (Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, J.P. Sartre, Agnes Heller, George Herbert Mead; and iii) deconstruction and critical theory (Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, and others).


GREG M. NIELSEN  is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Concordia Center for Broadcasting Studies ( He teaches and publishes in the areas of social and cultural theory as well as media studies. His current research includes: dialogical critiques of contemporary journalism and press coverage of immigration and poverty in Montreal and New York City;  as well as several long term team projects in progress that include: a CCBS  research team on civic journalism;  a film project on a  “paths to housing” experiment with inner city  homeless; an audio mining project on the BBC World Radio News (1968-86),  and a digitalization project of the entire CCBS collection of CBC Radio Drama scripts (1928-). He is the  co-editor of Acts of Citizenship (London: Zed Books, 2008);  author of The Norms of Answerability: Social Theory Between Bakhtin and Habermas (Albany: SUNY Press, 2002); and Le Canada de Radio-Canada: sociologie critique et dialogisme culturel (Toronto: Editions GREF, 1994).  He is working on a co-authored book for Oxford University Press called Mediated Society: A Critical Sociology of Media.

Winter 2010

HUMA 889/4 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies II (3 credits)

Choreographic Objects, or, Spacetimes of Encounter and the Movement that Moves Them

Instructor: Erin Manning (Faculty of Fine Arts)

This course will take as its point of departure William Forsythe’s concept of the “choreographic object.” Forsythe conceives of the choreographic object as an object or series of events that activate participatory movement, thus affecting the spacetimes of encounter. We will ask: How does the concept of choreographic object, enlarged beyond dance to consider questions of architecture, performance and everyday movement, allow us to reconceptualize the event. Strong links will be made here to the concept of the “act” elaborated and explored in Greg Nielson’s first-term course on methodologies.

Key research-creation questions will include:

  1. How does a “choreographic object” move? William Forsythe suggests that you cannot choreograph a body. Choreography is less an orchestration of bodies than the creation of a movement environment: movement meets mobile architecture.
  2. How does the environment move us? Robert Irwin’s art practice is less concerned with its objectness than with the kind of environment it proposes (Irwin 2004). Shifting from the idea of site-specificity to the idea of site-conditioned art, Irwin leads us toward art as perceptual event. This fits well with Greg Lynn’s concept of animate architecture. We will explore the ideas of animation and perception in the context of creating sites for movement (virtual, actual, architectural, perceptual etc).
  3. What is the time of performance? Movement always raises the question of time. Henri Bergson’s philosophy of movement – which foregrounds time as qualitative duration rather than time as measurable quantity – will be central here (Bergson 1994). Performance that is activated in the act of perception is environmental in the sense that it conditions spacetime in what William James calls the “specious present,” the time-slip of the just-has-been which is experienced as the “now” (James 1994, Stern 2004). We will explore the time-slip of the event with the idea that what you choreograph are always the relations between movements and the relations between bodies and spacetime variables: you choreograph a changing ecology of experience.


ERIN MANNING holds a Concordia University Research Chair and teaches in fine arts at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). She directs the Sense Lab (, a laboratory that explores the intersections between art practice and philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in movement. Her current art project is entitled Folds to Infinity: an experimental fabric collection composed of cuts that connect in an infinity of ways, folding in to create clothing and out to create environmental architectures ( Publications include Politics f Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2006), Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada (Minnesota University Press, 2003), and most recently Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (MIT, 2009).

Fall 2008

HUMA 889/2-AA Theories of Public Culture

Instructor: Dr. Robert Danisch (General Studies Unit)

Since the 18th century the growth and expansion of forms of publics and public cultures has increasingly become a central feature of modern life. Some publics, such as the political public associated with a modern European state, are large and extremely complex; while others, such as the diffuse public of a special interest group, may be small and relatively simple. This course is dedicated to the study of publics, their forms, their cultures and their influence on our history and our future, and to the project of explaining how communication constitute particular forms of public culture.


The reading list for the course will be drawn from the following:

  • John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems;
  • Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion;
  • Jane Addams, Democracy and Social Ethics;
  • Hannah Arendt, The HumanCondition
  • Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere,
  • John Durham Peters, Courting the Abyss;
  • Craig Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere;
  • Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics; 
  • Richard Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism;
  • Richard Posner, Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy;
  • Bonnie Honig, Democracy and the Foreigner;
  • Seyla Benhabib, Democracy and Difference;
  • Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox; 
  • Casey Blake, The Arts of Democracy; 
  • Cornel West, Democracy Matters;
  • Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity;
  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

Winter 2009

HUMA 888/4-AA Critical Studies in Media Arts

Instructor: Prof. Sha Xin Wei (Department of Design and Computational Arts)

This is a seminar about experimental practices in philosophy, art, and technoscience. This year's course critically introduces some vital interdisciplinary discourses in the humanities and arts concerning subjectification, process, and performance by threading a narrative from the modern crisis of representation to materialist notions of distributed agency and affect. The seminar supports and is informed by creation-research approaching these questions sensitive to conditions framing ethico-aesthetics.

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