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Graduate Seminar Course Descriptions

The following advanced seminar courses are special topics that are not described inside the undergraduate or graduate calendars. For the regular course descriptions, please refer to the official graduate calendar.

Summer 2024

HIST 670/1 Special Topics: Sites of Violence and their Communities

Dr. Erica Lehrer
Dates: May 30 to June 8 2024
If you are interested in applying, please consult important information.

This site-based, 3-credit interdisciplinary field school will introduce students first hand to the “social lives” of key sites of Holocaust history and memory in the city of Kraków, Poland (and selected other sites). We will together explore how the state, community groups, and creative practitioners of “memory work,” make use of and (often critically) re-interpret sites of wartime violence for a variety of purposes. We will also consider the effects of a range of forces – from government attempts to legislate memory, to heritage tourism, to natural and environmental factors – on the changing shapes and meanings of memory sites.

Using Kraków as a home base, we will read and discuss key scholarly texts (sometimes with their authors), hear guest lectures, visit historical sites (German Nazi camps, former Jewish districts, monuments, and museums), and meet local artists and activists working to activate and expand Polish memory culture against social and political pressures to forget. We will attend to both conventional and less-commonly acknowledged social and material processes that influence remembering in post-conflict sites, and think about past violence in terms of new social formations and pressures (e.g. ethno-racial diversification and activism, migration and climate crises). The goal of this field school is to transform the way you think about how societies remember.

Professor Erica Lehrer (History, Sociology-Anthropology) will lead the group to a range of historical sites (German Nazi camps, former Jewish districts, monuments, and museums), and meet local artists and activists who have worked to activate and expand Polish memory culture against social and political pressures to forget. We will attend to both conventional and less-commonly acknowledged social and material processes that influence remembering in post-conflict sites.

Fall 2024

HIST 600/2 - AA
Historical Theories/Methods

In this seminar, we will explore "history" as a field of knowledge, a critical orientation, an instrument, a praxis, and a philosophy. Our weekly trajectory follows major issues and shifts in historiography since the mid-20th century. Topics will include: social history and the influence of Marxism; cultural and linguistic turns provoked by poststructuralist, postcolonial, feminist, queer, and race-critical theory; environmental history in the midst of ecological breakdown; as well as methods and critiques in public and oral history. This course is challenging - with a heavy reading load and strong emphasis on engagement - but also rewarding. Students will leave this course with a solid foundational understanding of the most salient theoretical and methodological questions and approaches in this discipline; they will be able to use this knowledge to assess and critique different works of historical writing and apply these approaches to their own work.


HIST 665/2 - A
Public History Workshop: Podcasting: History and Practice

Description TBA.


HIST 670/2 – A
Advanced Topics in History: Witches, Shamans, Vampires and Zombies: The Supernatural in History

This course seeks to recapture the importance of certain spirit-beings – witches, shamans, vampires, and zombies – as a way of understanding social dynamics in the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 20th centuries. In particular, it will examine the connections between the political and the spiritual, looking at instances in which the intervention of spirits was a lens though which people understood interpersonal tensions. Rather than seeing the supernatural as something to be dismissed or explained away, we will try to understand historical actors’ beliefs on their own terms. Questioning the conventional distinctions between the rational and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural, magic and science, the course challenges the historiographical convention of explaining the past in a strictly naturalistic manner.


HIST 670/2 – C
Advanced Topics in History: Truth and Lies on the US-Mexican Border

Debates and distortions about the US-Mexican border are central to American political attention in our current moment. In the winter of 2024, nearly half of all adult Americans reportedly accepted the notion that illegal immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country. We will examine the long history of the borderlands region and the interactions between the Indigenous people, Spaniards, Blacks, and Anglo-Americans who populated it across time. We will use both scholarly and eye-witness accounts of borderlands from Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca’s tale of his sixteenth-century journey from Florida through Texas and California to Luis Alberto Urrea’s reconstruction of the harrowing story of 26 Mexican men who paid to be smuggled across the dangerous Sonora-Arizona crossing known as The Devil’s Highway in 2001. This seminar focuses on the key issues of race, labour, identity, and community to unpack current misperceptions of the border, border policy, and border impermeability. 


Winter 2025

HIST 601/4 – A
Historical Research Methods  

This course is designed to help M.A. students frame and develop the first stages of their theses. It will allow you to think in a deliberate way about the various components of historical research: conceptualizing a topic, framing a central research question, locating appropriate sources, reading (and keeping track of) secondary sources, putting new research in dialogue with existent scholarship, writing and revising. The end product of the course will be a substantial thesis proposal which will be the basis of your research in subsequent terms.


HIST 610/4 – A
Advanced Studies in European History: Popular Revolt and Popular Protest Europe 1300 – 1600

This joint graduate-undergraduate seminar will examine the phenomenon of popular revolts in Europe from the early fourteenth century until the end of the sixteenth.  Over those centuries, governing authorities faced numerous uprisings from peasants, artisans, and labourers.  Over the course of the term we will look at revolts in Italy, Spain, Germany, the Low Countries, France, and England, examining the complex contexts of religious change, political consolidation, economic and demographic crisis, and social transformation.


HIST 665/4 – AA
Advanced Studies in Public History: War & Memory in the 20th C

This seminar explores historiographical and broader academic engagement with memory - individual, collective, and national. We will approach memories of 20th century wars by looking at a wide range of modes of representation of the past across media including novels, films, video games and genres from World War I poetry to science fiction.  Like all seminars, it has a major presentation, discussion, and class participation component. Students can write a major research paper on memories and representation of nearly any theme intersecting with war and mass violence from the late 19th century to present.


HIST 670/4 – A
Advanced Topics in History: Transnational Networks

In recent years the network has emerged as a critical touchstone of scholarly focus, both empirically and theoretically. Using the concept as a lens, this course explores a wide range of cases including: Atlantic worlds emerging in relation to the slave trade; Muslim commercial networks in the Indian Ocean; the circulations through which European empires rose and fell; and more recent examples of migration, transnational political movements, and neoliberal economics. In order to aid us in exploring these historical examples as well as critically assess the possibilities and limitations of the network as a conceptual tool, the course also features a selection of key theoretical texts from cultural theory, political economy and the roots and fruits of recent turns to a Latourian toolkit.


HIST 670/4 – AA
Advanced Topics in History: Art & The city: History of Performance

This seminar examines performance histories in Tiohti:áke/Montréal. The course approaches “performing arts” broadly and encourages shaping toolkits for studying cultural, historical, creative, and political practices.

HIST 670/4 - BB
Advanced Topics in History: Capitalism from Below

Systemic mining, drilling, blasting, tunneling, and other geotechnical methods have not only thrown traditional relations on the surface into upheaval, but have also produced irreversible changes to the foundations of companies, empires, and nation-states. This seminar explores the profound historical role of subsurface extraction and underground labor in the growth and development of capitalism. It will do so by focusing on histories around and below the equator in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, or the so-called Global South. The class, moreover, draws especially from Indigenous, Black, and Third World feminist scholarship. This scholarship may, on the one hand, help reckon with the often-disappeared histories of colonization and racialization buried in orthodox narratives of capitalism, and on the other hand, seek out submerged stories of other possible futures that could come to the surface.

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