Humanities at Large

1.A. Humanities At Large Blogpost 8 September 2017

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Jackman Humanities Institute Blog
8 September 2017

Who hasn’t wondered what happens in the cloistered halls of their local Humanities Institute? Since assuming the post of Director of the Jackman Humanities Institute on July 1st, I’ve been asked by many people (colleagues, friends, relatives…) – ‘So, what exactly does a Humanities Institute do?’ This blog is for any and all of you who are curious about what we do, and will detail the weekly activities of the JHI.
It’s been a busy month so far at the Institute, as the University of Toronto embarks on the fall semester of a new academic year. This past week has been devoted to orientation activities all over campus, and with all of this year’s residential Fellows now ensconced in their offices at the JHI, we held our own ‘orientation’ lunch to introduce the annual theme and get acquainted with one another. 
We started by acknowledging the sacred land on which the University of Toronto operates. Indigenous peoples have shaped its history for thousands of years: it is on this land that they have developed distinct languages, cultures, economies, and ways of life; and this land remains a sacred gathering place for many peoples of Turtle Island. It is the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iriquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes peaceably. Today the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.




Dish with One Spoon wampum (top left corner) from 1812 exhibit. 
Museum of Ontario Archaeology (, accessed 8.ix.17)

One of this year’s Graduate Fellows had brought her Kaswehntha (Two-Row Wampum), and she recounted the narrative of cooperation and common interest it encodes symbolically. The Archaeology Museum of Ontario explains:

Two rows of purple are separated by three white rows. The white symbolize peace, a good mind, and strength. The wampum belt as a whole symbolizes one river with two vessels (the purple lines) traveling side by side. One purple line/vessel is a ship, representing the Dutch and another is a canoe, the Haudenosaunee. Inside each vessel are the people, traditions, laws, and ways of life. These two lines (or nations) are distinct and have a right to steer their own vessel without interference. (, accessed 8.ix.17; read more about the Two-Row Wampum here: )




Two Row Wampum (Kaswehntha)

Museum of Ontario Archaeology (, accessed 8.ix.17)

The 2017-2018 theme at the JHI, which will ground our conversations and focus our events throughout the year, is “Indelible Violence: Shame, Reconciliation, and the Work of Apology.” We’ll be approaching the theme from a number of different perspectives:

Performances of reconciliation and apology attempt to erase violence that is arguably indelible. What ideological and therapeutic work does reconciliation do, under whose authority, for whose benefit, and with what limits? What would it mean to acknowledge the role of shame? How might the work of truth and reconciliation commissions be compared to other ways of shifting relations from violence and violation to co-existence? How does the work of apology stabilize social identities, conditions, and relations and how do indelible traces of violence work for and against those conditions, identities and relations?

The 2017-2018 Fellows come to the JHI from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. Faculty Research Fellows hail from Canadian Studies and Geography; East Asian Studies and Women’s Studies; History and Medieval Studies; and Political Science. Their project descriptions can be found here: Our Graduate Fellows come from Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literature, and Social Justice Education at OISE, while our Undergraduate Fellows are pursuing degrees in Classics, English and History, Equity Studies, History and Philosophy; their project descriptions are posted here: Our final class of Postdoctoral Fellows includes two Anthropologists, a specialist in creative & critical writing, two scholars of Comparative Literature, a Historian, and a specialist in Media Studies: their project descriptions are online here: