Research Projects for May 2019
Applications from student researchers to work with one of these projects will be accepted from 18 January to 22 February 2019. You can reach the application form at: https://humanities.utoronto.ca/funding/2022
Projects located at the UT-St. George campus
Maritime Spaces in the Early Modern North Atlantic
Supervisor: Prof. Christy Anderson
Separated by a great expanse of sea, Early Modern Europe and North America were linked only through the technology of ships and navigation. As a maritime nation with a growing attention to overseas trade and colonization, Tudor and early Stuart England built with an orientation to the sea. This art history research project examines the variety of maritime spaces in England and abroad, looking first at the ship as one of the most important types of built structures that extended English political and economic ambitions abroad. Students will work with 17th century manuscripts, prints, and models, and will develop skills in the digital humanities.
Widening the Circle: Building a Community Knowledge Sharing Digital Platform from Great Lakes Indigenous Cultural Heritage Research Data
Supervisor: Prof. Heidi Bohaker
In an era of “open access” to data, how, when and under whose control should research data on Great Lakes Indigenous Cultural Heritage be made public? The data in question has been produced by researchers who belong to GRASAC (grasac.org), a vibrant interdisciplinary and cross-cultural alliance of researchers from Indigenous communities, universities, museums and archives. We are collaboratively developing new data governance strategies to co-manage release of data as a shared ethical responsibility across multiple First Nations and global repository institutions. SiR scholars will be able to attend a multi-day workshop at Chippewas of Rama in late May.
Visualising Worldviews: Diagrams for Belief Systems
Supervisor: Prof. Hakob Barseghyan
How can we “see” belief systems? This project invites researchers with specific interests in history, philosophy, visual studies, digital humanities, and information science to join a team of scholars working on developing a systematic typology of diagrams for visualising individual and communal belief systems. Participants will brainstorm and design diagram templates for depicting complex relations between questions, theories, methods, and reasons. These templates will then be evaluated for succinctness, reusability, aesthetic appeal, and applicability to a wide range of historical cases. Students will have an opportunity to present their findings in co-authored papers. Training in best visualisation practices will be provided by field experts.
Sociolinguistics on the Road: The Italian Linguistics Landscape in Toronto
Supervisor: Prof. Simone Casini
This project conducts a linguistic and semiotic analysis of the Italian language in public and social communication within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Through semiotic analyses of multilingual or monolingual traces of written texts (street names, signs, restaurant menus, etc.) scholars will consider the presence of the Italian linguistic community in the GTA, its semiotic capacity to modify its environment through linguistic signs, and assert its social vitality even through non-linguistic signs linked to Italian culture. Research will take place in Little Italy, Corso Italia, Yorkville, King West, Mississauga (Square One), and Woodbridge. Proficiency in Italian is necessary; interests in sociolinguistic and Italian Studies are welcome.
The Works of John Galt – Archives to Edition
Supervisor: Prof. Angela Esterhammer
Student RAs will take part in preparing a multi-volume critical edition of fiction and journalism by the Scottish writer John Galt (1779-1839), who was also a key figure in Canadian history. Working with nineteenth-century editions and manuscripts of Galt’s fiction in rare book collections and online, Scholars will gain experience and insight into the process of taking texts from archives to new editions. They will assist with transcription, comparing versions, fact-checking annotations, copy-editing, preparation of print-ready copy using Adobe InDesign, and developing digital communication strategies for the project. Background in 19th-century literature or history is an asset; training in other skills will be provided.
How Scrolls Became Books
Supervisor: Prof. Cillian O’Hogan
Between the first and the fourth centuries CE, the standard format for books changed from scroll to codex (the book as we know it today). This project seeks to understand what this change meant for the people who read and wrote books in this period. Student researchers will analyse how book formats differed across time, place, and genre. Scholars will work primarily from digital images, but there will be opportunities for field trips to nearby special collections libraries. Training in research methods, data gathering and analysis, and technical skills will be provided. Knowledge of Latin or Ancient Greek, though helpful, is not required.
Inventing the Iroquois: The New France Roots of Modern Ethnography
Supervisor: Prof. Andreas Motsch
Students will help prepare a critical edition of Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps (1724), written by the Jesuit missionary Joseph-François Lafitau. Lafitau’s text compares the customs of the Iroquois and Huron with those of the most ancient peoples of the world to demonstrate a common biblical origin. Despite the author’s Eurocentric worldview, his work was in the 19th and 20th centuries recognized as foundational for scientific anthropology. Students will compare textual editions, prepare summaries and translations, organize data, and transcribe historical documents (training in paleography provided). Intellectual curiosity, attention to detail, and proficiency in French are required; knowledge of Latin, Dutch, or Italian are an asset but not necessary.
Canada Declassified: Unlocking the Nuclear Vault
Supervisor: Prof. Timothy Andrews Sayle
Participants will be among the first scholars to work with a recently declassified collection of formerly Top Secret documents related to Canada and nuclear weapons in the Cold War. Students will take responsibility for a series of records, comb through declassified files, and select and extract documents they find most useful for explaining their topic. They will arrange these diplomatic cables, memoranda to Cabinet, intelligence assessments, and polling data for eventual online publication on our University of Toronto Libraries-hosted website “Canada Declassified” (http://declassified.library.utoronto.ca ). Students will have unique access to a previously secret part of Canadian history, learn about declassification, and gain digital humanities experience. No specialized experience or course of study is required to apply.
How Hollywood Works: Inside the Norman Jewison Special Collection
Supervisor: Prof. Ira Wells
For three decades, from In the Heat of the Night (1966) to The Hurricane (1999), Norman Jewison was the most critically and commercially successful Canadian filmmaker in Hollywood. Yet no scholar has considered the filmmaker’s body of work as a whole. Student RAs will perform pioneering archival research on the Norman Jewison Special Collection housed in the E. J. Pratt Library at Victoria College. After being trained in the handling and interpretation of archival material, scholars will examine hundreds of personal letters, business memos, annotated film scripts, story boards, contracts, budgets, audience surveys, and other textual traces of Jewison’s films. Students will also identify potential interview subjects from the archival material and conduct original interviews. Students with interests in cinema studies, textual editing, economics, and web design would be especially welcome to apply.
CBC’s Kim’s Convenience: The Continuities and Changes in the Representation of the Other in Canadian Media
Supervisor: Prof. Sherry Yu
This project explores CBC’s sitcom, Kim’s Convenience, in order to understand the representation of minorities in “Canada’s first TV sitcom led by Asian actors” (Lee, 2016). Student researchers are invited to participate in a pilot study of audience research, which will collect data through Focus Group Discussion (FGD), a widely used qualitative research method for academic research and consumer marketing research. Following an overview of FGD, scholars will be involved in modifying FGD guidelines by conducting and transcribing pilot groups, and undertaking a literature review on audience research . Prior knowledge of Kim’s Convenience is desirable but not essential.
Projects located at the UT-Mississauga campus
Weird Adjectives: Comparing Adjectives Expressing ‘Strangeness’ Across Languages
Supervisor: Prof. Barend Beekhuizen
Languages differ wildly in the repertoire of words they offer speakers to express themselves. In this project, we will study the subtle meanings of adjectives for weirdness (such as weird and strange) in English and several other languages (preferably languages with which at least one of the Scholars is familiar). We will do so by jointly studying and discussing translations of the English adjectives of strangeness in texts that have been translated into many languages (like TED-talks and novels). We will use both linguistic and data-science techniques – experience in neither is required and students of all academic backgrounds are welcome, but an openness to combining methods is appreciated. Because of the cross-linguistic comparative set-up, multilingual students (from any language background) are particularly encouraged to apply.
When A Conspiracy Theory Comes to Town
Supervisor: Prof. Ellen Berrey
This sociological project investigates the impacts of the far-right political campaign promoting the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory. According to anti-Agenda 21 activists, the United Nations is using local sustainability planning to take over Americans’ freedom, property, guns, and religion. Students will have opportunities to create annotated bibliographies of academic books and articles, analyze primary texts (e.g., news media, YouTube videos, legislation, legal records, conspiracy web sites), write memos based on analysis and interpretation of the evidence, and/or conduct Skype interviews. This project will appeal to students interested in developing their skills in conducting rigorous qualitative research in sociology, political science, history, cultural studies, and/or communications.
Exploring social meanings around Multicultural Toronto English
Supervisor: Prof. Derek Denis
This project seeks student researchers interested in youth language and multiculturalism in the GTA. We will investigate the social meanings of “Toronto Slang” by analyzing discourses, perceptions, and attitudes around associated words (e.g., mans, wallahi). We ask what makes non-normative language practice desirable in modern multicultural Toronto. The team will be immersed in linguistic literature on youth language and “multiethnolects” (emergent multilingual dialects of English), will undertake fieldwork in the GTA, and analyze the data with the goal of presenting at an academic conference. Students will receive all necessary training in data collection and quantitative and qualitative linguistic analysis.
Gender, Race, and the Image of the Muslim Woman Terrorist in the Media and Government Policy
Supervisor: Prof. Anna Korteweg
Students will conduct research for a new book entitled The Politics of Non-Belonging: Borders, Boundaries and Bodies in Europe (co-authored with Professor Gökçe Yurkdakul, Humboldt University Berlin). The book focuses on three cases that highlight different dimensions of the boundaries/borders/bodies triad: Muslim woman terrorists, LGBTQ refugees, and law-making regarding male circumcision. We will focus on racialized and gendered media portrayals of Muslim women who participate in European terrorist events and investigate how government-initiated anti-radicalization programs are gendered and racialized. An ability to work in French, Dutch, German or Arabic is desirable, but not required. Workshops on qualitative software (NVivo) will be offered and Dr. Yurdakul will join us for a day-long intensive discussion.
Editing Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal
Supervisor: Prof. Terry Robinson
The School for Scandal (London, 1777) is one of the most famous comedic dramas of all time. With its focus on gossip, media, and intrigue, it remains popular at theatres, including at the Red Bull Theater in New York (2016) and at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario (2017). This project welcomes students with interests in literature, theatre and drama, history, and/or editing to contribute to a new Broadview Press edition of Sheridan’s play. We will unearth its popular and critical history via its signature performances, media reception, and scholarly literature. Students will acquire transferable research skills, including: 1) locating manuscript and rare book materials, 2) documenting performance histories, 3) creating bibliographies, and 4) interpreting findings.
Projects located at the UT-Scarborough campus
The Resemblage Project: A Digital Intergenerational Storytelling Initiative
Supervisor: Prof. Andrea Charise
This project seeks five student researchers with interests in aging, older age, and intergenerational relations. Inspired by recent creative, health-related digital media projects, The Resemblage Project is a born-digital multimedia “text” that explores what it means to grow old in Toronto. This project invites students with technical skills (in website design, data assets management, and front- and back-end development) and creative interests (in generating original, dynamic, visual representations of aging as well as music/audio to accompany recorded interviews). Depending on their strengths and interests, students may also 1) edit and/or assist with recording interviews; 2) create original audio and/or creative visuals; 3) devise/revise original research questions for a grant proposal; and 4) compile resources concerning aging and intergenerational storytelling.
Social and Intellectual Networks in Early 18th-Century Europe
Supervisor: Sébastien Drouin
This project is dedicated to 18th-century journalism, intellectual networks and writer-publisher correspondences. Students participating in this SSHRC-funded project will be trained to perform highly diversified tasks in the editing of 18th century letters written in French and sent across Europe. Students with a basic knowledge of French will work on the transcription of 18th-century manuscripts. Those with a moderate knowledge of French will take part in the annotation process, doing the necessary research that will ensure accurate historical information is provided in the footnotes of the edition we are preparing. Students with strong skills in data organization and visualization, whose task would be to create an online research tool, are welcome.
Sound Symbolism of Gender in Personal Names
Supervisor: Prof. Yoonjung Kang
We often think that the sounds of words bear only an arbitrary relationship to what they represent. Yet studies have found that abrupt, short, and low acoustic frequency sounds are over-represented in male compared to female names in English (e.g., John vs. Mary) and that speakers rely on these tendencies to guess the gender of made-up names. This project explores such non-arbitrary connections between sound and gender (sound symbolism) in personal names in a variety of heritage languages spoken in GTA. The study will combine corpus- and experiment-based methods. The student scholars will gain training in various aspects of the linguistic research process. Some background in linguistics, computer programming, or a heritage language is desirable, but not required.
The Art and Science of Museum Objects
Supervisor: Prof. Alen Hadzovic
This project investigates selected art objects from a multidisciplinary perspective. Students with background and interests in the science and history of technology, materials, commerce, and art will learn about the techniques, methodologies, materials, and processes employed in making these objects. Research questions may include chemical composition, material changes over time, social symbolism of material, and historical production. The art objects come from the Malcove Collection in the UofT’s Art Museum. Students will collaborate with Prof. Webster’s project “Seeing Potential: Asking/Investigating/Exhibiting the Malcove Collection,” (see below) and contribute to a technical art history component of a planned Malcove collection exhibition.
Seeing Potential: Asking/Investigating/Exhibiting the Malcove Collection
Supervisor: Prof. Erin Webster
Students will research objects and ideas for a physical and digital exhibition of selected pieces from the Malcove Collection, a former private collection of historical material ranging across diverse cultures, time periods and materials. Scholars will choose an object for research focus, learn to read curatorial files, become familiar with current exhibition theory and practice, determine and compose appropriate media and content for communicating their research, and learn to present challenging objects and research ideas, questions and processes in exhibition form. Further, students will collaborate with Professor Hadzovic’s project (see above), incorporating scientific exploration of the materials and techniques used in these objects into a technical art history section of the exhibition and participating in an innovative and exciting multi-disciplinary research process.