Tag Archives: University of Toronto

June and July Round-up

Highlights from the months of June and July.

Awards:

  • Johannes Remy’s Brothers or Enemies was awarded the Ivan Franko International Prize of 2018.
  • French Écocritique by Stephanie Posthumus is on the shortlist for the Alanna Bondar Memorial Book Prize.

Conferences:

  • Daniel Quinlan represented UTP at the Law and Society Association’s annual conference in Toronto.
  • Anne Brackenbury and Jodi Lewchuk presented our sociology list at the World Congress of Sociology in Toronto.

Media Highlights:

 

New Releases:

Modern Drama Editor R. Darren Gobert Answers the Proust Questionnaire

Proust Questionnaire

R. Darren Gobert is the author of The Mind-Body Stage (Stanford University Press), The Theatre of Caryl Churchill (Bloomsbury), and numerous articles on modern and contemporary drama, dramatic and performance theory, and the philosophy of theatre. His honours include best-book prizes from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and the American Society for Theatre Research, the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature, and both the Dean’s Award (2007) and President’s University-Wide Award for Outstanding Teaching (2016) at York University, where he teaches in English and Theatre & Performance Studies. He is also appointed to the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto, where he edits Modern Drama.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: When the right subject finds the right verb.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

A: Running out of ideas.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A: Impatience.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A: Lack of consideration.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

A: Mary Norris.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Travel!

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A: “Productivity”.

Q: When and where were you happiest?

A: Whenever I see a perfect, final proof.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: My introversion.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: Whatever piece of writing I have just finished, for a few minutes before I revert to nitpicking.

Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A: Reading, say, the New York Times and seeing “less” when “fewer” is meant.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

A: Attention to detail.

Q: What do you most value in your friends?

A: A sense of humour.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Too many to list, but currently I’m dazzled by Selma Lagerlöf.

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

A: Indifference to good writing (which is distinct from difficulty writing well).

Read the Winter 2017 issue of Modern Drama here.

Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History

As this year’s annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association begins, we would like to recognize the publication of an important new anthropology text, published by our Higher Education Division. Language, Capitalism, Colonialism: Toward a Critical History by Monica Heller and Bonnie McElhinny is an original introduction to linguistic anthropology that is situated in the political and economic contexts of colonialism and capitalism. To mark the publication of the book, the authors provide some background on how the project was initially conceived, how the book is structured, and how they hope to offer up new ways of thinking about language. If you’re currently attending the AAA annual meeting (#AmAnth17) in Washington, DC, pick up your copy at UTP’s book display. Or, order your copy online!

This book began perhaps a bit oddly. Anne Brackenbury, Executive Editor at University of Toronto Press, approached Monica with the idea that perhaps it was time for a new textbook in linguistic anthropology. She approached Bonnie with the idea of doing an accompanying reader. Both of us (Bonnie and Monica) agreed that it was time for a reboot, but neither was enthusiastic about the format. Our feeling about the field certainly was that the existing canon wasn’t allowing us to readily talk about the things we wanted to talk about. These were things like how language is bound up in the making of social difference and social inequality, but in different ways under different circumstances. Things like how and why (and when) it acts as a terrain for crucial political struggles. Things like why thinking about language in different ways matters—and what, precisely, have been the consequences of thinking about language the way we have: as an autonomous system, as a cognitive faculty, as one property of social groups.

And of course these are not just the ideas specialists have. One thing about working on language is that you find out quickly that everyone has an opinion, usually fervently clung to as irrefutable fact. They can’t be refuted on the basis of empirical data. They include such beliefs as: some languages are harder to learn than others; the language you speak shapes the thoughts you can have; some languages just sound beautiful, or ugly; there is a difference between real languages and dialects, patois, jargon, and slang, and the latter don’t really count for anything. Many of these ideas are deeply consequential for speakers whose competence and worth are judged on the basis of them, and which shape the language policies on which we spend lots of money. Indigenous and minority languages get repressed; speakers of creoles get judged as incompetent speakers of metropolitan, imperial standards; working class and racialized minority students are placed in special education classes on the basis of how they speak.

So we wanted a way to speak both to what has counted as knowledge about (and of) language in academic disciplines, but also in social institutions and in everyday life, since all of that matters, and matters deeply. But we had no counter-canon to propose, nor, frankly, did we want to produce one. That would have been exactly counter to our concerns. How could we worry about what has been and is now at stake in thinking about language in these specific ways and then turn around and impose one of our own?

Nonetheless, Anne had started something, something that made us attentive not only to issues specifically connected to “language” but also to the role of language in broader struggles over what counts as knowledge and who gets to decide. These include movements that are in the news today and which are part of our personal and professional lives—Indigenous and Black decolonization and anti-racism movements, environmentalist struggles around climate change, exposures of endemic sexual harassment, minority nationalisms (think Catalonia, Quebec, Scotland), the rise of the alt-right… And as these struggles gain prominence, so does the backlash. What does linguistic anthropology have to say about this?

So we did a kind of bait-and-switch: ok Anne, we’ll propose a book, but a different one. The book we proposed suggests we take a step back. We take the position that linguistic anthropology can be most helpful if it understands the conditions that make language matter, and matter in specific ways. Those conditions are political, economic, and social; in particular, they concern the intertwining of capitalism and colonialism. Ideas about, and practices of, language facilitate the relations of power that they involve, and the making of social difference that legitimize them.

For us, these conditions revolve centrally around the intertwining of capitalism and colonialism as the major processes driving the linkage between symbolic and material domination and relations of difference and inequality. Having been trained in the rather presentist approach of North American linguistic anthropology, we had already been attending for some time to the importance of history; the approach we wanted to take here required a deep dive. Building largely on secondary sources, with some forays into archival and ethnographic work, we structured the book in a loosely chronological manner around three moments: mercantile, industrial, and contemporary “late” or neoliberal capitalism.

Each moment has a pair of chapters devoted first to the dominant approaches to language found there, and then to responses to those dominant discourses. We look first at how missionaries co-constructed the languages of colonizer and colonized in efforts to use Christian conversion to extend and strengthen the hard power of the imperial state. We then examine how these efforts were taken over by secular colonial administrators who borrowed biblical images of genealogy and descent to construct language “families” in complex processes of rendering colonizer and colonized both intimate and distant. These efforts were reinforced by the application of theories of evolution to linguistic difference, racializing language in the construction of “civilizational” hierarchies. They were also resisted, notably by dialectologists and creolists attentive to the difficulty of drawing neat boundaries, and by Americanist anthropologists led by Franz Boas who in arguing for the systematicity and significance of all cultures and languages, nonetheless re-inscribed hierarchical differences among the languages of Indigenous groups, descendants of slaves, and settlers in North American society (he understood the first to be on the verge of disappearance and requiring salvage in the form of material traces; he understood the second as needing access to assimilation).

The second set of chapters examines the work done in the making of the modernist, bounded, uniformized, and standardized industrial capitalist and liberal democratic nation-state, and three distinct responses to the inequalities that process created: internationalist movements constructed around international auxiliary languages like Esperanto; fascism, with its extreme version of evolutionary ideas about race and language and its attention to the importance of propaganda in the construction of fascist structures of feeling (what did it mean to act appropriately “fanatical”, say?); and communism, which struggled to make a Marxist idea of language in contradistinction to bourgeois European philology, but ended up converging with the west in Cold War turns to nation-states as centres of empire, and technology as the main technique of competition.

The third pair of chapters takes up the Cold War and the focus on technique, skill, technology, and the repression of overtly political forms of political engagement among linguists and anthropologists, with a focus on the United States; and then on the ways in which the Cold War soft power front of international development served as a foundation for the institutionalization of what we now call “sociolinguistics.” This part of the book also examines how the emancipatory movements of the 1960s led to critiques of mainstream sociolinguistics as masculine, white, and neo-colonial.

We end with an examination of neoliberalism and late capitalism, with a focus both on the role of language in work on the globalized new economy, and resistance to the forms of inequality we experience now. These include radical rethinking of the idea of language as uniquely human, and other attempts to reverse the extraction of language from social process we argue operated from the end of the nineteenth through to the beginning of the twenty-first centuries. They include questions like how we might recognize “consent” or “redress” and what a “refusal” or an “apology” or “reclamation” might look like.

Throughout, we attend to how hegemony happens, that is, how and why certain ideas about language help advance ideologies that legitimate specific political economic arrangements, and which themselves become hegemonic. Who is deemed worthy to speak, and how? We have tried therefore to also be attentive to the silenced and the marginalized, as well as to the more explicit struggles that have emerged from time to time (and for empirically discoverable reasons).

Our hope (because that too is a thread throughout the book) is that this book will offer not a new canon, but a new way of thinking about language, one that opens up new questions to be asked, and new ways of asking them.

Monica Heller is Professor of Anthropology and Education at the University of Toronto, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a past president of the American Anthropological Association.

Bonnie McElhinny is Principal of New College, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto, and former Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute.

Attempting to Publish with Images of a Super™ Well-Known Intellectual Property

Written by guest blogger Christopher B. Zeichmann, author of “Champion of the Oppressed: Redescribing the Jewishness of Superman as Populist Authenticity Politics” published in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 29.2 (Summer 2017).

Superman vs the KKK

Image from Look Magazine 17 Feb 1940.

It’s exciting enough to get a manuscript accepted for publication, but since it was on the topic of Superman and Jewish identity, I knew my childhood self was cheering as well. Among the refereed suggestions for revisions was the following: “I very much like the inclusion of relevant scans of the comics. My only suggestion here would be to balance out the social justice samples with ones referenced later in the article that make the case for Superman’s Jewishness – e.g., the panels that mention Samson.” Easy enough: several comic book panels jumped to mind to which I had access and might clarify things for the reader. The editors were happy with the new scans and that was the end of the story, or so I thought…

A few months later, UTP asked me to procure reproduction permission for these images. Though the images would presumably fall under “fair use” policies, UTP understandably has a policy that requiring explicit permission to avoid legal issues. This seemed straightforward enough to me: since I’m not making any money on this article and UTP is a university press, DC Comics would happily grant such permission. First, I was surprised at how incredibly difficult it was to even find contact information for DC Comics’ rights-and-permissions department; nothing is posted on their website, nor on the website of their parent company, Warner Entertainment, and the few references to a phone number I found online were to their old offices before they moved from the east coast to the west coast. After a few days of fruitless googling, I decided to go with the “Hail Mary” option of calling Warner Brothers’ main number and just getting transferred until I found someone who could help me. This took a few hours and several phone calls, but eventually I got hold of someone who gave me the email address to get hold of the right person.

Initial correspondence was encouraging, but this was tempered when I spoke with my father – he works at a company that recently got permission make their product with “major brand” logos on them. My father, in his kind and loving way, informed me that my optimism might be misplaced; if I thought about the situation from DC’s perspective, they had no reason to give permission to reproduce that wouldn’t net them any money. It would turn out he was more or less correct. DC Comics has not denied me permission, but they have ceased responding to me.

UTP and I have come up with two viable workarounds. First, one of the benefits of a digital-only journal is that I can link readers to a relevant page on my own personal website, where I have already reproduced the images for presenting similar work [http://christopherzeichmann.com/superman/]. DC is normally quite happy to have fansites promote their properties, so long as they do not reproduce entire comics and do profit from it – that is, I don’t have much to worry about myself. Second, there are a few obscure-but-relevant comic book stories that are in the public domain, including the famous one up above of Superman threatening Adolf Hitler. UTP and I have not yet decided on which of the two (or a combination thereof) we might adopt, but all hope is not lost. All of this to say, if you’re hoping to reproduce images of a major intellectual property in an article, it may be good to have backup options.

Christopher B. Zeichmann’s article on Superman and Jewish identity, titled “Champion of the Oppressed: Redescribing the Jewishness of Superman as Populist Authenticity Politics,” appears in the Summer 2017 issue of the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. Available to read on JRPC Online or on Project MUSE.

Behind the Book with David Fraser

Honorary Protestants: The Jewish School Question in Montreal, 1867-1997

David Fraser gives an insight into the production of his UTP title: Honorary Protestants: The Jewish School Question in Montreal, 1867-1997

How did you become involved in your area of research?

I am interested in the ways in which law and legal institutions deal with the “Other”, in this case Jews within a Roman Catholic and Protestant Quebec, and in the ways in which the apparently disempowered Other deals with legal norms and institutional arrangements. While the formal legal mechanisms protected Roman Catholic and Protestant educational rights, Jewish children and their parents fell into a legal gap where they apparently had no formal rights to schooling. Of course, the practical reality was that no one would really be content with a system in which 10,000 students who wanted to, could not go to school.  The real story, and the one that caught my interest, was how all the participants, Roman Catholics, Protestants and various parts of the Jewish community in Montreal dealt with this conflict between law and social and political reality. For a lawyer, the stories offer object lessons about the ultimate insignificance of formal legal rules when the Jewish parents who wanted to have their children become citizens through education voiced concrete claims for justice and equality as Canadians.

What inspired you to write this book?

The germ of the idea for this book emerged when I was a law student, far too many years ago, and wrote a paper on a related subject. The area and the issues stayed in the back of mind while I pursued other topics in my research and eventually I reached the “now or never” stage. I spend much of my research energies focusing on the role of law and lawyers in the implementation of the Holocaust, so the idea of studying the Jewish School Question in Montreal, for all its complexities and occasionally dark moments, actually offered some relief from my main areas of interest. .

How did you become interested in the subject?

I have always researched and written in the broad areas of minorities, particularly Roma and Jews, and the ways in which legal rules are invoked to justify oppression, persecution, and even death. The story of Montreal Jewry’s struggles to gain formal educational equality fits into that broad framework, and the idea that the Constitution guaranteed formal equality only for Protestants and Roman Catholics, when faced with the reality of mass Jewish immigration, and Jewish demands for the education of their children, struck me as a typically Canadian story of compromise and conflict, followed by more compromise and conflict.

How long did it take you to write your latest book?

5 years from the start of actual research to publication- much longer if we count from the original idea.

What do you find most interesting about your area of research?

The most interesting aspect is discovering particular instances of the power of law and legal categories and the sometimes equal power of those who push back against the institutional arrangements when they are inspired by a quest for what they identify as justice. Montreal Jews consistently presented their demands for equality in school rights in terms of their identity as British subjects and then as Canadian citizens. For over a hundred years, complex debates and political battles over what it meant to be “Canadian” directly effected thousands of Jewish children who simply wanted to go to school.

What do you wish other people knew about your area of research?

The history of law is much more than a dry recitation of rules, or the professional practices and lives of lawyers and judges. The struggle for justice often exceeds the power and capacity for justice, but the legal history that interests me is the legal history that identifies the ways in which deeply held ideals of equality and justice inform political and social struggles beyond the law. The Jewish School Question in Montreal and its various iterations embodies the story of the ways in which law was circumvented by the ingenious practical solutions created by Protestants, Jews and Roman Catholics in Montreal, always with an aim of achieving equality and justice.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part is the answer to the previous question. Living and working in the UK and writing an archivally based book about Montreal poses obvious time and physical constraints on one’s capacity to do the research. On the upside, there was a dramatic increase in my frequent flyer miles.

What did you learn from writing your book?

I learned a lot about the actual struggles that people engaged in to protect their identity, good and bad, and again about the power of the ideas of belonging, equality and justice can have in bringing communities together and in pulling them apart. The stories of the Jewish School Question in Montreal embody many of the broader issues of identity and belonging, demands for recognition and equality on all sides, what we now call “accommodation” . Plus ça change

What are your current/future projects?

I am working on a couple of shorter projects, one on Canadian Jewish legal history and the other on my primary area of interest, law and the Holocaust. Another major project looms, but is dependent on ever elusive funding.

What do you like to read for pleasure?  What are you currently reading?

I read fiction, both literary and detective (although I recognize that the categories are not mutually exclusive). I am currently reading Zachary Lazar’s , I Pity the Poor Immigrant, a clever literary mystery story about my favorite themes of identity and belonging, and with the additional benefit of a title taken from a Bob Dylan song.

What is your favourite book?

Joseph Heller, Catch 22- life in a nutshell

If you weren’t working in academia, what would you be doing instead?

I don’t know what I would be doing, but I would have liked to have been an extremely successful author of crime fiction. Unfortunately, I lack talent and imagination, so I’m a legal academic..