Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies
The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies is a research centre at York University in Toronto, Canada that supports interdisciplinary and discipline-specific research pertinent to Canadianists and Canada's place in the world. Faculty affiliated with the Robarts Centre are concerned with Canadian society, its history, culture, thought, goals, values, and institutions. The Centre provides supervised research and writing opportunities for graduate students from a wide range of York graduate programs, and offers a series of public seminars, workshops, and conferences on major issues related to Canadian perspectives on Communications, Culture, the Fine Arts, History, Political Economy, Public Policy, and International Relations.
The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies was established with support from the private sector and matching grants from the Secretary of State and the Province of Ontario. Named in memory of the Honourable John P. Robarts (1917–1982), seventeenth Premier of Ontario (1961–1971) and seventh Chancellor of York University (1977–1982), the Robarts Centre was officially opened on May 15, 1984 by William G. Davis, the Premier of Ontario at the time.
In its early days, the Centre’s endowment funds made it possible to invite a major Canadianist from outside York to stay in residence at the Centre for a year. These Robarts Chairs included: Maria Tippet, Tom Courchene, and Linda Hutcheon.
Changing financial circumstances caused the Chair to be reorganized by then Director, Kenneth McRoberts. It was awarded to York faculty members who were given a teaching reduction and a small stipend.
The chairs of the Robarts Centre, from past to present, have been:
- Fernand Ouellet (1985–86)
- Maria Tippet (1986–87)
- Thomas J. Courchene (1987–88)
- Linda Hutcheon (1988–89)
- Joan M. Vastokas (1989–90)
- Kenneth McRoberts (1990–91)
- Ramsay Cook (1991–92)
- Janine Brodie (1993–94)
- Carole Carpenter (1994–95)
- Joyce Zemans (1995–96)
- Terry Goldie (1996–97)
- Kent McNeil (1997–98)
- Robert Wallace (1998–99)
- Susan Swan (1999–2000)
- Seth Feldman (2000–2001)
Starting in 2000, the chair was transformed into a thematic, cross-campus, year-long program. The Millennium Wisdom Symposium (organized by Susan Swan), Robert Wallace’s Theatre and the Transformation of Contemporary Canada, and The Triumph of Canadian Cinema (organized by Seth Feldman) were highlights of this innovative use of the Chair to the exploration of Canadian culture.
After 2001, the Centre changed the Robarts Chair structure once again to make it a means to allow Canada Research Chairs Engin Isin, Paul Lovejoy, Leo Pantich, and Leah Vosko an opportunity to present their projects for which the Research Chair was established. The Centre is managed by a Director (Prof. Seth Feldman), an Associate Director (Prof. Daniel Drache), and an Executive Committee (with the assistance of an Administrative Coordinator, Laura Taman).
Throughout its existence, the Centre's principal accomplishment has been to create one of the first research groups at York to work in a systematic way with an interdisciplinary focus. This has meant an orientation toward broader Canadian and international scholarly and policy-making communities, inquiries into comparative perspectives on the Canadian mosaic, and assistance to York scholars in working with their counterparts in other countries, such as the Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte (CISAN) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) at Arizona State University, and the North American Portal of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
The Robarts Centre also provides supervised research and writing opportunities for graduate students from a wide range of York graduate programs, such as Communication and Culture (a joint graduate program with Ryerson University). One of its important functions is to welcome visiting Canadianists from abroad. Recent visitors have included scholars from China, Argentina, Mexico, and Australia. In its work, the Centre offers a program of high-level seminars, workshops, and conferences on major issues focusing on Canadian perspectives in Communications, Culture, the Fine Arts, History, Political Economy, Public Policy, and International Relations. Participants include York faculty and students, as well as the larger community of Canadian and international scholars.
The Centre publishes Canada Watch, a journal of expert opinion on policy issues facing Canada and Canada’s place in the world. Titles of recent issues include: "Multiculturalism and its Discontents", and "Mr. O Goes to Washington" From time to time, it also houses external research initiatives pertinent to its mandate, for example the Canadian Media Research Consortium (CMRC).
- Toronto's Public Culture (a series of reports on the best practices of Toronto’s cultural institutions).
- WTO and NAFTA (a study of trade politics, counterpublics, and global governance).
- The Iconography of Dissent (a series of digital reports from the Counterpublics Working Group).
- The Mavor Moore Cultural Policy Symposium (a conference on Canadian cultural policy and plans from 1974–2008).
- Canadian Films at Expo '67 (a SSHRC-funded project focused on documenting and reconstructing the lost classics of Canadian cinema).
- Global Cultural Flows (a study of information technology and the re-imagining of national communities).
- Robarts Lectures (lectures from leading scholars in the field of Canadian Studies).
- Canada Watch (practical and authoritative analysis of key national and international issues).