About Us


Vision and Objectives

The academic mission of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies is to establish a hub of excellence that will enhance undergraduate life at the University of Toronto by speaking directly to students’ experiences of migration and diaspora through an interdisciplinary lens drawn from both the social sciences and humanities. The work of the Centre is comparative, qualitative and historically driven as well as providing policy insights on pertinent issues in the world today. Through its activities it aims to become the focus for innovative and important graduate and faculty research within the university and across the world. The Centre adds important dimensions to the university’s national and international reputation, at the same time connecting us to the city of Toronto itself.

Taken together, the concepts of Diaspora and Transnationalism are extremely important tools for the task of beginning to unravel the profound yet still not well explored implications that derive from the vast movement of people, as well as ideas and things, across the world today; these movements have important precedents in human history.

‘Diaspora’ in contemporary thought involves an understanding of the shifting relations between homelands and host nations form the perspective of those who have moved, whether voluntarily or not. Although often overlooked in the scholarly literature, such movements also have involved both the voluntary and involuntary reception of people by autochthonous communities (Indigeneity is not only the conceptual antonym of diaspora; these terms have been both opposed as mutually illuminating concepts where diasporas have accompanied or been part of processes of colonization). Diaspora emphasizes the inescapable lived experience of many migrant communities of negotiating forms of existence and self-understanding that preceded and exceed national boundaries. Its study necessarily involves an understanding that the ability of some societies to move has, especially in the history of Canada, all too often come at the expense of indigenous communities.

‘Transnationalism’, on the other hand, focuses attention on flows and counterflows and the multistranded connections they give rise to. It encompasses not just the movement of people, but of ideas of citizenship, of technology, of forms of multinational governance, of modes of political organization, of differing notions of sovereignty, and of the impulses of markets, all of which shape our world today.

To provide an exciting environment for the exploration of these and other issues at various levels of undergraduate teaching, research collaboration, graduate study, cross-faculty dialogue and community and international collaboration, the Centre offers a rich program at teh undergraduate and graduate levels and sponsors many lectures, workshops, colloquia and conferences.

An innovative tri-campus program in Diaspora and Transnational Studies
This program, which was started in September, 2005, is comparative and interdisciplinary. Students are required to take a foundational core course and complete the program with a capstone seminar. The foundational core course involves three instructors from different disciplinary backgrounds (1 from each of the 3 campuses) delivering the same course content from their respective disciplinary perspectives on each campus. The core course exposes students to various disciplinary perspectives with faculties from different backgrounds being invited to contribute to the core course tri-campus delivery.

Collaborative Graduate Programme
The Centre has designed a Collaborative Graduate Program in consultation with area studies and other units of the university to attract outstanding students from around the world.

Senior and Visiting Fellowships
The Centre plans to establish a Senior Fellowship Scheme to expand the range of intellectual and scholarly interest. Senior Fellows will develop or elaborate new research projects in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment with other Fellows and faculty and will participate fully in seminars and workshops and will meet undergraduates through the senior seminars. Fellows will be drawn from various disciplinary and geographical backgrounds and will be appointed by a tri-campus committee to stay in Toronto for periods of up to a calendar year.

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Graduate Fellowships
The Centre plans to invite applications for four Graduate Fellowships for outstanding doctoral students engaged in research on diaspora and transnationalism. The Graduate Fellowships will be aimed mainly at Canadian citizens and residents.

Details on the Senior, Visiting and Graduate Fellowship programs will be posted on this website.

Guest Speaker Series
The Centre runs a visiting speaker series bringing in 6 speakers a year from varying geographic and disciplinary backgrounds. In 2014-15, the organizer of this series is prof. Kevin O'Neill.

Methods Café
The Centre runs 6 workshops annually where faculty members from across the University of Toronto discuss methodological approaches, questions and issues in their research. These sometimes take the form of panel discussions or interviews.

The Centre annually organizes a major international conference. For more information on recent conferences, see our Event Archive.

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