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Undergraduate Program Themes

State, Empire and Power

In State, Empire and Power, we examine how people impose order in and through space to regulate, indoctrinate, discipline, control, dominate and exploit others. Additionally, we are interested in how people use space to accommodate, transform, or refuse and resist such impositions.

But power is not just a matter of one person’s influence in relation to another. It is formulated and asymmetrically mobilized through larger entities. Prominent among these is the state, particularly in its territorial expressions and its expansion. In keeping with this our department has a specialization in how both formal states and shadow states enact power to produce such phenomena as citizens and citizenship, nations and the nation-state, empires and imperialism, and geopolitical world orders.

Our department investigates many different, but closely intertwined, aspects of the state, empire and power, that together analyze how power works in and through space, nationally and internationally. Our foci include:

  • Colonial and postcolonial relationships between indigenous peoples, the state and Canadian society, particularly the creation of restrictive spaces and conflicts over access to resources.
  • The relationships forged between diasporic populations and their ‘historical homelands,’ such as the various forms of ‘long-distance’ nationalism and loyalism that developed within Irish communities in North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • The relations between class power and state power in terms of the severe constraints capitalism imposes on the state’s attempt to alleviate poverty and counter uneven economic development, and lower-class resistance
    against the state at the local scale.
  • The diverse governmentalities present in the liberalization of state policy, or in the rationality and power imbued in urban planning.
  • The artifacts that assemble empires both old and new and hold them in place, from the stories told in picture books and movies, to architecture, to policing and military technologies.

The department provides undergraduates interested in State, Empire and Power opportunities to explore the subject from their earliest undergraduate coursework through to their graduating year. Beginning with classes that probe how nations are invented and how empires work, students may proceed in later years to considering the relations of the state to civil society, the experiences of colonialism and attempts in former colonies to transcend those experiences under conditions of postcolonialism, and how it all comes together on the world stage in the form of geopolitical maneuverings.

Students who embark upon this course of study will be expected to do a great deal of in-depth critical thinking and writing and will never again be able to take a news report at face value!