Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

2023 Robarts Centre Graduate Conference

Remember, eh?
Memory, Identity, and a Critical Study of Canada

Registration is now open:
Attendance is free and all are welcome!


The 2023 Robarts Centre Graduate Conference will highlight and confront how memory and identity are at the centre of the study of Canada, past, present, and future. We ask: How have Canadian imaginaries and common senses been shaped by memory and identity claims? What can these claims tell us about Canadian society? Do mobilizing these memories support the status quo or transformative change? How can memory and identity claims enact change?



Thursday, 13 April & Friday, 14 April 2023

A two-day virtual conference with 5 panels & 25 conference speakers.
Download the conference programme by clicking here.



Day 1 – 13 April 2023
9:45-10           Introductory Remarks & Land Acknowledgement


10-11:30         Panel A – Political Projects & Memory-Making

                          Chair-Discussant: Dr. Jennifer Bonnell, History, York University

Spectral Histories, Screened memories: Examining Nostalgia as a Modality of Remembering

Danielle Christie is a graduate student in the Historical, Theoretical, and Critical Studies of Psychology program at York University. She holds an HBA in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the intersections of affect, memory, and history.

Assembling the Canadian Nation and the Politics of Representation

Umbrin Bukan is a PhD student in the Social and Political Thought programme at York University. Her research interests include comparative politics, international relations, nation building, and nationalism and museums. Her dissertation explores nationalism in Canadian and Egyptian museums, particularly the Royal Ontario Museum and the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Tyrants, Rebels, and Reformers: The 1837 Rebellion and Nation-Building in the Canadian Historical Memory

Kyle Mastarciyan is an MA student at York University. A graduate of Ryerson University with a BA (Hons.) in history, his research interests include British colonial administration during the 19th century, pre-Confederation Canadian state-development, and Cold War Espionage. At Ryerson, he worked as a research assistant in diverse fields including espionage, South-East Asian politics, and Canadian border policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian Post-War State-Building through Nuclear Technologies

Pippa Feinstein is a nuclear regulatory lawyer and the founder and coordinator of the Nuclear Transparency Project, a Canadian-registered non-profit dedicated to supporting open, informed, and equitable public discourse on nuclear technologies. She is a PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and her dissertation examines how Canada’s nuclear regulatory regime has developed over space and time.

The Nostalgic Maintenance of the Canadian Imaginary: The Use of Nostalgia as a Political Discourse in the 2015 Rebranding of the Liberal Party of Canada

Breanna Kubat (she/her) is a second year PhD student in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies at Carleton University, located on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Nation. Her doctoral research theorizes the role of student organizing in institutional change in relation to, and juxtaposition with, university branding and administrative responses.


13-14:30         Panel B – Perceptions & Representations: Canadian Places & Moments

                          Chair-Discussant: Dr. Liette Gilbert, Environmental and Urban Change, York University

Studying Rural Education in Canada: The Opportunities and Challenges of Defining Rurality

Hamza Arsbi is a PhD student in Education at York University. He has over ten years of experience in the nonprofit and education sector as executive director of the Mind Lab, a social enterprise with a mission to increase access to education for refugee and rural communities. He has an MA in international development and was awarded the Obama Foundation Scholarship and the Dalai Lama Fellowship.

The Affect of “Unfixing” the Canadian Tundra

Maegan Harbridge is an artist and a PhD candidate at York University where she also teaches studio art. Her research delves into the political nature of aesthetic experience, investigating the social and political implications of a material-based practice. Maegan has exhibited her work across Canada and has worked as an artist/researcher for extended periods in Cape Town, South Africa. She has recently published an experimental essay on painting in the journal Borderland.

Rehearsing Canada: Music, Olympic Spectacle, and Settler Colonialism

Hannah Willmann is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa studying music and culture. Following a bachelor’s degree in flute performance, Hannah completed an MA in musicology which examined themes of transnationalism, transcendence, and exclusion in the works of American composer Horatio Parker. Her doctoral research investigates the role of music in Canadian national identity construction, with a particular interest in how hierarchies and exclusions are reproduced.

National Interest, (Neoliberal) Nationalization, and the Critique of Critical Infrastructure

Isaac Thornley is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. His research draws on political ecology and psychoanalytic Marxist theories of ideology to analyze contemporary political conflicts surrounding fossil fuel pipelines in Canada (in particular, the Trans Mountain Expansion).

Hazy Prospects: Wildfires and the Mediation of Canadian Wilderness

Ferg Maxwell is a PhD candidate in York and Toronto Metropolitan University's joint program in Communication and Culture. She studies the intersections of the production of space, leisure, and elemental media. Her dissertation examines the visual culture of wildfires to address how climate change mediates the reproduction of wilderness and settler-colonial capitalism.


15-16:30          Panel C – Critical Perspectives on Canadian Universities

                          Chair-Discussant: Dr. Aparna Mishra Tarc, Education, York University

Experiencing Hate on University Campuses: Online and Offline

Arunita Das (she/her) is a PhD Student in the Socio-Legal Studies program at York University. She holds an MA in Socio-Legal Studies and a BA in Sociology. Throughout her graduate studies and work experience with non-profit charitable organizations, Das has been developing research in racism, hate and extremism, colonization, and feminist criminology. Her current research examines the relationship between online hate speech, hate crime, and free expression laws in Canada.

From Model Minority to Yellow Peril: The Shifting Narratives of Asian International Students

Helen Liu is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education at York University and teacher on the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). Her research interests include media literacy education, social justice, and the exploration of international student experiences in the context of critical race theory and equity issues.

Decolonize My Academic Politics? Reflecting on Academic Narratives on Indigenous-Settler Solidarity

Shruti Raji-Kalyanaraman (she/her/they) is a 4th year PhD candidate with York University's Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies Department. Her SSHRC funded research centers particularisms of Dalit, Indigenous and Black mothering experiences as theories and epistemologies. She adapts these experiences to understand community advocacy as a component of racialized mothering. Within community advocacy, Shruti explores food work by new immigrants and uncover new immigrant knowledges and experiences towards food security.

The Political Workings of Social Justice, Academia, and the Community

Kojo Damptey is an interdisciplinary educator and facilitator. His area of interest is social justice with a focus on leadership theory, race, racialization, racism, African studies, African governance and postcolonial studies. He approaches these disciplines from an anti-oppressive framework with a foundation in Afro-centric traditions and culture. He also uses performing arts, specifically music, to address world phenomena discourses relating to human rights, marginalization and neo-colonialism.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI): How the Narrative of Equality Reinforces Inequality in Canadian Institutions of Higher Learning

Sophia Martensen (she/her) is a third year PhD candidate in the Socio-Legal studies program at York University. She holds an Honours Specialization in Criminology and a Major in Psychology from Western University. She obtained her Master’s in Criminology and Sociolegal studies at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on racial liberalism, post-racialism, and projects of race management, with a specific focus on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives in institutions of higher learning.


Day 2 – 14 April 2023
10-11:30          Panel D – Peoples of Canada? Framings, barriers & experiences

                          Chair-Discussant: Dr. Laura Kwak, Graduate Programs in Socio-Legal Studies and Sociology, York University


Childcare as Reproductive Justice: The Consequences of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan for Women and Caregivers’ Citizenship

Kenya Thompson is a PhD student in York University’s Department of Politics, having recently completed her MA at Carleton University’s Institute of Political Economy. Her research interests include social reproduction, family policy, the politics of caregiving, everyday activism, and community-based research. She is currently working as a research assistant on the SSHRC-funded “Reimagining Care/Work Project,” which aims to advance equitable and inclusive care/work policies in Canada.

Remembering the “Two Founding Races” and Canada’s Official Languages Act: An Exploration of Linguistic Border Governance

Sonia Martin is an English language teacher and second year PhD student in the Faculty of Education at York University. Her research interests include linguistic border de-construction, anti-oppressive internationalization, and anti-racist language education. Sonia is curious about the relationship between water and language and what water can teach us about socially just languaging practices.

On Multiculturalism, Whiteness and the ‘Other’ in Canada

Taheera Sarker is a Master's student in the Public and International Affairs program at Glendon College, York University. Her research interests include diplomacy, international relations, and public policy. She recently participated in the CAPPA Case Competition where she and her team received second place. Taheera is the Director of Mental Health for the Public and International Affairs Student Association.

Conditional Acceptance: Black Drag Queens and the Transnational Negotiation of White Supremacist Quebec Nationalism, 1935-1960

Raphaël Jacques is a white queer non-binary settler living in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang. As part of their master’s thesis in sexuality studies at Université du Québec à Montréal, they are delving into the gendered and sexual experiences of queer and trans people who stutter through a crip perspective. Their academic areas of focus include trans studies, queer studies, feminist studies, disability studies, Black Canadian studies and Indigenous studies, mobilized through a historical and sociological lens. Their writings have been published in the Bulletin d’histoire politique and Histoire engagée.

It Was Never Easy

Shyam Patel is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at York University. He received both his MA in Education and BEd at the University of Ottawa, and completed his BCom at McGill University, and is a former fellow with Teach for India. He has been drawn to the works of bell hooks, Loretta Ross, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others who have taught him how to exist in a world that is often complex and ineffable.


13-14:30          Panel E – Decolonizing settler colonial structures?

                          Chair-Discussant: Dr. Boyd Cothran, History, York University

Tensions and Contradictions in Settler-Colonialism

Theo Nazary is an Associate Director at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. A graduate of McMaster University and the University of Toronto with a degree in Project Management, Theo has been involved with research on the Impact of Digital Technology on First Nations Participation and Governance and the Internet Voting Project for Ontario. His doctoral dissertation uses auto-ethnography to explore his role as a settler, working for a prominent Indigenous cultural centre, and advancing the Centre's mission vis-a-vis the Canadian state.

Spirit and Intent: Remembering the Treaties in Resource Revenue-Sharing Negotiations in Ontario

Mathew Montevirgen is a PhD candidate in the Socio-Legal Studies program at York University. His research critically studies how reconciliation in Ontario’s mining industry is operationalized through revenue-sharing and the effects of this initiative.

Modern Homesteading and Settler Identity

Angela Stigliano is from Boston, MA, and lived and worked in the Middle East and Africa for several years before settling in Toronto. Academically, her background is in digital culture and social media studies. She completed her MA at Cardiff University's Digital Media and Society program and is now a PhD student in the Communications and Culture program through York University. Her research focuses on white supremacist identity, digital culture, and far-right environmentalism.

Community Histories: Identity, Pride, and Settler Myth-Making on the Canadian Prairies

Johanna Lewis (they/them) is a doctoral candidate in History at York University who works on cultural histories of settler colonialism and British imperialism, with a focus on family and intimacy, identity and power, and questions of inheritance, commemoration, and historical production. They are also a researcher with Brittany Luby's First Nations Guide to the University project, a community organizer with Showing Up for Racial Justice Toronto, and the parent of two magical kids.

Mii Leat Dás Ain: Literary Expression as Decolonization

Eva Wissting is a graduate student in Translation Studies at York University. She has a BA (Hons.) in English literature and creative writing from University of Toronto, and an MA in English literature from York University. Her research interests include literary translation, Indigenous literatures and the use of literature for language vitalization.


14:30-14:45    Concluding remarks              






Apr 13 - 14 2023


9:45 am - 2:45 pm
QR Code