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EDI Statement

The Program in Material Culture and Semiotics expresses its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion in its teaching and research, and in its interactions, between and among students and professors. These core values contribute to creating a climate in which all members can participate fully and positively in the life of the program.  In our efforts to be an equitable community that is free of discrimination, we will work to eliminate, reduce, and mitigate barriers to full participation. The program and its members strive to be an inclusive community that protects the human rights of all persons. We are committed to respectful interactions at all levels of our community, including faculty, students, and staff, and strive to ensure that all members of our program feel welcome, included, and valued.  Both as individuals and as a collective, we expect conduct and behavior that is honest, ethical, and responsible.

EDI and Material Culture and Semiotics

The Program in Material Culture and Semiotics asks: How do objects and signs express the beliefs and values of different societies?  Material Culture and Semiotics is a material-centered program that explores the objects that people create, use, exchange, and discard.  Collections of everyday items can act as valuable repositories of information about people’s lives.  We encourage the use of different viewpoints and perspectives to understand and analyze the meanings people invest in their things, across cultures and through space and time.  Objects tell stories and uncovering as many of these stories as possible promotes a more inclusive understanding of our world.  Because the lives of ordinary, marginal, or disenfranchised groups are seldom preserved in the written record, material evidence can bring a unique perspective to learning about these groups and can challenge sources of information created by those in positions of power.  Considering material objects helps us gain new insights into the production of knowledge and power structures and gives a voice to those who have been excluded from or misrepresented through such structures.  Studying objects and their signs therefore opens the door to more inclusive interpretive possibilities of peoples and becomes a way for communities to tell a more diverse story about their lives. 

Material Culture and Semiotics Courses with EDI-related content

MCS224H - Introduction to Material Culture

  • globalization, creolization and the loss of local traditions; collecting “curiosities” and “exotica” in the colonial era; the gendered body in artistic production; landscapes of resistance and documentary film as Indigenous counter-narratives to settler colonial histories; the aesthetics of color in historical conservation practices

MCS225Y - A History of the World in Objects and Signs

  • feminist and gender studies are employed to re-think the cultural and biological aspects of ‘relatedness’; Islamic wet nursing practices as new insight into religious and ethical dilemmas associated with ideas about relatedness; the role that diasporic objects play through generations of a family; archaeological study of historical Indigenous burial practices to explore the meanings of ancestral landscapes for the Huron-Wendat peoples

MCS326H1S - The Material Culture of Food

  • takes a critical approach to the documentation of culinary cultures in Canada; topics include cultural appropriation, gender inequities, racism (anti-Asian, anti-Black), settler colonialism and Indigenous land stewardship disruptions, among others. 

MCS328H - Materializing Cultural Identities

  • The study of Egyptian mummies and ideas about race; the analysis of “Venus” figurines as structures of gender; collecting and cataloguing as knowledge creation in the colonial era; self-portraiture as resistance and revision of identity constructs; the erasure and censorship of the archive for marginalized peoples

MCS444H - Themes in Material Culture

  • Cultural appropriation; repatriation of cultural property; cultural property rights and custodianship; illicit trade and looting in cultural heritage; cultural hierarchy and the art market; preservation of intangible heritage and Indigenous conservation; ethnography and historical collecting as knowledge creation