For a summary of departmental statements and EDI intiatives, please see below:
We drafted and approved a departmental statement on anti-racism in 2020 that continues to guide our goals and work in the department. This year, we will revisit our PTR (Progress Through the Ranks) guidelines to ensure that our faculty evaluation guidelines reflect those values. (Professor Anjuli Raza Kolb has served as the department EDI advisor since 2020).
She and other faculty in the department have also been crucial to the development of SCARE—the Standing Committee on Anti-Racism and Equity—in the Graduate Department of English.
In English and Drama, we believe hiring progressively is one of the most important ways we can achieve positive change in our department and contribute to greater equity in the University as a whole. Our last four faculty hires have been BIPOC, including:
- Professor Maria Hupfield, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Digital Arts and Performance (cross-appointed to Visual Studies)
- Professor Anna Thomas, a specialist in African American literature and comparative diaspora studies
- Professor Anjuli Raza Kolb, a specialist in Post-Colonial Literature and Theory
- Professor Zain Mian, a scholar of Urdu and Global Anglophone Literature (cross-appointed with Language Studies)
We will search this year for a new Assistant Professor of Drama in Black Theatre/Diasporic Theatre/Theatre and Migration. To do so, we repurposed a retiring colleague’s position, changing the relevant research fields from Eighteenth-Century Theatre and Canadian Theatre. We will continue to do likewise with future replacement lines in order to hire colleagues who will expand the diversity of our curricular offerings and our faculty complement. We will also continue to lobby actively and creatively for new BIPOC expansion hires as we develop new programs and curricula.
This year we have already recruited Dr. Signy Lynch as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department. She specializes in intercultural theatre and theatre for social justice and was an advisor for the 21 Black Futures Project.
As part of her fellowship, Dr. Lynch will conduct an environmental scan of programs at peer institutions in theatre for social justice education and anti-oppression training. Should faculty expertise permit, we hope to expand our offerings in these areas soon. Dr. Lynch will also serve as an advisor to the English and Drama Student Society as they return to in-person programming.
Student-Led BIPOC Association
We support a student-led BIPOC association in our theatre programs, which has recently organized several panels and events, open to all students, that address the challenges that BIPOC students face in the arts. These events have included community building exercises (movie nights, wellness clinics) as well as consultations with industry professionals (finding trauma-sensitive representation, establishing a practice as a creative person, and identifying and completing grant applications). We are now in the process of forming a counterpart on the English side this year. In addition, we have appointed a faculty advisor who will encourage equitable practices to both the English and Drama Student Society, and its journal, With Caffeine and Careful Thought, to provide advice and support.
Anti-Oppression Task Force
Since 2020, we have funded an anti-oppression task force in our Theatre and Drama Studies program, made up of highly accomplished BIPOC graduates who advise the program on season selection, audition and casting practices, and much else. English and Drama was a major contributor to the first two BIPOC Theatre Grad Fairs in 2020 and 2021, and our students attended and participated in roundtable talks and breakout sessions. For the first time in 2021, TDS gave out a “Better World Award” at our annual Awards Night to recognize student contributions to equity and diversity in the program. The Sheridan side of the joint program has hired Tanisha Taitt, Acting Director of Cahoots and a leader of Black equity initiatives in Toronto theatre, as a program coordinator.
Our CRC, Prof. Maria Hupfield, has been very active in Indigenization efforts around the tricampus: at UTM, she has employed work-study students to participate in a transdisciplinary Indigenous arts laboratory and to plan the new campus Medicine Garden. Among many other public art projects, she also curated the Hart House Tree Protection Zone, an education-oriented Indigenous Public Art Installation: https://harthouse.ca/tree-protection-zone
Our English curriculum has a formal requirement that all students in the Major take at least one course, and students in the Specialist take at least two courses, in topics related to race, ethnicity, indigeneity, and diaspora. We will continue to seek curricular expansion in these areas, driven by the interests and guidance of our faculty. We have recently added the following courses to our curriculum:
- ENG309: Anishinaabe Storytelling and Oral Tradition
- ENG310: Modern South Asian Literature in English
- ENG317: Drama of the Global South
- ENG334: Global Indigenous Literatures
- ENG343: World Drama
- ENG346H5: Indigenous First Stories Tkaronto
- ENG351: Toni Morrison, Texts and Contexts
- ENG355: Black British Literature
- ENG356: Caribbean Literature
- ENG357: Special Topic in Contemporary Indigenous Texts
- ENG359: Land Back: Indigenous Voices and Narratives
- ENG367: African American Literature
- ENG368: Black Feminist Poetics
- ENG369: Black Women’s Writing
- ENG370: Global Literatures in English
- ENG379: American Literature in Global Contexts
—and two fourth-year seminars (ENG426 and ENG434) to house topics in Race, Ethnicity, Diasporas, Indigeneity. This fall, we plan to add to our curriculum a 300-level game studies course entitled, “Sexuality, Race, and Gender in Video Games and Gaming Culture.”
Centre for New Theatre
In 2021, award-winning Métis playwright Matthew MacKenzie, Artistic Director of Edmonton’s Indigenous-led Punctuate! Theatre, began a multi-year residence at UTM in our Centre for New Theatre. MacKenzie is developing a new play alongside student dramaturgs and directors about climate change and the human/non-human relationship. His is the second such residency for the Centre: the first, from 2019-2021, led to the world premiere of The Cecil Hotel, an audio play by award-winning playwright David Yee, artistic director of fu-Gen Theatre, Canada’s foremost Asian-Canadian theatre company. Another new play by Yee, missing endangered, originally slated for presentation in 2020-2021, but delayed by the pandemic, will be staged in a future Theatre Erindale season.
In 2021, we launched a new Departmental website, featuring a front page with 1) images showcasing student diversity, 2) a foregrounded link to the Department’s Anti-Racism Statement, and 3) ongoing news stories celebrating BIPOC student and faculty initiatives: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/english-drama/welcome
Prioritizing Diverse Guest Speakers and Events
Starting this year, our department autonomy funding guidelines explicitly prioritize guest speakers and events that add to the intellectual and cultural diversity of departmental offerings, and that further our equity and belonging goals. We have a longstanding policy of offering enhanced honoraria to guest speakers who meet these criteria. We also regularly fund tricampus events that further these goals, including, this year, The RaceB4Race: Genealogies Conference organized by Professors Liza Blake and Urvashi Chakravarty.