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Topics in Canadian History: Poverty in Canada

Topics in Canadian History: Poverty in Canada

What stereotypes come to mind when we think of “poverty”? How do we define poverty, who has experienced it, and why? How have people responded to poverty? What roles have the Canadian state, economics, and class systems played in fighting or perpetuating it? This course introduces students to poverty as a dynamic concept in Canadian history, from the 19th century onward. Taking a critical and thematic approach, students will explore poverty in the context of food security, addiction and mental health, age, race, gender and sexuality, homelessness, as well as prison, policing, and criminality. We look at these themes through the perspective of a history of the present – to gain both an understanding of the ways that current social and political landscapes are rooted in the past, and an appreciation for how historical processes of inequality and social movements look and feel through lived experience. This is a seminar course, with a focus on peer support and collaborative discussion of primary and secondary sources. While the material is discussed in historical perspective, the source base is interdisciplinary in nature to reflect the diversity of topics within the history of poverty in Canada. Each meeting will begin with a short introductory lecture on the week’s theme, followed by engaged discussion of assigned readings. Select topics will feature guest speakers from various local social service organizations to share their experience working in the community. The main assignment for the term will be a research paper - broken down into a proposal, first and final draft, and an end of term presentation. This is supplemented by participation through weekly discussions, response journals, and peer editing of research paper drafts. The primary learning objectives will be to sharpen our research, writing, editing, and conferencing skills; and to foster critical thinking around the diversity and continuum of poverty through a fundamentally humanist lens. In all, this course provides an opportunity to consider and shape the role of the historian in the contemporary dialogue on poverty in Canada.

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.