Departmental News

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Prof. William J. Samarin, Emeritus, awarded “Lifetime Achievement Award”

Professor William J. Samarin, Emeritus, was recognized with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” on January 5, 2019 at a special session of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics in New York City, held in connection with the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. Tributes were made by Salikoko Mufwene, Peter Bakker, and Marlyse Baptista, and Professor Samarin gave a report of his research on ‘The origin of Lingala: Evidence and Argumentation.’ Professor Samarin retired in 1991 at age 65.

Congratulations Professor Samarin!

Michael Lambek to Give Tanner Lecture at University of Michigan

Professor Michael Lambek has been invited to give the Tanner Lecture on Human Values at the University of Michigan on January 31, 2019. The title of his lecture is “Concepts and Persons.”

The Lectures are given in parallel at nine universities in the UK and the USA: Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Michigan and Utah. Previous lecturers include Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Judith Butler, Umberto Eco, Didier Fassin, Michel Foucault, Peter Galison, Clifford Geertz, Michael Ignatieff, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Marshall Sahlins, Elaine Scarry, Amartya Sen, and Charles Taylor.

“Appointment as a Tanner lecturer is a recognition for uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the field of human values.” Read the official description of the appointment of a Tanner Lecturer.

Congratulations to Bonnie McElhinny recipient of an IRCRC Grant from SSHRC

We are delighted to announce that Nancy Rowe, Dr. Debby Danard, and Dr. Bonnie McElhinny are the recipients of an Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation Connection (IRCRC) Grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, for a project entitled “13 moon Journey and Water Gathering” (a description follows).

IRCRC grants affirm the important, holistic and interdisciplinary contributions to human knowledge that Indigenous knowledge systems make. Furthermore, the call respects Indigenous knowledge systems, including ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies, as important avenues for exploring the contours of Indigenous knowledge, supporting Indigenous research paradigms, contributing to interdisciplinary collaboration and extending the boundaries of knowledge in western research paradigms.

This funding will support community gatherings, workshops, or other events or outreach activities that will mobilize existing knowledge, facilitate dialogue and knowledge sharing, and result in the preparation of a position paper. The position papers will be shared at a national dialogue event scheduled for March 2019 to develop, in partnership with Indigenous communities, a strategic plan for an interdisciplinary Indigenous research and research training model that contributes to reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit.


Project Summary:  Thirteen Moon Journey and Water Gathering

The Thirteen-Moon journey or annual cycle of the Aanishinaabek is widely known within Aanishinaabek communities.  It is a model that mirrors and uses the natural environment to assist in an understanding of how we are governed by and connected to Skaagaamik-Kwe (Mother Earth). Before the western calendar widely used today, the Aanishinaabek depended on the annual cycle of Creation, to observe and determine time.  The traditional Aanishinaabek year follows the thirteen-moon lunar cycle. Each moon is named for a natural phenomenon – the activity of a seasonally active animal, an important cultural practice or belief, or a prevalent environmental condition.  For example, Mnoomin Giizis (wild rice moon) is when wild rice is harvested, but also a time for reflecting on meanings and histories of wild rice.

The Caribbean scholar Sylvia Wynter argues that decolonization requires changing the way that people understand space, and time, and what it means to act in a good way or be a good person. This means that we change how we understand land and water and territory, that we change notions of progress and seasonal cycles, and that we elaborate a model of what it means to be a good person that is not linked to the competitive individual of settler colonialism and capitalism, or the humiliated or abject victim of colonialism. This project, the 13 moons project, is built precisely around these premises. Each month, Nancy Rowe, and Deb Danard, the project directors, will invite respected Elders or traditional Practitioners to offer the appropriate teachings linked to that month at Akinomaagaye Gammik:  House of Learning, a lodge which provides an appropriate environment and atmosphere for Indigenous Knowledge Carriers to teach the Mississaugas of New Credit and surrounding Indigenous communities. Simpson notes that “Building diverse, nation-culture-based resurgence means significantly re-investing in our own ways of being:  re-generating our political and intellectual traditions; articulating and living our legal systems; language learning; ceremonial and spiritual pursuits; creating and using our artistic and performance-based traditions (2011:18). This project builds on the success of an earlier, partial 13 moon journey project which was funded for 6 moons (by the Indigenous Cultural Fund, Ontario Arts Council, also held by Danard, Rowe, McElhinny) but proposes to elaborate it in two ways. First, it proposes to travel through a full 13 moon cycle, using ceremony for participants as a strategy for researching the 13 moon and related teachings; second, it proposes to investigate a set of community capacity-building skills each month that is directed, influenced and supported through the teachings of that month; third, Dr. Debby Danard will develop Indigenous forms of evaluation, and fourth Nancy Rowe  will  develop appropriate forms of  curriculum. This curriculum can be further developed to be scalable and replicable by other appropriate traditional practitioners. The project will conclude with a water gathering on the Credit River in July 2019 which reconvenes elders and traditional knowledge practitioners who have participated in the various moon teachings, to consider next steps in building a Grandmother’s Council which can consider how to share the teachings of the 13 moons with Indigenous people and allies, and build a broader circle of women and girls familiar with the teachings, in a good way.


Giidaakunadaad (The Spirit who lives in high places), Nancy Rowe is a Mississauga, Ojibwe of the Anishinaabek Nation located at New Credit First Nation, ON. Nancy holds an honours BA in Indigenous Studies and Political Science, and is currently completing a master’s degree in Environmental Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo, with the support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council: Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship.  She is an educator, consultant, and a Traditional Practitioner of Anishinaabek lifeways, views and customary practices. Nancy has also received a number of other scholarships and fellowships, including the Stella Kinoshameg Award: Outstanding Native Studies Scholarship, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Harvey Longboat Memorial Scholarship:  Overall Highest Average at Six Nations Polytechnic.  She founded and coordinates Akinoomaagaye Gaamik, a grassroots initiative to provide educational opportunities for all people interested in Indigenous perspectives on life, health, education, history and the environment. She has co-authored several publications, including: McCarthy, D. D. P., Millen, M., Boyden, M., Alexiuk, E., Whitelaw, G. S., Viswanathan, L., Larkman, D., Rowe, G., and Westley, F. R. (2014). A First Nations-led social innovation: a moose, a gold mining company, and a policy window. Ecology and Society. She works on a collaborative project In Our Words Video Series @, which produces  videos which explore how the dispossession of land from Indigenous Peoples took place throughout what is now called Canada. These videos provide several perspectives through the personal narratives of Oneida and Anishinaabe Elders and recognized Knowledge Holders.


Dr. Debby Danard is Anishinaabekwe, sturgeon clan, born in Atikokan Ontario and member of Manitou Rapids, Rainy River First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. She is a traditional knowledge keeper, artist, lecturer, water ambassador, Life promotion activist and Eagle staff ogitch-e-daakwe. She has a Ph.D. in Aboriginal & Indigenous studies in education from the University of Toronto (2016). Her thesis work “Medicine Wheel Surviving Suicide-Strengthening Life Bundle” (2016) focuses on traditional knowledge as a way tried and true (evidence informed practice) to mobilize life promotion community bundles.  She has been actively involved working with and within primarily First Nations urban (Friendship Centres, MNO, COO) and several on-reserve communities since 1987.  She is the author of “Be the Water” (Canadian Woman Studies, 2013).  She held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and is the owner of Union Star Consulting Life Teachings Lodge.  She has completed numerous reports on good governance, life promotion and water teachings for Temagami First Nation, Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, Chiefs of Ontario, and the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle.


Dr. Bonnie McElhinny is of Irish, Slavic, German, French and English ancestry.  She holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University in linguistics.  She is the Principal of New College, at the University of Toronto.  She is associate professor of women and gender studies and anthropology, and former Director of Women and Gender Studies.  She currently has an ATLAS (Advanced Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Science) grant to focus on decolonial approaches to land-based pedagogy, with a focus on water.  She directs Great Lakes Waterwork/Water Allies @ New College, with the support of a Faculty of Arts and Science Teaching and Learning Grant.  This initiative focuses on decolonial, feminist, queer and anti-racist approaches to environmental justice, with a focus on water.  Projects include designing and re-designing a cluster of courses on the Great Lakes, research and teaching collaborations with community partners, designing experiential learning opportunities for students, and curating public events. Her books include Words, Worlds and Material GirlsFilipinos in Canada (edited with Roland Coloma, Ethel Tungohan, J.P. Catungal and Lisa Davidson) and, most recently, Language, Capitalism, Colonialism:  Toward a Critical History (with Monica Heller, published by University of Toronto Press in 2017).   She teaches courses on water and social justice, unsettling settler colonialism, language and political economy, research methods, and experiential approaches to land-based education (most recently, a birchbark canoe build with canoe builder Mike Ormsby and Wahnipitae First Nation).

Call for Papers: Medusa Graduate Conference 2019 — Futures

The Anthropology Graduate Student Union invites proposals for the 6th annual Medusa Graduate Conference. The conference will take place on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29, 2019 in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, St. George campus.

The Medusa Graduate Conference is an annual event hosted by the Anthropology Graduate Student Union since 2013. Medusa is intended to provide both internal and external students with early-career conference and networking experience in a collegial and interdisciplinary environment. Generally, participants come from universities across Ontario, Quebec, and the eastern United States, with many presenting their research for the first time. Medusa is an important plank of the AGSU’s mandate, and marks a highly anticipated event in the calendars of graduate students in our department and across the University of Toronto.

The theme of Medusa 2019 is “Futures”. We encourage inventive and thought-provoking submissions of quality student research from both graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Applicants working in all sub-disciplines of anthropology and related fields are welcome to apply. Our committee gratefully receives all submissions, but especially those that creatively engage with themes of temporality, futurity, historicity, uncertainty, risk, “progress”, prediction, imagination, and hopefulness.

We ask that interested applicants submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to by Monday, January 21, 2019. Please refer to the attached call for papers [link] for more details. In the instance that you require further clarification, please contact”

Amanda Harvey-Sanchez Wins Richard B. Lee Award

Congratulations to Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, the 2018 recipient of the Richard B. Lee award for her essay, “Navigating Caste Inequality in Kerala: Caste as Present, Hidden, and Denied” submitted for ANT498H1F (Independent Research) based on her internship in India with Tania Li as her supervisor. The Awards Committee appreciated the high quality of Amanda’s ethnographic research and the critical review of the pertinent literature. The committee also commended Amanda’s clear and engaging writing style.

Call for Applications: Osaka RESPECT Fellowship for International Graduate Seminar and Workshop

Call for Applications – Osaka RESPECT Workshop Fellowship 2019

Osaka RESPECT Fellowship for International Graduate Seminar and Workshop
Landscapes of Cohabitation: Diversity and Divergence in More-Than-Human Entanglements of the Anthropocene

Date: April 29 – May 6, 2019 (Travel date: April 27-May 7, 2019)
Location: Osaka, Japan

Eligibility: Graduate students or prospective graduate students finishing a BA at the
University of Toronto. Priority will be given to PhD students whose dissertation research fits the seminar-workshop theme.

Tania Li presented with SSHRC Insight Award

Professor Tania Li has been presented with an SSHRC Insight Award. This is a national award that recognizes outstanding achievement arising from a research project funded partially or completely by SSHRC. It is given to an individual (or team) in mid-peak career whose project has resulted in a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world. The project’s research outcomes must have led to demonstrable impact within and/or beyond the academic community. Read more here. Congratulations Tania!!!

Bence Viola’s research on a Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrid

New developments in the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA have transformed our understanding of the interactions between modern humans and some of their archaic relatives. We know now that these groups exchanged genes when they met, as we find small pieces of Neanderthal DNA in present day humans. Another surprising discovery was that Asia was inhabited by a previously unknown group related to Neanderthals, named the Denisovans after the site of Denisova in the Russian Altai.

Dr. Viola has been involved in this research for more than 10 years, and this summer he and his colleagues made another unexpected discovery. Among the tens of thousands of unidentifiable bone fragments from Denisova cave, collagen fingerprinting identified a piece that seemed to be human. DNA analyses at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig showed that this individual was neither a Denisovan, nor a Neanderthal, but carried DNA from both groups in roughly equal proportions. We knew before that both Neanderthals and Denisovans lived in the region, but we had no direct evidence for contacts. This individual, the daughter of a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father shows that these populations interacted. Many questions remain though: how did these contacts look? Were they peaceful, or not? Were we just unbelievably lucky to have found this individual, or are there many hybrids out there? Hopefully the continuing research will allow us to answer at least some of these questions.

Read the full article in the CBC News

Susan Pfeiffer and recent PhD graduate Elizabeth Sawchuk’s research on pillar sites near Lake Turkana

Researchers at Stony Brook U, the home of the Turkana Basin Institute, anticipated that their excavation of a “pilar site” might encounter human remains. They recruited Pfeiffer to the 2012 field team. She, in turn, recruited Sawchuk who had just completed her Masters degree at U Alberta. This began a program of exploration that now includes a huge swath of eastern Africa, exploring mid-Holocene communities. The extent and complexity of “monumentality” among these apparent pastoralists is both impressive and unexpected.

Read the full article on the


Max Friesen’s Project to Preserve Traditional Knowledge

In late July, a group of 10 people with ties to Bathurst Inlet travelled there to collect oral history stories, traditional knowledge, myths, legends, and Inuinnaqtun phrases. This is part of a five-year traditional knowledge preservation project spearheaded by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society and Professor Max Friesen. The team also includes PhD student Taylor Thornton, whose research will link archaeological sites to traditional knowledge in a publicly-accessible online mapping application.

Read the full article in the CBC News.