Our department and McGill University are located on the unceded territory of Tiohtià:ke, now known as Montréal; the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation are the traditional custodians of these lands and waters.
Land acknowledgements start a necessary process of reflection for us as individuals and colleagues in the shared project of our department. We recognize that territorial recognition is an important starting point in the process of dismantling settler colonialism and its ongoing systems of oppression and occupation, and related institutional structures of racism. As part of this process, we aim to better support faculty, staff and students on campus who are First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Black, and People of Colour.
To learn more about land acknowledgements, see Indigenous Initiatives at McGill University and the Native Governance Center website. Learning the history of the land we occupy is an ongoing process; a good starting place is Native-land.ca. To hear pronunciations of Tiohtià:ke and Kanien’kehá:ka, check out Concordia University’s territorial acknowledgement webpage.
Members of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies share a commitment to anti-oppression work and to fostering welcoming, safe, inclusive, and accessible spaces and practices free from discrimination and harassment. We are committed to equity, human dignity, and to racial, ethnic, sexual, physical, and cultural diversity. This statement details some of the work we do to create a more equitable and just university environment. As a living document, this statement will be updated to represent changes we make in our practices and thinking.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Universities have been and continue to be sites that contribute to the reproduction of systemic colonialism, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, elitism, and the ongoing climate crisis. We are both affected by and implicated in these systems of power – in our conversations, teaching, research, and change-making efforts. We commit to the ongoing collective work it takes to eliminate forms of injustice and exclusion in our department and throughout the university.
We have differential positions of privilege and recognize the systemic disadvantages many members of our community face. These include forms of discrimination and harassment based on race, colour, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and socio-economic status. Members of our community also experience other kinds of discrimination on the basis of, for instance, civil status, familial status, educational background, physical appearance, size, and health status. Our work as a community is to better understand how systems of power and discrimination impact people and to develop strategies that address and redress the harms they cause.
The department works on a series of initiatives to address issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-Black racism at McGill, in our unit, and in our communities. To transformcultures and practices at McGill—and within university life more generally—that reproduce racism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism in relation to other intersecting systems of oppression, some of our recent and ongoing initiatives include:
- Forming a structure to address equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the department. As practiced since Fall 2021, two faculty members – one in Art History and one in Communication Studies – are appointed to oversee EDI issues and initiatives. The AHCS EDI representatives work with the Department Chair, the Graduate and Undergraduate Program Directors, relevant committees (such as hiring and curricular committees), and student representatives to serve as an information resource and help implement University-level EDI efforts in our department.
- Educating ourselves about EDI issues is crucial work we do to learn and unlearn the powerful ideologies that reproduce systemic inequities and harms. Faculty members are committed to implementing best practices for equity hiring and retention, the formation of EDI committees, finding university resources and support for EDI initiatives, and implementing anti-racism and anti-colonialism in teaching practices. Workshops on these topics are offered by the Accessibility Advisor, Senior Employment Equity Advisor, Associate Provost for Equity and Academic Policies, and Equity Education Advisor (Anti-Oppression & Anti-Racism Education).
- Organizing department-specific workshops for faculty to foster our development of better governance structures, policies, procedures, and decision-making processes around issues of equity, inclusion, and discrimination.
- Reviewing, revising and transforming our existing departmental policies and procedures with respect to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Establishing and continuing to advocate for tenure-track hiring priorities in Black and Indigenous Studies, and other key areas of scholarship historically under-represented in the department. Our current hiring target areas are in Visual Cultures of the Black Diaspora and Indigenous Studies of Media, Culture and Technology. We continue to advocate for positions in these areas and will work with university-wide EDI initiatives to grow our faculty in AHCS.
- Acknowledging the traditional territory on which we’re located and using a statement of solidarity to open public meetings and events convened by the department. Such statements name colonial legacies and ongoing land politics, positioning the speaker, audience, and institution within the pervasive colonial practices of our fields of academic study and within globally interconnected colonial histories. They remind non-Indigenous faculty, students and visitors of the historical disenfranchisement and ongoing political struggles of First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities, and they create a more welcoming space for Indigenous students, staff, and faculty and visitors.
- Building and revising curriculum in order to: decenter and critique European “canonical” scholarship, art, and cultural traditions; draw on scholarship undertaken outside of the Global North, foreground histories and legacies of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism ; centre the work of BIPOC scholars, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups; analyze how racism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism intersect with other systems of oppression. Our courses will serve this curricular standard, and we commit to regular reviews and revisions of program curriculum to better represent these approaches in student training.
- We expect that our work references the full diversity of scholarship and scholars in the field(s) in which we work. We aim to foster learning conditions that will best support a more expansive and representative citational politics by students and faculty.
Below is a list of resources and initiatives at McGill that address the institutional legacies of anti-Black racism and the settler colonial foundations and structures of the university, as well as long-standing problems with equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus. The Department will regularly update the website to note changes and new developments in the available resources.
McGill’s Strategic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan
Strategic EDI Plan (PDF)
Equity at McGill
McGill Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism
Statements made by McGill’s Black Faculty Caucus regarding new policies and practices at the University.
Slavery and McGill University: Bicentenary Recommendations
Our university is founded on the spoils of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism. James McGill, whose monetary and land bequest founded McGill College in 1821, was a successful merchant of goods from West Indian plantations. During his lifetime, McGill enslaved five Black and Indigenous people, two of whom were children who died at the ages of 10 and 12. To read more about this history and see the Bicentenary Recommendations prepared by former AHCS Professor Charmaine Nelson and AHCS undergraduate and graduate students: Lucia Bell-Epstein, Lucy Brown, Simone Cambridge, Roxanne Cornellier, Jane O’Brien Davis, Gemma Else, Ellie Finkelstein, Christopher J. Gismondi, Amalie Løseth, Denisa Marginean, Colin McCrossan, Sam Perelmuter, Nicholas Raffoul, Emma Ridsdale, Bella Silverman, and Alison White: “Slavery and McGill University: Bicentenary Recommendations” (PDF).
The Provostial Research Scholars in Institutional Histories, Slavery, and Colonialism study the histories of colonialism and transatlantic slavery as they relate to McGill University.
Black Students’ Network
The BSN is dedicated to addressing the needs and interests of Black students and spearheading efforts to establish curriculum in Black Studies and Africana Studies. All interested students, are encouraged to participate in the organization’s numerous events and activities.
First Peoples’ House
The First Peoples’ House provides First Nations, Inuit and Métis students attending McGill with a "home away from home," where they can find support and encouragement to succeed in their studies and remain connected to their culture.
Office of Indigenous Initiatives
The Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative
ISCEI is based in the Faculty of Arts and aims to build and expand on existing Indigenous initiatives on and off campus and to help provide a nexus for First Nations, Inuit and Métis scholarship and community-building. The Mellon ISCEI Artist in Residence program is co-organized with the Department of Art History & Communication Studies and is an important means of bringing practicing artists to campus to continue their work, share their expertise, interact with students and faculty members, and enhance knowledge of and exposure to Indigenous art among the campus community and the public at large.
AHCS welcomed Caroline Monnet as the first Mellon ISCEI Artist in Residence at McGill. Monnet is an Algonquin-French contemporary artist and filmmaker known for her work in sculpture, installation and film. For a full list of current and former artists in residence, see ISCEI's Artist-in-Residence page or the AHCS's Artist in Residence page.
Accessibility at McGill
McGill Accessibility Strategy web page.
Student Accessibility and Achievement
The Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE). As McGill’s primary and dedicated sexual violence support service, this office provides confidential, survivor-centred, non-judgmental support and assistance to any member of the McGill community affected by sexual violence.
McGill's Policies and Regulations
The University has a centralized policies webpage, which makes available all institutional policies and regulations. Moreover, McGill’s Guide to McGill’s Policies and Regulations (“Guide”) features the University’s policies and regulations by thematic category. It may be consulted on the Secretariat’s website, which is updated regularly to provide the most up-to-date information.