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Group Project

Modernity and knowledge in Montreal, 1815-1985

Funding History

From its origins as a research collective in the 1970s, the Montreal History Group has consistently been funded by federal and provincial agencies. The Group’s last grant for the period 2012-2016, an FQRSC team grant, for its research program Modernité et Legitimité à Montréal, 1800-2010, resulted in major publications that included award-winning monographs and articles in collections and learned journals. Alongside research, the funding and professional training of graduate students remains at the core of the Group’s mission. In reaching out to the community and in disseminating its research, the Group sponsors an annual ‘Mayday’ conference, a series of early evening seminars ‘the Jeudis d’histoire’, and an informal lunch-time seminar, ‘Muffins and Methodology’.

The Research Team : 2017

In their most recent ‘team’ research grant, funded by the FQRSC (Fonds de recherche du Québec société et culture) for the period 2017-2021, the Group is divided into two : researchers from Quebec and those from outside Quebec. The team’s principal researcher is Jarrett Rudy (McGill University) ; researchers from Quebec count five historians from four Quebec universities ((Université McGill, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, and Concordia University), and a Montreal CEGEP (Dawson College). Outside Quebec, the team’s collaborators include five faculty members from universities in Ontario, British Columbia (University of Toronto,  Ryerson University, and Simon Fraser University), and the United States (Lehigh University, Pennsylvania)..

The Project 

 The Group’s project entitled Modernité et Savoir à Montréal, 1815-1985, centers on an exploration of the phenomenon of modernity in Montreal during this period characterized by Eric Hobsbawn as that of the maturation of an international industrial capitalism. Modernity is a fundamental theme in the evolution of societies since the Enlightenment and the Group’s problématique draws on a rich historiography that ranges  from Max Weber to Pierre Bourdieu, Mary Poovey, and Jacques Rancière. The Group’s approach can be summarized as one that considers ‘identities of class, nation, gender, age, and religion as mutually constitutive and historically specific’ (drawn from the introduction of the Group’s publication, Negotiating Identity in 19th and 20th Century Montreal, Bettina Bradbury and Tamara Myers (eds), Vancouver, UBC Press, 2005, p. 4 ). Montreal, we argue, must be understood as a particular urban space with specific class, national, religious, territorial, and symbolic characteristics. In its 375-year history, Montreal has been a carrefour, first of native exchange, then of the commerce and production of the French and British periods, and, finally, place in the nineteenth century as Canada’s commercial and industrial capital. We give particular focus to the tensions between modernity and forces resistant to its rapid transformation of urban spaces, institutions, bureaucracies, science, and forms of knowledge.

Research proposed in the Group’s 2017 application builds around the theme of the transformation of ‘local’ knowledge. We find the work of Jacques Rancière particularly instructive in drawing attention to the experience of popular groups alienated from political and economic power. To undertake this research, the team is divided into three axes: ‘Technology and Society’ ; ‘Economy and Law’; and ‘Political Mobilization’. Led by Magda Fahrni (UQAM), the ‘Technology and Society’ axis will study the role of railway stations in Montreal as sites of social control, the effects of rail traffic on the emotions and senses, and railways as sources of urban pollution that include noise, smoke, and odours. The second axe, ‘Economy and Law’, led by Sylvie Taschereau, focuses on marginalized urban populations from the perspective of laws concerning credit and consumer protection, the experience of women in inns, taverns, and small shops, and the grossly underestimated participation of Mohawks in the economy of Montreal. The ‘Political Mobilization’ axis, led by Elizabeth Kirkland, will pursue research around the theme of local groups and inequality. This will include the participation of women in associations affecting ideas of citizenship and Canadian identity; Montreal aspects of ‘the March of Millions’ against hunger; Quebec as a political and religious refugee destination in the nineteenth century; and the international links of jazz musicians in Montreal.



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