PLAI Courses

PLAI courses are team-taught by IPLAI Faculty Fellows.  PLAI courses ask students to engage critically and across disciplines with key themes, ideas, or problems. The interdisciplinary nature of courses challenges students to think and to explore various theoretical and methodological structures they are asked to employ in humanities scholarship and elsewhere.

Our courses also pay particular attention to resonances beyond the classroom by requiring critical assessment and public exchange. Register through Minerva.

Fall 2017

  • COMS 541: Topics in Critical/Interpretive Policy Studies: The Role of Social Justice Philanthropy (Theory, Practice & Critique), Times TBA

COMS 541: Topics in Critical/Interpretive Policy Studies: The Role of Social Justice Philanthropy

Prof. Becky Lentz

The role of philanthropy in democratic societies is rapidly becoming an area of scholarly inquiry in political science, third sector studies, and education, among other disciplines and fields. It is also an exercise in praxis at various institutes and centers, including the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (, which offers yearly postdoctoral fellowships as well as support for emerging pre-tenure scholars.

Though often hidden from view, philanthropic practice nonetheless plays a contentious role in policy change, and this includes the work of social movements and advocacy coalitions working toward social justice outcomes ( Within this context, this course considers the challenges and opportunities that arise when social justice aspirations meet philanthropic practice. According to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in the U.S. (, social justice philanthropy, often working under the moniker “change, not charity”, has a transformational agenda; its aim is to reform institutions in order to create a more equitable distribution of power, thus eliminating the need for ongoing charity. This tall order is the entry point for this 3-part seminar that considers theories of social justice as they pertain to philanthropy in the US and around the world, case studies of social justice philanthropy practice that include guest visits with practitioners, and critiques of social justice philanthropy theory and practice.

Download syllabus draft here (complete syllabus will be available in August 2017)

Winter 2017

  • PLAI 600: Critical Approaches to Cultural Mediation (Theories and Practices) (T. Tembeck), Wednesdays 11:30am
  • PLAI 500: Uncovering Secrets: A Detective’s Toolkit to Discovering Montreal (N. Cooke, D. Yanofsky), Wednesdays 2:35pm
  • PLAI 400: Music and Colonialism in Global History (R. Kok), Mondays 1:30pm, Room: Music A-510

PLAI 400: Music and Colonialism in Global History [POSTPONED TO FALL 2017]

We regret to inform you that, due to unforeseen circumstances, PLAI 400 (Music and Colonialism) will be postponed until Fall 2017. The course will no longer be offered this term (Winter 2017). We ask that you take the necessary actions to avoid incurring further expense and look to find alternative courses that may fulfill your interests and requirements.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

PLAI 500: A Detective’s Toolkit to Discovering Montreal

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 2.07.20 PMSecrets, myths and mysteries form the cultural and moral backdrops against which individual and community identities are mapped. But where to look? What tools can we use to find the hidden history of a city, reveal its secrets, raise questions about accepted truths? How has the art and technology of historical research changed the very manner in which we study and understand the city, and its past events? This interdisciplinary, team-taught course looks at Montreal history and the skills and questions involved in uncovering its secrets through primary and secondary materials such as photographs, maps and building directories. To become urban detectives, students will do fieldwork in the city’s libraries and archives, restaurants and public places, as well as on city streets. Even students who have grown up in Montreal will discover new places, hidden treasures, and secrets about the city’s past.



Download syllabus for PLAI 500 2017

Course Material will include:

  • Jesus of Montreal (film and mapping stations of the cross in Montreal)
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop (film and visual representation of the film developed by Sebastian Cacquard)
  • Claire Rothman, The Heart Specialist (visits by the author and to the Osler Library, McGill)
  • Gabrielle Roy, The Tin Flute (novel and walking tour of St. Henri)
  • Richler, Duddy Kravitz (readings and visit to Richler Room, Concordia University)
  • Jonas Company Scrapbook circa 1890 (introduction to research methodologies for identifying history of buildings in Montreal, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill)

PLAI 600: Critical Approaches to Cultural Mediation (Theories and Practices)

Cultural mediation (médiation culturelle) is a term primarily employed in the francophone world to designate strategies that seek to render the arts and culture more accessible to uninitiated publics, and to encourage the participation of “non-traditional” publics in community and civic life through the production or consumption of art. Though such an understanding of médiation culturelle is upheld by ideals of “cultural democracy,” it cannot be denied that institutional policies and practices of cultural mediation also serve to project a public image of social accountability. This seminar proposes a critical investigation into cultural mediation from multiple angles (e.g., analyses of practices and policy guidelines) and across diverse institutional contexts (e.g., education, health care, museums/galleries). Working closely with local arts organisations, we will have the opportunity to observe and potentially take part in cultural mediation activities. As part of their course work, students will also have the option to design a cultural mediation project. Seminars will consist in discussions around core readings that address, amongst others: the promotion of cultural democracy in the aftermath of WWII (e.g., in France and the U.S.); the social turn in contemporary art and in cultural policy orientations; the educational turn in curatorial practice; and accounts or analyses of specific cultural mediation initiatives. Classroom discussions will be augmented by site visits to local arts organisations and guest presentations by professionals working in the field of cultural mediation.

NB: Passive knowledge of French is an asset for this course, but is not required.

Past IPLAI Courses

Fall 2015

  • PLAI 400: Mind, Brain and Culture: Explanation in Psychiatry (I. Gold, L. Kirmayer)
  • PLAI 500: Activism in revolution(s): The mechanics and poetics of changing the world (M. Popescu, A. Anastassiadis)
  • PLAI 600: The Art, Study, and Practices of Listening (M. de Francisco)

Winter 2015

  • PLAI 300: How Shakespeare Created Modern Society (P. Yachnin)
  • PLAI 400: Sensibility and the Self (G. Green, L. Kozak)
  • PLAI 500: Youth as Cultural Producers: Rethinking Education and Entrepreneurship (B. Low, J. Ramaprasad)

Winter 2014

  • PLAI 300: Digital Studies/Citizenry (S. Sinclair and guests)
  • PLAI 500: The Humanities-Sciences Dialogue: Mutual Offerings (S. McAdams and colleagues)
  • PLAI 500: Playing Shakespeare: Theory and Practice of Theatrical-Musical Transformation (P. Hansen, P. Yachnin)

Fall 2013

  • PLAI 400: Memory, Place, and Power (J. Johnson, B. Forest)
  • PLAI 500: Movement Practice: Thought and Technique in Motion (A. Thain, M. Jemtrud)

Fall 2012

  • PLAI 400: Memory, Place, and Power (J. Johnson, B. Forest)
  • PLAI 600: Reading Books, Reading Libraries (S. Sinclair)

Winter 2013

  • PLAI 400: Changing Spaces: Visual and Theatrical Culture in Early Modern Europe (A. Vanhalen, P. Yachnin)
  • PLAI 500: The Making of Place: Strategies of Impermanence (R. Castro)

Fall 2011

  • PLAI 400: Representation of Childhood (S. Huebner, D. Manderson, L. Yetter)

Winter 2011

  • PLAI 300: Studying Place and Reinterpreting Chorography (R. Castro)
  • PLAI 400: Memory, Place, and Power (J. Johnson, B. Forest)
  • PLAI 500: Plato’s Politics of the Exemplary (M. Antaki, C. Tarnopolsky)
  • PLAI 500: Memory, Philosophy, and Film: Reading Bergson, Reading Cinema (A. Al-Saji, Y. Furuhata)

Fall 2010

  • PLAI 300: Imagining the Child (S. Huebner, L. Yetter)