PLAI Courses

PLAI courses are team-taught by IPLAI Faculty Fellows, and are one-offs (i.e. they are never offered more than once).  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. Since IPLAI is closing in Summer 2018, we will no longer have course offerings.

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

Winter 2018

  • PLAI 500/Coms681: Special Topics in Media and Culture/Advanced Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar, Tuesdays 2:30
  • PLAI 600/ENGL662:Cultures of Uneven Development, Thursdays 11:30, Profs. Sandeep Banerjee and Gavin Walker

Fall 2017

  • PLAI 400/MUHR : Music and Colonialism in Global History, Tuesdays 11:35am, Prof Roe-Min Kok
  • PLAI 500/COMS 541: Topics in Critical/Interpretive Policy Studies: The Role of Social Justice Philanthropy (Theory, Practice & Critique), Wednesdays 11:35, Ferrier 230, Prof Roberta Lentz
  • PLAI 600/ARTH 675: Identity and Space in Medical Art and Architecture: 1850-present, Tuesdays 10:35am, 3647 Peel Street, room 102, Profs. Annmarie Adams and Mary Hunter

PLAI 500/Coms681: Special Topics in Media and Culture/Advanced Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar 

This cross-listed seminar, open to 10 graduate students and 5 advanced undergraduates (*3 grad spots remain*), will examine multiple technologies of North American white supremacy. The list is not exhaustive, but rather designed around a 13-week semester. Each week, we will focus on one such technology and bring it into dialogue with artistic and cultural texts that challenge or resist it. The list as it stands now:

  • The plantation
  • The railroad
  • The Indian Act
  • Religious educational institutions
  • Resource extraction infrastructure
  • Redlining (urban segregation)
  • Mass incarceration
  • Police militarization
  • Drug policy
  • Foster ‘care’
  • Governmental commissions and inquiries

Draft reading list will be available in a few weeks, please contact Prof. Jenny Burman if you are interested.

PLAI 600: Cultures of Uneven Development

The uneven development of our world is an obvious fact: from the underdevelopment of the Global South to the dynamics of core and periphery in political and economic structures, a globalized world of equality remains a distant utopia. Yet the world is also a coherent whole, intimately connected through structures of investment in addition to supranational political and financial institutions. Centered in contemporary Marxist theory, this course examines our globalized world through the lens of uneven development. It seeks to understand the structure of our present conjuncture that is marked, simultaneously, by hierarchy and difference as well as integration and homogeneity. We will locate this question in the relation between the sphere of culture and the logic of capital. In addition, it queries how this uneven world shapes social, cultural, and aesthetic forms (and norms) in addition to our conceptions of time and space. The course will take up four themes: the social formation; the question of transition; the national question; and peripheral aesthetics. Drawing on readings from history, literary and cultural studies, film studies, and theory this seminar will attempt to think through the politics and aesthetics of uneven development on a global scale.

Enrolment: Instructor permission required. Please e-mail either Gavin Walker ( or Sandeep Banerjee ( to enroll in the course.

Format: Seminar

Meeting days/ times: Thursdays 11:30 – 2:30

Readings: TBD


PLAI 400/MUHR : Music and Colonialism in Global History

Prof Roe-Min Kok

The worldwide presence of western art music today is due in part to the history of colonization. Whether sparked by official gifts — for instance, of musical instruments from one government to another — or the export of imperial examination systems in music, the transmission of western art music and its subsequent rooting in the colonial world offer many facets for investigation. We’ll explore critical
theories of “Empire” with the goal of situating music practices in imperial histories, and examining
interactional dynamics between colonizers, colonized subjects and other agents to highlight the plural, diverse voices of participants of this art form.

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)