This section lists my ongoing research projects. For my published research see the “Publications” section, or the “Public History” for my completed digital history projects.
Dwelling(s) in the Past – major exhibition and edited collection
This is a house research project led by the Toronto Migration Memory Collective, of which I am the coordinator. The team has selected 10 residential and 5 non-residential addresses based on one known resident and her/his notable role in the history of Toronto, and the themes and areas of the city that they will allow us to explore. The research work consists of compiling demographic information for every individual who lived in those address from the moment they were built until the present day. From this sample, we will zoom in on three sets of residents (i.e. families) and discover all we can about their life stories over three generations. Once brought together, these micro-histories will illustrate the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, gender, faith, sexuality and other identifiers that constantly undergird the lived reality of Torontonians throughout their city’s history. The project also seeks to undercut the tendency to produce and reproduce ethnic, labour and religious histories in separate silos by foregrounding their constant interpenetration. The TMMC is currently discussing the possibility of turning this project into a major exhibition and book project with Myseum of Toronto.
Toronto the Bad: a history of riots in Canada’s “most fascinatingly boring” city* – digital exhibition and journal article
This research project started as an assignment in HIST4530 Development of Toronto, a fourth-year course that I teach at York University (2016-2017), in which students had to write about a riot in the city’s past. I have since partnered with Myseum of Toronto in turning the students’ research into digital content for that organization’s upcoming smartphone application. With the help of my students, I was able to find nearly since the 1820s; there are likely more. These ranged from 50,000 people to only a handful of participants, and were motivated by a wide range of reasons, among which racism, in some form, was the most predominant factor. This incredible amount of public violence contradicts the dominant mythology of “Toronto the Good” and of Canada as a country built on “peace, order, and good governance.” My research on this topic will continue to produce digital content for Myseum and a journal article at some point.
* Stephen Marche, “Welcome to the new Toronto: the most fascinatingly boring city in the world,” The Guardian, July 4, 2016, url: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/04/new-toronto-most-fascinatingly-boring-city-guardian-canada-week
Invisible Cities: the Portuguese in Toronto – digital exhibition
“Beware of saying to them that sometimes different cities follow one another on the same site and under the same name, born or dying without knowing one another, without communication among themselves,” Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972). Inspired by the seminal work of Italo Calvino, and the later application to ethnic studies by the late Robert Harney, this research project seeks to produce a series of interactive historical maps of the Portuguese community’s mental map of Toronto from the 1950s to 1970s. For this, I will collect every non-residential address mentioned in the Portuguese-Canadian media in that period and cross-reference them with city directories and other sources. With the help of two students in the HIST4840 Public History course, who did their placements with the PCHP, I’ve been able to collect over 500 entries so far. Although there is much work still left to be done, the early data modelling already shows interesting patterns in the movement and growth of this community. This research will ultimately produce a digital exhibition, an academic publication, and be of research value for anyone interested in urban mobility and social geography.
War memory is an integral part of most national narratives, where military sacrifice is often considered indisputable proof of an individual’s devotion to his or her country. In a social, political, and economic culture that is heavily predicated on the pursuit of individual self-interest, war and the military occupy a pivotal place in American psyche, by allowing the cathartic expression of the otherwise unexpected communitarian values of fraternity and self-sacrifice. The celebration of dead combatants by the state is a process akin to secular canonization, one that is all the more powerful when the individual is stripped of his or her identity and becomes an ideological archetype. As Benedict Anderson noted, “No more arresting emblems of the modern culture of nationalism exist than cenotaphs and tombs of Unknown Soldiers… Yet void as these tombs are of identifiable mortal remains or immortal souls, they are nonetheless saturated with ghostly national imaginings.” Contrary to the national norm, ethnic leaders sometimes go to considerable lengths to (re)claim the ethnic identities of these homogenized national warriors, hoping the blood of their fallen ethnic peers can testify to their group’s full membership in the national community and put nativist fears of dual-loyalty to rest. This, however, is a departure from the official war memorialization sanctioned by the state, as it separates the particular from the whole.
When the anti-colonialist John F. Kennedy became the U. S. President in 1961, Portugal-US relations entered one of its most acrimonious periods in recent history. That year, dictator António Salazar faced the most difficult period in his 36-year rule over Portugal, including a series of high-profile revolutionary actions from the emboldened democratic opposition; the annexation of Portuguese territories in India by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; and the outbreak of the Colonial Wars in Angola, later spreading to Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea. During this period, the Estado Novo dictatorship invested a great amount of resources towards shaping American public opinion into accepting Portugal’s “historical rights” in Africa, and its colonial wars as “a fight against Soviet imperialism.” Through indirect means, the Lisbon regime unleashed a large propaganda campaign in the U.S. by hiring American public relations firms, subsidizing influential American media outlets and reporters, and recruiting Portuguese-American lobbyists. In 1962, the Manhattan-based firm Selvage & Lee and its subsidiary Portuguese-American Committee on Foreign Affairs were able to persuade twelve Republican and Democratic congressmen – some representing districts with large Portuguese populations – to publicly criticize the U.S. State Department’s anti-colonialist policy towards the Portuguese empire. These lobbyists were later found to have received direct instructions and logistic support from Portuguese diplomats, in direct contravention with international regulations regarding the non-intervention of foreign officers in American domestic politics.