Departmental profile

Hong Kong

Photo by Zoe Weber

Department Profile

The field of East Asian Studies has undergone enormous change in recent years, moving from philological and hermeneutic approaches towards critical theory and more problem-based, often transnational studies. The transformation of our own department tracks, and often leads, these changes as we have moved from a program organized by geographical and chronological coverage to one centred around intellectual and thematic “nodes of excellence,” with the result that in certain fields we attract top graduate students from around the world.

We are at the forefront of emerging fields: East Asian colonialisms and empires, urban studies, premodern thought and cultural studies, and media studies. Much of the research produced by our faculty bridges—and problematises—the pre-modern/modern division, which has hitherto dominated the field, while other faculty explore the complexities of pan- and transregional research. Our strengths continue some of the best traditions of East Asian studies as a critical combination of humanities and social science approaches.

The EAS faculty includes members with joint appointments with the departments of Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Religion, Cinema Studies, and the Asian Institute. We are a collaborating partner of the Program in Book History and Print Culture with faculty both teaching in the program and also serving on the program committee of the Toronto Centre for the Book. We are also a collaborating partner with the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies and have faculty actively involved with the Women and Gender Studies Institute, Asian Institute and Literary Studies Program.

In the wider community we maintain strong ties with the ROM, whose Far Eastern Department was the genesis of our own department today. Senior ROM curators teach courses in our department and help to supervise our MA and PhD students, who have also served as guest curators at the museum. The Far Eastern Library and East Asian Art and Archaeology Collections of the ROM combine with the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library to provide some of North America’s richest resources for research of East Asia.