Historical Ontologies

This group provides a hub for interdisciplinary inquiry in the growing field of digital scholarship. It gathers a network of UofT faculty, postdocs, and students interested in historical ontologies, namely the study of how concepts and objects gain meaning relationally, through evolving linguistic forms which materialize patterns and styles of reasoning. This area of knowledge not only lends itself particularly well to digital inquiry, but also lays bare many of the epistemological and methodological challenges in humanists’ growing engagements with data science. Our meetings facilitate structured, trans-disciplinary, and intergenerational conversations on the themes of representation, translation, equity, accessibility, surveillance, discoverability, and knowability. We are exploring how we can leverage digital tools not simply to critique imperialist and Eurocentric ontologies, but to recentre subaltern, racialized, Indigenous, transnational and/or otherwise non-Eurocentric and/or non-hegemonic ways of knowing as part of scholarly historical ontology building practices. Among the questions guiding our interactions as a group are: How can we overcome the challenges we face as we create, store, manipulate, visualize and learn from data? How can we think critically about the ways in which our digital research projects and teams practice forms of world-making that ground data-driven insights in real-world complexity? How can we draw on this process to bring the complexity of power and mediation back to the surface of humanistic inquiry? How do we nurture sustainable, reflexive, and critical data practices?


  • Adrien Zakar, A&S Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations and History & Philosophy of Science & Technology
  • Natalie Rothman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies


Faculty, University of Toronto

  • Heidi Bohaker, A&S History
  • Elise Burton, A&S History & Philosophy of Science & Technology
  • Lucia Dacome, A&S History & Philosophy of Science & Technology
  • Esmat Elhalaby, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
  • Shahrzad Mojab, OISE Leadership, Higher & Adult Education
  • Heba Mustafa, A&S Art History
  • Siobhan O’Flynn, (Lecturer) UTM English & Drama
  • Bhavani Raman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
  • Mariam Sheibani, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
  • Mariana Valverde, A&S Criminology
  • Rebecca Woods, A&S History & Philosophy of Science & Technology

Graduate Students, University of Toronto

  • Utku Can Akin, Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
  • Majd al-Shihabi, Geography & Planning
  • Nick Field, Study of Religion
  • Erdem Idil, History
  • Arun Jacob, Information
  • Bryon Maxey, Study of Religion
  • Marybel Menzies, Philosophy
  • Ilya Nokhrin, English
  • Ushnish Sengupta, OISE Leadership, Higher & Adult Education

Staff members, University of Toronto

  • Tanya Hagen, Managing Editor, Records of Early English Drama
  • Kirsta Stapelfeldt, Coordinator, UTSC Digital Scholarship Unit

Postdoctoral Fellow outside University of Toronto

  • Elisa Tersigni, Women Writers Project, Northeastern University