Areas of Study


Founded in 1973, York University's unique, interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought (SPTH) undertakes to encourage, develop and advance the analysis of social and political ideas with the aim of integrating intellectual interests that traverse the humanities and social sciences. The program emphasizes critical engagement with issues, concepts and texts that lend themselves to a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. SPTH is thus not associated with any particular school of thought, but stresses historical and systematic study of social and political ideas, as well as their historical, contemporary, and potential connections to activism, policy analysis and development and other forms of praxis. Thus, the program should be of particular interest to students with diverse backgrounds and interests in fields such as Philosophy, Political Theory, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, Black Studies and Critical Race Theory, Anthropology, Sociology, Literary Criticism, and Visual Arts.

SPTH offers both MA and PhD degrees programs and, in cooperation with the participating academic disciplines from across the university, the program’s curriculum is structured around three flexible areas of study:

1. The History of Social and Political Thought

2. Black Studies and Theories of Race and Racism

3. Economy, Consciousness, Aesthetics and Society

The three areas of study are not meant to be mutually exclusive.  As members of an interdisciplinary program, students are encouraged to study in more than one area and combine elements of them if their project so dictates. In selecting their courses, students can acquire a broad interdisciplinary knowledge of the relevant fields, in addition to pursuing their own specialized interests. In all cases students will have to take considerable personal initiative to develop an intellectually coherent pattern of study which will lead to the writing of an original MRP or doctoral dissertation in Social and Political Thought. Where relevant, students will be required to be adequately prepared in those languages essential to their dissertation research. The program is thus ideal for self-directed students with diverse intellectual interests.

Areas of Study:

The History of Social and Political Thought

Courses in the History of Social and Political Thought area would prepare students to develop innovative research programs relative to pivotal figures, texts and intellectual traditions that have been decisively influential for many fields that have traditionally been of considerable importance in the program. While student projects typically move beyond or cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, courses in this field would include texts and thinkers in Continental philosophy, Marxism, critical theory, queer theory, feminist thought, anti-colonial and post-colonial thought and forms of cultural theory that touch on social and political matters, broadly considered.

Black Studies and Theories of Race and Racism

The Black Studies and Theories of Race and Racism prepares students to develop innovative scholarship that explores and analyzes the distinct contributions of Black intellectual, political, and cultural productions, nationally and internationally, as well as to critically investigate and develop new methods and theories of critical, interdisciplinary scholarship on race and racism. This provides frameworks for the study of practices of power and domination that underpin processes such as colonialism and slavery, migration and diasporization,  globalization, criminalization, and racial profiling as well as for understanding struggles for liberation and self-determination.

Economy, Consciousness, Aesthetics and Society

Courses in the Economy, Consciousness, Aesthetics and Society field would prepare students to develop innovative research programs relative to central theoretical and practical problems that have traditionally been of considerable importance in the program. These include methodologies for investigating consciousness, such as psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and the linguistic turn, as well as the study of culture through communications and cultural theories, theories of artistic production, and the analysis of the work of particular artists or schools. These theories and practices are generally considered in light of social and economic questions surrounding inequality and exclusion, relations of power and domination, and other problems endemic to contemporary society, with a special emphasis on the often inescapable influence of capitalism.