CFP – CHESS 2014: Suburbia and Environmental History

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Event Details

NiCHE, the Network in Canadian History and the Environment, is pleased to announce that the eighth Canadian History and Environment Summer School will be held at York University in Toronto, Ontario from Friday May 23 to Sunday May 25, 2014. As in previous years, CHESS will take place prior to the Canadian Historical Association annual meeting, which is being held at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario.

The theme for CHESS 2014 is “Suburbia and Environmental History.” Although environmental historians have studied the urban environment for some time, the suburbs have attracted less attention. Inspired by the ideal of the countryside, the suburbs introduced a new set of social and economic relations to North American cities. Suburbs tended to be quite eclectic during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but after the Second World War standardization became their defining feature. In all cases, however, suburbanization involved a physical transformation of the environment from a variety of pre-existing land uses into low-density, single-family homes. At the same time, the suburbs were a product of new ideas about the city. Environmental histories of the suburbs, therefore, explore both the physical transformation of places and the cultural transformation of people.

York University is surrounded by Canada’s largest suburban landscape. Located within 30 minutes’ drive are Don Mills, Canada’s oldest planned corporate suburban development; Markham, one of the country’s largest and fastest growing suburban ‘cities’; and Rouge Park, Canada’s first national park within a suburban municipality. This year’s summer school will venture into the suburbs to explore the history of this amorphous Canadian environment.

CHESS provides a forum where graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and others who are interested in historical approaches to the environment can interact and exchange ideas. Introducing non-specialists to the field of environmental history is also an important goal. The organizers will seek appropriate representation from each of these categories, but space is limited.

All who are interested in participating in CHESS 2014 are invited to apply by email to by March 14. Applications should be attached as a single Word document or PDF, and must include a CV (2 pages max.) and brief statement (150-250 words) indicating how the applicant hopes to benefit from participation in the summer school. Places in CHESS 2014 will be allocated after consideration of these statements, and decisions will be communicated to applicants before the end of March. Further information about presenters, field trips, and other event details will be posted to

NiCHE will cover the costs of meals and two nights’ accommodation at York University for all CHESS participants. Funds will also be available for partial contributions towards travel costs for those in need, with first priority afforded to graduate students. Those seeking travel support will be reimbursed after the event and will need to submit appropriate receipts and boarding passes as applicable. Travel grants are expected not to exceed $600 CDN. It is the responsibility of participants to make their own travel arrangements so as to arrive in Toronto by 5pm on Friday, May 23.

Local Organizing Committee:
Sean Kheraj
Jennifer Bonnell
Ben Bradley
Jessica van Horssen
Andrew Watson

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Sean Kheraj

Associate Professor and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University
Sean Kheraj is a member of the executive committee of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at
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