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The Founding College of the University of Toronto
exterior low-shot of University College facade

Richard Charles Lee Chair in Chinese Canadian Studies

The Richard Charles Lee Chair in Chinese Canadian Studies was established in November 2012 with a generous endowment from an anonymous donor. The objective of the Chair is to support research and teaching on topics relating to Chinese Canadian and Asian Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto.

The Richard Charles Lee Chair teaches undergraduate courses in the Canadian Studies program at University College and plays a significant role the development of the Asian Canadian Studies minor which was launched in 2011. The program bolsters existing courses on Chinese Canadian Studies, Asian Canadian Cultures, and Asian Canadian Space and Place, as well as creating new courses that reflect the candidate’s research and teaching interests.

The Chair has a strong transnational component and exists in dialogue with related fields such as Chinese Diaspora Studies, Chinese North American Studies, Asian Canadian Studies, and/or Asian North American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and/or the study of other racialized groups. Researching these connections involves paying attention to how immigration studies and/or politics intersect with past and present forms of racism, colonialism, imperialism, and transnationalism.

Across all its courses, the Canadian Studies program provides students with an opportunity to examine pressing issues from the past and present, while also considering what the future might hold. Courses in the program are taught by award-winning instructors, and address a wide range of issues and themes. The program encourages interdisciplinary learning, and is committed to examining social and racial inequities, while also working to address structural inequalities.

In Fall, 2021, a new Certificate in Black Canadian Studies was launched to foreground the exciting research and teaching on Black Canadian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Students in both Canadian Studies and Asian Canadian Studies are strongly encouraged to take courses offered through the Centre of Indigenous Studies. In their final year, students have the opportunity to undertake independent research, or to participate in experiential learning, for example, through a capstone course that includes community engagement.  

Students in Canadian Studies and Asian Canadian Studies are supported through a number of targeted awards. Among these is the Don and Gar Yin Hune (Xu) Undergraduate Essay Award in Chinese Canadian Community Studies, which recognizes excellent student scholarship in the area of Chinese Canadian community studies.  

Students in the program also have the opportunity to participate in a range of student initiatives. Among these are the undergraduate conference and the undergraduate journal, ImagiNATIONs, which are both led by students, who participate as organizers, presenters, writers, and/or editors. The Canadian Studies program has an active student organization, the Canadian Studies Students’ Union (CANSSU), which organizes academic and social events, and provides support and mentorship to program students. Its executive includes a dedicated representative from the Asian Canadian Studies program. 

The University of Toronto has one of the largest concentrations of research on Canada in the world, with innovative research on Canada’s past, present and future is undertaken across the university’s three campuses. The university’s Asian Institute provides the intellectual core for cutting-edge interdisciplinary and transnational scholarship on Asia, with over one hundred affiliated scholars.  

The University of Toronto Libraries system is the largest academic library in Canada and is ranked third among peer institutions in North America, behind only Harvard and Yale. The University of Toronto’s Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library is the largest library collection on Hong Kong, and on Canada-Hong Kong relations, outside of Hong Kong. The Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library is home to one of the largest research collections on East Asian studies in North America. 

The Asian Canadian Studies program, often in collaboration with other units, hosts a number of public-facing events on campus. For example, Asian Canadian Studies was one of the co-hosts of the inaugural LiterAsian Toronto 2019 Festival of Asian Canadian Writing. The Asian Canadian Studies program was also a co-sponsor of the Chinese Canadian Opera History Project, held at the Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library.

Chair Chinese Canadian Studies

Larissa Lai is the author of nine books, most recently a novel about two very different sisters in 1940s Hong Kong entitled The Lost Century. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Larissa was involved in the organizing of numerous events including Yellow Peril: Reconsidered and Writing Thru Race. Recipient of the Jim Duggins Novelist's Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the Astraea Award, and the Otherwise Honor Book, and finalist for seven more, she was recently a Maria Zambrano Fellow at the University of Huelva in Spain, and Canada Research Chair at the University of Calgary where she directed The Insurgent Architects' House for Creative Writing. She is currently Professor jointly appointed to the English Department and University College at University of Toronto, and serves as Richard Charles Lee Chair of Chinese Canadian Studies.