Our history

CSPT was initiated in 1988 by six faculty members from three different departments: Warren Magnusson and Rob Walker (Political Science), John Michelsen and Monika Langer (Philosophy), and William Carroll and Rennie Warburton (Sociology), with support from their Departments and from the Deans of Graduate Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Program admitted its inaugural cohort of MA students in 1989, and for the next fifteen years remained solely an MA concentration. In CSPT’s early years both Political Science and Sociology offered MA programs, and students in both disciplines could apply to CSPT. Philosophy did not have a graduate program at the time, and so was unable to participate as a department. Philosophy subsequently withdrew from CSPT, and in the 1990s English and History joined as participating departments.

Although the disciplinary representation of students in CSPT is in constant flux, historically between 60-70 per cent come from the Social Sciences, 30-40 per cent from the Humanities, and 5 per cent from the Individual Interdisciplinary program.

In 2005/06 CSPT began admitting PhD students who had first been accepted into doctoral programs in English, History, Political Science, Sociology or Individual Interdisciplinary Studies, and who met the program’s rigorous entrance requirements. There have been 12 PhD graduates with a concentration in CSPT since then.

Since its founding, CSPT has grown into one of the University of Victoria’s flagship programs. Its success has largely been due to the efforts of a core of CSPT faculty who are deeply committed to advanced intellectual inquiry in the spirit of politically engaged critique, and who have devoted countless hours to teaching, supervising and administering the program.

Professor Warren Magnusson on 25th Anniversary of CSPT Program at UVic

Our vision

The original vision of CSPT was to offer an interdisciplinary supplement to graduate education in the Humanities and Social Sciences, offering an extra theoretical challenge to top-ranked students first accepted into a regular graduate program. Since 2016, CSPT has considered broadening its reach into other faculties.

CSPT’s status as a concentration rather than a free-standing program sprang partly out of a recognition that academics without firm disciplinary bases are at a disadvantage in finding university positions. Faculty thus hold their primary appointments in the traditional disciplines, and are cross-appointed to CSPT for interdisciplinary purposes. CSPT benefits from the underpinning of department structures and from the autonomy it exercises in deciding on its own specific admissions criteria, determining seminars to be offered, approving thesis/dissertation proposals and supervisory committees, assessing the qualifications of new faculty, and so on.

CSPT’s vision, however, is not just to offer added value to existing graduate programs but to question the very division itself of knowledge into separate disciplines. To the extent that disciplinary traditions 1) assume a priori what counts as “culture,” “nature,” “politics” or “the social”; and 2) approach them as distinct objects of study, CSPT’s vision unsettles programs of study that are too-narrowly confined within the horizons of a single discipline.

Furthermore, CSPT is broadly defined by affinities — non-ideological and open-method encounters that are difficult to define or enclose, that are related to cultural, social and political questions; a robust concern for what constitutes thought; theory as the capacity for self-reflection, the insistence on questioning how we come to know.

Panel discussion on "Interdisciplinary Life and Beyond: 25 Years of the Cultural, Social, and Political Thought Program."

CSPT Emeriti

CSPT is blessed to have very engaged emeriti, who include:

  • Michael Asch
  • Greg Blue
  • William Carroll (founding member)
  • Evelyn Cobley
  • Arthur Kroker
  • Monika Langer (founding member)
  • Warren Magnussan (founding member)
  • John Michelsen (founding member)
  • James Tully
  • Rob Walker (founding member)
  • Rennie Warburton (founding member)