Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Members of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences conduct research on a wide variety of topics in the social sciences and the humanities.

To browse current and active research projects in our faculty, visit the HSS Research Showcase at

Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences broadly falls under four research clusters that are tied to to the University’s strategic research themes

Research Clusters

Text, Language and Cultural Identity: The written and spoken word reflects human innovation, creativity and identity, often embracing issues of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, age and religious affiliation. This research cluster includes research-creation activities such as creative writing; translation work; text interpretation; capturing (endangered) oral languages into a written form; first and second language acquisition; the social and political use of language and texts; and heritage and identity research. This research, strengthened by our Arts archives, helps to locate who we have been, who we are, and what we might be in the future.

Sustainable Communities: Past, Present and Future: This cluster encompasses the diversity of issues shaping communities today, including immigration, displacement, aging, gender, well-being, and economic development, and retains a broad focus on the many settings that help to define communities – rural, urban, coastal, national and international. It raises questions as to the sustainability and dynamics of place, and the impact of global changes on demography, the environment and the workplace. What are the key threats to community and how are viable communities to be maintained or created today?

Governance, Ethics, Rights and Security: Arts research must be able to address the political, economic and legal changes occurring in the world today and focus on issues often not dealt with in the dominant media, such as increasing inequality, racism, and social injustice. What is ethical and fair governance and what are the circumstances or mechanisms that prevent it? What should be done when human rights and security or sustainability collide? Whither democracy in the 21st century?

The North Atlantic in Global Perspective: This research cluster, supported by the mandate of ISER books, is rooted in our current multi-disciplinary research strength in Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, a research theme that will continue, but with a broadened lens to encompass new connections and interactions in the North Atlantic region. This research cluster will also include our growing research interest in oceans, and how they shape our lives.

Research by Departments

Anthropology; The research interests of Anthropology faculty members include the anthropology of art and literature; the anthropology of the state; class and culture; economic anthropology; education; fisheries and aquaculture; gender; globalization; historical anthropology; international development; labour; migration; oil and gas; political anthropology; political ecology; ritual; religion; science and technology; social inequality; social movements; symbolic anthropology; tourism; and war. Faculty conduct research in Europe, North America, Pacific Islands, and South America.

Archaeology; The Department of Archaeology has a special focus on the archaeology of the Atlantic region, although faculty members also have expertise in both Old and New World archaeology and in biological archaeology. Interests range from the study of ancient Native cultures, through the historical archaeology of European expansion, to downed World War II aircraft. Current faculty-led research projects include excavations of the early 17th-century English colony of Ferryland, south of St. John's; large Paleoeskimo winter village; prehistoric and historic sites in Nova Scotia; early fishing stations on northern Newfoundland's French shore; regional sites containing 4500 years of First Nations, Paleoeskimo and Inuit settlement in southern Labrador; and late Thule and early historic Inuit villages in northern Labrador. Outside Atlantic Canada, faculty have active interests in Europe and the CanadianArctic. Research topics are also diverse, and include hunter-gatherer studies, historical archaeology, ethnoarchaeology and palaeoethnobotany.

Classics:  Classics is the study of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. The study of these two civilizations covers more than 2000 years of history, from the Minoans and the Mycenaeans in the Bronze Age to St Augustine in Late Antiquity. Classics covers the material culture of ancient society – the art, the houses, the fortifications, the temples, even the cooking pots. Modern western culture grows from these ancient roots, and knowledge of classical antiquity informs a broad cultural vocabulary, which helps us to understand western literature, laws and cultural institutions.

Economics:  The Economics department specializes in applied economics in a wide variety of areas, including fishery, petroleum and mining, forestry, environmental, development, international, monetary, public sector, welfare, labor and health economics. The CARE (Collaborative Applied Research in Economics) research initiative promotes applied economic research within the region with a view to promoting a greater understanding of Maritime economies and any associated wider social impacts.

English:  The English Department has strengths in all areas of British, Canadian, Irish, and American literature, from the Medieval period to the present. Studies of theory and visual or multimodal narratives are also active components of the English Department’s research community. In addition, creative writing by dramatists, essayists, novelists, poets, and short fiction writers comprises integral research in the Department.

Ethnomusicology: The Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP) conducts research in music as a cultural practice, through studying diverse traditions of local and "world" music. The MMaP website makes available or lists a fascinating array of documentaries and publications.

Folklore: The Department of Folklore research a wide range of topics around the theme of intangible cultural heritage, including folksong, ballad, folktale, legend, language and play, ethnography of speaking, folk belief, traditional health systems, folk custom, folk drama, material culture, and vernacular architecture. Research areas also include folklore and culture, folklore and oral history, folklore and literature, folklore and gender, folklore and popular culture, and public sector folklore. Opportunities for fieldwork are rich in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. See also the Memorial University Folklore Archives (MUNFLA).

Gender Studies:Gender Studies faculty conduct research in citizenship and human rights, reproductive rights, Irish studies, auto/biography and life writing, feminist theory, the body, environmental and Aboriginal studies, and postcolonial theory.

Geography: Faculty in the Department of Geography conduct research within the fields of climatology, cultural, historical, and economic geography, geographic information systems, geomorphology, Quaternary studies, regional development, remote sensing and resource management. The physical and human environments of Newfoundland and Labrador present a wide range of research possibilities. The province’s easternmost coastal location in Canada provides a stimulating setting for the study of the climate and the imprint of Quaternary climate changes upon the physical landscape. The social and economic characteristics observed for Atlantic region provide a wealth of research opportunities on demographic and migration patterns, sustainable development of resources and rural development. In addition, Newfoundland and Labrador presents considerable scope for the study of coastal and marine environments.

History: Faculty members in the Department of History engage in research in fields such as environmental history, social history, cultural history, military history and maritime history; research spans periods from the ancient world to the twenty-first century, and regions across the globe.

Linguistics: Research by language and subdiscipline; faculty members in the Department of Linguistics have active research programs in morphology, syntax, phonology, language variation, and language acquisition, with a strong emphasis on Aboriginal languages (Algonquian, Inuktitut, Iroquoian) and English language variation and change.

Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures: Faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures conduct research on German literature, culture and language, German for business and commerce, Russian literature, language and culture, and a wide variety of academic research activities relating to Francophone, Spanish, and Latin American literature, culture, language, and translation.

Philosophy: Faculty members in the Department of Philosophy have research strengths in Continental Philosophy, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and Social and Political Philosophy.

Political Science: Faculty members in the Department of Political Science have research strengths in public policy; European and international politics; and elections, campaigns and voting, particularly in Canada.

Religious Studies: In the Department of Religious Studies, faculty have expertise in two main areas: religious texts and traditions; and religion, culture and society. More specifically, we have research strengths in Hindu texts and lived religion; Classical Confucianism; Philosophical Daoism; Chinese and North American Buddhism, Buddhism and Psychology; Christianity; the Hebrew Bible; Judaism to the Second Temple period; Islam in the West; secularism; religion and gender; ritual studies; religion and popular culture; new-age and alternative religious movements; religion and the arts (film, literature); ethics and social justice; and the philosophy of religion.

Sociology:  Faculty members in the Department of Sociology have research strengths in the sociology of work, occupational health, immigration, culture and communications, theory, gender studies, political sociology, social and economic development, the environment, deviance, and criminology. Much of the research conducted by the faculty engages with communities and social issues in Newfoundland and Labrador.