Knowledge and Capital in Montreal, 1800-2000

Our research programme examines the relationship between knowledge and capital in Montreal, from 1800 to 2000.  It is structured along 4 axes: Knowledge, Capital(ism), and Social Risk; Migration, Knowledge, and Global Capitalism; Knowledge, Capital, and the Production of Urban Space; and Money, Territory, and Colonialism.

We are interested in the ways in which, in the context of the transition to modernity, knowledge and capital were mutually constructed.  We also intend to study the unequal power relations engendered by capitalist development and the battles waged against these inequalities over time.  Our research programme will contribute to debates in various cutting-edge fields and will link the insights of social and cultural history to those developed by the new history of capitalism.

Knowledge, in its various forms, is the prism through which we attempt to understand the dynamics of capital and capitalism in Montreal between 1800 and 2000.  Our research projects deal with tangible forms of capital (money, goods, property, the means of production) as well as its less tangible forms, such as social, cultural, symbolic, and racial capital.  Group members are interested in forms of knowledge developed by elites (official knowledge) as well as those developed by marginal or subordinate populations (local or subaltern knowledge).

The capitalist economy values and encourages the production of certain kinds of knowledge.  At the same time, knowledge is itself a source of value and a form of capital.  Relations between capital and knowledge are socially and historically constructed.  They are shaped by unequal power relations founded on class, race, gender, and age and also make these power relations evident.  Our research will allow us to explore the interaction between the creation of capital and its acquisition of value, and the impact of this interaction on the structures of capitalism.  In doing so, itwill shed light on Montreal’s transition to industrial modernity.  Our research programme is inspired by national and international historiographies, but also by the critical work of theorists who have looked at capital and knowledge, such as Marx, Foucault, Bourdieu, and Leong.  While we are interested in official knowledge and the capital mobilized by elites, we pay particular attention to local and subaltern forms of knowledge, as well as forms of capital (social, cultural, and symbolic) mobilized by social actors lacking economic capital.

We will bring to the understanding of contemporary capitalism our knowledge of the evolution of this system over time as well as the opposition and resistance that it has faced. Capitalism does not affect all social actors in the same way : we are also interested in the alternatives to this system proposed by different social groups over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.