Perspectives on Croatian Science, Culture and Language in Toronto

The University of Toronto's Alumni Hall at St Michael's College was the venue for an encouraging Croatology colloquium: Perspectives on Croatian Science, Culture and Language.

Thanks to an innovative idea hatched out of the Croatian-Canadian AMCA association, Croatian language, history and culture are taught at the University of Toronto and at the University of Waterloo. The University of Toronto's Alumni Hall at St Michael's College was the venue for an encouraging Croatology colloquium: Perspectives on Croatian Science, Culture and Language. The event was organised by the University of Toronto, in the Canadian province of Ontario, and by partners AMCA and the University of Zagreb's Croatian Studies department.

The event was opened on Thursday, the 6th of April of this year, by Croatian Ambassador to Canada HE Marica Matković, Donna Tussing Orwin, the head of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, the current head of the Toronto chapter of AMCA Krešimir Mustapić, and by Davor Piskač PhD, the implementer of the inter-university collaboration programme, guest professor and Croatian Studies senior lecturer, who conceived this methodological seminar four years ago. Taking part in the seminar are leading philologists and artists – Vinko Grubišić, Joseph Schallert, Dubravka Zima, Aleksandra Srša Benko, award winning music pedagogue Edward J. Mavrinac and Igor Štagljar, an internationally acclaimed nanoscience star and native of Zagreb.

The story began a decade after Croatia regained its independence, at the end of the Homeland War, and is unique in its innovative potential in our diaspora community. The reorganisation of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto saw changes in the programme dedicated to the Croatian language, history and culture in generation Y. Nikola Demarin, a long-time president of AMCA, saw an opportunity here to enrich the programme with new seminars, initiating negotiations that resulted in the historic signing of a cooperation agreement between the University of Zagreb and the University of Toronto on the 31st of July 2012. The other signatories of the agreement are the Croatian science, education and sports ministry – which provides a part of the financing of the programme – and AMCA.

The agreement was ratified by the rectorate of the University of Zagreb on the 21st of May 2013 – this defines the continued cooperation at a time when Croatian has also become one of the official languages of the European Union. Given the student turnout and the excellent results in Canada the agreement should certainly be renewed in the future to the benefit of all parties involved. In support of this need, at least when it comes to green economies and to the contemporary culture and creative industries, is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed between the EU and Canada, ratified last year by the European Parliament and which Croatia – as announced by foreign minister Davor Ivo Stier – will ratify by the end of 2017.

Demarin notes that a visit to Zagreb made by University of Toronto professor Christine Kramer was key in clinching the decision to introduce a new seminar dedicated to Mediterranean cities on the Adriatic Sea, from Dubrovnik to Pula. The signing of the agreement laid the groundwork for professors from the University of Zagreb to, for the first time, teach Canadian students. Since the 2012/2013 academic year, along with the two existing seminars, a new seminar was introduced on Mediterranean cities, co-financed by the Croatian science, education and sports ministry, AMCA Toronto and the Croatian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The interest among students for all three of the cited seminars has exceeded all expectations, a testimony to the vitality of the Croatian community in Ontario and the great interest for Croatia among students in Canada. The presence of Croatian studies at Canada's largest university, the University of Toronto – ranked among the top twenty universities in the world, speaks to the value of the work of the University of Zagreb and is also the single greatest contribution of AMCA Toronto to the long-term preservation of the identity of the Croatian community in North America. One hundred thirty per cent more students have enrolled in the Croatian seminars than in previous years.

Interestingly, the majority of students opted for the Mediterranean cities seminar. The creative industry of the Mediterranean part of our homeland, the EU and Canada certainly possess a fantastic source of human potential in this study programme at the University of Toronto, which looks at Croatia's Mediterranean cities in relation to the overall culture of the Mediterranean.

Dubravka Zima was at the University of Toronto for last year's winter semester, replacing her successful colleague Piskač – both are drawn from the Croatian Studies Croatology department. Professor Zima has competently interpreted the attractiveness of the new seminars to her Canadian pupils: "From the great Mediterranean civilisations of the Antiquity, via the challenging processes of their cultural interaction – taking and giving, to the contemporary culturological interpretation of the Mediterranean as the cradle of European culture and Croatia's place within it – future culture concepts of Mediterraneanism have been identified and interpreted in their Croatian realisations. The core points of interpretation in this context are certainly the narratives on Croatia's Adriatic cities, symbolically exemplified in the story of the historic parallels between two key Adriatic city-states, Venice and Dubrovnik, in whose complex and ambivalent relationship the medieval and post-medieval cultural and political history of the Mediterranean is reflected."

We expect the Croatology colloquium on the Perspectives on Croatian Science, Culture and Language to lend more weight to this line of contemplation!
Programme

By: Vesna Kukavica

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