Cultural Analysis and Social Theory (MA)

The interdisciplinary Master of Arts (MA) in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory (CAST) is a 12-month program that provides dynamic graduate experience in an intimate intellectual community.

Our unique program brings together students with a wide variety of academic backgrounds to examine contemporary social and cultural issues while expanding and diversifying knowledge sets and developing advanced research and communication skills.


Program Highlights

  • Professional development in the program colloquium, including advanced research workshops, teaching and learning workshops, and research talks by scholars from both within and outside Laurier.
  • Participation in the activities of a research group. Students have contributed to the organization and execution of international and local conferences, participated in advanced workshops with visiting scholars, and presented their own research at student conferences.
  • Encouragement of non-traditional research projects and the development of new tools to address social justice, social and cultural difference, and social change in a supportive student-centred context.
  • Opportunities to work with faculty on grant-funded projects.

Program Details

An Interdisciplinary, Dynamic Program

Our program is designed to foster the type of critical inquiry that extends beyond the boundaries of a single academic discipline. Working with professors from across the humanities and social sciences, you gain a comprehensive perspective on the diverse theories and critical methodologies essential to understanding contemporary culture and society and the many challenges we face both locally and globally.

Through coursework and an optional independent research project, you refine your critical thinking, research, and analytical skills, broaden your perspective on contemporary issues and gain new insights into the social and cultural forces that shape the modern world. Our highly personalized program encourages students to place diverse perspectives into vital conversations in order to understand impediments to social justice.

Our program welcomes students from a wide variety of undergraduate disciplines and universities across Canada and around the globe. Our students include both those who have just recently completed their undergraduate studies and those who are professionally situated and wish to further their education. We offer a lively and intellectually engaging program designed to enable you to successfully conduct your graduate studies in a supportive student-centred environment.

Program Structure

You will benefit from taking courses and interacting with scholars working on cutting-edge research in contemporary cultural analysis and social theory from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The diversity of our collective expertise makes CAST particularly relevant for students who wish to extend disciplinary boundaries, question established ways of thinking, explore the richness of contemporary theory and examine the nuances and complexities social life from a variety of complementary perspectives.

The program is structured around three inter-related fields of inquiry:

  • Globalization, Identity and Social Movements
  • Body Politics: Gender, Sexuality and Embodiment
  • Cultural Representation and Social Theory

You can choose either a Coursework option or a Major Research Project option.


Research Focus

CAST faculty and student research supports the development of critical strategies that underpin thriving communities and our readiness to ethically engage the future.

  • Globalization, Identity and Social Movements fosters critical understanding of contemporary global economic, social and political processes and the struggle for human, cultural and social rights at the local, national and supranational levels.
  • Body Politics: Gender, Sexuality and Embodiment focuses on gender, sexuality and embodiment, and the specific ways in which human bodies are inhabited and represented, historically and culturally.
  • Cultural Representation and Social Theory engages a variety of thematic concerns related to the politics of knowledge production, whether in the context of academia and intellectual discourse, as a feature of media technologies, or a practice in everyday life.

Faculty Research

Key attributes of faculty research include: championing social diversity and inclusion; broadening understandings of ethical agency; centering awareness of social justice; and evaluating and understanding the production and limitations of knowledge, interpretation, and analysis, particularly as we attempt to address increasingly complex questions of our time.

Research Assistantships

Research Assistantships are periodically available to CAST students. These research assistantships enable you to work closely with a faculty mentor on a specific research project.

Recent research assistantships include constructing a digital memory map of Kitchener-Waterloo, curating an online art exhibition, and helping to organize a major international conference on biopolitics. Specific topics and the availability of research assistantships vary from year to year.

Recent Major Research Papers

  • Post-mastectomy tattooing as ethical relationality, bodily (un)becomings, and monstrous embodiment
  • Politics of belonging: Refugee women’s experiences of settlement and integration, ‘unknown, anonymous other’, in Canada
  • Walking the line of volunteer tourism
  • Problematising the angry gut: Inflammatory bowel disease, quality of life and self-management
  • Emergent culture: Iranian rap music as a tool for resistance
  • Queering player agency and paratexts: An analysis and expansion of queerbaiting in video games
  • Female embodied becomings and de/reterritorializations: An exploration of the affective and phenomenological possibilities and limitations offered by Crossfit
  • Postmodern poeisis: Madness, creativity, and the construction of an exploratory methodology in the Broken Glass Project plus Broken Glass Project podcast
  • The emergent ethical assemblages of gaming: A case study analysis of ethical affordances in Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human
  • Accommodating the minimum: How “fight for $15” shifted the discourse on minimum wage in Ontario
  • “It’s sad, it’s tragic, it’s not news”: Journalistic production of “grievability” in Western news depictions of girl victims of violent crime
  • Sisters, self-defined: A thematic analysis of the visibility of black women in the canadian professional workplace
  • Nationalizing the theft of a nation: Neocolonialism, cultural appropriation, and the official symbols of Canada

Course Offerings

About CAST Courses

CAST elective courses examine the complex forces involved in the shaping of cultural processes, forms of subjectivity and modes of social inclusion and exclusion. You will explore:

  • How power and politics are embedded in cultural systems.
  • How socio-economic forces and popular culture are intermeshed.
  • How categories such as gender, race, class, sexuality, and (dis)ability are socially constructed and inequalities reproduced.
  • How language, bodies, affect, and memory are culturally constituted and contested.

Over the course of your studies, you deepen your appreciation for how political and ethical agency is possible – and why it is vitally important – in our globalized world.

We regularly offer special topics courses in order to address new areas of research expertise and teaching in our program. Please consult our posted list of yearly courses offerings to see topics and course descriptions.

Sample Elective Courses

Elective course offerings vary from year to year. We offer three electives in each year drawn from the following options and depending on faculty availability:

  • CQ610: Race, Gender and Imperialism
  • CQ613: Nostalgia and Exile: Memory, History and Identity
  • CQ615: Theories of Multiculturalism and Intercultural Dialogue
  • CQ617: Past Violence and Public Actions: Art, Literature, Politics
  • CQ618: Biopolitical Theory
  • CQ619: Global Political Economic and Environmental Armageddon
  • CQ621: The Social Body
  • CQ624: Rethinking the Body via Deleuze and Guattari
  • CQ625: Ethics, Affect and Embodiment
  • CQ630: Risk, Media and the Politics of Anxiety
  • CQ631: Cultural Studies in Theory and Practice
  • CQ632: Hybrid Discourses, Discourses of Hybridity
  • CQ633: Power, Hegemony and Resistance
  • CQ634: Visuality and Cultural Analysis
  • CQ635: Social Theory and Contemporary Film
  • CQ640: Special Topics in Globalization, Identity and Social Movements
  • CQ641: Special Topics in Body Politics
  • CQ642: Special Topics in Culture and Representation

"Experiencing CAST and an interdisciplinary framework made all the difference in determining my academic path. No two cohort members shared the same educational backgrounds, so conversations proved fruitful and all the more enlightening. The professors from across schools enriched the overall breadth and program quality."

Makenzie Salmon (MA '21)


Take the first step in your graduate education and apply to one of our graduate programs. Follow our three-step admission process — we’ll walk you through how to apply and prepare for your first day as a graduate student.

  • Start: Fall (September)
  • Format: Full-time
  • Application deadline: Mar. 30 (international applicants) or Aug. 15 (domestic applicants). 

The admission cycle for fall 2024 is now closed. Applications for fall 2025 will open on August 16, 2024.

Your Next Steps

Questions? Contact Greg Bird, graduate coordinator, at For general inquiries, email

"Some highlights for the program for me included: small, intimate classes that allowed for deep conversations that explored specific areas of interest; the ability to integrate Indigenous cultural practices within the coursework; and a supportive group of faculty that encouraged creative inquiry and challenged students in a constructive ways."

Cara Loft (MA '20)

Waterloo Campus

This program is available on Laurier's Waterloo campus.

Laurier's Waterloo campus is home to more than 19,000 graduate and undergraduate students. Tucked into several city blocks, this campus is walking distance to your classrooms, food, and various campus amenities.

Laurier is a leading force in research among Canadian universities, and many of our research centres and institutes are housed in Waterloo.

Learn more about Laurier's campuses.

Tuition and Funding

Guaranteed Funding

Eligible students receive guaranteed funding for their studies. This funding comes in the form of a teaching assistantship in the amount of $14,000 to $16,000 per year. Graduate Teaching Assistants typically work in such areas as Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Global Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and related fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Additional funding is periodically available to enrolled students in the form of a research assistantship.

Winners of major external awards (OGS and Tri-Council) may be eligible for top-up funding which includes the Dean’s Graduate Scholarship (total value exceeds $10,000). A list of all funding opportunities available to Laurier graduate students is available on our graduate funding webpage.



Graduates of the CAST program have identified the ways that their degree in CAST has helped them professionally, such as advanced skills in research, analysis, communication, critical thinking, and diversity and inclusion, among others. Alumni surveys show our students have high success rates in locating employment related to their studies following graduation and in securing admission to programs to continue their studies, including law school and PhD programs.

Graduates of our CAST program have pursued the following career options:

  • social policy researcher/advisor
  • cultural research assistant/associate
  • arts/culture critic
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant
  • humanitarian aid worker/administrator
  • museum/gallery curator
  • college/university instructor
  • advocates for LGBTQ/women’s/disability/BIPOC/migrant worker rights
  • literacy education and programming
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • settlement/health/legal agencies
  • writer/journalist/editor
  • community development/relations coordinator
  • project/grant writer/manager/coordinator/director
  • communication specialist
  • community instructor/educator/activism

Your Path to Post-Degree Success

ASPIRE is Laurier's professional skills development training program for graduate students. The program helps you craft an individualized, extracurricular learning plan tailored to your professional journey and entry to the workplace.


Learn about the interests of our faculty members. If you are looking for more information about this program, have questions, or want to set up a meeting, contact a member of our team

Greg Bird
Associate Professor, Sociology
Program Director   

Alexandra Boutros
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Cultural Studies

Stacey Hannem
Professor, Criminology

Penelope Ironstone
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Cultural Studies

Ian MacRae
Assistant Professor, Digital Media and Journalism and Society, Culture and Environment

Jane Newland
Associate Professor, Languages and Literatures

Marcia Oliver
Assistant Professor, Law and Society
Fellow, Tshepo Institute for the Study of Contemporary Africa

H. F. Pimlott
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Cultural Studies

Garry Potter
Professor, Sociology

Natasha Pravaz
Associate Professor, Anthropology

Ian Roderick
Associate Professor, Communication Studies and Cultural Studies

Edward Shizha
Fellow, Tshepo Institute for the Study of Contemporary Africa

Alicia Sliwinski
Associate Professor, Global Studies

Milo Sweedler
Professor, Languages and Literatures

Kenneth Werbin
Associate Professor, Digital Media and Journalism

Jasmin Zine
Professor, Sociology and the Muslim Studies Option