The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Adrian De Leon

PhD Program


Adrian De Leon studies U.S. history, with a focus on transpacific political culture at the turn of the 20th century. After graduating with an Honours BA in English Literature at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Adrian began a direct-entry PhD program in the Department of History and the Culinaria Research Centre, under the supervision of Daniel Bender and Takashi Fujitani. Combining labor and political history, visual culture studies, and food and sensory studies, this dissertation project investigates how Americans and Filipinos across the Pacific engaged with nation- and empire-building through the senses. It asks: what demands did Progressive empire-building place on everyday life? How did emerging knowledges on tropical lands and lives influence how its subjects understood their subjectivities? And how did early 20th century migrant workers assert their politics in regimes that seek to render them silent? The project explores how, in the intertwined and embodied worlds of desire and disgust, American and Philippine politics irreversibly collided, transforming race and capitalism on both sides of the Pacific. Through visual technologies and social sciences, Americans supplemented military campaigns to quell insurgency and “unruliness,” disciplining them into objects of study under an anthropological gaze. But while subject to the gaze of empire, Filipinos responded in myriad and conflicting ways, forcing Americans to respond to their politics that manifested beyond the realms of language.

Adrian is also an urban ethnographer, having conducted research on migrant and working-class Filipinos in Honolulu, Manila, and Toronto. His article on transnational Chinese-Filipino urban foodways, "Siopao and Power: The Place of Pork Buns in Manila's Chinese History," was published in Gastronomica in 2016. He also served as a project lead for the mobile app SALT (Scarborough, A Little Taste), which documents and presents Scarborough's migrant foodways for culinary tourists.


  • Honours BA (Distinction) in English Literature, University of Toronto Scarborough
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