Nicolas Kenny

Office: AQ 6015

Areas of Study: AMERICAS, EUROPE


Future courses may be subject to change.


I arrived at SFU after completing a PhD in a joint programme organised by the Université de Montréal and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. I am a member of the Montreal History Group and of the Centre de recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains in Brussels.

Research Interests

I have always been fascinated by large urban centres.  As such, my primary research interests lie in the cultural history of cities, specifically in the way people imagine, represent, and live in their unique atmospheres.  I explore sensorial and emotional experiences with these environments, particularly in times of significant upheaval in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Most of my work focuses on Montreal and Brussels, either individually or in comparative and transnational perspective.  In The Feel of the City: Experiences of Urban Transformation (University of Toronto Press, 2014), I examined the way bodily encounters with the sights, smells, and sounds of the changing landscape in these cities shaped urban dwellers’ understandings of transformations associated with industrial modernity that were taking place on a global scale.  Then, in Bruxelles et sa radio : émotions et sonorité, 1923-1960 (CFC Éditions, 2019), I considered how the sounds and emotions transmitted and produced by radio broadcasting underpinned urban life as the city experienced, and emerged from, four long years of wartime occupation.  These questions have nourished my interest in a range of connected themes that include urban governance, streetlighting, noise abatement, heritage preservation, historical memory as well as comparative and transnational methodologies.  Currently, I am researching the social and cultural transformations to city life generated by the development of railways in Montreal between 1850 and 1950.     

As an instructor in SFU’s French Cohort Program in Public and International Affairs (FCP), I am also interested in issues surrounding Canada’s linguistic diversity.  I have conducted research on the history of British Columbia's Francophone community, concentrating especially on the development of French-language public education in the province.  With fellow FCP instructors, I co-edited a collection of essays geared toward undergraduate students that situates historical and contemporary Canadian issues in a global context.  I regularly comment on provincial and federal politics for Radio-Canada and other local and national media outlets.



  • Forthcoming. “Crossing Imperial Boundaries and Constructing Intimate Linkages: Reading Soldiers’ First World War Letters,” in Elizabeth Kirkland, Don Nerbas, and Dimitry Anastakis (eds.), Crossing Boundaries and Constructing Linkages: The History of Montreal’s Square Mile in National and International Context. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2022.
  • Forthcoming. “Écoles et communauté en Colombie-Britannique francophone,” in Rémi Léger and Geneviève Brissons (eds.), La francophonie en Colombie-Britannique (Title TBD). Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2022.
  • Jarrett Rudy, Magda Fahrni, and Nicolas Kenny, “Railways and the Urban Soundscape: Montreal, 1850s–1950s,” Urban History Review – Revue d’histoire urbaine 49.2, (Spring 2022) pp. 217-40.
  • “Tuning In: Emotion, Sound, and the Urban Landscape of Radio Broadcasting in Postwar Brussels,” in Katie Barclay and Jade Riddle (eds.), Urban Emotions and the Making of the City: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis, 2021.
  • “Constitutional Rights at the Kitchen Table: British Columbia Francophones and the Making of a Minority-Language Educational System,” Historical Studies in Education 32.2 (Autumn 2020), pp. 148-171.
  • “Saving the Steamship: Brussels’ Maison de la Radio and the Urban Emotions of a Broadcasting Institution,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 26.8 (2020), pp. 806-822, published online 11 December 2019.  Jarrett Rudy, Nicolas Kenny, and Magda Fahrni, “‘An Ocean of Noise’: H.E. Reilley and the Making of a Legitimate Social Problem, 1911-1945,” Journal of Canadian Studies 51.2 (January 2018), pp. 261-288, published online 19 December 2017.  
  • “Forgotten Pasts and Contested Futures in Vancouver,” British Journal of Canadian Studies, 29.2 (September 2016), p. 175-197.
  • “City Glow: Streetlights, Emotions, and Nocturnal Life, 1880s–1910s,” Journal of Urban History, 43.1 (2017), pp. 91-114, published online 10 April 2015.
  • "Emotions and City Life," introduction, and guest editor for a special issue of Urban History Review – Revue d’histoire urbaine, 42.2 (Spring 2014).
  • “Gouverner pour et par le corps,” in Léon Robichaud, Harold Bérubé and Donald Fyson (eds), La gouvernance montréalaise depuis quatre siècles : de la  ville-frontière à la métropole.  Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2014, 57-70.
  • “Changing Cities, Moving Bodies: Industrial Modernity in Montreal and Brussels,” in Robert Beck, Ulrike Krampl and Emmanuelle Retaillaud-Bajac (eds), Les cinq sens de la ville : du moyen âge à nos jours. Tours: Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2013, 243-256.
  • “Corporeal Understandings of the Industrialising Environment.” in Stéphane Castonguay and Michèle Dagenais (eds), Metropolitan Natures: Urban Environmental Histories of Montreal. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, (2011.) p 51-67
  • “Une vraie cité infernale: Le discours hygiénique, sensoriel et moral dans l’organisation spatiale montréalaise et bruxelloise, 1880-1914.” in Fernando Lópes Mora (ed) Modernidad, ciudadanía, desviaciones y desigualdades : por un análisis comparativo de las dificultades del paso a la modernidad ciudadana (Córdoba : Universidad de Córdoba, Servicio de Publicaciones, 2010), 473-482
  • "From Body and Home to Nation and World: The Varying Scales of Transnational Urbanism in Montreal and Brussels at the turn of the 20th century." Urban History 36.2 (August 2009.) p 223-242
  • "Entre misère et splendeur : les banlieues industrielles et l'image de la ville moderne, Montréal et Bruxelles au tournant du 20e siècle." Ètudes canadiennes 60, (hiver 2007.) p 181-196
  • "La représentation de l'industrie dans les guides bruxellois et montréalais au tournant du 20e siècle." Cahiers de la Fonderie : Destination Bruxelles. Le tourisme, un secteur d'avenir, no 34 (2006.) p 16-21
  • "Je cherche fortune": Identity, Counterculture and Profit in Fin-de-siècle Montmartre." Urban History Review \ Revue d'histoire urbaine 32, no 2, (March 2004.) p 21-32
  • "Writing Citizenship with Lightning: Mass Culture and the Politics of Exclusion in Progressive America." Cahiers d'histoire 22, no 2, (automne 2003.) p 25-49

Teaching Interests

I am especially interested in working with students to make connections between the past we have inherited and the world we live in today – and imagine for tomorrow.  I teach courses on city life in general, on Vancouver specifically, as well as more broadly on Canada and Quebec understood in a global context.  My courses explore the way social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental forces have shaped these societies, and invite students to reflect on the historical memories and legacies that inform our contemporary world.  I regularly supervise graduate work on these themes, and prospective students are welcome to contact me for more information.


  • Arnold Hirsch Award for Best Article in Urban History published in a scholarly journal in 2015: "City Glow: Streetlights, Emotions, and Nocturnal Life, 1880s-1910s," Journal of Urban History, April 2015. 
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Insight Development Grant, with Magda Fahrni (PI) and Jarrett Rudy.  "The Railway in the City: Industrial Montreal, 1850 to 1950," (2016-2018)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant. “Emotional Metropolis: Industry, Empire and Entertainment in Montreal, 1880s-1930s,” (2011-2012)
  • Université de Montréal Prize for Best Thesis, 2008
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Graduate Scholarship, 2004-2007
  • Fonds québécois de recherche en science et culture, docotoral scholarship, 2003
  • Communauté française de Belgique - Commissariat général aux relations internationales, doctoral scholarship, 2007-2008
  • Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, doctoral scholarship, 2007

News about Nicolas Kenny