Jamie Jelinski Report – Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years, University College Dublin, April 2017

Report of Participation in Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years
University College Dublin
April 28-30, 2017
By Jamie Jelinski, PhD Student in Cultural Studies at Queen's University

Canada's sesquicentennial 2017 has offered a platform, in both the public and academic spheres, to investigate the country and its history over the past 150 years. Yet numerous events, often celebratory in nature, have been underscored by longstanding preconceptions, myths, and ideologies that have long been the backbone for understanding "Canada" as a country. In the process, many lesser-known voices and narratives that have contributed to Canada's formation have received scant attention. The conference I attended, "Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years" organized by the Centre for Canadian Studies at University College Dublin (UCD), sought to destabilize common notions of what Canada is, was, and can be by giving a voice to untold stories, in the process contesting those that have been foundational in establishing a "Canadian" national identity. As the conference's original call for papers states, its objective was "to consider what stories about Canadian history and national identity remain untold or only partially told—and to consider why?" Consequently, the exhibition's theme supplemented the guiding objectives of UCD's Centre for Canadian Studies, which aim to promote research and teaching in the field of Canadian Studies, encourage interdisciplinary research activities, to develop Canadian Studies research in Ireland, and to foster international connections.

The three-day conference was organized by the Centre's Craig Dobbin Chair of Canadian Studies, Linda M. Morra, and Director, Paul Halferty, and funded by a combination of the Craig Dobbin Chair endowment, UCD's College of Arts and Humanities, Bishop's University, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. My paper, entitled "'An Artist's View of Tattooing': Aba Bayefsky in Toronto and Yokohoma, 1978-1986" was included in one of the conference's opening panels, "Disrupting Normative Bodies and Gendered Discourses," and investigated a series of tattoo themed paintings produced by Toronto-based artist and Member of the Order of Canada, Aba Bayefsky. The session also boasted a number of rich papers by my co-panelists, including a theoretically rigorous presentation by Kit Dobson (Mount Royal University) on gendered bodies in relation to Canada's 2005 Civil Marriage Act, most notably in the context of Gender Failure, a collaborative writing and performance project. On the other hand, Kristi Allain's (St. Thomas University) paper examined recent Canadian media representations of curlers, arguing that discussions of the sport and its athletes largely draw from comparable discussions on what Alain terms "hockey-style masculinity." My final co-panelist, Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw (Memorial University), explored how gender and sexuality are simultaneously sounded and silenced via editing decisions in CBC Radio's program Fuse.

The conference's second day hosted further thought-provoking panels, most notably "Blind Angles in Canadian (Cultural History)." According to Martha Langford (Concordia University) in her paper "History and Counter-History in the Untold Story of Photography in Canada," although there is no "grand narrative" of Canada's photographic history, there nevertheless exists an idea of it. The central problem, therefore, is how to categorize and assess the varied stories that have contributed to such an idea. In a humorous yet thorough paper the panel's second speaker, Eric Lehman (University of Trent), considered the circumstances surrounding the regulation of Al Razutis's film And Now a Message from our Sponsor by the Ontario Censor Board—citing a 1911 law known as the Theatres Act—after it was screened at a film festival in Peterborough, Ontario. Moving from visual culture to science, Michael Laurentius (York University) argued in his paper "Our Atomic Past: Revisiting a Forgotten Canada" that atomic science and technology have played a pivotal role in influencing Canada's sociocultural and physical landscapes.

Throughout the conference's three days many panels and papers focused on Indigenous experience, cultural production, and history. This included panels such as "Urban Indigenous Experiences," "Indigenous Aesthetics," "Re-telling Riel," "Indigenous Re/mediations," "(Indigenous) Women, Violences, and Genres of Telling," and "Cultures of Redress." Such panels were further complimented via a keynote lecture given by Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis), Associate Professor in First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University. Reder's presentation, "Not Simply Recovered, Read, and Told: Recuperating Indigenous Narratives," was particularly resonant given my own work engaging with archival sources and demonstrated how Indigenous literatures challenge national identity and scholarship, in the process arguing for new ways of discovering, reading, and thinking about Indigenous literatures. Continuing a similar line of inquiry, on the second day the conference's dinner hosted a number of Indigenous story tellers. This event was organized by Kim Anderson (Cree/Métis) and saw Maria Campbell (Cree/Métis), Sylvia Maracle (Mohawk), and Rene Meshake (Anishnaabe) present oral histories to a highly engaged audience.

Aside from conference panels and other speaking events, "Untold Stories" allowed me the opportunity to network with other scholars involved in the field of Canadian Studies from across a wide geographic area and included individuals from Canada, Europe, and Asia. More importantly, by participating in this conference I gained feedback on my paper, which can be put to use in my larger doctoral program. During the conference, I also made other scholars aware of the Canadian Studies Network (CSN), creating an awareness of the organization in an international context, which will ideally solicit international scholars to attend Canadian Studies conferences in Canada.