Report on the Trent-Carleton Graduate Conference 2011-2012

Diane Bélisle-Wolf, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz

On March 9 and 10, I had the pleasure to attend the Eight Annual Trent-Carleton Graduate Conference in Peterborough, Ontario. This year's conference dealt with the economic, political, social and cultural shifts that Canada has been experiencing over the last years in a changing global context. The conference was titled: "Canada and the New World Order: The National Contexts of Global change". I travelled from Germany to present a paper on Canadian literary reactions to 9/11. In my paper, "Histoire, Mémoire et Espace : Nouvelle(s) Représentation(s) de la Frontière dans le Paysage Littéraire Canadien suite au 11 septembre 2001", I analyzed French-Canadian novels that explore the impact of 9/11 in a Canadian context.
During this interdisciplinary conference, which had a distinctive focus on Canadian current questions, papers on various subjects such as economics, politics, history, literature, immigration policy, international relations, Canadian identity and Aboriginal Studies, were examined. Each session was chaired by a member of a particular faculty from Trent and Carleton, an initiative which I personally found very enriching since it was an excellent opportunity to exchange and to network with faculty members along with graduate student colleagues.

Many participants came from Ontarian Universities: University of Ottawa, Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent, Nipissing University and University of Toronto. Some presenters came from other parts of Canada: University of Alberta, University of Manitoba and University of British Colombia.
The conference was held at Bagnani Hall, in downtown Peterborough, and started Friday afternoon after an introduction and a warm welcome from the organizing committee as well as from Julia Harrison, Director of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University.

I will now give a brief outline of the conference in an attempt to show the variety and the richness of the topics presented. The conference began with a first panel dealing with "Organizational contexts" with papers looking at relations between communities and corporations, at neoliberalism and everyday life (with an interesting period of questions at the end featuring, among others, themes like "gender neutral language", "domestic violence", "new institutional structures in a new world order"), at "Resistance to Petroleum Production in Northeastern Alberta" and the relations between Aboriginal Peoples and companies.

The second panel introduced "historical reflections". A first very stimulating talk: from Comic books to graphic novels, how is this genre changing the world and which role does it play now in a global world? The second paper investigated the case of Raoul Léger on a historical perspective. The panel concluded with a case study: "Making History in Lawrence Heights", with a film showing students performing a play in which the classroom is seen as the first place of oppression and where attempts to remediate to this situation are suggested. The students become "involved" and active. From "spectateur" they become "spectactor".

In the evening, a reception had been organized for all participants where everyone had the opportunity to meet and establish contact as well as to share their project of research. I personally found this part extremely rewarding, it allowed me to ask questions, share my research and exchange points of view with Canadianists "on the ground". I was able to gain more insights on many contemporary aspects of global change in a specific Canadian context.
On the second day, a third panel opened up the discussion with a paper session on "Policy Perspectives" with themes on policies against full-face veils in Canada, and on the reform of the federal immigration policy. Another section was on "Critical readings", a literary section that looked at writings from Joan Barfoot, Sparkle Hayter, Roch Carrier and Annie Dulong. I would like to note that I held my presentation in French and that I had the pleasure to be asked questions and to receive feedback on my paper in both official languages.

A convivial lunch followed where presenters, faculty members and all other participants were again given the opportunity to explore new ideas and pursue their conversations. I made contacts with other students working on Canadian Literature and Canadian Cultural Studies. Thanks to many of the discussions, I was able to broaden my knowledge on different aspects of present-day Canadian issues. This will be beneficial for my research.
The program continued after lunch with two papers related to "International Relations": "A case study on the Federal Government's decision to refuse a lucrative offer from the UAE", with an aftermath analysis. Another fascinating paper followed on undersea landing cables: "Connecting the North". It was amazing to learn about the "making" of the Canadian Internet. The conference concluded with a last session on "Perceptions and representations" where the advantages of studying abroad were presented and the question asked: What does it mean to be a Canadian? The next paper considered the idea of an "Anti-exotic Canada" in the novels of Rawi Hage. Finally, in the last paper, "Canada's changing Character: Aboriginal Peoples, Newcomers, and the Future", also an excellent contribution, both historical aspects and current issues in the country were examined.

Following each session, there were many fruitful discussions. Many of the questions that were raised not only reflected a concern for History and the past but also a deep critical concern for the present and the future: How are things changing and how will Canada be dealing with those changes in the future?
All in all, the conference has shown that there are many ongoing research projects dealing with Canadian issues in a global world. At the same time, there still are many areas which need to be explored in order to gain a better understanding of those Canadian issues in the context of global changes.

J'aimerais remercier the Canadian Studies Network - le Réseau des Études Canadiennes pour avoir, par son soutien financier, rendu possible ma participation à cette conférence. Cette conférence qui aura su établir un lien entre Histoire, présent et avenir dans le but de mieux comprendre les enjeux actuels au Canada à l'ère de la globalisation.
Je tiens aussi à remercier le comité organisateur. Je le remercie pour son invitation, son aide financière ainsi que pour sa gentillesse et son accueil sur place. Peterborough : une ville où il fait bon séjourner !