Caitlin Gordon-Walker - Conference Report CEACS October 2012
Conference Report CEACS Conference October 2012
In October 2012, I attended the Central European Association for Canadian Studies' (CEACS) 6th triennial conference held at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. The conference was sponsored by CEACS and Comenius University with the support of the Canadian Embassy and several local businesses. The title of the conference was "Democracy, Diversity, Dignity: The Canadian Space," and papers presented throughout its three day program covered a broad range of subjects relating to these general themes.
The three keynote presentations that began each day of the conference illustrate the breadth of topics discussed. Antonia Maioni from McGill University in Montreal presented the opening keynote address discussing the health of the Canadian healthcare system. Her paper, delivered in French but with information presented via Powerpoint in English, was titled "La Santé du Système de Santé Canadien: Choix et Avenirs." For the second keynote presentation, Daniel Coleman from McMaster University in Hamilton delivered a paper titled "A Conversation that Couldn't Happen: Copway, Traill, and the Failure of Indigenous-Settler Dialogue." In this paper, Coleman examined the literary work of George Copway (Kah-Ge-Ga-Gah-Bowh in Anishnaabemowin), and Catherine Parr Traill to illustrate common structural limitations to Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations in Canada both historically and in the present. The final keynote lecture, "Capabilities, Well-Being and Multiculturalism: A New Framework for Guiding Policies," was presented by Susan Hodgett from Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Hodgett described a pilot project examining the use of an integrated capabilities framework to assess the success of multicultural integration.
Following each keynote lecture, conference participants had the opportunity to attend a diverse series of panel presentations. Each session had four concurrent panels, with at least one in each being presented entirely in French. On the first day, I attended one panel on Canadian fiction with three papers examining the work of Sui Sin Far, Roy Kiyooka and Korean Canadian short fiction writers respectively, and another panel on Canada's foreign policy and current economy. On the second day, I attended another panel addressing Canadian literature, this time with a focus on Indigenous authors, and one that examined various aspects of multiculturalism and the integration of immigrants into national societies. Finally, on the last day, I attended a panel that variously discussed literature, art and mythology.
My own paper addressed representations of multicultural nationalism in Canadian museums, drawn from research undertaken for my PhD dissertation. I had the pleasure of presenting on a panel with Michael Devine from Acadia University, who spoke about his experience of creating political theatre in Croatia, and Tomáš Pospíšil, who discussed Atom Egoyan's recent films.
In addition to the formal lectures and panel sessions, the conference also hosted two evening receptions. I was very grateful to have the generous support of the Canadian Studies Network-Réseau d'études Canadiens (CSN-REC), which allowed me to attend this conference. In light of the Canadian federal government's recent abolishment of the Understanding Canada programme, and thereby decreased funding for regional networks like CEACS, the CSN-REC's commitment to supporting international opportunities for interaction between scholars in Canadian Studies is especially important.