Kelly Black Nov 2011 Report on European Seminar in Groningen

From November 10-13th, 2011, I had the pleasure of being one of two Canadian students selected to attend the 20th European Seminar for Graduate Students in Canadian Studies. This year, the conference was held in the city of Groningen, The Netherlands. As a Canadian in Groningen, the first thing you notice is not the architecture or the canal, or even the incredibly post-modern Groningen Museum, but rather the bike culture that thrives in this northern city. Of course, the Netherlands is well known for its emphasis on cycling, but as a university town Groningen appears to be particularly saturated with bikes, bike racks and cyclists.
During the first evening participants were greeted by James Lambert, the Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands. As one of the Canadians in attendance, I tried not to deconstruct the ambassador's underscoring of the importance of "branding" Canada to the world. In the days leading up to the seminar, I was fearful that an uncritical look at the nation-state might manifest itself at the seminar; to my pleasant surprise, the Ambassador was the only one who made attempts to do so.
Throughout the two days of the seminar I was truly amazed by the variety of interesting Canadian Studies research being conducted (in both French and English!) by graduate students across the world. A Russian student at the University of Edinburgh is conducting a socio-legal comparison of the French Civil Code in Quebec, Louisiana and Suisse Romande. That Quebec has a different legal foundation from the rest-of-Canada is something that can often be overlooked by Canadians. Two students from Germany presented on First Nations literature and US-Canadian border stories, respectively. Discussions with these students, over a traditional Dutch dinner provided by the Canadian Studies Student Platform at the University of Groningen, led to insights into Canadian Studies in Germany and the debate in that country over the use of the term genocide. A student from Brazil introduced me to the artistic works of Jim Logan through her analysis of the shared aspects of his work with that of Tomson Highway. Students from Poland, Spain, and Romania demonstrated the profound impact Canadian literature has had on the world through presentations on Margaret Atwood and Sarah Rhul; Uma Parameswaran; Alice Munro and Carol Shields; and Leonard Cohen.
Canadian students attending the seminar became aware that in the nineteen years prior there had not been participants from Canadian universities. As a result, I believe we made a conscious attempt to not take up too much space at the seminar. That being said, there was clearly a benefit to having Canadian students in attendance as there were moments where we were able to provide constructive criticism and information that may not have otherwise been available.
Thanks to the support of the Canadian Studies Network/Réseau d'études canadiennes the seminar provided me with an opportunity to share my research and engage with emerging Canadianists from around the world. Friends were made and ideas exchanged; the future of Canadian Studies abroad appears to be a bright one.