Call for Papers: Canadian Coastal Histories

Deadline for proposals: January 30, 2021
Conference date: September 2021

Dialogues about Canadian coastal cultures, coastal places, and global oceanic connections have taken on a new tenor in a time of climate crisis that will dramatically and disproportionately reshape the future of such conversations. Growing international interest in coasts from a range of disciplines suggests a productive framework for rethinking histories from the land and tidewaters currently known as Canada, the country with the world’s longest coastline.

Hosted by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University in September 2021, this workshop will explore histories from the saline shores of this vast ocean-bound territory. Coasts are generative transitional spaces, sites of encounter in a constant state of change. The coast is a place where distinctive cultural and political formations emerge and an ideal setting for historical storytelling with contemporary relevance.

Unique Indigenous and settler cultures have been shaped in intimate relation with particular coastal environments and ecologies. The multi-racial and international social arrangements of urban waterfronts and rural resource ports have engendered distinctive political configurations. Dramatic weather and climate patterns have shaped coastlines and human fortunes alike, just as humans have reshaped coasts through industry, agriculture, fisheries, and leisure. Canadian ports have staged episodes of international law and family narratives in the history of global migrations. Ambiguous, fluid borders have long made coastal regions the objects of international diplomacy. Sea-level rise, melting ice, and coastal erosion are transforming the future of coastal communities, while also threatening irreplaceable sites of cultural heritage. All along the coast, the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans have seeped into all aspects of Canadian history.

We invite participation by scholars working in history, archaeology, geography, art history, Indigenous studies, anthropology, heritage, and from other perspectives on the past. We welcome engagements with Canadian ocean coasts from any time period that are either explorations of particular situated environments or events, studies of cultural representations, or which make broader regional or transnational connections.

Please submit a proposal of 250 words and a brief CV to workshop convener Dr. Sara Spike at saraspike@gmail.com by January 30, 2021. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Full paper drafts will be pre-circulated ahead of the September workshop. After the workshop, presenters will be invited to submit papers to an edited collection for the consideration of the editors of the L.R. Wilson Rethinking Canada in the World Series with McGill-Queen’s University Press.

We understand that many are feeling uncertain about making plans at this time. Please know that this event will take place as scheduled, whether in-person, online, or in a mix of formats. The Wilson Institute will provide some assistance towards lodging and travel reimbursement for accepted participants.

The workshop will be hosted by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University, which is located on the traditional territory of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe.

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