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Boundaries, Passages and Sanctuaries: Abstracts PDF Print E-mail

Università di Genova, Genova, Italia
27-28 October 2006



Professor Coral Ann Howells, University of Reading

“Not Belonging, but Longing”: Shifts of Emphasis in Contemporary Diasporic Writing in Canada

With its title taken from Janice Kulyk Keefer’s memoir Honey and Ashes (1998) my paper focuses on Canadian immigrant and ethnic minority writing in English since the mid 1990s, highlighting significant new trends which raise interesting questions related to Canadian identity, multiculturalism, and the concept of a national literature . We are witnessing a pluralized moment where Canadian Literature is literally becoming “globalised” as it includes parallel cultural expressions and other histories which transcend traditional categories of Canadianness. Many of these recent texts (novels, short stories, memoirs) are set entirely outside Canada, so that Canada as a location is erased / deferred, or they represent curiously reversed migrations back to the home place (“a world that is mine by inheritance or imagination” ) by a westernized Canadian protagonist. Clearly, there is no single model for diasporic writing, though all these texts encourage readers to look further into the psychological and cultural implications of immigration, just as they encourage scrutiny of the word “sanctuaries,” for a sanctuary is a refuge and not a home - unless it is made into one.

This paper will begin with a brief historical perspective on immigrant and ethnic minority writing.(When did these texts achieve high visibility on publishers’ lists? And when did literary critics start to notice and write about them?) I shall then consider a representative selection of texts, using Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, In the Skin of a Lion, and Anil’s Ghost as emblematic of the shifts in diasporic writing, together with fictions and memoirs by women from the mid 1990s to the present day. These texts might be read as allegories for the reimagining of Canada as an “imagined community” in an increasingly globalised world.


Preside: Prof. Xavier Arbos Marin, Università di Girona


J.Maria Castella Andreu, Università di Barcellona
Federalismo canadese e domande costituzionali del West

Giancarlo Rolla, Università di Genova
Federalismo e tutela dei diritti in una società multietnica: il ruolo della giurisprudenza della Corte suprema del canada

Nino Olivetti Rason, Università di Padova
La giurisprudenza della Corte suprema del Canada e la tutela dell’eguaglianza tra le persone ed i gruppi

Eleonora Ceccherini, Università di Siena
Il riconoscimento degli inherent rights dei popoli aborigeni

Giuseppe di Genio, Università di Salerno
Il federalismo canadese come modello di frontiera


Simona Bertacco, Università di Milano

A Trans-Canadian Vernacular: Writing and the Boundary

Canada is known to the world as a multicultural nation, one that has enshrined in its laws the recognition and promotion of cultural and ethnic diversity and suggested that its national culture should be regarded as the encounter of its diverse cultural and linguistic heritages.

For this reason, we may therefore assume that many Canadians live, think, feel, and create in more than one language and that they struggle with the possibilities of self-expression that each of their languages either offers or denies them. In the light of the issues at stake in this conference, it might be interesting to give a closer look at how cultural boundaries are turned into texts by writers and artists who repeatedly cross the borders between the different languages and cultures making up their everyday. What language do they speak? What language do they use for their art?

It strikes me as strange that despite the huge emphasis recently given to issues of ethnicity and identity in contemporary Canadian literature, virtually no space has yet been devoted to the multiple linguistic heritage of many Canadian writers and, in particular, to the aesthetic and stylistic innovations that are emerging – by virtue of their linguistic and cultural overloads – from their works.

In my paper, I will discuss the issue of the literary expression of the boundary in the ‘sanctuary’ of writing, asking whether a unique form of translation-based writing could be hypothesized as a ‘Canadian vernacular’ – a ‘trans-Canadian’ vernacular – and what light such an approach may cast on Canadian literature as a whole.

I will be referring to the work of Dionne Brand, Lola Lemire Tostevin, Thomson Highway, Jeannette Armstrong, Daphne Marlatt, Mary Di Michele, Nicole Brossard.

Domenic Beneventi, Université de Sherbrooke

Representing Homelessness in Canadian Urban Literature

While there is a tradition within Canadian literary criticism of describing national identity in terms of spatial paradigms (landscape, territory, regionalism, nordicity), it is only recently that critics have begun to deal with specifically urban themes in Canadian literature. In this paper, I propose to examine representations of homelessness in Canadian writing with an eye to the various political discourses and spatial practices which seek to render such a body invisible. The homeless body is “uncanny” in that it is familiar to the mainstream public yet utterly other in its abjection, representing a symbol of the failed promises of progress and prosperity. If the proper body is defined through the unspoken rules which govern public spaces, the homeless body is “unruly” precisely because its corporeality is constituted as a threat to normalized spatial practices which hinge on capitalist modes of production and consumption. Viewing the homeless body as being outside the boundaries of “normal” social space enables the public to disavow its own role and responsibility in creating homelessness, while at the same time cleansing itself of the “abject material” which the homeless body comes to symbolize.

Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s recent novel titled Down To This: Squalor and Splendour in a Big-City Shantytown (2005) is a testimonial narrative which shows the harsh realities of being homeless in Canada. “Tent City” was a real shantytown which developed adjacent to the financial district in Toronto. The author shows how heterotopic spaces in the city shape individual identities, social interaction, rules of bodily presentation, and the “proper” uses of public space. For the homeless individual, the shantytown becomes a space of community, refuge, and sanctuary from the gaze of the public eye. Crossing the symbolic and physical boundaries between the “abject” space of Tent City into the “proper” one of the city demands that they constantly negotiate the rules which contruct them as criminals and vagrants in those spaces.


Christopher Kirkey, SUNY Plattsburgh and George Sulzner, Past-President of ACSUS

The CONNECT Program:
A Passageway for New Canadianists in the United Kingdom and Italy

Launched in October 2003, CONNECT is a program designed to promote the growth, development and institutionalization of Canadian Studies throughout the U.S. higher education community. CONNECT, featured in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, National Public Radio and the CBC, provides a uniquely comprehensive approach to the identification, recruitment, orientation and mentoring of prospective new Canadianists. Since the inception of the program, CONNECT has successfully enrolled more than 200 new Canadianists in its mentoring program, and provided a week-long intensive seminar for 60 candidates.

Our conference presentation will examine the establishment of CONNECT and more importantly, review the mechanics of precisely how the program operates. Who is involved, what is involved, how is the work undertaken, which elements of the program require what type of initiative? etc… These are the cornerstone issues that will frame our presentation. We also seek to discuss which elements of CONNECT may usefully be applied to the national contexts of the United Kingdom and Italy, as both nations currently seek to enrich their pool of Canadianists. We will highlight our preliminary findings from the study CONNECT is presently conducting for the Department of Foreign affairs and International Trade.


Professor Michael Behiels, University of Ottawa

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Transcending Boundaries, Creating Passages, and Offering Sanctuaries

The history of Canadians’ half-century struggle to obtain the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 is just now getting underway. Christopher MacLennan’s Toward the Charter. Canadians and the Demand for a National Bill of Rights (2003) and Ross Lamberston’s Repression and Resistance. Canadian Human Rights Activists (2005) recount aspects of an immature but determined human rights movement story, one culminating in Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s well-intentioned but flawed 1960 Bill of Rights. The next two decades witnessed the formation of a full-fledged Human Rights Movement throughout Canada. When this movement combined forces with the Trudeau government’s political and constitutional agendas as well as the international human rights movement, it was able to achieve a remarkable human rights revolution, one that has impacted the governance of Canadian society at every level and in ways that were largely unforeseen.

The long and arduous struggle for the Charter involved transcending the imagined and real boundaries of class, ethnicity, religion, language, gender, class and region. Libertarian Canadians in pursuit of civil liberties and communitarian Canadians in their quest for equality rights sought to create seamless and open passages between all of these old and new boundaries. In doing so, this human rights movement hoped to achieve a certain degree of recognition as well as sanctuary in a truly sovereign Canadian Constitution, one that is fully respected and wholeheartedly promoted by the coordinate forces of the three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial. In the process Canadians became, at long last, a truly sovereign and democratic people.


Licia Canton, Editor-in-Chief, Accenti Magazine

Antonio D'Alfonso and the Passage of Time: From Fabrizio's Passion to A Friday in August

Montreal-born Antonio D'Alfonso - poet, essayist, filmmaker, musician - has published two novels: Fabrizio's Passion (1995) and its sequel A Friday in August (2005). Both are autobiographical narratives which appeared in English after the publication of the French original. In fact, Fabrizio's Passion is the English version of Avril, ou l'anti-passion which D'Alfonso wrote (not translated) himself; the second novel was translated by Jo-Anne Elder. Fabrizio's Passion was also translated into Italian and Portuguese. The second novel in the original French (Un jour du mois d'aout) won the prestigious Trillium award.

Fabrizio's Passion looks back through time at the emigration of Fabrizio Notte's Molise-born parents. The sequel deals with Notte's return to his native Montreal and his attempt to come to terms with his choices by revisiting his youth. In 1992, Antonio D'Alfonso left Montreal to pursue a writing career and publishing ventures in Toronto. Much like Notte in A Friday in August, D'Alfonso is disillusioned with his Toronto experience and keeps coming back to Montreal to seek intellectual and cultural nourishment. As a novelist Antonio D'Alfonso uses his writing as a self-reflexive exercise to evaluate his own choices.

Ten years went by between the publication of the two novel. This paper discusses the passage of time from one novel to the next, both within the context of the narrative and beyond.

Silva Del Zotto, Universities of Udine and Trieste

Crossing Linguistic Boundaries: The Role of Female Italian-Canadian Writers as Translators of a Language, a Literature and a Culture

In Canada, while translation was historically restricted to the passage from French to English, now it has been transformed into a real social process because translating the works of immigrants implies the transposition of ethnic and regional values from one context to another. This paper intends to analyse the problems underlying the complex phenomena of translation by female Canadian writers of Italian origin, such as Maria Ardizzi, Marisa de Franceschi, Mary di Michele, Genni Gunn, Dôre Michelut, Penny Petrone etc.

Besides dealing with the typical topics of ethnic minority authors (i.e.: migration, home and identity), in their work they often turn to translation as an instrument through which they can fictionally blend the rational North-American mind with the sentimental Italian soul by recurring to syntagmas from different linguistic codes. In all these female writers’ artistic production, the vernacular language (dialect), purely emotional, intertwines wonderfully with the vehicular language (English), referring to commerce, education and public communication, and, of course, with the mythical language (Italian), connected to family, love and affection. Drawing on different linguistic repertories these women bring to the fore feelings of belonging and of self-identification with the consequence that the original concept of identity flakes away. When pushing forward their work in the trend of quest for national, personal, linguistic and expressive identity, inevitably, the challenge of translation emerges. For these Italian-Canadian authors translating does not only involve the ability to move from one language or dialect to another, but it also becomes a process of “self-translation”, as it implies the passing from one context of their lives to another.

The inevitable sense of ambivalence and otherness is resolved only through the process of artistic transposition, which allows these women writers to attain a harmonious amalgam between the English, Italian and dialectal tongues.

Francesca L'Orfano , Carleton University

Immigrazione in Canada: The Films of Paul Tana

While the mass media continues to disseminate one-dimensional stereotypical renditions of Italian culture, the actual ‘work of the imagination’ (Appadurai 1996:4) is taking place in the margins of these sites. Here action and agency, spaces given and / or taken, framed against the mass media, develops ethnic minority representation as a rich complexity of images and stories. Because Canadian film and video makers who use their immigrant and ‘ethnic’ experience in their work, will often find it being judged as culturally ‘poor’ and of ‘no value,’ it is important that the label of ‘ethnic’ be deconstructed. Meanings are never fixed or immutable. (Tator 1998:8).

It is one of the purposes of this paper to continue to explore the silence / erasure of films and videos by and on Canadians of Italian heritage. Both Christopher Gittings' Canadian National Cinema (2002) and Kay Armitage's (et al) Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women's Cinema (1999) make no mention of any Italian Canadian representations. This paper will therefore specifically focus on the films of Montreal filmmaker Paul Tana: La Déroute, 1998; La Sarrasine 1992; Caffè Italia 1985; Les Grands Enfants 1980. and La Déroute. Tana should be one of the more "successful" Canadian feature filmmakers of Italian descent. He is one of the few, along with documentary filmmaker Nicola Zavaglia, also from Montreal, ( Mediterraneo Sempre, 2000; Light and Mourning, 1999; Barbed Wire and Mandolins, 1997.) who consciously and actively choose to use their immigrant heritage and experience, as often as they can, as the creative material for their personal projects ands stories.

Despite the absence of Italian characters in Tana's earlier works, as he notes, he has slowly come to terms with his immigrant beginnings.

As he stated in his interview with Fulvio Caccia "[my] immigrant side came to the fore much later. It wasn't easy. Actually, I wanted to introduce Italian characters into my films but I used to say to myself: 'What are people going to say? How will they see all that?' It seems absurd today I know, but my uneasiness, and my shame were such that I couldn’t put words into these characters’ mouths’ (Caccia 161). As the result of a trip to Italy, his work on Planète, a series on Radio-Québec about cultural minorities, and his friendship and working relationship with historian Bruno Ramirez, Tana continued to accept himself ‘as an immigrant a little more’ (ibid 163) such that today his trilogy of films La Déroute, 1998; La Sarrasine, 1992; and Caffè Italia, 1985, when analyzed together provide powerful and gripping portraits of the Italian community in Quebec (Toronto Italian Film Festival).

Through these three films Tana explores the complexity of cross-cultural tensions and friendships, familial relationships, gender perceptions, ethnicity and especially immigrant challenges that span the early part of the century in Caffé Italia and La Sarrasine and move to more difficult and contemporary, ongoing challenges of a "successful" life in Canada in La Déroute.

The heterogeneous space of these films help to establish that "Canada," with the experiences of its Italian immigrants, is a more fluid, complex, and diverse place, than the myth that is usually sold and promoted by those in power via Multiculturalism policies.



Prima sessione: Diritti e pluralismo

Presiede: Nino Olivetti Rason, Università di Padova

Eleonora di Benedetto, Università di Roma
Il riconoscimento delle differenze e la giurisprudenza della Core suprema in tema di same sex marriage

Alexander Schuster, Università di Trento
Frontiere culturali e religiose. Modalità di passaggio in Canada ed Europa

Maria Dicosola, Università di Siena
Judicial balancing between religious freedom and secularism: the duty of accommodation

Arianna Pitino, Università di Genova
La tutela della salute degli aborigenti in Canada

Marco Gaggero, Università di Torino
L’accordo tra Primi ministri e leaders delle first Nations

Giuseppe Passaniti (Università di Siena),
Gli Arbitration tribunals nella realtà multietnica in Canada


Eleonora Federici, Università di Trento

A Languaged Self: Translating Aritha van Herk's novels

"For the real miracle is language" Aritha Van Herk affirms, a secret code made of words of "specific weight and connotative clouds", the "proof of our spiritual nature". The author's utilisation of language is strictly linked to her feeling of being a feminist writer and a 'migrated writer', deeply located in the regional context of Alberta but with her mind on a lost past in the Netherlands, in search of a forgotten mother tongue.

The aim of my paper is to analyse the translation of Van Herk's novels into Italian taking into account not only linguistic and rhetorical strategies that need to be transferred from source language to target language, but a wider notion of translation, the self-translation of the author from one language to the other, the translation of European literature, art and culture through the use of intertextuality so widely used in Van Herk's novels together with the translation of the Canadian space and identity, central to her work.

To translate Van Herk means to translate an hyphenated-identity, to outline the complexity of words that are transported from one language to another, from one culture to another by an author who crosses geographical, literary and cultural boundaries and stands as an example of contemporary multicultural Canadian writer, citizen of a country, as she says, "that provokes a multiple identity complex in everyone".

Michele Lacombe, Trent University

Boundaries, Passages and Sanctuaries in Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road

My paper will look at the relationship between colonialism, resistance, citizenship, identity and
ceremony in Joseph Boyden’s novel Three Day Road (2005) in relation to the conference themes of boundaries, passages and sanctuaries. Boyden, a ‘small-m’ métis-Canadian of mixed European and native ancestry, uses World War One to address the perspective of Cree snipers on that war; he also uses the war as an occasion to address the situation of the Cree in northern Ontario. Three Day Road pays homage to American Indian “war” novels such as Scott Momaday’s House made of Dawn and Leslie Marman Silko’s Ceremony on the one hand, while pointedly revisiting key scenes from Canadian war novels such as Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business and Timothy Findley’s The Wars on the other hand. Boyden states that Three Day Road is the first novel in a planned a trilogy (he refers to it as a tryptich) about the Cree community of Moose Factory and their history, exploring the troubled relationship between war service, disenfranchisement, and community leadership in the period between WWI and the present.

My focus on the conference theme of boundaries emphasizes the entanglement, for better and for worse, of First Nations and the Canadian state in this war novel. The theme of passages is more explicitly linked, in my reading, to the ‘three day road,’ an expression which refers to the duration of the journey to the spirit world taken by the recently deceased (and at different times both the protagonist Xavier Bird and his friend Elijah Whiskeyjack are presumed dead, although only one of them makes it back home); I also link the thematics of passages, in this sense, to Boyden’s rendition of ‘no man’s land.’ Finally, my commentary on the theme of sanctuary addresses various aspects of refuge in terms of Boyden’s understanding of the restorative powers of Cree ceremonial space, a space that Xavier’s aunt Niska, a medicine woman, represents in this world view. Ceremonial spaces and rituals offer both sanctuary and healing, and represent continuity while addressing change. Interestingly, Cree ceremonial space is characterized as female in this novel.

Valerio Bruni, Università di Udine

From boundaries to a “sanctuary”: Dorothy Livesay’s Other

I wish to explore the concepts of boundaries, passages and sanctuaries by starting from the condition of the individual, and of women in particular, and see how they confront themselves with nature—both with the limits and possibilities nature offers, in order to examine how these possibilities can lead them back to a closed space, and hinder their identities by disclosing unexpected realities, which can, however, in turn become havens or sanctuaries, places of refuge wherein the individual subject can reflect on herself and the surrounding world, expand her vision and the contours of her thoughts, and revisit and critically re-examine her axiomatically engrained convictions.

Some of Dorothy Livesay’s poems (in particular Other) appear to be particularly useful in this sense and are also of high poetic value. Livesay privileges themes like nature, femininity, and the relationship between the sexes, but these themes are amalgamated so as to give us a complete vision of the various and ambiguous faces of an ever-changing reality. Humans have to be in tune with these ongoing transformations in order to be continuously reborn and enriched by experiences--both real and interior. The poet tries to show us that boundaries exist for the very purpose of being crossed so that we may always find new ones and thereby infinitely expand our consciences without getting caught in the nets of given conventions which have the sole purpose of creating fictitious refuges which suffocate and crush our deep identity. Thus in Other, the “island”, “held as a shell”--which according to the poet men would like women to be--becomes “mainland. “From upper country to the inner core:/ From sageland, brushland, marshland/To the sea’s floor. It is a continuous search for a place logo “that none shall trespass/None possess”:/ A mainland mastered/ From its inaccess”. It is only through that “passage” that she can accept the idea of “boundary” which finally becomes “sanctuary”. As Caterina Ricciradi writes in the introduction to her beautiful volume Poesia canadese de Novecento, still today Dorothy Livesay is considered by many – and not only by exponents of the Feminist movement – “the great mother nature of Canadian literature”.


Francesca Rosati

Beyond Boundaries: Multiculturalism and Multilingualism
in Contemporary Canada

Canada is one of the territories belonging to what Brjan Kachru referred to as the “inner circle” – i.e. those areas where, even if other languages are also spoken, English is the dominant one. At a federal level, in fact, Canada has two official languages: English, which is the mother-tongue of about the 63% of the population, and French, with about 25% native speakers. With its almost 10 million square kilometres, Canada is the second largest country in the world: its population is unevenly distributed, yet its society is highly urbanized. From the mid-nineteenth century to the late 1970s, general immigration on a large scale was encouraged by the Canadian government. In fact, Canada has been one of the world’s main immigrant-receiving societies and has an official policy of “multiculturalism” based on the ideology that the best way of catering for the demographic diversity is to view it as a “mosaic” rather than a “melting-pot”. In other words, people of diverse origins and communities are free to preserve and enhance their cultural heritage while participating as equal partners in Canadian society. The Canadian government’s support to multiculturalism naturally includes celebration and promotion of multilingualism.

After briefly introducing the country’s settlement history, this paper aims at giving an overview of some demographically- and culturally-based aspects of the language situation in Canada, at describing the most recent government language policies, and at exploring the varieties of native and non-native realities that have been contributing to create the cultural and linguistic mosaic of contemporary Canada on the one hand and to enrich Canadian English on the other.

Francesca Vaccarelli, University of Rome

Endangered Languages and Cultures in Canada

Canada has become increasingly a multilingual society in the wake of a growing number of immigrants whose mothertongue is neither English nor French. Canadians report more than 100 languages when answering the census question regarding their mothertongue. The list includes languages long associated with immigration to Canada: German, Italian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Polish, and so on. Among the Aboriginal languages reported as mothertongue, the three largest groups are Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway. Canada's Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to the indigenous people is immense. Nonetheless, a Canadian census-based study showed that between 1981 and 1996 most of Canada’s 50 Aboriginal languages suffered a steady erosion. Language is one of the most tangible symbols of culture and group identity. It is not only a means of communication, but a link which connects people with their past and grounds their social, emotional and spiritual vitality. Although loss of language does not necessarily lead to the death of a culture, it can severely handicap the transmission of that culture. For Aboriginal peoples great losses have already occurred. During the past 100 years or more, nearly ten once flourishing languages have become extinct; at least a dozen are on the brink of extinction.

The aim of this paper is to show the rapid endangerment of many Aboriginal languages in Canada as a matter of widespread concern for all those interested in issues of cultural identity because, as these languages vanish, they take with them unique ways of looking at the world, explaining the unknown and making sense of life.

Serena Viola, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

Urban landscape expression, vitality, multiculturality in an identity protection perspective: pedestrian walkways in Montreal

Borrowing a book title from the French sociologist E. Morin, pedestrianism in our culture is “l’esprit du temp”, vocation and necessity for contemporary cities sustainable development. In the last few years, different approaches and strategies have been provided, in European and Canadian cities, to redesign urban environment, according to sustainable requirements, stressing inner qualities, matching together development needs and heritage preservation with an appropriate action of control for users needs.

Since the antiquity, in western culture, public spaces have been conceived, organised and built in order to favourite people mobility, granting performances of accessibility, connection, meeting, rest, and activities of products exchange, ideas and feeling circulation. Until the nineteenth century, towns growth has always been going together with local identity development. Pedestrian spaces have been growing as a direct expression of inner communities activities, satisfying functionality, health, safety, comfort requirements. Walkways and squares have been designed to host society assembly, and to show at the same its identity. In contemporary cities public space has often lost these specificities, pressed into services remedy, with a quality undetermined by inadequate management and maintenance.

The research aims to investigate on public urban environment transformation strategies, applied in the last twenty years in Canada, assuming as specific case study, outdoor and underground pedestrian walkways in Montreal. Its modern French identity mixed with broader European cultural influences and a deep attention to heritage preservation, are assumed as the fundamental conditions for choosing the town of Montreal as an emblematic case study, in valuing Canadian attitude to urban environment sustainable transformation.
Taking into account development principles, after the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, and its subsequent conventions and chapters that produced the local Agenda 21, the idea of pedestrianism is conceived as the only appropriate vocation for an equilibrate solution to mobility and use problems in contemporary cities centres.

The research investigates on design and technical solutions adopted by local government in Montreal, to favourite a pedestrian use of public spaces, comparing different town areas, in terms of local actions and tactical tools applied to their transformation. Assuming Canadian cities public space organisation to face winter cold, the research deals with both outdoor and underground walkways. Constructive and technical solutions adopted for their management are compared with the environmental context and with users agreement during the last few years. Special attention is given to maintenance scenarios pursued by local management private or public structures, in order to guarantee spaces efficiency and users satisfaction.
Assuming as case study public areas converted to a pedestrian use, the research outlines a sort of abacus of design strategies, technological solutions, and performances levels assured to users. Within the town of Montreal, cases studies are chosen following localisation, position, age of design, space, materials, dimensions, uses criteria. The comparison between indoor and outdoor solutions, in terms of accessibility, inner identity, environmental comfort, is assumed as a key, for outlining specificities and characters.

The research aims to investigate on public urban environment transformation strategies, applied in the last twenty years in Canada, assuming outdoor and underground pedestrian walkways in Montreal, as the specific case study. Taking into account development principles, after the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, the research investigates on design and technical solutions adopted by local government, to favourite a pedestrian use of public spaces, comparing different town areas, in terms of local actions and users satisfaction. Within the town of Montreal, several cases studies are studied in terms of localisation, position, age of design, space, materials, dimensions, uses criteria in order to create an abacus of design strategies, technological solutions, performances levels, maintenance actions attitudes.


Seconda sessione: Immigrazione e frontiere

Presiede: Eleonora Ceccherini (Università di Siena)

Elisabetta Nardi, Università di Siena
The evil side of porous frontiera: trafficking in human beings

Serena Sileoni, Università di Siena
The Canadian Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security

Irene Poggi, Università di Genova
Canada and immigration

Silvio Boccalatte, Università di Genova
The right to health and regular (or irregular) immigrants in Canada

Simona Lombardo, Università di Genova
Profili normativi dell’evoluzione dell’immigrazione in Canada

Discussione e conclusioni


Anne-Marie Fortier, Université Laval

Le sanctuaire du monde.
Lecture du Paradis des apparences de Robert Melançon

Si le titre du plus récent recueil de Robert Melançon ? Le paradis des apparences ? ne se lit pas sans ironie, le sous-titre invite à la circonspection : « Essai de poèmes réalistes ».

Attaché à la surface des choses, à leur dehors, le poète paraît guetter ici les configurations furtives et infiniment variées offertes par les éléments les plus prosaïques du quotidien. Les motifs que donne à voir brièvement la disparate du monde ? motifs aussitôt faits puis défaits ? seraient tout ensemble causes et contours de cela même qui paraît, à la lettre, immotivé et fluide.

Robert Melançon aménage l’espace et la perspective, dessine des ouvertures et des points de fuite afin que le monde ? sa laideur, sa dureté mais aussi bien ses beautés ? puisse se dérouler là en toute quiétude. Le sanctuaire du monde, comme un sanctuaire d’oiseaux, vise moins sa sanctification que sa sauvegarde par le regard.

Nous aimerions dégager de ce recueil les paradoxes qu’il contient et les examiner :
1) associé aux expressions dérivées du terme « apparences » ? les apparences sont trompeuses, ne pas se fier aux apparences, sauver les apparences ? , le titre même condense, semble-t-il, une intention ironique et une éthique poétique : élire le regard au sein du bariolé et du banal décrié ; faire de la bienséance et de la pudeur un refuge contre les excès du lyrisme ;
2) fidèle au concret et à ses formes, le poète écrit en résistant à la poésie : loin de « réenchanter le monde » et d’en montrer la poésie, il souhaite faire de sa pauvreté sa beauté même ? du moins est-ce la première lecture qu’on peut faire du terme « poésie réaliste » ;
3) replacé dans la séquence des œuvres de Robert Melançon, Le paradis des apparences permet de lire le déploiement progressif d’une écriture « sur le motif », assujettie à l’apparition des tournures du réel, fruit du regard plus que de l’intention de dire et de faire « œuvre ». Il fait apparaître aussi des antécédents et une filiation qu’il importe d’esquisser : encore schématique, l’histoire des mouvements poétiques au Québec appelle une description plus subtile et plus souple qui ferait leur place à des séquences que les impératifs historiques ou politiques n’ont pas permis d’intégrer.

Rachel Killick, University of Leeds

‘On va faire un beau p’tit tour dans la forêt enchantée’
Memory and Trauma in Michel Tremblay, Le Premier Quartier de la lune

The transformation of Quebec from a rural to an urban society and the exodus of a francophone agricultural population to working class life in the anglophone-dominated city is the central dynamic underpinning Michel Tremblay’s portrayal of Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal. The traumatic impact of this displacement is rehearsed through the sociological and individual dysfunctionalities of female experience (Les Belles-Soeurs), of working class family life (A toi pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou), of homosexual difference (La Duchesse de Langeais, Hosanna), of red-light night-life on the Main (Montreal’s rue Saint Laurent). The perpetuation of the pathology of inadaptation and alienation down the generations is further examined through the specific individual psychology and mental illness of the child Marcel whose ultimate madness will lead to sectioning in an asylum. This paper will concentrate on one particular episode of Marcel’s life as an adolescent, that of ‘la forêt enchantée’ in Le Premier Quartier de la lune, exploring its role as a locus for Marcel’s regressive attempt to live in the present a fairy-tale vision of the past, and considering the significance of its re-imagining through art as cultural myth of a transposed community.

Sylvain Lavoie, University of Montreal

Abris de fortune sur terrain miné: représentations autochtones dans la dramaturgie canadienne contemporaine

Le gouvernement canadien se voit attribuer, lors de la Confédération, le droit de s’occuper des « Indiens » et c’est cent ans plus tard (1966) que le pays se dotera d’un ministère des Affaires indiennes. Cependant, la question autochtone est toujours demeurée un lieu de tensions, notamment « parce que la distinction entre les espaces y devient floue, voire inexistante, l'Amérindien et le [Canadien] habitant un même territoire, selon cependant des modes différents d'occupation » (Pierre L'Hérault).

Le théâtre, par son essence, constitue un lieu du politique intimement lié au(x) milieu(x) à la fois qui l’engendre(nt) et qu’il convoque. En ce sens, les représentations qu’il offre à voir des diverses préoccupations sociales s’avèrent fort éclairantes. Parmi celles-ci, la question autochtone qui servira de point de départ à un nombre non négligeable d’œuvres dramatiques canadiennes contemporaines. De la pièce The ecstasy of Rita Joe (1967) de George Ryga jusqu’à e, roman-dit (2005) de Daniel Danis, l’Amérindien est présenté errant sur son propre territoire; cette communication visera à mettre en lumière les constances et les fluctuations des représentations de la réalité autochtone par quelques dramaturges canadiens non-autochtones.

PANEL: Unsettlings, Remappings and Reconfigurations: the Politics and Poetics of “Home” in Contemporary Canadian Art, Film and Fiction

In recent years, it has become a near truism that many cultural nationalists are haunted by a sense of the arbitrary and unstable character of the nation and its territorial claims. As a result, they invest a lot of time, energy and resources trying to convince fellow members of the nation that it somehow natural for them to want to be in the nation space, that they are somehow rooted here, that it is their home. One of the main ways in which this is done is through the production and propagation of iconic rural and urban landscapes. As Tim Edensor argues, such landscapes are “selective shorthand for the nation…[they] come to stand as symbols of continuity, the product of land worked over, etched with the past, so that ‘history runs through geography’...So ideologically charged are these landscapes that they act on our sense of belonging so that to dwell in them can be to achieve a sort of national self-realization, a return to our roots”. Such constructions “home” have traditionally maintained their centrality in the national imagination through the power of brute repetition, through their simplification of complex social and spatial realities and through the fact that they edit out much of the modern world and most of the kinds of people who did not fit in a rather narrow definition of, for example, a “real Canadian” or a real “Québecois”. However, as Erin Manning observes in Ephemeral Territories, much of contemporary Canadian cultural production contests this simplification of Canadian sociospatial reality by evoking “a deterritorialization of the nation-state that subverts the conflation of identity and territory…This deterritorialization is accomplished by transforming the landscape into a critical apparatus that foregrounds territory as the contested hyphen between nation and the state and deconstructs identity as the stable signifier of the nation’s imaginary”.

In this interdisciplinary panel, we will examine the politics and poetics of the conflation and dislocation of identity and territory in contemporary Canadian art, fiction, film and urban space. More specifically, we will interrogate the dynamic and politically fraught textual, representational and material processes by which bounded, simplified, comforting and territorialized Canadian and Québecois landscapes are being unsettled, remapped and reconfigured in accordance with an increasingly complex array of Canadian political, cultural and aesthetic projects. In so doing, we hope to reveal some of the ways in which contemporary Canadian artistic and material practices are engaged in a renegotiation of cultural and spatial boundaries in order to create new passageways/lines of flight, sanctuaries and territorializations.

Annie Gérin (UQAM)

The Frenchification of Montreal: How the Quiet Revolution Re-Zoned the East

This paper focuses on a period of state-led transformation that aimed to convert Montreal into a francophone city. In Montréal, Boulevard St-Laurent (the "Main")—historically as well as materially - cuts through the city and isolates the areas where Francophones and Anglophones live. This East-West divide has had a persistent impact on the relationship between different communities and continues to mediate contemporary issues of class, ethnicity, integration, assimilation and language. To say that one is from the East of Montreal is to situate oneself on one side of a broader cultural, political and economic debate. This cultural and identitary mapping has had on a clear impact on the city and how the “Eastern” populations of Montreal represent themselves through language, art, architecture and material culture. Yet the “Frenchification of Montreal”, a process that roughly coincides with the Quiet Revolution (1960-1980), has somewhat destabilized the East-West divide. This trend was partially supported through language policies that sought to make French the language of business and public affairs in Montreal. However, this process of “Frenchification” is most strongly characterized by the augmented public presence of Québecois material culture in traditionally Anglophone areas through urban planning, public art and the language of signs. This paper will survey key projects of urban regeneration—the Metro, Place Ville-Marie and the underground city—which remapped and reconfigured the face of the city and which continue to affect how Montrealers imagine and live Montreal. Special emphasis will be placed on how modernist art and architecture came to represent the goals of emerging Quebecois nationalism and how they were enlisted to create a new configuration of identity and place in Montreal.

David Tavares (University of Ottawa)

Urban mobilities and the production of multicultural identities and spaces: reading the geographies of Dionne Brand’s Toronto

This presentation constitutes a geographical reading of Canadian author Dionne Brand’s most recent novel What We All Long For (2005). The novel is set in contemporary Toronto and depicts the everyday lives of an ethnically diverse group of four close friends in their early twenties who are all children of immigrant parents. The presentation focuses on the way in which the novel’s central characters inhabit and negotiate the city of Toronto. It is argued that their everyday lives are not circumscribed by the boundaries of traditional immigrant or otherwise ethnic spaces. Instead, their inhabitation of Toronto is characterized by a highly mobile consumption of the city’s geography in which a plurality of sites is drawn together by the characters’ routes and trajectories. It is contended that these mobile practices have two interrelated effects. First, they generate a multicultural subjectivity for the main characters by causing them to transcend the particular immigrant spaces and communities associated with their respective ethnic origins. Second, they inscribe the city with a multicultural imprint that is greater than the sum of largely autonomous and bounded immigrant enclaves and neighbourhoods. Overall, the representation of Toronto in Brand’s novel is implicated in the production of multicultural identities and spaces through its particular treatment of urban mobilities and geographies.

Lisa Prosper (Carleton University)

Palimpsests of passage: representing Canada’s landscape heritage in the paintings of Landon Mackenzie

In a number of recent paintings, Canadian artist Landon Mackenzie uses facsimiles of cartographic renditions of the Canadian landscape by European explorers as the physical backdrop for her canvas and inspirational starting point for her art. In a process that effectively re-maps these cartographic depictions of landscape, Mackenzie adds multiple layers to the canvas which inscribe the legacies of colonial passage on the Canadian landscape. In doing so, Mackenzie represents the Canadian landscape as a complex palimpsest of meanings, memories, experiences and events – a site of subjugation and resistance, contestation and erasure – underscored by colonial travels and encounters. She thus generates a dynamic landscape that sustains and conveys a plurality of historical perspectives and narratives. It is argued that the paintings in question are eminently relevant to an understanding of landscape heritage in Canada at a critical time when historic landscapes and the routes through them are increasingly being recognized and commemorated for their heritage values. Understanding landscape heritage poses significant challenges since, as a number of theorists have proposed, landscapes tend to ‘efface their own readability’ by appearing as coherent, inevitable constructs when in reality they are highly contingent and diverse manifestations of social and historical processes. Consequently, approaches to understanding and conveying landscape heritage must be sensitive to representational strategies that are capable of registering the heterogeneous and often discordant sets of meanings and experiences embedded in the fabric of Canada’s historic landscapes. This presentation considers the representational strategies and thematic content pursued in Landon Mackenzie’s painting in relation to these and other issues concerning approaches to landscape heritage.

Peter Hodgins (Carleton University)

Unsettling Images: Memory, Language, Landscape and Identity in Francis Leclerc’s Mémoires Affectives

One of the most powerful explanations for the abiding attraction of nationalism in the contemporary world is that the nation provides its members with a sanctuary from the relentless processes of complexification, creative destruction and dislocation set off by the advent of modernity. Through the construction of an imagined community bound and bounded by a shared history, grand narrative, territory, language and kinship, the nation offers its members a comfortable “home” and a secure cultural identity. Francis Leclerc’s 2004 film Mémoires Affectives details the identitary struggles of, Alexander Tourneur, a forty-something veterinarian. At the beginning of the film, Tourneur wakes up from a coma to find that those things that once tied him to Québecois nation and to his own personal identity—memory, the iconic landscapes of the Charlevoix and Old Québec, language, narrative and family—have now become unsettling, polysemic, ambiguous and contentious. In others words, for Leclerc’s amnesiac, the Québecois homeland has become unheimlich (uncanny, unhomely). The rest of the film deals with Tourneur’s quest to regain his own identity by recovering the traumatic event that caused his amnesia. Significantly, he is helped in this quest not by his Québecois friends, family and colleagues (whose accounts of his identity and their shared history are characterized by silence, ambiguity and contradiction) but by two “outsiders” to the Québecois nation—a Lebanese police officer and an African psychologist—and his brother who has relocated to Toronto. This paper will trace the narrative and representational strategies by which Leclerc uses Tourneur’s quest to unsettle and remap the traditional relationship between landscape, language, memory, kinship and identity in contemporary Quebec.


The Crossing of Borders: Variations on a Theme

The research group intends to focus on authors such as Howard O’Hagan, Malcolm Lowry, Jane Urquhard, Susan Musgrave, Sheila Watson and to explore images of liminality, the perception, the definition, the construction of borders and the various connotations of the theme concerning the crossing of geographical, historical, symbolic, metaphorical, psychological and identity borders, as well as the borders between gods and human beings.

Barbara Nugnes, University of Pisa
This paper deals with Jane Urquhard’s novel The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan exploring the character’s journey from Canada to Versailles, from what she perceives as an immense, cold, unfriendly, untameable and alien panorama of cold to the geometrically harmonious and totally controlled gardens of Versailles. This psychological and geographical passage, together with the character’s attempt to find a different relationship between man and nature, to evade from Canadian immense landscapes, are the main focus of the paper.

Biancamaria Rizzardi, University of Pisa
This paper will deal with Sheila Watson’s short stories focusing on the violation of some classical myths and their defilement by the values of contemporary society. The great characters of Sophocles’s myth, depicted as insane patients of a mental hospital, can be seen as a grotesque representation of twentieth century’s reality. Oedipus, the merchant of the antique world, is presented here as a stout and indolent character pretending to be searching for an elusive truth and symbolically portraying the eternal exploitation of capitalist society. Europa is the thoughtful sister, who is conscious of her brother’s objective abuse of power. The contrast between Daedalus and Oedipus, seen through the benevolent eyes of Europa, represents a paradigm of otherness in the modern world. The pale and assertive figure of Antigone, who is the receptacle of moral values, triumphs over a multitude of characters. In the classical version of the myth, Antigone opposes the divine laws for burial to the human laws of the city of Thebe. The modern Antigone opposes nature’s laws to the laws of her father’s “kingdom” (a mental institution).

Andrea Binelli, University of Trento
This paper focuses on Jane Urquhard’s 1993 novel Away. Trough the recollections of the main character the reader is told about the story of a family, whose women “leaned towards extremes” in that they tend to overcome boundaries in terms of “men, landscapes and states of mind [which] went away and came back again”. These boundaries and the corresponding trespassings, as is often the case with Irish-Canadian literature, are to be regarded also as complex historical and sociological signifiers which voice the intimate as well as the national, the political and the cultural by means of an allegorical encoding. What is at stakes here is Urquhard’s deployment of a geographical lexicon in order to retrieve an easily recognizable tradition to confer objectivity and a metaphorical status to her captivating and demanding narration.

Viktoria Tchernichova, University of Pisa
This paper will deal with Howard O’Hagan’s 1939 novel Tay John focusing on carefully plotted structural, narrative and metaphorical images of liminality and trespassing. Set on the border between Alberta and British Columbia, in a time cycle ranging from 1880 to 1911, the novel narrates the conquering of the last border to the West, seen in the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway. Several narrators tell the legendary story of Tay John, starting from his presumed birth – out of the tomb of his mother’s womb – till his presumed death, “under the snow and into the ground”. On one hand, the mythical realism of the novel joins katabasis and rebirth, light and darkness. On the other, it explores the boundaries between the Shuswap tribe and the “priestly arrogance” of a group of Englishmen, between town and wilderness, civilization and nature, Christian religion and Indian legends.

Elsa Linguanti, University of Pisa
This paper deals with some short stories by Malcolm Lowry focusing above all on the aspiration to metamorphosis, on the passages leading through various borders towards a source, and on a series of metaphors concerned with the concept of the sacred.


Oriana Palusci, Università di Trento

From Pier 21 to Corso Italia: gateways to hyphenated identities

My paper will deal with two important physical and metaphorical boundaries, the first connected to the peopling of Canada through immigration (and, above all of one national group, the Italians), the second to the settling down of Italian immigrants (especially from the 1950's onwards) in a specific Toronto area.

My focus will basically be on two manmade historical sites, both officially inaugurated in the 1990s: the Halifax Pier 21 Immigration warehouse, which has recently been transformed into a National Historic Site Museum (July 1, 1999) and the "Monument to Italian-Canadian Immigrants" (unveiled in Toronto in 1993).

My working hypothesis is on how the process of remembering and losing one's cultural identity (Italy is far away and belongs to the personal, regional and national past of each immigrant) had to undergo different phases of adaptation and reconciliation in what has become the ever shifting, extremely fluid universe, constituting the Canadian patchwork.

Through the discussion of what I believe are two fundamental recent artificial sites, I would like to show how the forging of an Italian-Canadian/Canadian-Italian identity dialogues with the shaping of a Canadian national identity, which is itself precarious.

Francesca Astengo, Université de Montréal

Freedom of religion and its limits in multicultural Canada

Canadian society has always been very sensitive to questions such as religious tolerance, multiculturalism, respect of minorities. In the recent case Gurbaj Multani of March 2006 the Supreme Court dealt with the freedom to express one’s religious beliefs and the right to attend public school, where an administrative authority denied a student the possibility to wear the kirpan (the knife of orthodox Sikhs) at school on the ground of security of students and teachers. More specifically the question revolved around the combined reading of art.2 a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom which guarantees the fundamental freedom of religion, and art. 1, according to which the Charter guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. What are the contours of such ‘reasonable limits’? To what point can the principle of religious tolerance be pushed? What are the limits of restriction of a fundamental freedom?

As a country of immigration, where citizens bring and are proud of their heritage which includes traditions, language, culture, traditions and religious habits Canada is often called to balance the respect of multiculturalism as one of the founding principles of the Canadian society on one side, and the fundamental constitutional principles such as those expressed in the Charter, on the other.

The aim of the paper is to explore the implications of the respect of the freedom of religion through this and other case law on the matter of religion dealt with by Canadian courts.


John Harries, University of Edinburgh

Becoming indigenous:
the imagining of the native and the paradox of belonging in Canada

How does one belong when ones history is one of displacement? If our identities, be they national or regional, are described in terms of being in place, then how do we articulate who we are when we are a people on the move? This paper addresses these questions both in a theoretical sense and through a case study of the articulation of indigenity in Newfoundland, Canada. The issue of migrant or diasporic identities has, of course, received much attention of late. In conditions of postmodernity and globalisation, we are dealing with ever increasing flows of displaced peoples, flows which, as many argue, interrupt, interrogate and maybe render obsolete the spatial strategies by which modern nationhood has been articulated as a form of identity. In addressing the question of indigenity in Newfoundland, I do not wish to dispute this reading of recent history, but to perhaps render it slightly more complex. Newfoundland would seem, on the face of it, to be a curious site for investigating the paradox of belonging and the ways in which the crossing of boundaries dislocates modernist discourses of identity. There are few peoples in Canada who seem to be possessed of such a robust, taken-for-granted, unproblematic sense of emplaced identity as Newfoundlanders. Yet it precisely the seeming robustness of this sense of identity that makes Newfoundland intriguing as a site for studying how we articulate a sense of belonging in the context of dislocation. For Newfoundlanders have been, and still are, a people on the move. They are a people who came from somewhere else, displacing the people, the Beothuk, who belonged to the island. They are a people who throughout their history have been subject to the vagaries of economic circumstance, and so moved, or were compelled to move, according to the availability of resources, jobs, or by governmental dictate and design. The recent events in Newfoundland, dominated by the collapse of the cod-fishery and the resulting depopulation of many rural outports, is but another instance of this history of economic migration. Given this history, when we consider belonging in Newfoundland, we must consider the ways in which a sense of emplacement and belonging is created and continued both within everyday life (cf. Pocius 1991) and in popular culture of public memory. The later will be peculiar focus of this paper. In asking how it is that one may belong to a place while being from somewhere else, I will be interrogating how it is that the settler as native is located within the history of the island, as it is known and experienced as interpretive centre, guided tours and museum displays.

Constance Joyce Martin, Université de Paris IV- Sorbonne

A not so Peaceful Sanctuary

An area near the Canada-United States boundary in British Columbia, the Kootenay Valley in the Rocky Mountains became the home of a sectarian group of Russian peasants in the first decade of the twentieth century. As pacifists, the group was granted conscientious objector status on their arrival in Canada. Since then, at each military conflict, American draft dodgers cross the border and find a haven in the area, some entering the sect to benefit from C.O. status, others finding a temporary or permanent home near the community. But the sanctuary has a dark side, a six-decade conflict with the government over infringement in what the sect calls their social freedom – compulsory education and payment of taxes - which led to arson, nudist demonstrations and bombings since the 1920s. An act of terrorism, the explosion of a bomb in a train, killed nine people including the sect's leader in 1924, has never been elucidated.


Mr Napes Ashini and Dr Colin Samson, University of Essex

The Benefits of Moving Forward to an Indigenous Hunting Lifestyle:
The Quest of the Innu to Combat Assimilation

Canadian government policy towards aboriginal peoples has always emphasized assimilation. Policies such as relocation, resettlement, and boarding school education were intended to transform indigenous peoples by persuading them to become more like Europeans. Current land claims procedures have a similar effect. With astronomically high rates of suicide, alcohol and solvent abuse and family dysfunction across aboriginal communities in the North, this policy has obviously failed. The Innu people of the Labrador-Quebec peninsula were, until the 1960s, living principally as mobile hunters when they were coerced into government built villages. Subsequently, these ‘communities’ exploded into social chaos and personal trauma. But, in the face of all the assimilationist pressures, the Innu never abandoned their hunting activities.

In words and images, we will describe the activities of the Tshikapisk Foundation, an organisation of Innu hunting families dedicated to maintaining Innu connections with their lands through a series of land-based activities and initiatives. We will indicate how moving forward to a mixed hunting economy might work, and how it could be preferable to the alternatives currently being offered - wage labour in resource extraction industries, work in the numerous clinics and healing centres, and welfare. While assimilationist policies have led to sedentary lifestyles, junk food diets, and the loss of traditions, spending time on the land leads inevitably to better physical and mental health, better knowledge of the history of the Innu, and better command of the Innu language. All of these are rights guaranteed by the current Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, which Canada voted against.


Patrizia Gentile, Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s Studies, Carleton University

‘Is it safe to come out?’:
Re-negotiating gay and lesbian space during Canada’s war on queers

Defined as suffering from ‘character weaknesses’ and living outside the boundaries of normative sexual and social discourses, gays and lesbians in Canada were the focus of a state initiated and organized security campaign from the mid-1950s to the 1990s. This security regime reorganized gay and lesbian space in cities like Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. The investigation practices of the federal, provincial, and municipal police forced the gay and lesbian community to establish new social and communal sanctuaries in regards to space, networks, and social relations. In this paper, I will explore the ways in which the gay and lesbian community re-negotiated these relational and social spaces/networks within the context of the security purges based on instances of non-cooperation and resistance. Questions of whether these re-negotiated and re-configured spaces contributed to the strengthening of the gay and lesbian community during the 1950s and 1960s will also be considered.

Donna Patrick, Associate Professor Canadian Studies and Sociology/Anthropology, Carleton University

Constructing ‘boundaries’ and creating ‘sanctuaries’:
State processes in urban Aboriginal community-building in Canada

Increasingly, Aboriginal people in Canada are leaving their home communities and territories to live in Canadian urban centres. This paper will examine some of the social, geographical, and cultural complexities and consequences of this urbanization. This includes an examination of state processes involved in the construction of ‘community’ in different urban contexts (Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal). In order to examine these processes, the paper will focus on (1) the tensions that arise in the construction and transcendence of ‘boundaries’ within and across social groups; and (2) the tension between ‘pan-Aboriginality and the struggle for “Inuit-specific” social and cultural recognition in Canada. The comparative analysis will draw on research from different First Nations, Inuit, and Métis urban ‘communities’ in Canada.

Richard Nimijean, School of Canadian Studies, Carleton University

“The Economic Roots of Brand Canada”

This paper explores renewed state efforts to communicate a new national narrative to the international community. While projecting an international image attractive to potential immigrants and investors has always been central to the development of the Canadian political economy, in recent years, the federal government has tried to convey an image of Canada as a dynamic, high-tech country, in order to overcome the oft-perceived narrative of Canada as a cold, resource-based country. The paper examines the economic rationale and the instrumentation of this image transformation exercise and looks at the implications of differences in the message that the federal government wishes to convey and the message that the international community receives.

Pauline Rankin, Director of the School of Canadian Studies, Carleton University

Equality for Export:
Canada’s Role in Promoting Gender Mainstreaming Abroad

This paper analyzes the Canadian government’s record abroad on gender mainstreaming. Since 1995, the federal government has maintained a domestic and international commitment to promote and implement Gender-Based Analysis, an approach to policymaking designed to integrate gender analysis into the development, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Internationally, the Canadian government now enjoys a strong reputation as a leader in the promotion and practice of gender mainstreaming as a core component of its international aid programs. Although justified in terms of its defense and promotion of gender rights abroad, the government’s export of gender mainstreaming necessarily implicates Canada in a project of disrupting and reconfiguring gender relations in recipient nations, as well blurring the boundaries between Canadian and international discourses around gender equality. Using evidence drawn from two recent Canadian development projects, the paper probes the implications of the Canadian state’s international priorities and practices around women’s equality.


Gundula Wilke, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel

“Old World” Discoverers vs. “New World” Cultural Mutineers

In search of the “New World”, sailors, explorers, surveyors and colonists have “discovered” America, mapped unknown territories and occupied land in the name of their rulers, collected riches, and invented a new world. Now, more than 500 years later, post-colonial and indigenous writers explore the “Columbus story” and other colonial myths both in their critical and their fictional works. As Diana Brydon points out, “Myths are human creations that meet human needs and as such may be created, transformed or discarded as needs or conditions change. Imperial myths benefited the colonizer. The colonised have their own myths, but these have been slow to enter academic discourse, even in the universities of countries which have long been officially post-colonial.” Canadian authors, both post-colonial and indigenous, redraw the set Euro-centric mental maps and propose alternative histories of the “discovery of America”, thereby redrawing cultural boundaries and enabling transcultural passages.

R. Mamoli Zorzi, University of Venice

Ondaatje's crossing of geographic, political and cultural borders in
Anil's Ghost

In 2000 Michael Ondaatje, one of the best known living Canadian authors, published a novel, Anil's Ghost, where the protagonist, a woman, went back to Sri Lanka for professional reasons. In this novel Ondaatje created a character who goes back, - as he did – to her native Sri Lanka, crossing not only the geographic and political borders of a state she had left many years earlier, but crossing also a series of cultural borders, both as someone who had gone back to a world different from the one she had chosen (the West), and as a woman.

Anil is a legal pathologist, sent to Sri Lanka by a Human Rights Organization to find out the truth about the massacres that took place during the civil war in that country. She is helped in her search by a local archeologist, Sarath Diyasena, who will eventually save her.

Even if the book deals with the Sri Lanka (actual) massacres of 1989, the narrative encompasses other mass murders, as those that took place in Guatemala.

In a powerful book, Ondaatje takes us across borders that we do not always recognize, but that belong to each of us.

Deborah Saidero, University of Udine

Transcending Boundaries, Bridging Cultures:
transcultural elements in Janice Kulyk Keefer’s fiction

This paper wishes to address the issue of transcultural writing in Canada and to focus its attention on how contemporary writers work to displace and transcend the multiple boundaries and splits which have long haunted both the Canadian mindset and identity. By taking into consideration the works of Janice Kulyk Keefer, it examines the complex relationship many Canadians have with their “ethnic” histories—histories which have left them hyphenated, confined, and continuously caught between (at least) two homelands, two cultures and two languages.

Acknowledging that “our postcolonial, post-Anglocentric code of Canadian-ness is fractured, multiple, shifting”, Keefer joins other writers in re-imaging the ethnic subject’s hybrid condition and explores the possibilities of bridging cultures and different “selves” by looking out in various directions, thereby transcending here/there dualities. Her works also posit a rethinking of the risk of ghettoization inherent in the Canadian multicultural mosaic and point toward the necessity to differentiate the nostalgia over heritage cultures and homelands from more productive forms of memory, which will allow Canadians to come to terms with their pasts and become fully integrated individuals. Besides resisting symbolic representations of ethnicity and demystifying nostalgic idealizations of the homelands left behind, Keefer’s transcultural perspectives equally debase constructions of Canada as a haven. Her works suggest that the construction of a national identity and of a future void of discrimination and separation entails a replacement of Canada’s much vaunted national icons with others, like the kaleidoscope or jigsaw puzzle, which privilege interconnection, mobility and transformation.

Eleonora Sasso, “Gabriele d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara

“Graphomania in a flimsy cave”: Margaret Atwood’s inner sanctuaries

This paper takes as its starting point the aporetic essence of Margaret Atwood’s cultural and ideological boundaries traced in The Tent and uses Derridean principles of responsability, friendship, hospitality, science and language to advance a new reading of Canadian divided identity.

The Tent not only develops its own detailed blueprint of Canadian “blind spots” (i.e. “logical contradictions beyond rational resolution”), but is also a broad socio-cultural meditation on postmodern sanctuaries. As part of this overview of deconstructionist representations meant at retracing, dissolving and transgressing boundaries, Atwood gives an explanation for Canadian fiction writing epitomized by a burning paper tent. In line with Kenneth MacKenzie’s “inner sanctuary” in Alias Grace which consists in “polished bookshelves, expensively bound professional volumes”, Atwood keeps writing on the walls of her paper shelter despite the world’s “howling wilderness”. I intend to track through these references and look at the issues – identity construction, individual and communal responsability, ethics of writing, books as truth keepers – which they rise.

Crucial to Atwood’s own project in The Tent is to investigate “the future of [Canadian] illusion” through the disambiguation of sanctuaries, one which arises directly out of Freudian relationship of the individual to culture (civilization). I will briefly consider to what extent the depicted world of The Tent itself lives up to this criterion.

But my central purpose will be to re-read Atwood’s fictional female characters as borderline personalities who, haunted by the desire of the id and unable to restrain themselves, commit immoral acts and seek only what they instinctually need. I will reflect on “the Rapunzel Syndrome” affecting these impulsive women compelled to learn how to cope first in the wilderness. Through Helen, Salomè and Procne, I suggest, Atwood attempts to trepass into her work the line of the civilized world, to regress back to our primitive state as animals, depending solely on instinct in order to survive, with important socio-cultural consequences for Canadian identity.


Tracie Scott, Birkbeck College, University of London

Postcolonial Theory and Law: Conceiving of a Postcolonial State

This paper will argue that Aboriginal self-determination treaties in Canada represent an example of how the Canadian state has not only undergone processes of decolonisation, but has also started to become a postcolonial state through postcolonial processes that have impacted on the law. To advance this claim the paper will first explore how postcolonial theory and law interrelate. This investigation inevitably leads to a discussion of the nature of postcolonial theory, and ultimately the need to re-envision postcolonial theory in the face of its evolving conceptual possibilities within Indigenous Humanities in Canada. The paper will subsequently argue that the advancement of First Nation self-determination in Canada demonstrates how the operation of these innovated postcolonial processes are affecting Canadian law. The paper will then explore how the law can be seen as constitutive of the state, and how these postcolonial processes are inexorably changing the nature of Canadian sovereignty.

The primary reference point for this theoretical discussion will be the Nisga’a Final Agreement, initialled by negotiators on August 4, 1998. This agreement, the product of over a hundred year struggle of the Nisga’a Nation to regain their land and right to self-determination represents the legal and political resurrection of a Nation long bereft of its sovereignty.

Richard E. Mueller, University of Lethbridge

The Labour Market Consequences of Aboriginal Residential School Attendance

Currently there has been much attention paid to the abuses of Aboriginals at residential schools. The Canadian government has put millions of dollars into settling these cases and many remain before the courts; settlement amounts have already reached the billions of dollars. The academic literature on the topic has largely focused on the social effects of having removed young Aboriginals from their families in an attempt to assimilate them into the broader Canadian society; no academic studies have been conducted on the labour market assimilation of these young Aboriginals. How have they fared in the labour market in terms of incomes, etc., compared to those who did not attend these schools? This is an interesting field of inquiry and has policy implications regarding the claims that have yet to be settled.

The 2001 Aboriginal Peoples’ Survey (APS) is a post-censal survey that contains a sample of almost 30,000 off-reserve Aboriginals, representing a population of close to 800,000 individuals. It contains detailed information on the usual demographic and labour market characteristics of individuals, and includes residential school attendance, making such a study feasible for the first time. This study will address the employment (unemployment) experiences of those who attended residential schools versus those who did not as well as comparing wages and other labour market outcomes to try to quantify the longer-run labour market disadvantages (if any) experienced by these Aboriginals.

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(C) 2007 British Association for Canadian Studies