- Crossing the Cobequid:Meeting Places/Lieux de rencontre
Canadian studies has long served as a meeting place for disciplinary approaches. As this theme issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies demonstrates, Canadian studies continues to offer tremendous potential for interdisciplinary connection and co-operation. The essays assembled here were originally presented as papers at a conference jointly organized by the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University and the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary’s University in September 2013. “Meeting Places: An International Canadian Studies Conference/Lieux de rencontre: Colloque international en études canadiennes” brought together academics, artists, and authors interested in place-based cultures and in creative and scholarly collaboration and production; they came from across Canada and around the world. As a special feature of the conference, participants travelled from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Sackville, New Brunswick, crossing the Cobequid Pass and tracing the movements of Indigenous peoples through the millennia. In recognition, we broke the journey at the Glooscap Heritage Centre (now known as the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre) in Millbrook, Nova Scotia, where the authors of The Language of This Land, Trudy Sable and Bernie Francis, introduced Mi’kma’ki as “a fluid and living landscape filled with networks of reciprocal relationships and moral obligations” (2012, 25). Crossing the Cobequid a little later that day became the occasion for reflecting on how the land is deeply embedded in Indigenous knowledge and society. As participants travelled from one “place” to another, from Halifax to Sackville, across the Cobequid Pass and the provincial border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, sharing their knowledge and learning from each other, ideas took shape and the interdisciplinary essays published here are the result.
In addition to academic sessions and to keynotes by Andrea Bear Nicholas, Cole Harris, Tania Martin, and Graeme Wynn, the Meeting Places Exhibition featured work and performances by artists Alison Creba, Ray Fenwick, Eryn Foster, Frank Shebageget, Tom Sherman, Aaron Weldon, and Mitchell Wiebe, curated by Gemey Kelley at the Owens Art Gallery. The creative writers who gave public readings at the conference are similarly engaged in reimagining place. Poems and films by Herménégilde Chiasson and stories by Alexander MacLeod are embedded in real and imagined places. Aritha van Herk’s Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2002) and Michael Crummey’s pictorial elegy Newfoundland: Journey into a Lost Nation (2004), written in collaboration with Greg Locke, meditate on the authors’ relationship to the places where they live. Each of their readings, like the artworks on display, enacted the generative role of place in Canadian arts and culture. [End Page 1]
This theme issue shares some of the highlights of the gathering with readers everywhere. Since the emergence of Canadian Studies in the 1960s, place has served as both a marker of identity and an object of study. Understanding Canada as a place and understanding place(s) within Canada have been integral to the development of Canadian Studies, from Northrop Frye’s inquiry “where is here?” in the Literary History of Canada (1965, 826), to the “situatedness” Smaro Kamboureli considers “formative” in Canadian literary culture (2014, 7), and to the critical readings of displacement, movement, and belonging produced from various inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives. Studies of region and regionalism in literature, from Laurie Ricou’s influential Vertical Man, Horizontal World (1973) and Frank Davey’s cultural critique in From There to Here (1974) to Patrick O’Flaherty’s The Rock Observed (1979), proliferated in the 1970s.
Although early studies of region may seem dated in an era when, under the pressure of globalization, national identities seem to dissolve with their borders, these readings of local and regional cultures in Canada shaped the emerging field of Canadian Studies, often creating their own object of study as well as new cultural expressions and products. By the late 1990s, studies such as W.H. New’s Land Sliding (1997) and Christian Riegel and Herb Wyile’s A Sense of Place (1998) were changing the discussion. In the latter volume, Alison Calder (1998), one of the contributors to this theme issue, notes that the categories used in these studies...