Conference report GKS annual meeting, February 6-8, 2015

Kerstin Knopf

The thirty-sixth annual conference of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-speaking Countries (GKS) was once more held in the charming and snowy place beneath the Zugspitze Mountain in the hotel ‘Am Badersee’ in Grainau, OT Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The BICQS was represented by Kerstin Knopf and Steffen Schneider this year.  

The section ‘Language, Literature and Culture in Francophone Canada‘ (‘Sprache, Literatur und Kultur im frankophonen Kanada‘, ‘Langue, littérature et culture au Canada francophone’) conducted by Prof. Beatrice Bagola (Trier) was based on the following topic: Majorities and Minorities in Canada and Quebec; Mehrheiten und Minderheiten in Kanada und Quebec; Majorités et minorités au Canada et Québec.

“Tensions between ‘Majorities and Minorities’ have shaped Canadian history, geography, politics, literatures, and languages. There have been antagonisms between Canada's two ‘founding nations,’ Great Britain and France ever since the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, when Britain became the colonial power in ‘la Nouvelle France.’ The resulting conflicts between Canada's francophone cultures, most importantly Quebec, and the ‘Rest of Canada’ (ROC) have left their mark on Canadian history and culture in the late 18th, 19th, and most prominently in the second half of the 20th century. […] Establishing and enforcing French as the one official language in Québec and the province's policy of interculturalism has, on the one hand, antagonized the ‘First Nations’ as Canada's ‘Founding Peoples.’ On the other hand, it has mobilized non-francophone immigrants, above all the historically strong group of Italo-Québécois. […] This year's annual conference of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-speaking Countries in three conference sections addresses the broad spectrum of social, political, and artistic reactions to the challenges posed by the Canadian ‘majority / minority paradigm.’ The respective papers focus on a panoply of diverse social, cultural, and academic approaches and will also discuss the concomitant societal, political, and institutional changes in Canada and Quebec” (extract from the program of the 36th Annual Conference of the GKS, p.11f).

François Paré‘s (University of Waterloo) keynote discussed various revitalization models of indigenous languages in Quebec through educational institutions and indigenous pop culture. One axis critically examined the predominant Franco-Anglo-Canadian binarity and dealt with the different minorities in Canada such as the Asian Diaspora (Brian K. Ray, University of Ottawa), the ‘hidden’ Afro-Canadian slave history (Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University), the monstrous body as a traumatic symbol of a divided nation (Domenic A. Beneventi, University of Sherbrooke), and the representation of the Franco-Canadian culture in Anglophone novels of the nineteenth century (Konrad Groß, University of Kiel). Another axis focused on the linguistic repertoire of francophone minorities in Canada (Jürgen Erfurt, Frankfurt/Main), on models of Canadian multiculturalism and Quebec interculturalism (Christian Lammert, Boris Vormann, the Free University of Berlin), and on various strategies and concepts of young indigenous students and artists to handle the ‘wall’ of invisibility in Quebec (Gilles Dupuis, University of Montreal). Bearing the title ‘Queering Canada and Quebec’, the third axis investigated problems of minority related to LGTBQ identities with talks by Stefan Brandt (University of Graz) on Alice Munro’s short stories, Manon Trambley (University of Ottawa) on the relation between LGTB activism and respective Canadian governments, Astrid Fellner (University of Saarland) on indigenous Two Spirit/GLBTQ2 artists and René Schallegger (University of Klagenfurt) on the representation of ‘Queerness‘ in Canadian videogames. In the ‘Young Scholars Forum’ Nele Sawallisch (University of Mainz) gave a talk on the problematic historiography of slavery, Émilie Notard (Humboldt University of Berlin) on three Franco-Canadian Innu linguistic and poetry artists, and Sebastian Gessler (University of Augsburg) on Quebec separatists in the twenty-first century. The ‘Teacher’s Forum‘ consisted of papers on Canada in bilingual classrooms (Miriam Richter, University of Düsseldorf) and those that combine the foreign languages French and English (Mira Eberz, University of Trier).

Some very pleasant personnel matters as a result of the conference:

It was announced that Wolfgang Klooß (University of Trier) was awarded the Governor General‘s International Award for Canadian Studies. Our warm congratulations to Wolfgang Klooß!

Caroline Rosenthal (University of Jena) was chosen for president of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-speaking Countries (GKS) and replaces Ulla Lehmkuhl (University of Trier). Kerstin Knopf (University of Bremen) was elected vice-president.

Steffen Schneider (University of Bremen) won this year’s first prize during the Inuit art tombola – an Inuit sculpture!

We would like to thank Jennifer Henke, Christine Müller and Jana Geisler for their helpful comments in the context of editing and translating this report.