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September 28, 2011

Call for Papers – Literature, Environment and Culture Conference

by Arnica Rowan

The second ALECC conference (Association for Literature, Environment and Culture) will take place from August 7 to 12, 2012 at UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College, in Kelowna and Penticton B.C.

Call for Panels, Papers and Presentations

ALECC Biennial Conference

Space + Memory = Place

August 7 – 12, 2012

University of British Columbia, Okanagan and Okanagan College

Kelowna and Penticton, B.C.

 All places are astonishingly complex. They are finely and intricately laminated, not only with the immediate and personal, but also with what we don’t see that is present, with what is past and future, even with what is somewhere else. With a little work, we can learn to recognize many more of these layers. When we do, our comprehension of what makes a place becomes immeasurably richer – not necessarily more comforting, but certainly more thorough.

–          SueEllen Campbell, “Layers of Place”

In her book The Lure of the Local (1998), art critic Lucy Lippard has written famously that space defines landscape, where space combined with memory defines place” (9). Noting that memory is neither simple nor singular (nor, necessarily, anthropogenic), SueEllen Campbell has also observed that places are sometimes not exactly what they seem to be: they can also be elements of other places, overdetermined by other times, or unrecognizable in the imaginations of others. With Lippard’s and Campbell’s resonant observations as an opening, we invite panels, papers and creative presentations for the 2012 ALECC conference that speak to “place” as an embodied, embedded, troubling, elusive, contested, personal, political and ecological site in which space + memory = place, and in an astonishingly complex range of ways.

We believe that the Okanagan, with its shifting and often contradictory identities, and complex relationships between development, environmentalism, tourism, wilderness, agriculture, and technology, all playing out across the land, is a fertile space and place for such questions, conversations and encounters. By holding the conference in the Okanagan, a place with an ancient and profound indigenous culture and a semi-arid region that has been remade and reimagined through irrigation as a rich agricultural paradise and wealthy leisure destination, we hope to create a place for ecocritical thinking, within a space that needs to be evaluated ecocritically. Teasing out the differences, however marginal or enormous, between space and place will be central to the work done at the conference, but we believe the question of memory to be as vital; indeed, the concept binds and braids space and place together, constituting and continually informing the ways in which we treat, approach and use our lands, our places.

Questions we might like to consider over the three days of conversations include, but are not limited to:

  • Does the practice of dividing and subdividing land into parks, conservancies, reserves for “nature” precipitate/enable/produce what Alexander Wilson calls “panoramas of amnesia”? Is amnesia a prerequisite for both development and preservation? 
  • Why do some places have a better memory than others? Why are some memories valued more highly than others? What are the material conditions that enable strong memory? How are (specific) literary and other cultural texts part of these dynamics? 
  • How does the work of remembering redraw relations between local and global understandings of place? What is the role of place in cosmopolitan experience and politics? How do orality, literacy and virtuality figure differently in globalizing relations among space, place and memory?
  • Can we sustain a collective memory of a place, and find great learning in the discrepancies between personal memories that pool into the collective memory? What forms of cultural and literary production contribute to collective memory? Considering both indigenous and diasporic collectivities, who is “we” in this understanding of place? 
  • What consequences does misremembering have for the environment?
  • If we were allowed to imbue more spaces with memory, would we find it harder to perpetuate environmental harms, and damages, to these places? 
  • In white, settler terms, we are still living with and coming to terms with the legacy of the first, great misremembrance: Canada as Terra Nullius (“land belonging to no one”). How does this original forgetting continue to inform Canadian relationships to this land? How do indigenous traditions (re) conceive the daily and inter-generational activity of remembering in ways that challenge this great misremembrance? 
  • Can (re)remembering be a kind of activism? What are some of the specific roles literature and other forms of cultural production might play in this process? 
  • Are there ways to remember without memorialising? 
  • Are our memories “natural,” or in ways seen and unseen implanted, influenced and conditioned by our culture? Are human beings the only agents who can be said to “remember” in a place? How do we encourage the surfacing of these other memories in our writing, teaching, and activism? 
  • Is the twentieth-century ideal of both “saving” nature and “saving a place” for nature outdated? What memories might we have to re-examine/sacrifice in a reappraisal of “nature spaces”?
  • What places do you remember? Are some memories of place too traumatic to be remembered? How does trauma figure in the unfolding of collective place-memory?
  • What have we forgotten? What is the relationship between remembering and forgetting in environmental literature and politics?

Participants in the ALECC 2012 conference will have the opportunity to engage these questions of space, memory and place in a variety of ways, including keynote and panel sessions, readings and performances, workshops, field trips, hands-on activities, and participation in community-led environmental activities.

We invite scholarly papers, creative writing, performances, visual art, new media and hybrid presentations from across Canada and internationally to consider such questions as they relate to the Okanagan or other places and spaces in Canada or around the world. We particularly encourage the submission of pre-formed panels and creative presentations, as below.

To propose an individual paper, creative or other work, including a reading (20 minutes), please submit a 500-word (maximum) abstract along with a one page curriculum vitae that includes current contact information. Proposals should specify preferences for a scholarly, creative or mixed session, and should include any requests for AV.

To propose a pre-formed panel or creative session (three presenters, 90 minutes), please submit as a complete package the following: session title, 200-word session abstract, one page curriculum vitae each and contact information for the session organizer and (other) presenters, 500-word abstracts for each paper/presentation (as possible). Proposals should indicate clearly the nature of the session and all requests for AV and any other specific needs (e.g., space, moveable chairs, outdoors, etc.). We ask that panel organizers attempt to include a diversity of participants (e.g., not all from the same institution).

We are happy to consider proposals that do not easily fit either of these categories (e.g., workshops, roundtables, exhibits, performances); please contact the conference organizers directly in that case.

Proposals must be submitted by October 1, 2011 to:

For further information, please contact:

Catriona Sandilands                Nancy Holmes                         Anne Marie McKinnon

President, ALECC                    Local Coordinator, UBCO        Local Coordinator, OC           

Norah Bowman-Broz

Local Coordinator, OC

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