by Corey Slumkoski
The 15 October 2015 deadline for the call for papers for the Canadian Historical Association Conference next spring at the University of Calgary is fast approaching. Despite being the largest annual gathering of Canadian historians, this conference often has only a relatively small number of scholars presenting research on Atlantic Canadian topics. As Tom Peace has shown in his survey of papers presented at the 2015 CHA conference held at the University of Ottawa, only 16.8 percent of “regional” topics examined the Atlantic Provinces. When one factors in the large number of papers that don’t easily fit into a regional category – Peace labels these transnational papers – we see that only 9.3 percent of papers given in Ottawa considered Atlantic Canada. We should keep in mind that these numbers were from a conference held in Ottawa, a city that is within fairly easy driving distance of Atlantic Canada. The 2013 CHA conference at the University of Victoria offered even fewer papers exploring the region with only 14 of 167 papers – 8.4 percent – featuring Atlantic Canadian topics. As the home to 15 of Canada’s 80 public degree granting institutions – 18.75 percent – Atlantic Canada and its history could be better represented at our profession’s annual meeting.
There are a number of reasons why the history of Atlantic Canada is underrepresented at the CHA conference. Travel costs can be expensive, and many faculty may be unwilling – and graduate students unable – to spend the money necessary to attend. It may be that scholars prefer the Atlantic Canada Studies (ACS) Conference, a bi-annual conference that offers a closer venue – it is typically held within the Maritimes – and may be more professionally and personally rewarding given the presence under one roof of a multitude of experts on the Atlantic Region. Next year, the ACS Conference will be held at Mount Allison University – perhaps the most geographically central of all the Atlantic Canadian universities.
Clearly the ACS is an excellent and important forum, all the more so because Acadiensis reserves the right of first refusal on papers delivered there. Still, I would urge scholars to commit to presenting our research outside of the region as well, for our work – far from being peripheral to the Canadian historical narrative and profession – is of central importance. Scholarship produced in and on the Atlantic region is first rate, and our studies can help inform the teaching and research of academics outside the region. These scholars need us … and we need them.
The Canadian historical profession is a community of scholars, and our histories are enriched by exposure to what others in the field are doing. While our scholarly attention may examine the geographic or mental construct of Atlantic Canada, our studies are of national importance. When Tina Loo writes about the the Africville relocation she does not just reveal the history of African-Canadians living on the Halifax waterfront, but of the influence of post-war modernization on all Canadians. When Mark McLaughlin details the impact of aerial insecticide spraying in New Brunswick, he isn’t just writing an environmental history of that province’s forests, but a history about how all Canadians have shaped and been shaped by their relationship with their environments. And when Martha Walls studies Maliseet opposition to the Kingsclear relocation scheme, she isn’t just examining the efforts of a small Maritime community to stay in their homes, but also how Canadian First Nations have collectively struggled with displacement when confronted by colonial expansion.
The historical profession is stronger when scholars of all geographic regions come together to share their findings. For this reason we should commit to sending a strong contingent of Atlantic Canadianists to the 2016 Congress in Calgary. I hope to see you there.
The deadline for the CFP is October 15.
Corey Slumkoski is an associate professor in the History Department at Mount Saint Vincent University, and the Digital Communications Editor for Acadiensis.