@ the edge: Revisiting/Contesting Marginality

Proposals due 15 December 2012, except for Richard Van Camp Panel, due 2 January 2013

In conjunction with the annual Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (CACLALS) will host its annual conference June 1-3, 2013, at The University of Victoria, Victoria, BC. Members planning to attend the ACLALS Triennial conference are welcome to give the same talk at the two conferences.

CACLALS invites proposals for individual 20-minute presentations, panels, workshops, or other special events for its 2013 conference on the theme @ the edge: Revisiting/Contesting Marginality. The format of the title of Congress 2013’s general theme, @ the edge, is a reminder of how digital media are changing both cultural and critical production and the environment in which they are produced. What are the implications for our field of study of the media and other edges on which the postcolonial/decolonizing literatures, oratures, and other forms of cultural production operate? Organizers elaborated the theme of the 2013 Congress by commenting, “@ the edge focuses on the key challenges of inequality, the need for inclusivity, and the acceptance of diversity; those are challenges that demand intentional solutions that will address the marginalization of those at the edges of society.”

Is the connection that the theme makes between being at the edge and marginality a necessary or desirable one? Under what conditions does being at the edge become being at the margins? Can edges be more productively theorized as interfaces? In a 1990 interview, Dionne Brand asserted “I don’t consider myself on any ‘margin,’ on the margin of Canadian literature. I’m sitting in the middle of Black literature” (Books in Canada 14). What are the benefits of contesting marginality in this post-national or any other way, and are there losses or pitfalls in doing so? Does Alice Te Punga Somerville’s refocusing of Indigenous Studies from centring on contact and interaction between settler and colonized peoples to Indigenous peoples with other Indigenous peoples provide a useful model for rethinking the margin-centre binary? Is the margin/centre binary (still?) a productive framework for Commonwealth, postcolonial, diasporic, transnational, or globalization theory and criticism? Does globalization have edges? If so how do we recognize and work with or against them? The avant-garde is by definition at the forefront or leading edge of culture, and its practitioners write manifestoes encouraging us in particular directions. However, this idea of the leading edge depends on the Western idea of time and progress. If we think the “new” is at the cutting edge, what does that mean about cultures, such as those of the West, whose chronotype is the “arrow” of progress? How does such an idea of newness affect notions of the original and the traditional?

Other topics related to the conference theme that members may wish to consider could include but are not limited to:

• the constituents of edginess in our field of study and its political/and or ethical implications
• environmental edges/edginess
• Indigenous edges and/or interfaces
• revitalizing languages on the edge of extinction
• New Englishes as on the edge or in the centre of postcolonial/decolonizing/anti-globalization discourses
• cultural edges and hybridity
• genre edges
• urban edges
• the rural or regional as marginalized or @ the edge of power?
• religious or spiritual edges/edginess

CACLALS welcomes conference presentation or workshop proposals that address dimensions of any of the questions or issues above or that are otherwise related to the association’s mandate. We equally welcome traditional papers designed to be delivered in not more than 20 minutes, workshops, member-organized panels in which 3-5 members deliver 5-minute position statements related to a single issue or text and then open up discussion to the audience, and member-proposed special events. If the latter have funding implications, we ask that the proposal include ideas about how at least partial funding might be secured. By 15 December, 2012, proposals of not more than 350 words should be submitted via on the proposal form found under CFPs and Conferences, CACLALS, CACLALS at Congress 2013. They will be double blind-vetted. Please note that only proposals from paid-up members will be considered, and this stipulation applies to proposals for the Graduate Student Presentation Prize panel as well as regular proposals. The automated membership system created by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences is now available on the new website, and we encourage everyone to use this system when renewing membership in CACLALS or joining for the first time. However membership inquiries and fee payment can still be directed to

The Annual CACLALS Graduate Student Conference Presentation Prizes

Information about the Graduate Student Conference Presentation Prize can be found at under the CFPs and Conferences tab. This year’s lead judge is Laura Moss, Associate Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, Associate Editor of Canadian Literature, and Canadian and African literature scholar. The judges’ panel will be rounded out by CACLALS executive members Jill Didur and Philip Mingay. Thanks to the generosity of Goose Lane Books, Riel Nason’s Commonwealth Book Prize-winning novel The Town That Drowned will be among the prizes to be awarded to the three finalists for the 2013 Graduate Student Conference Presentation Prize. Students wishing to be eligible for the prizes must check the “Grad Prize Submission” box on the proposal form at if they wish their proposal to be considered for the prize. They are welcome to submit proposals without entering the competition.

Call for Papers for a CACLALS/CALA panel on “Richard Van Camp @ the edge of Media and Genres”

When Richard Van Camp, Tlicho author from the NWT, wrote his much acclaimed novel The Lesser Blessed, published in 1996, he was a new voice, an emergent Aboriginal author. By the year 2012 he has established himself through, among others, his storytelling performances, two collections of short stories, graphic novels, and books for babies and youth; he recently added filmmaking, notably the film adaptation of The Lesser Blessed, to his achievements. While working in such a wide range of genres and media, he always found time for mentoring new writers. This panel (which is part of a larger “Richard Van Camp event” including a live interview) therefore aims at showing Van Camp’s work in its complexities including the following themes in relation to his writing:

-responses to intergenerational trauma (“postmemory” writing) -the notion of (spiritual) power, battles between “good” and “evil” -the restorative function of literature -writing for youth/imagining the future -writing across genres and media

Please submit a title, an abstract of 50 words, a description of 300 words, and your contact information to both Renate Eigenbrod ( and Deanna Reder ( by January 2nd, 2013. Please indicate if you require any specific equipment for your presentation. All presenters need to be members of either CALA or CACLALS.

Special Call for Proposals

“Weathering the Storm: Ecologies of Writing and Healing in Postcolonial and Indigenous Literary and Visual Texts”

In his chapter on “DissemiNation,” Homi Bhabha argues that to discuss English weather “is to invoke, at once, the most changeable and immanent signs of national difference” (The Location of Culture 170). For Bhabha, the role of weather in postcolonial literature not only strengthens images of “forever England” but also evokes “memories of its daemonic double”—the exotic and tropical landscapes of ‘othered’ nations such as India, those in Africa and the Caribbean, and others impacted by the British Empire. Many postcolonial and Indigenous writers, however, are re-imagining environmental tropes including the weather, plant life, and other ecological forms, in order to come to terms with and heal from the trauma of colonization/decolonization. We invite papers interested in exploring the relationship between ecology and trauma for a panel for CACLALS 2013. Those interested are asked to please send a proposal to Dr. Julia Emberley (jemberle@uwo.c) as well as submitting it through Submission details including deadline are the same as for all proposals submitted to CACLALS.

Special Attractions of This Year’s Conference

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Jenny Sharpe is Chair of Gender Studies and Professor of English, Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at UCLA. She is author of Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text (Minnesota 1993), which provides historically-grounded readings of Anglo-Indian fiction for how the topos of interracial rape helped manage a crisis in British colonial authority. Her book has been widely reviewed and is considered a classic in postcolonial studies. Her second book, Ghosts of Slavery: A Literary Archeology of Black Women’s Lives (Minnesota 2002), challenges the equation of subaltern agency with resistance and self-determination, and introduces new ways to examine black women’s negotiations for power within the constraints of slavery. Prof. Sharpe has published widely on the gendering of the black Atlantic and cultural theories of globalization. Her current research addresses the literary turn in archival studies from the perspective of Caribbean women’s literature that offers alternatives to historicism’s linear temporality and the presumed materiality of the archives.

Plenary Speaker: Wayde Compton is a Vancouver-based poet (49th Parallel Psalm, Performance Bond), anthologist (Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Orature and Literature), essayist (After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region), and short story writer (title forthcoming). With David Chariandy and Karina Vernon, he is the publisher of Western Canada’s first and only Black literary press, Commodore Books. Compton is also a co-founding member of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, an organization dedicated to preserving the public memory of Vancouver’s original Black community, and Director of The Writer’s Studio, a creative writing program in Continuing Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Richard Van Camp Events (joint sessions with CALA and generously co-funded through Renate Eigenbrod’s SSHRC grant): A panel of papers on Van Camp’s work, a reading and live interview, and a workshop for emerging Aboriginal writers are being organized by Renate Eigenbrod and Deanna Reder.

Thirteenth Annual Aboriginal Roundtable: Daniel Heath Justice is organizing the Roundtable on “Indigenous Resurgence or Reconciliation: Contestations and Conversations.”