Skip to Content

Black Re-Mediations in Early Canada

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Jade Ferguson

Co-Organizer: Karina Vernon

Contact the Seminar Organizers

The study of Black life in early Canada inevitably raises questions about media and mediation. The conditions through which Black expression, experience, and activism is rendered historical (in “narratives,” “accounts,” “archives,” and other such genres of recognition, calculation, and preservation) determine how scholarship has acknowledged (and refused to acknowledge) the numerous Black voices in Canadian history. Cultural theory on the medium of print as a mechanism of nationhood, on the affective nature of archives, and on the testimony as foundational to modernity’s notion of “human rights,” has moved studies in Black literary history solidly forward, but these and other accomplishments have not yet substantively opened up intellectual space for building new analytical frameworks capacious enough to recognize the multitudes of Black media in early Canadian contexts. All too often, the “discovery” of new documents or the opening of the canon to new genres occurs without a rigorous conversation about the nature of media and the media environments in which the materials in question were created, and how these materials are accessible and meaningful to scholarship today. This seminar hopes for a sustained discussion about the parameters of early Black Canadian literary studies, and the conditions in which we as a group of scholars can talk about the field. As a starting place, we seek to foster an attentiveness to textual formats and their common processes of meaning-making. Participants are invited to bring new (which might also constitute a return of older) concerns and approaches to the table. The goal, overall, is to generate an imaginative openness to the development of Black Canadian literary history and authorship.

We invite proposals for papers that address any aspect of “Black life in early Canada,” broadly construed. Texts considered can range significantly. Formats alternative to the prose narrative are encouraged, but narrative-based work is also welcome. “Early” is most likely pre-1900 but arguments for later works will also be considered. Reference to “Canada” in this seminar description may meet with productive critique. We use it to indicate the necessary work that remains to be done within the national parameters “Canada” signifies, yet recognize that this term is a colonial imposition, and very often used inaccurately to signify a political entity or territory. We also recognize that several early Black authors might be affiliated with Canada but lived most of their lives elsewhere.

Proposals may consider:

Archives, official or unofficial, complete or fragments
Documentations of slavery in Canada and its afterlives
Newspaper articles, advertisements, and letters
Black collective organizing and/or leadership
Accounts of key incidents in Black Canadian history
Editing, publishing, printing, and circulation
Images (photographs, drawings, graphic arts, paintings, etc.)
Music and performance

«Back To Seminars