By Elisabeth Faure
This week, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) will bring a taste of Mexico to Montrealers, at the launch of their new Canada in the Americas (CITA) initiative. Taking place on Dec. 5, at the McCord Museum of Canadian History (690 Sherbrooke West), the launch will feature eight speakers from Canada and Mexico. The free event will be followed by a reception.
“You can expect a fascinating panel dialogue between five people – curators, scholars, media activists – on different aspects of Canada’s relationship with other countries in the Americas, and with Mexico in particular,” says MISC Director Will Straw, who will moderate the panel. “There will also be two short talks by scholars based in Mexico City who have done a lot of work on Canada and done much to make Canadian culture known in Mexico. “
Panel speakers are SBC Gallery Director Pip Day; media producer and activist Gabriela Gamez; Banff International Literary Translation Centre Co-Director Hugh Hazelton; Claudia Mansferrer Leon, who is pursuing her PhD in Sociology at McGill; McGill Department of Languages professor Fernanda Macchi; and MISC postdoctoral fellow Lourdes Morales. Rounding out the programme, Professor Ana Elena González Treviño, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, will give a special presentation on Canadian literary presence in Mexico, and Dr. Graciela Martinez Zalce will deliver a keynote speech via video from Mexico, entitled, “Canadian culture in Mexico. Can we really see it?” A Skype Q & A with Zalce will follow.
The idea dates back to the 2007-08 academic year, when Straw served as Acting Director of the MISC, and oversaw the Institute’s annual conference. “As the theme, I chose “Are we American: Canadian Culture in North America,” Straw recalls. “This was partly to remind people that the North American continent includes Mexico, and to build on the 20-year relationships I have with scholars in Mexico who work on Canadian culture, and with Canadian scholars interested in Mexico. The Canada in the Americas Initiative is an outgrowth of that.”
Straw began discussing the possibility with his then-PhD supervisee, Ingrid Bejerman. This year, the idea really began to take shape, culminating in the launch event. Straw chose to focus the event on Mexico, as 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of his longstanding relationship with the Centre for the Study of the Americas at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as being the 20th anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
While Straw notes there are many units at McGill, whose work deals with “The Americas,” such as the Institute for the Study of International Development, the North American Studies Program, and the Hispanic Studies program, he believes the CITA initiative will offer a unique contribution. “Our emphasis will be mostly on the ways in which Canada is implicated in the flow of cultural and social knowledge between Canada and other countries in the Americas,” he says. “How do people elsewhere come to know about Canada? How is Canada being changed by the contributions of people who come from elsewhere in the Americas?”
What’s next for the CITA initiative? “In February, in Mexico City, I’ll be co-organizing a conference on ‘The Urban Night in Mexico City and Montreal,’” says Straw. “And, we’ll be looking to host writers from Latin America, and coordinate panels on Canadian Indigenous Writers at important literary festivals elsewhere in the Americas.”
And Straw promises that’s only the beginning. “We have many exciting things planned, so stay tuned.”
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