Representations of Diversity and the Environment in Contemporary Canadian Cultural Expression

- Research project

Understanding Canada – Canadian Studies

International Research Linkages Program

This collaboration aims to create a permanent exchange network of research between Canadian and Spanish universities in the field of Canadian Studies, involving both faculty and students in order to explore interconnections between cultural diversity and biodiversity. After the Nature paradigm took hold of the Canadian imaginary to—monolithically, some argued—represent Canadian identity, the more recent embrace of multiculturalism relies on the belief that cultural diversity is a healthy social practice, the same as biodiversity is healthy in ecology. Furthermore, some theorists argue that to address the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming, societies should focus on developing resilience instead of efficiency and growth (Homer-Dixon, 2009). In this view, cultural and linguistic diversity are key aspects of resilience because systems with a great deal of internal diversity tend to be more resilient than simple ones.

The team members share the conviction that both written and visual cultural representations are fertile places to trace problems and possibilities for epistemological dialogue about resilience. The efflorescence of literary writing and other cultural representations by Indigenous and diasporic writers and artists in Canada over the past twenty years can be examined in order to trace epistemologies that derive from non-Western sources and are land- and environment-based. We will, therefore, explore how imaginative writing and the multiple intersections of literature and film, literature and media, or literature and the visual challenge the Euro-Canadian canon by introducing what Boaventura de Sousa Santos terms an "ecology of knowledges" (i.e. knowledge systems from a variety of cultural origins) rather than the monoculture of knowledge represented by homogeneous "Western science." By bringing to the fore these “other knowledges” represented in the arts, we will attempt to find or point at different conceptual alternatives to the resource-based economy and its approach to land/environment.



The activity is designed around two pivotal events:

1) Preparatory workshop at Memorial University, St John's, NL, July 20-22, 2011.
2) Seminar at the University of Salamanca, March 12-13, 2012.

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