CFP: Cultivated Pasts: Commemoration, History-Making, and Landscapes of Memory in Western Canada

Stacy Nation-Knapper's picture
Call for Papers
Subject Fields: 
Canadian History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Historic Preservation, Indigenous Studies, Public History

CFP: Cultivated Pasts: Commemoration, History-Making, and Landscapes of Memory in Western Canada


Compared to Atlantic and central Canada, western Canada remains a historiographical hinterland in the field of historical study that examines how public perceptions of the past have changed over time. Dramatic and seemingly timeless natural environments have been more central to the region’s iconography than ideas about human history – they have been staples of its art and literature, and grist for the mill of boosters and tourism promoters. Even common notions of western Canada as a kind of “frontier” are intertwined with ideas about land.


On the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which urges historical scholars to reassess interpretations inherited from earlier generations, and in the context of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, which highlights how the west – from the Lakehead to the Yukon – fits awkwardly into many key narratives associated with this most Canadian commemorative event, this is a timely moment for scholars to reflect on how commemoration, the writing and teaching of history, and public history events in western Canada have been shaped and re-shaped by disparate actors, institutions, and social structures. We invite submissions for a collection of essays on the “cultivation” of public pasts in western Canada and welcome proposals from scholars working in all disciplines and at any stage of their career. We are open to proposals on a range of possible topics, such as:

- the roles played by archives, museums, heritage sites, community historical societies, and related cultural institutions

- the profession and practices of historical writing, both in and out of academia

- the inscription of ideas about the past onto the landscape through monuments, memorials, toponyms, and preservation campaigns

            - the history of historical interpretation in parks

- the “making” of history in marginalized communities

            - representations of western Canada’s history through visual and material culture

- the emergence and persistence of “classic” themes in western Canadian history, such as exploration, the fur trade, railway construction, and pioneering

- profiting from the public past, as with private historically-themed attractions or the writing of historical works for the trade market

- recurrent or one-time commemorative events such as parades and centennials

- borderland perspectives that compare provinces or look across the 49th parallel

            - the public past in media such as radio, television, popular music, or advertising


Please send a 300-500 word proposal and 1-page CV by December 1, 2016. Proposals should outline the contribution or intervention the essay will make in the study of commemoration and the public past in western Canada, and also identify the source material being used. Accepted proposals will be notified in January 2017 and complete drafts of essays (5000-7000 words) will be required by August 2017. We intend to circulate papers amongst contributors for a round of critically-informed feedback prior to submission to a Canadian university press.


Send proposals or write for more information to or


Stacy Nation-Knapper is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University. Her article “‘Like putting birds in a cage’: Territory and the Troubled Life of a Spokane Oral History” appears in the latest edition of Pacific Northwest Quarterly.

Ben Bradley is a Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow in History & Classics at the University of Alberta. His article “The David Thompson Memorial Fort: An Early Outpost of Historically Themed Tourism in Western Canada” appears in Histoire sociale/Social History (June 2016).

Contact Info: 

Stacy Nation-Knapper

L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History

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