Between Past and Future: Culture, Heritage and Community Development of Polonia in Towns and Small Cities
An interdisciplinary conference sponsored by Cape Breton University and the Canadian Polish Research Institute
25-28 July 2013
With the partial exception of early settlements on the Canadian Prairies and Canada’s first Polish settlement in the “Kaszuby” area of Renfrew County, Ontario, Polish communities outside Canada’s major metropolitan centres such as Toronto or Montreal have received only scant academic attention. And yet such studies would help us illuminate immigrant experiences and develop a more nuanced and complex understanding of the aspirations, integration processes and cultural attachment of descendants of immigrants.
For many years, the national Polish-Canadian organizations were occupied with the demands of metropolitan immigrant settlement and integration. However, with Poland having become a democratic and generally prosperous country, Polish immigration to Canada has slowed significantly since the early 1990s. Canadians of Polish descent – and students of Canadian Polonia -- may now be more inclined to take a greater interest in longstanding, relatively isolated, but still enduring Polonia settlements. By exploring and comparing the fates of the Polish communities across the country, we gain a greater understanding of the factors contributing to cultural retention, including mutual support systems, economic prospects, physical landmarks, a multicultural milieu, and key organizations or individuals serving as leaders and tradition bearers.
More research is needed on what cultural attributes, under what circumstances, should be considered critical or fundamental in maintaining a sense of ethnic identity and maintaining a residential cluster. For example, how important is language retention? How are new immigrants welcomed by older or native-born settlers from the same ethnic community? What ensures the survival of some organizations and the disappearance of others? How have Polish traditions and customs changed over time? How have Poles and non-Poles recorded and remembered the history of Polonia? How do the Polonia experiences resemble or differ from those of other ethnic communities? How is the Canadian Polonia different from its counterparts in the United States, Britain and elsewhere?
This conference will provide an interdisciplinary venue where historians, anthropologists, political scientists, literary geographers, sociologists, folklorists and many others can exchange their diverse understandings of the evolution of Polonia in small population centres. The conference will stimulate discussions on the theory and practice of heritage conservation, cultural expression, commemoration and community economic development, while identifying future directions in these fields. Consequently, we welcome proposals for papers from scholars and practitioners working across a range of projects and disciplines. Such studies and discussion papers will help us not only to better understand Polish communities but potentially also to develop contemporary supports for other ethnic communities.
We invite established and emerging scholars and practitioners to submit proposals for individual papers (250 words and a one-page CV), as well as full panels and round table discussions (500 words and one-page CVs of all participants). Please include name, institutional affiliation and full contact details.
Proposals should be submitted by March 15, 2013, to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Tom Urbaniak
Department of Political Science
Cape Breton University
Dr. Michal Kasprzak
Canadian Polish Research Institute
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