Open Spaces/Close Encounters

Espaces ouverts/liens étroits


May 11-15, 2022 | Regina, Saskatchewan

“Open Spaces – Close Encounters”

Call for papers

“Open Spaces” invites us to reflect on new possibilities for restorative and collaborative work in our discipline — as researchers, educators, and community members. The 2022 conference theme was sparked by our treaty homelands in southern Saskatchewan, which strike the eye as wide open, but where boundaries and restrictions can complicate the ties people have with the land and each other. How can such tensions inspire a reinvention of our relations? How can anthropology contribute to the healing of ties between peoples, lands, animals, and plants? “Close Encounters” refers to the transformative potential of the qualitative, collaborative, and creative engagements of our work at our upcoming conference, and worldwide.

The repercussions of this Era of Covid accentuate and lay bare spaces of systemic inequity and precarity, some of which have deep roots in our nation’s colonial past. Ongoing recoveries of unmarked children’s graves at former residential schools across Canada are making space for a renewed awareness of colonial atrocities that continue to affect the lives of countless citizens every day.

The global pandemic has polarized our communities, reinforcing seemingly disparate ideological spaces. Less visibly, it has also confined millions of people to spaces of isolation, and to tactile deprivation, generating a new thirst for social encounters. Many of our loved ones, whose lives were claimed by the virus, have left for us painful spaces of silence. Our efforts to contain the virus have deepened spaces of mental and material turmoil.

But not all spaces are dark. In the words of RoseAnne Archibald, Assembly of First Nations National Chief, "The more we know about where we come from, and our shared history and our responsibilities, the better we can address current challenges and find our healing path forward together."[i] “Open Spaces” invites us to reflect honestly on a path forward for Canadian anthropology.

How can we bring about transformation in our personal, professional, and institutional spaces as anthropologists? How do our close encounters with diverse communities allow us to contribute to more equitable futures? How can we all become better Treaty People (including all who reside on unseeded territories)? With recommendations for reconciliation in hand, what are our responsibilities and opportunities as anthropologists?

We encourage proposals that engage the nuances and opportunities found in open spaces and close encounters everywhere. We especially welcome themes that explore possibilities for a shared path forward (not limited to reconciliation):

1) What kinds of new spaces (welcome or unwelcome) have the pressures of our times introduced us to? How do these encounters call us to reinvent our discipline?

2) Where, in our research, teaching, or public service as anthropologists, can we confront marginalization, opening up space for a path forward together?

3) How have close encounters in our applied or academic work transformed our professional practices? How do these encounters affect our thinking, our theories?

4) How do we open up Canadian Anthropology in theory and practice, make it highly inclusive of newcomers, and committed to substantive reconciliation at home and abroad?

5) What intellectual, ethical, and emotional spaces currently exist for cross-boundary relationships in anthropology that do not use the language of ‘reconciliation, healing, and shared paths?’

6) When do nonhuman encounters co-define shared spaces, and how do we negotiate and celebrate shared histories with land, animals, and plants?


Our keynote speaker is Beth Conklin (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee). Drawing inspiration from Brazilian ecologist Ana Maria Primavesi’s concept of “espaços vitales,” vital spaces made abundant by the spacing-out and mingling of plant species, and from native Amazonian ritual practices of transforming the injuries of grief and loss by burning small spaces in the forest, Beth’s talk will explore conversations emerging between biological sciences and humanistic social sciences about woundedness, healing, and resilience.

Plenary Sessions

We have planned two Plenary Sessions:

· “Anthropology in the Light of Unnamed Children’s Graves” will feature invited speakers, reflecting on possible futures for an anthropology substantively invested in reconciliation, asking: What is (and isn’t) transformative change; how do we move forward together? Confirmed speakers include: Gilbert Kewistep (Saulteaux/Nakaway), Judy Pelly (Anishinaabe-Saulteaux), Jerad Kozey (Métis), Cheyanne Desnomie (Plains Cree), Emily Grafton (Métis).

· “Anthropological Reinventions in the Era of COVID” will explore recent methodological innovations under mobility restrictions, asking: What are the implications of such experiences, and how might they inform changes to standard ethnographic practice? Confirmed speakers include: Fiona P. McDonald (UBCO), Hanna M. Paul (UBCO), Martha Radice (Dalhousie), Abra Wenzel (Carleton), Karen Pennesi (Western), Débora Kirschkern-Leitão (U du Quebec à Montreal).

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