October 6, 2011

Simposium on Luso-Descendants in Canada and Portugal

This past Tuesday, at a press conference at the Consulate General of Portugal in Toronto, the details of a symposium to be held on 11 and 12 October, at York University were released. The Identity, Civic Engagement, Multiculturalism and Transnationalism: Portuguese-Canadian Immigrant Descendants in Canada Symposium will highlight themes such as Identity, Civic Participation, Multiculturalism and Transnationalism among Luso-descendants in Canada and will bring together scholars from Canada, Portugal and the Azores, to share and plan future studies of the Luso-Canadians on the two continents. Another objective of the symposium is the creation of an academic association of Portuguese studies in Canada.

The press conference was led by Professors Robert Kenedy and Maria João Dodman of York University, as well as Professor Fernando Nunes of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, who participated through a direct connection through the Internet, first inaugurated at the Consulate. The Honorable Consul Julio Vilela played host to the meeting.

Professor Kenedy began the meeting by explaining how this gathering of academics and young scholars is a multidisciplinary symposium that highlights the significance of the Portuguese-Canadian community in mainstream multicultural Canadian society. Given the importance of this community, as well as the onset of greater economic and academic linkages between Canada and Portugal, the time is right for initiatives that explore the positioning(s) and impact of Luso-Canadian descendants in both countries. This symposium also has direct implications for the new and growing Portuguese Studies Program offered by the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics in the faculty of LAPS as it directly addresses the literature, identity and culture of Portuguese and other Lusophones descendants.

The symposium will feature presentations on identity, civic engagement and multiculturalism, as these apply to the descendants of Portuguese-Canadian Immigrants in Canada and Portugal. Five central areas will be examined:

1. How do Portuguese-Canadian descendants relate to the notions of being Portuguese, Canadian, Azorean and/or Québécois?

2. What factors contribute to the process of identity negotiation and/or the strength of a hyphenated identity?

3. How does multiculturalism contribute to Portuguese-Canadians’ sense of citizenship and civic participation both within the ethnic community, as well as the various levels of government?

4. How do the roles played by these actors, their sense of belonging, civic engagement and national or ethnic visibility tactics, contribute to the construction of ‘the self’ and the Portuguese-Canadian community?

5. How do negotiations via transnational contacts, network construction and maintenance – both with and within the two countries and cultures - contribute to the defining ‘who these actors are, where they are’?

Other themes related to education, citizenship, identity and belonging of the first, second and third generations of Portuguese-Canadians in Canada will also be considered.

Professor Kenedy also cited as aims of this symposium the creation of a Portuguese and Lusophone Studies Association, the launch of the Portuguese-Canadian History Project website, the launch of Between Two Worlds: Emigration and Return to the Azores, a book on Portuguese-Canadian transnationalism as well as film about Fado music in Canada. In addition, selected papers from this event will be published in a special issue of the Portuguese Studies Review.

On behalf of Portuguese Studies, Professor Maria João Dodman congratulated the organizers of the symposium and highlighted the important interdisciplinary nature of York University. She also spoke of the Faculty's mandate and the way that this symposium fits within the ethnic diversity, internationalization and community involvement, all values promoted and defended by York University. She added the participation of youth in the discussions planned and stressed the need for community participation in the dialogue.

Professor Nunes raised the fact that the Portuguese community has been in Canada for more than 60 years and that, therefore, research into the Luso-Canadians has long ceased to be an analysis of an immigrant group, or of a migration flow, and has already been integrated into an analysis of Canadian society. He explained that the connections that will be formed at the symposium will allow everyone to better clarify the role of Luso-descendants in the unraveling of Canadian public policy, such as the policy of multiculturalism. He said that "These links will give us the future means to better understand how our presence in this country is contributing to the development of this and of other public policies."

Professor Nunes also said that the creation of an association of Portuguese studies in Canada will allow fundraising to develop future studies, and increase the profile of studies on Luso-descendants amongst Canadian academics. He also stressed how the importance of this initiative is reflected in the support that the symposium has received from the several respected bodies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Canadian Government, the Faculty of Arts and Professional Studies at York University, the academic journal Portuguese Studies Review, and CERIS - The Ontario Metropolis Centre. Professor Nunes said, "The support of these various sponsors, shows the importance that they give to this type of collaboration."

The symposium, which will take place in Winters College, York University, on 11 and 12 October, is open to all and is free.


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