Watershed, lit., fig.

1.a. The line separating the waters flowing into different rivers or river basins; a narrow elevated tract of ground between two drainage areas; a water-parting. 1.b. figurative. A turning point (in history, affairs, a person's life, etc.); a crucial time or occurrence.

3. North American. The gathering ground of a river system; a catchment area or drainage basin.

- Oxford English Dictionary

The literal and figurative move across one another in environmental humanities scholarship, creative writing, and the environmental arts. Watersheds are significant moments in history and cultural life—crucial “turning points” like the Red River Rebellion (1869), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer  1987), the logging blockades at Clayoquot Sound and Temagami (1980-94), the R v. Marshall Supreme Court decision that upheld Mi’kmaq fishing rights secured in the 1760-61 Maliseet–British treaties (1999), and Maria Campbell’s publication of her Métis memoir Halfbreed (1973). Personal “watershed moments” figure prominently in activist life histories, LGBTQ+ coming out stories, lyric poetry, and nature writing.

Watersheds are also geographical areas where waters, minerals, histories, animals, plants, fish, and other communities move and “gather ground” quite literally. Rivers carve valleys. Rivers gather sediment. Rivers flood. Tile drainage and irrigation systems gather ground for agricultural crops by moving water out and in, settling fertile properties and unsettling Indigenous histories. Tailing ponds are built to slow the travel of toxic metals through watersheds while the mined resources enter global commodity flows. Dams capture national imaginations with visions of prosperity and power while refashioning watersheds into new hydraulic systems. Forests, deforestation, and urban developments, too, shape water currents and fish futures. These material histories and possibilities gain expression and traction through figurative language and other signifying forms, such as maps and prospectuses and land registries and ceremony and legislation and story. Yet their material agency is not reducible to discourse or language effects. The “gathering grounds” of ecological, material, and historical knowledge matter in crafting personal and collective responses and interventions in this “critical time” of climate, biodiversity, and political crisis.

Inspired by prairie river valleys, and in particular our host site in the Meewasin Valley in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the 2020 ALECC conference invites thoughtful responses to movements between the literal and figurative and the personal and historical and/or to critical times and turning points in watershed and other ecologies, Indigenous thought and practice, ecopoetics, new materialisms, fictional and nonfictional narrative, life writing, film, ecomedia studies, environmental histories, cultural geography, environmental philosophy, cultural studies, and related areas of environmental studies. Submissions are welcome on the proposed theme and other areas of interest from artists, creative writers, and scholars in the environmental arts and humanities, broadly defined, and on any historical period and any geographical area.

Submission Information
Proposals must be submitted by October 15, 2019, to conference@alecc.ca.

To propose an individual paper, creative or other work, including a reading (20 minutes), please submit an anonymous (no name included) proposal that includes a title and a 250- to 500-word abstract, noting whether it is a creative or an academic paper. In a separate document (but the same email submission), please send name, proposal title, your preference for a scholarly, creative or mixed session, any requests for audio-visual equipment, current contact information, and a one-page curriculum vitae (used for funding applications).

To propose a pre-formed scholarly panel or creative session (three to four presenters for a 90- minute session), please submit an anonymous proposal that includes a session title; a 200-word session abstract, including whether it is a creative, academic or mixed panel; and a 250- to 500- word anonymous abstract for each paper/presentation. In a separate file, please send the names for each presenter and the session organizer, the session title, any requests for audiovisual equipment, and contact information and a one-page curriculum vitae for each presenter.

To propose some other kind of format or presentation (e.g., workshops, roundtables, exhibits, performances), please contact the organizing committee in advance of the October 15th deadline to discuss proposal submission requirements.

Submissions in English, French, or First Nations languages will be accepted. Proposals should indicate clearly the nature of the session and all requests for audio-visual equipment and any other specific needs (e.g., space, moveable chairs, outdoor location, etc.). We ask that panel organizers attempt to include a diversity of participants.

Email submissions should include the word SUBMISSION, the abstract type (panel, paper, other), and your (or the panel proposer’s) name in the email subject line: SUBMISSION paper Gayatri Spivak, for example, or SUBMISSION panel Jon Gordon. We will acknowledge all submissions.

For more information about the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada / Association pour la littérature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada, please visit our website at https://alecc.ca/. All presenters must be paid members of the organization or an affiliate by the date of the conference.

General queries for the organizing committee may be sent to conference@alecc.ca.

ALECC 2020 Organizing Committee:

  • Joanne Leow, University of Saskatchewan
  • Sheri Benning, University of Saskatchewan
  • Jenna Hunnef, University of Saskatchewan
  • Cheryl Lousley, Lakehead University Orillia
  • Richard Pickard, University of Victoria
  • Kaitlin Blanchard, McMaster University
  • Molly Wallace, Queen’s University
  • Glenn Willmott, Queen’s University
  • Brett Buchanan, Laurentian University