Losing One's Bearings / Perdre le nord: Territories, Tensions, and Technologies

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
L'Université de Sherbrooke

Losing One's Bearings / Perdre le nord: Territories, Tensions, and Technologies

                                                    18th Graduate Conference in Comparative Canadian Literature (Université de Sherbrooke, March 27, 2020)

This conference explores the phenomenon of feeling lost between languages, literatures, cultures, and spaces, as well as the concomitant implications of searching for new directions, and navigating new meanings and identities. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s collection This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories challenges us to reconsider the world we thought we knew, calling into question borders, norms, tensions, and origins in colonial contexts and in indigenous experiences of self, place, and community. Similarly, in a book of essays entitled Losing North: Musings on Land, Tongue and Self, Nancy Huston explores what it means to live transnationally and trans-lingually as an expatriate, interrogating the notion of having a place or a language of one’s own. We invite papers that explore in-betweenness and liminality, lost directions, and the search for new directions whether in translation, literature, or other cultural performances. In particular, we encourage reflection on the loss of identities and the forging of new identities, especially in Canada and Québec, in terms of shifting space and time, cultural tensions, and changing technologies, all of which result in problems over borders and the (re)mapping of personal and collective identities.

Losing the North within political, geographical or imaginary boundaries implies a perpetual quest for the right direction. In French, it means losing one’s reason, the awareness of where we are and where we are heading, in space or our minds – the state of being disoriented, confused and distraught. In English, “losing one’s bearings” or “taking one’s bearings” denotes awareness of one’s position in relation to one’s surroundings and certain fixed points. This suggests that spatial location is relational and may open the way to navigating new spaces, new horizons, and new knowledges. “Bearing” also means behaviour, a way of standing or moving, suggesting the pertinence of new ways of seeing and behaving within our bodies: for example how mobile bodies experience space differently (Stanford Friedman); or how bodies, forms, and movements are imprinted with meaning and memory as signifiers (David Harvey, Michel Foucault); or how lines between human bodies, new technologies, machines, animals, and inorganic things are increasingly blurred (Donna Haraway, Samantha Frost). Current studies in ecocriticism, gender, and posthumanism question what it means to confront new horizons through liminal spaces that transgress old borders based on speciesism, heteronormativity, and human exceptionalism in the face of machines and cyber realities. Borders are not always outside of us, but are often internalized, needing to be recognized and transgressed if we are to find new versions of ourselves (Judith Butler). Dislocation in the present may mean finding a way back to traditional knowledges or finding a way forward toward new knowledges. One may wonder then: What is a border? Is it a territorial or a normative delimitation? From a postcolonial perspective, for example, crossing a border implies its acknowledgement, or even its projection. In addition, multilingualism in Canada properly illustrates the ambivalence of the notion of territories.

Lose sight of the north, and you may lose your bearings, your reality and truth, your points of reference, and eventually, perhaps, yourself. Diasporas and expatriates do not recognize exile simply as loss or being lost because new meanings and new directions can be navigated when you are uprooted, dislocated, or relocated. Dislocation generates important tensions between losing oneself and gaining insight into new possible selves and worlds that are both transgressive and hybrid.

Conference papers may analyze the implications of dislocation and disorientation, in particular in Canadian, Québécois, and Indigenous literatures, by approaching topics below,

among others.

  • ▪ Displacement, dislocation, and deterritorialization
  • ▪ Lost land, uprootedness, alienation, and dispossession
  • ▪ Perdre le nord, nordicity, ecocriticism, threats to local or regional identity
  • ▪ Multilingualism, cultural translation, interculturalism, and transculturalism
  • ▪ Losing one’s bearings, finding oneself, navigating new meanings
  • ▪ New worlds, old worlds, other worlds, and placelessness
  • ▪ Border thinking, liminality, transgressing norms, reconceptualizing space
  • ▪ Cultural tensions, conflicts, confusion, disorientation
  • ▪ Segregation, exclusion, ghettoization, and struggle
  • ▪ New technologies, post-humanism, and trans-identities
  • ▪ Poetics of exile, returning, finding home, place-making, and belonging
  • ▪ Literary dislocations and representations of transgression
  • ▪ Translated spaces, lost in translation, the impossibility of translation

Please submit proposals of 250 words and a short biographical note (150 words) to

ttt2020usherbrooke@gmail.com by Jan. 30, 2020. We will accept papers in both English and

French. Be sure to include your name, affiliation and degree, e-mail address along with the

title of your presentation. Please write “Comp. Can. Lit. Conference” in the subject heading

of the e-mail and upload the abstract as an attachment (.doc/.docx format).