Onoto Watanna’s Cattle at 100: Indomitable Women in the West During the Chinese Exclusion Era

deadline for submissions: 
July 28, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Winnifred Eaton Archive

Conference Director: Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia

Deadline for Proposals: July 28, 2022

You are invited to propose a scholarly paper, panel, or roundtable, or more public-facing creative presentation, performance, or screening to a conference designed to explore the career of Asian North American writer Winnifred Eaton Reeve (1875-1954) and her contexts.. 

The Montreal-born Eaton, sister of author Edith Eaton (“Sui Sin Far”), is recognized as the first Asian North American novelist. She published Miss Numé of Japan (1898), A Japanese Nightingale (1901), and other bestselling novels under the Japanese pen-name “Onoto Watanna”, a controversial persona that Eaton assumed for over two decades in denial of her Chinese ancestry. 

Eaton was also an early Hollywood screenwriter, the first female head of Universal Studios’ scenario department, a prolific journalist, a poet, and a versatile author of fiction in a variety of modes, including naturalism, realism and middlebrow. Her masterful but little known naturalist novel Cattle (1923) and her western novel His Royal Nibs (1925) were written and set in Alberta.

The conference, which has been organized on the centenary of the publication of Eaton’s novel Cattle by the team who developed the Winnifred Eaton Archive, seeks to explore Eaton’s transnational and multi-genre career beyond her Japanese phase, particularly in response to newly recovered and digitized works by her, and to newly situate her within contexts including the Canadian west, Canadian literature, middlebrow fiction, film, Indigenous studies and studies of immigration, race, and gender.

2023 is also the centenary of the passage of Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act, sometimes referred to as Canada’s Chinese Exclusion Act. We invite presenters and attendees to consider Eaton’s controversial masquerade and complex representations of race in her work against the backdrop of over a century of anti-Asian racism and violence in North America and within a history of the Chinese diaspora.

 

Conference Details

The conference will be held in Calgary, Alberta, the city where Winnifred spent the last four decades of her life championing Canadian authors, fostering Alberta Little Theater, and ranching, and where she and her family’s foundation supported a number of organizations including the YMCA, the Salvation Army, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, the Glenbow Museum, the Boys’ Club, and Wood’s Christian Home. 

Calgary is a prominent airport hub with a history of literary community, rodeos, and resource extraction. It also is the site of the fourth largest Chinatown in Canada, and is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and other people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. 

Most scholarly presentations will take place July 26, 27, and 28 at the University of Calgary. Several events will be held in the University of Calgary’s experimental Reeve Theatre built with funds donated by Winnifred Eaton’s second husband Francis F. Reeve and her daughter Doris, and at University of Calgary Archives & Special Collections, where the Winnifred Eaton Reeve fonds are housed.

Most of the more public-facing presentations, including a banquet inspired by Winnifred and her sister Sarah’s Chinese Japanese Cookbook, will take place July 29 and 30 at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre as part of Historic Calgary Week.

Most events will be free and open to the public. 

 

Call for Papers

We welcome individual or collaborative proposals for papers, panels, and roundtables on topics such as 

  • The literary and cinematic works of Winnifred Eaton/Onoto Watanna and her peers (late 19th/early 20th-century writers)

  • Eaton’s rich oeuvre: fiction, journalism, screenplays, drama, poetry

  • Eaton’s transnational career (US, Canada, and Jamaica) 

  • Eaton, modernism, and cosmopolitanism

  • The politics of literary recovery

  • Teaching with the Winnifred Eaton Archive

  • Digital Humanities and Asian North American literature and culture

  • The politics of racial/ethnic imposture

  • Moving beyond the Good Sister/Bad Sister dynamic

  • Eaton and Canadian nationalism

  • Eaton and the Calgary literary community

  • Early film, especially by women filmmakers and/or about the West

  • Eaton’s adaptations: film, theatre, and source materials

  • Eaton and her collaborators 

  • Miscegenation laws and early depictions of mixed-race romance

  • Early North American immigrant writing and mixed-race kinship

  • Historic Asian North American literature and culture

  • Asian North Americans in the West

  • Prairie/Western literature

  • Transnational North American literature during the Exclusion Era

  • Eaton’s Canadian contemporaries and collaborators

  • Progressive-Era writing by women

  • Stenography and authorship in the Progressive Era

  • Life-writing, autobiography, and strategies of self-invention

  • Fashion, costumery, and material and visual culture

We also welcome creative proposals (for example, staged readings of plays or scripts by or about Eaton; film screenings; and more) and more public-facing work. 

Proposal submissions guidelines:

  • Paper (15-20 mins): 250-300-word abstract and short bio

  • Panel (3-4 presenters): 250-300-word abstract, including presenter names and titles of presentations

  • Roundtable (4-6 speakers): 250-300-word abstract, including speaker names and short bios

  • Creative presentation (individual or collaborative): 250-300 word abstract and short bio

We are keen to support emerging scholars and graduate students and will attempt to lower barriers to their participation by making travel funding available and waiving registration fees.

Please fill out this proposal form by July 28, 2022. Proposals received after this date might be considered but will not be eligible for potential travel funding.