Conference report on the 2009 AAALS

Conference Report on the 2009 AAALS and ANZSANA Meetings in Calgary

By Danica Čerče and Oliver Haag

The ‘Australian and New Zealand Studies Association of North America’ (ANZSANA) and the ‘American Association of Australian Literary Studies’ (AAALS) have a long tradition of joint annual meetings either in the United States or in Canada—the first conference took place in 1995 in Orlando, Florida. The focus of AAALS is on literature and the arts, while ANZSANA focuses on history and the social sciences. The meeting in 2009 was held from February 26-28 at the University of Calgary’s Olympic Volunteer Centre, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. As was the case with the previous meetings, the 2009 conference had no conference theme. This, in fact, enabled a broad range of topics offered by delegates researching in so different areas as law, national identity, children’s literature, and civil-military relations. Delegates came mainly from the U.S. and Canada; however, there were also some distinguished speakers from Australia and New Zealand. A few participants joined from Europe, including Germany, Brittany, Portugal, Slovenia, and Austria.

Many papers were characterized by a comparative approach—either between Australia and New Zealand or between Australia and North America. The ANZSANA panels covered themes such as election and power distribution, constitutional rights, reproductive and genetic technology legislation, and immigration policies. The AAALS panels were also very diverse. They included film analysis, earlier 20th century as well as the contemporary Australian/New Zealand literature, reflections on (Australian) literary studies, history in/through literature, and Indigenous literature from Australia and Aotearoa. Unfortunately, there were no talks on Indigenous North American themes or comparisons between Indigenous and First Nations Studies in Australia/New Zealand and North America.

The wealth of comparative studies and the broad range of papers contributed without any doubt to the success of the conference. The lack of the conference theme was certainly crucial in this respect. There were, however, a few difficulties in the conference organization. The conference programs were delivered too late (on the evening before the conference) and did not include abstracts or any information on the content of the talks; the information about the paper acceptance was provided quite late, only one month before the start of the conference; and there was no further information provided on a planned excursion to Banff. Apart from these minor flaws, however, the conference was certainly rewarding and stimulating.