CFP: Fighting Scarcity and Creating Abundance

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Call for Papers: 

Fighting Scarcity and Creating Abundance: The Politics of Food and Water in Canadian History and Beyond
Deadline: 30 November 2020

Recent events surrounding COVID-19 have triggered both interest in and fears about the safety and security of Canada’s food and water. The country’s history is punctuated with subsistence crises; and even in the twenty-first century, despite improvements in both safety and supply, the spectre of hunger haunts many Canadians. And Canada’s water, subjected to decades of overuse and pollution, and never, thanks to the country’s constitutional complexity, coherently regulated, is also a source of uncertainty. Both food and water can be seen as human necessities that, once embedded in local communities and then strongly influenced by the federal government, are now best understood within a transnational frame, as both their production and circulation are now incorporated in global patterns of commerce. If COVID-19 has meant Canadians are conscious as never before of living together with many other peoples on an increasingly unified planet, it has also meant a pervasive sense that humanity’s conflictual relationship with the natural world, one that the pandemic has dramatized, forces them fundamentally to reconsider how such a global situation can be made locally safe and sustainable.

Hosted by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University in Spring 2021, this workshop seeks to explore these issues and much more through the themes of food and water scarcity and abundance. How have Canadians historically responded to perceived crises in food and water? Themes include, but are not limited to: famine and migration; food shortages; hunger and poverty; food waste and supply chains; overproduction of foodstuff; export commodities versus local produce; free markets versus agricultural protectionism; domestic versus global food supplies; consumer protests and organizations; farmers’ organizations and movements; the political economy of food; cultural foodways; control of water resources and waterways, irrigation, energy generation, conflicts over fishing routes and rights, contaminated water resources, water protection organizations, water scarcity and draught, flooding, and other water crises and rights issues. When, from a post-COVID perspective, we look at the history of food and water in Canada, what traditions do we inherit from the past—and which should we reconsider as we launch ourselves into the future?

We welcome proposals of 250 words by 30 November 2020. After the symposium, presenters will be invited to submit papers for the consideration of the editors of the L.R. Wilson Rethinking Canada in the World Series with McGill-Queen’s University Press. The Wilson Institute will provide some assistance towards lodging and travel re-imbursement for accepted speakers.

Applicants should submit their proposals and a one-page CV to the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History with the subject line Politics of Food to: If you have any questions, please contact Jodey Nurse ( or Maxime Dagenais (

The workshop will be hosted by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University, which is located on the traditional territory of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe.

Feature Image: Photo depicts an unidentified First Nation man with a string of pemmican hung between tree stumps standing in front of the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge. Medicine Hat, Alberta, ca. 1885. Professor Oliver B. Buell / Library and Archives Canada / Sir William Van Horne fonds / e011367822.

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