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Are we American?


MISC 2008 Conference to tackle Canadian culture in North America

How American are North Americans? Do Canada, the United States and Mexico share common cultural trends and traditions that bind us together? Culturally, are we becoming more alike or more distinct? What features of Canadian culture facilitate the smooth migration of our music, literature and other forms of expression across our cultural borders and what are the enduring limits of language, population and resources?

The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) presents its 2008 conference, ‘Are we American? Canadian Culture in North America,’ Feb. 13-15, at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. The conference will bring together artists, entrepreneurs, policy makers and scholars from Canada, the United States and Mexico who are concerned with Canadian culture and its circulation throughout North America. In keynote addresses, panels and break-out sessions, the conference will address the question of how Canadian culture, in its various forms, fits within a broader North American identity.

“The question of how Canadians fit within a North American identity has bewildered, agitated and mobilized those Canadians who make a living creating and promoting their culture,” said Prof. William Straw, Acting Director of MISC. “Right now, the cultural landscape of this continent is being transformed by an unprecedented confluence of factors from technology to cultural nationalism to immigration; Canadian culture is both an agent in that process and an ever-evolving product of it. Some of our culture succeeds elsewhere by highlighting its distinctiveness, like Cirque du Soleil. Artists like Nickelback, on the other hand, work because they are expressing themselves in ways that seem tied to no specific place. Those differences are fascinating.”

Prof. Straw, one of Canada’s most respected authorities on culture, media arts and national identity, teaches Art History and Communication Studies at McGill. He is serving as Acting Director of MISC while Director Antonia Maioni is on a one-year sabbatical. Since 1995, MISC has hosted annual conferences that foster informed, non-partisan discussion of public policy issues affecting Canadians.

Immediately following the conference, Media@McGill and MISC will jointly welcome Grammy Award-winning Brazilian singer, guitarist and songwriter Gilberto Gil. Gil, who is currently Brazil’s Minister of Culture, will present a free public lecture on Friday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m.

Conference participants will include:

Len Blum, screenwriter, including the recent screenplays for The Pink Panther (2006) and Over the Hedge (2006).

Andrew Cohen, award-winning writer and journalist, bestselling author of While Canada Slept and more recently of The Unfinished Canadian.

Wayde Compton, writer, editor and poet, author of 49th Parallel Psalm, Performance Bond and Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature.

John Cruickshank, new head of CBC News, former publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Jian Ghomeshi, writer, musician and broadcaster, currently host of the daily arts and entertainment program Q on CBC Radio One, and former host of the Gemini-award winning TV program play on CBC.

Steve Jordan, founder and Executive Director of the Polaris Music Prize, former A&R Executive with Warner Music Canada and True North Records.

Michael Levine, entertainment lawyer, Goodmans LLP, Chairman of Westwood Creative Artists Ltd., Executive Producer of the Heritage Project, founding Director of The Canadian Film Centre, former Director of TV Ontario.

Émile Martel, author and poet, winner of the Governor-General’s Award for his book Pour orchestre et počte seul.

Trina McQueen, CTV Chair in Broadcast Management, York University, former President and COO of CTV Inc., former President of the Discovery Channel, former Vice-President of CBC Television’s News and Current Affairs and CBC Newsworld.

Carlos Monsiváis, writer, journalist and Mexico’s foremost commentator on culture and society.

Andy Nulman, co-founder and former CEO of the Just for Laughs International Comedy Festival, co-founder and president of Airborne Entertainment.

Pierre Perpall, award-winning singer, songwriter, musician and dancer.

Patti Schmidt, host of Cinq ŕ Six on CBC Radio One, and weekend host of Canada Live, as well as host of Inside the Music, on CBC Radio Two.

Deanne Smith, comedian and co-founder of Comedy OFF The Main.

Carl Wilson, editor and critic at The Globe and Mail whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Blender, The Nation, and Saturday Night.

Roz Wolfe, Senior Political, Economic Relations, and Public Affairs Officer (Communications and Film Entertainment), Canadian Consulate General, Los Angeles.

On the web:
MISC 2008 Conference

Media registration

Pascal Zamprelli
Media Relations Office
McGill University


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