VIU hosts conference on the environment and young people’s literature and culture

Terri Doughty, a VIU English Professor, smiles while standing in front of a rhododendron plant.

Terri Doughty, a VIU English Professor, is the lead organizer for the Assembling Common Worlds conference being held at VIU’s Nanaimo campus this June. Vancouver Island University Photo

June 1, 2022 - 2:30pm

The Assembling Common Worlds conference, held at VIU’s Nanaimo campus from June 10 to 12, will explore concepts of the human relationship with nature in youth culture.

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is hosting a conference from June 10 to 12 that will help broaden the understanding of environmental knowledge and issues in young people’s literature and culture.

The conference – Assembling Common Worlds – will explore concepts of eco-literacy and eco-activism in children’s and youth literature and culture. Eco-literacy is about understanding ecology and how the environment functions, including the human place within it, and eco-activism is about trying to raise awareness and stop activities that are damaging the environment.

“These are two areas that are emerging in children’s and youth literature, and you’ll see there are more books at all age levels about kids who are getting out there and trying to make a difference,” says Terri Doughty, a VIU English Professor and conference organizer. “Whereas earlier environmental children’s literature was more about creating the literacy with a little bit of activism, so you would get children’s books that promoted recycling and that sort of thing, now we’re seeing more books and movies that radically challenge how Western culture has traditionally viewed the relationship between humans and nature.”

The interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars and practitioners from environmental education, literary studies, childhood studies and early childhood education to identify opportunities for cooperation and collaboration to tackle the challenges of generating intergenerational dialogue on current environmental concerns.

“Assembling Common Worlds is really about decentering the human and looking at how humans can recalibrate our place on this planet that we share with other species,” says Doughty.

Assembling Common Worlds is being hosted at VIU’s Nanaimo campus from June 10 to 12 and is open to everyone to attend. People can attend either in person or virtually. Each day features a keynote speaker. The keynote speeches are free and anyone can attend them in person at the Malaspina Theatre or watch them via livestream. Register for the keynote addresses at Eventbrite.

On June 10, from 4:30 to 6 pm, Dr. Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak from the University of Wroclaw in Poland, presents Finding Hope? Researching Children’s Literature and Culture in 2022. Deszcz-Tryhubczak says hope for a better future is the “bloodstream of children’s literature and culture scholarship.” Her discussion explores the possibility of hope in the face of current news about human-caused environmental degradation, including such events as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

a child's art piece of a robot painted with red and white flowers on a floral background.

An art exhibition featuring artwork from Grade 7 Cinnabar Valley Elementary students and others will run during the conference at the View Gallery.

On June 11, from 3:30 to 5 pm, Dr. Affrica Taylor from the University of Canberra presents Roos and Rabbits: Responding to Extinctions on Settler Colonized Land. Taylor’s discussion will examine the representations of animals in Australian literature and how settler culture has adopted these animals as being emblematic of Australian society but their understanding and relationship with these animals is very different from how Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples have traditionally understood these animals. 

On June 12, from 3:30 to 5 pm, Dr. Amanda Wager, VIU’s Canada Research Chair in Community-Engaged Research, presents Land as Literacy: Young People Practicing Culturally Sustaining Land-Based Virtual Pedagogies. Wager’s discussion seeks to advance understanding of how “young people and local Knowledge Keepers engage in their natural and local environments as a way to imagine and create cultural and global sustainability, specifically during a global pandemic.” 

During the conference, a special exhibition will run at the View Gallery, located in Building 300, at the Nanaimo campus, from Friday, June, 10 to Sunday, June 12. Friday gallery hours are from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday gallery hours are 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. The exhibition features posters on environmental themes created by Grade 7 students at Cinnabar Valley Elementary School, as well as work by high school and university students.

Registration is open to everyone and people can purchase their tickets on EventBrite. It is $175 for general admission, $125 for graduate and post-graduate students, or $50 to attend a single day out of the three. 

For more information, please visit the Assembling Common Worlds Conference website.

The Assembling Common Worlds conference is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connections Grant and a VIU Research Awards Committee Gather Grant. 

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Media Contact:

Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618.0373 l E: Rachel.Stern@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews

Assembling Common Worlds Organizing Committee

The Assembling Common Worlds Conference organizing committee includes Dr. Janet Grafton, Nicole Klan, Dr. Katharine Rollwagen, Sheila Grieve, Dr. Amanda Wager and Dr. Justyna Desczc-Tryhubczak.


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