The Politics of Community and Identity: Learning from One Another
May 20-22, 2009
University of Ottawa
In the last quarter century, sub-state communities and communities of
identity not defined by geography have taken on an increasingly
important role as the focus of, and advocates for, loci of collective
rights. Given their growing importance in the social, legal and
political order, there is a need to develop deeper understandings of
the way communities are identified, represented, and recognized - as
well as how communities can engage with and learn from one another.
This is as true for Métis and urban Aboriginal people as for other
minority communities. Aboriginal peoples form distinctive communities
which continue to seek stronger recognition and a greater voice in
democratic politics, as have women and linguistic, religious and
ethnic communities before them. What can these diverse communities
learn from each other?
The Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the
Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa will are hosting a major
international and interdisciplinary conference May 20 to 22, 2009 to
foster research and policy dialogue on the role(s) of communities in
democratic politics. The goals of the conference include the
development of prescriptive and practical guidance and policy
recommendations based on comparative analysis of different communities
- defined by gender, language, race, ethnicity, religion, or culture.
The conference will bring together experts on identity, community,
federalism, gender politics, official language minorities, religious
communities, multiculturalism, ethno-cultural minorities and
The Conference will seek to address the following themes.
* Community Identity: Why are community and collective identity
important in the politics of liberal democratic states? What are
there limits on the right of communities to define their membership
and what is the process by which membership is defined?
* Community Representation: How are communities formed? How do leaders
secure legitimacy to speak on behalf of individual members and/or of
* Community Recognition: How do communities achieve recognition as
participants in democratic politics and as sites of constitutional
* Community Diversity, Division and Dissent: How do communities
foster cohesion and respond to dissent among members? How do
communities address the multiple or even competing identities of their
members and possible conflicts between community values and norms and
those of the larger society?
* Community Engagement: What are the experiences of different
communities in using political, electoral and judicial routes to
advance their agendas?
This multi-disciplinary discussion will allow scholars, policy-makers
and community leaders to better understand the experiences of various
communities, and to draw lessons from comparative analysis. As such,
we are also interested in proposals that explore the reality of
communities in other liberal democracies, particularly if they include
direct comparisons to the Canadian experience.
Those who are interested in participating in this conference are
invited to submit a 250 word proposal for papers, or presentations
together along with a short biography, by October 15, 2008.
Proposals will be evaluated based on their quality, clarity and the
extent to which they are clearly linked to the broader themes of the
conference. In particular, preference will be given to we will
evaluate papers based on the extent to which they:
* provide comparisons and contrasts between two or more communities; and/or,
* connect an analysis of a particular community or communities to the
broader discourse about the community as political actor and locus of
Patrick Fafard, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
Bradford Morse, Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa