This week I attended the CHA conference at Carleton University. I had originally planned to write about my experience daily, however the busy nature of the conference has resulted in this series of posts being posted a few days following the conference.
The first session I attended was entitled "Indigenous Historical Methodology: Beyond the Footnote." The work of the three presenters focused on the issue of indigenous representation and the interpretation of indigenous history. One of the points that struck me most, in this session, was the constant struggle of maintaining academic integrity while still serving and doing justice to the community. This pull between objectivity and acting for a client is something which plagues most public historians. However using a variety of research techniques can assist in providing a more complete picture of the past.
The second session I attended was "Defining Authority and Identity in World War I." This panel was one of my personal favorites of the entire conference. The presenters in this session looked at WWI from a variety of perspectives, all of which tied in aspects of social, political, and cultural history. In particular, Tim Cook's paper "Oh, What a Lovely War: Canadian Soldiers Singing in the Great War" used songs and music to explore the unique solider culture which developed during the war. This paper also explore the way in which songs allowed soldiers to challenge authority and create a brotherhood of solders. Overall this panel examined the power relationships which existed during WWI in a way which was both insightful and creative.
The last panel which I attended on Monday was "Popular Culture and Social Life." This session featured papers on a variety of topics including hockey, baseball, valentines, and cookbooks. The nature of these papers made the panel enjoyable, and I believe that any of these papers would have been easily appreciated by non academics. Additionally, Craig Greenham's paper "Permission to Play, Sir?: The CEF's Approach to Baseball in the Great War" would have fit nicely with the Defining Authority in WWI panel. Greenham's paper examined the increasing presence of baseball in the military and the use of baseball as a tool for bonding, training, and distraction.
Overall, my experience on the first day of the CHA conference was filled with interesting discussion and insightful papers. All of the sessions I attended placed emphasis on the personal experience and on the social aspects of history. However this may have been due to my choice in sessions.