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Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies hosts annual conference at UWinnipeg

The Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies’ annual conference is returning to The University of Winnipeg from October 21 to 22 in a hybrid format.

This centenary conference – Departing Canada, Encountering Latin America: Reflections on the Centenary of Mennonite Emigration from Canada to Mexico and Paraguay – presents papers from a variety of disciplines that explore the development of Mennonite life on the Canadian Prairies, the factors that drove emigration, the establishment and evolution of Mennonite communities in Mexico and Paraguay, and the subsequent migration of Mennonites from Mexico to other regions of Latin America.

“The history of Mennonite migration to Latin America occurred in the wake of a major revolution in Mexico and in the build-up to a major territorial conflict in Paraguay,” Dr. Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Chair of Mennonite Studies, explained. “Settlement often occurred in regions at the margins of state control and on Indigenous lands or in areas in which multiple groups were seeking land redistribution. The history of the 1922 migration can thus reveal much about settler colonialism, environmental change, and border formation.”

This conference will feature two dozen presenters from Mexico, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Canada, the United States, and Europe with backgrounds in history, anthropology, geography, and other disciplines.

Friday, October 21

Welcome and Introduction – 9:45 to 10:00 a.m.

Welcome: Jan Stewart, Interim Provost and Vice-President Academic, University of Winnipeg
Opening Remarks: Aileen Friesen, Executive Director, Plett Foundation
Conference Introduction: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Chair in Mennonite Studies

Mobile Families Across Space and Time – 10:00 to 11:45 a.m.

Chair: Jeremy Wiebe

Bruce Hiebert, From Russia to Mexico: The Demographics of Mennonite Migration
Aileen Friesen, ‘Our Kind of Mennonites’: The Old Colony, the Russlaender and Themes of Migration
Ernest Braun, A Tale of Two Decisions
Tina Fehr Kehler, The Transmigrational Life: One Dietsche Family’s History of Migration

Conditions of Departure: Immigration to, and Emigration from, Mexico – 1:15 to 3:00 p.m.

Chair: Rebecca Janzen

Arnoldo Vázquez Gómez, The Role of the Railway and Press in Mennonite Immigration to Northern Mexico, 1922–26
María Ordoñez Trujano, Mexican Diplomacy in the Migration of Mennonites to Mexico, 1922–24
Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Permanence or Perpetual Motion? Cycles of Settlement and Mobility Initiated by the 1922 Emigration
Samuel Boucher, Climate, Violence, and the Mennonite Migration from Mexico to Colombia

Education and Identity in Canada and Mexico – 3:15 to 5:00 p.m.

Chair: Kerry Fast 

Conrad Stoesz, Was it Really About Education? The Sommerfeld/Bergthaler Split of 1893 Re-considered
Rodger Toews, The Mennonite School Petitions from 1916 to 1921
Abe Wall, Tu Puente: Transnational Schooling Initiatives Connecting Ontario and Mexico
Emma Hoebens, Schooling and Autonomy: Village Schools in the Old Colony Community of Salamanca, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Conform Film Screening – 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Centenary documentary screening with director Andrew Wall (Refuge 31 Films), followed by a question period.

Saturday, October 22

Gender, Labour, and Foodways in Mexico, Canada, and Bolivia – 10:00 to 11:45 a.m.

Chair: Aileen Friesen 

Rebecca Janzen, Reflecting on a Hundred Years: Mennonites and Food in the Americas
Abigail Carl-Klassen, Trachjmoakas, Parteras, and Midwives: 100 Years of Maternal Care in the Campos Menonitas of Chihuahua
Leidy Muñoz, Gender Relations in Low German Mennonite Communities in the Lowlands of Eastern Bolivia
Doreen Klassen, ‘You must be at least 85!’ Low German Mennonites in Mexico and Belize ‘Research’ a Kanadier Anthropologist

Indigenous, Mennonite, Mestizo: Encounters in Mexico, Paraguay, and Bolivia – 1:15 to 3:00 p.m.

Chair: Miriam Rudolph 

Hannes Kalisch, Indigenous–Mennonite Relations in the Paraguayan Chaco
Patricia Islas, From Confluence to Influence: Inter-ethnic Relations in the Northwest Region of Chihuahua, Mexico
Tracy Hruska, Social Consequences of Mennonite Agricultural Success: Lessons from Chihuahua, Mexico
Geovana Carreño-Rocabado and Royden Loewen, Options in the Tropics: Indigenous and Mennonite Farmers Meet MCC in Lowland Bolivia

Change and Persistence: Land, Environment, Technology, Church – 3:15 to 5:00 p.m.

Chair: Jonathan Hildebrand 

Paola Canova, Socio-Environmental Dynamics of Cattle Ranching in Paraguay’s Central Chaco
Yann le Polain, The Next Good Place: Religion, Culture, and Mennonite Land Use in Latin America
Carel Roessingh, A Quest for Isolation from the Influence of the World: The Case of the Hoover Mennonites in Belize
Patrick Friesen, Mennonite Churches in Menno Colony, Paraguay: Living the Tensions Between Faith, Change, and Tradition

Conference wrap-up; Reflections – 5:00 to 5:15 p.m.


This conference is free and open to the public. You can attend in person or watch the livestream by visiting the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies’ website

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