Janice Williamson, BA, MA, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept
3-5 Humanities Centre
11121 Saskatchewan Drive NWEdmonton ABT6G 2H5
Janice Williamson has lectured widely and published books and articles on twentieth-century Canadian writing, social issues and cultural studies - mothering and adoption, feminist writing and performance, women’s film and photography, sexuality, race, violence against women and children, trauma narratives, and print/video readings of West Edmonton Mall. She teaches in the areas of Canadian literary and cultural studies, feminist intersectional and anti-racist issues, and creative writing.
Book-length publications include:
- Omar Khadr, Oh Canada (McGill-Queen's UP 2012). A multi-genre and multidisciplinary anthology includes literary and scholarly essays, poetry, a screenplay, and a play by over thirty contributors.
- Crybaby! (NeWest Press, 1998). An image-text creative nonfiction work exploring family photography and writing, women's autobiography, memory and trauma.
- several poetry chapbooks, including a boy named: A mourning text. Winner of the Canadian bpNichol Chapbook Award (1996).
- Sounding Differences: Conversations with Seventeen Canadian Women Writers (University of Toronto Press, 1993), a collection of interviews, investigating questions of feminist and lesbian poetics, race issues, and canonicity. A Books in Canada Best Book of the Year.
- Women's Writing and the Literary Institution (U of A Research Institute for Comparative Literature, 1992, editor with Claudine Potvin and in collaboration with S. Tötösy de Zepetnek. Essays on Canadian and Quebec women's writing.
- Tell Tale Signs: fictions (Turnstone Press, 1991), an image-text collection. Finalist, Alberta Book Awards.
- Dangerous Goods: Feminist Visual Art Practices (Edmonton Art Gallery, 1990). Curator and author with Bridget Elliott.
- Up and Doing: Canadian Women and Peace (Women's Press, 1989), principal editor with D. Gorham. A multi-genre multidisciplinary collection of social history, theory, activist documents, essays and poems.
An expanded version of her National Magazine Award winning essay “The Turquoise Sea” is part of a collection of literary nonfiction essays in progress.
In 1987, she joined the Department of English & Film Studies as Assistant Professor and in 1998 she was promoted to Professor. Over the years she has served as Chair of the AASUA Equity Committee, President of the Academic Women’s Association, and on university, faculty and departmental committees.
Her graduate supervision has been on critical and creative theses related to a range of topics including Canadian women's writing, travel writing, narratives of war, and critical race innovative texts.
Some of her work emerged at the intersection of social movements, community outreach and cultural work.
For many years, she participated in writing and visual art residencies and events at the Banff Centre and later collaborated on interviews and writing about prairie women writers with art historian Dr. Lynn Bell. While completing her PhD on 19th and 20th century Canadian women's poetry and focusing on women’s cultural studies, she was active in the International Women's Day Committee and a volunteer in the Social Issues manuscript group at Women's Press in Toronto. And these engagements in public activism and women's publishing introduced her to diverse communities and changed her life. As part of her work with the International Women's Day Committee she began attending anti-nuclear and women's peace groups.
Nonviolent civil disobedience led to one of her books. In November of 1983, 127 women and men were arrested for trespassing on the lawn of Litton Industries, the Downsview, Ontario, company that built the guidance system for the U.S. Cruise Missile. Along with twenty-eight other women in the all-women’s anti-militarism action on November 14, she was arrested. As a result, she participated in a week-long feminist trial and prepared a collective legal defence, guided by the excellent pro-bono lawyer, Marion Cohen, and with the expert testimony of three distinguished Canadian women: Dr. Ursula Franklin, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, and Dr. Dorothy Smith. This led to her awareness of the absence of documentation and analysis about Canadian women's engagement with anti-militarism and peace. The creation of the anthology Up and Doing: Canadian Women & Peace was the response.
Over the next twenty years, she created and participated in peace groups. Dring the first Gulf War in 1990-91, she initiated Women’s Action for Peace in the Gulf with a long-time Quaker peace activist Patti Hartnegal and others. Out of this original gathering emerged the Jewish Arab Women's Coalition. Later when Canada entered the “war” in Afghanistan in 2001, she organized an Edmonton Women in Black activist group once again with Patti Hartnegal and others. The reason she chose this group was that it had international dimensions and also foregrounded the Middle East as a pivot of politics that were motivating Canada's militarism. The origins of the original Women in Black was in Israel and Palestine in 1987 to protest the treatment of the Palestinians but it became “a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.” In 2006, Edmonton Women in Black was awarded the Salvos Prelorentzos Peace Award.
Her interest in writing led her to volunteer for the Writers' Union of Canada and the Writer's Guild of Alberta. An early interest in the genre-blurring work of poets and innovative feminist writers led to a focus on experimental writing and literary nonfiction or “creative nonfiction.” She participated with a group of other Western nonfiction writers in co-founding the CNFC (Creative Nonfiction Collective), now a national organization. Canadian women nonfiction writers tend to be underrepresented but more than 170 Canadian women writers of nonfiction are catalogued on her blog the pomegranate. For over a decade, she taught in the annual spring Women’s Words Writing Week developed through the University of Alberta's Women's Resource Centre and later the Faculty of Extension. It drew women from the region and across the country. The program was sadly suspended due to provincial government budget cuts and university priorities. She co-edited the commemorative volume Women's Words: an anthology in 2013.
During the early 2000s, her volunteerism in international adoption groups contributed to a series of essays on adoptive mothering. And her volunteer work in various Unitarian Universalist social justice initiatives provided the seeds for her work on the Omar Khadr anthology.