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Annual Conferences, 2013

VAF 2013

The Ebb and Flow of Religion and Economy in Gaspe Cultural Landscapes
Gaspé-Percé, Quebec, Canada, June 11-15, 2013

See Gaspé-Percé Conference Web site & Schedule of Paper Sessions.

The first bilingual English-French VAF will be headquartered in Gaspé, Quebec. Located on the northern tip of the Appalachians just at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the municipality of Gaspé (made up of villages annexed together in the 1970s) covers an area of 1,100 square kilometers with a population of about 15,000. Just over 3,200 people live in Gaspé town proper. We will use the facilities at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles, the local college and former Catholic seminary, for many of the conference activities.


Tue June 11 VAF Board meeting
Self-guided tour: Gaspé
Opening Reception (evening)
Wed June 12
Thu June 13
All day tours (North and South tours)
Fri June 14 Forum Workshop
Paper Sessions
Banquet (evening)
Sat June 15 Optional tour: Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park
Self-guided tour: Gaspé


Since Jacques Cartier first planted a cross in Gespeg, "land’s end" in Micmac, successive waves of immigrants have marked this landscape, cradled between the mountains and the sea. Participants in the 2013 VAF will have the opportunity to explore two major themes: religious expressions beyond the narrow concept of organized churches, and economic succession in Gaspé's cultural landscapse. These two forces shaped settlement patterns, ethnic institutions, government policies, gender asymmetries, and power relations—factors that in turn affected and were affected by the built and natural environments in a dialectical process.

The 2013 VAF tour sites have been selected to showcase:

  • Catholic and Anglican parish cores and their constituent elements;
  • the different forms of private devotional practices and the unequal access to natural resources and capital in domestic environments;
  • pilgrimage and outdoor sacred sites;
  • interpretation and administrative centers that affirm the survival of Micmac traditional practices as contrasted with their adaptations to contemporary North-American life-ways;
  • educational complexes where beliefs were transmitted through particular pedagogy;
  • stores and industrial buildings where community leaders and clergy organized the first co-ops;
  • a national park created largely through the expropriation of complete villages, which had the effect of destructuring or dismantling community solidarities, often based on religious denominations;
  • the possible coincidences of the decline of fishing, agriculture and forestry industries, diminishing church attendance, and the rise of tourism and accessibility to modern mass material culture.

Forum Workshop and Paper Sessions

New this year will be a Forum Workshop, which will highlight the community partnerships at the fore of the conference organizers' activities in the Gaspé-Percé region. The Workshop follows the tour days, so that VAF participants can respond to what they’ve seen in conversation with stewards and owners of tour sites, local decision makers, government authorities and agencies, cultural organizations, historical societies, and tourism offices.

Forum Workshop round tables and plenary session presentations, as well as the VAF Paper Sessions (see Call for Papers), will be simultaneously translated.


Each tour will be provided with extensively-illustrated bilingual field guides, which will not only describe and analyze each of the tour sites, but will also explore the two principle themes of the conference: religion in its largest definition, and economic cycles.

South Tour

The South tour begins in Douglastown, home of a historically Irish-Catholic congregation. Significant elements of its parish core were rebuilt in the late 1930s and the 1950s. Structures including Holy Name Hall parish theatre, a poured-concrete presbytery, a dom-bellot inspired church and the standardized elementary school together form a monolithic ensemble that stands out in an otherwise ubiquitous landscape.

The houses of two Jersey families, one inland, the other at the long-standing cod-fishing settlement of Pointe-Saint-Peter, contrast the fortunes of middling fish merchants. Remnants of the facilities of large-scale cod-fisheries operating in the region, such as Robin, Whitman and Sons and Hyman will be seen in the towns of Barachois and Percé to the south, as well as in Rivière-au-Renard on the North Tour.

Barachois is also the location of a bilingual Irish- and French-Canadian-Catholic congregation. While the community was once home to numerous young families, today it is home to one of the oldest populations in the region. Down the road, Saint-Peter’s Malbay, an Anglican carpenter gothic church, acted as the hub for a number of mission churches served by the same minister.

From the coast, tour participants will travel inland to Val-d’Espoir, a hamlet that developed with the provincial government’s efforts to colonize its hinterland in the mid 1920s. Settlement in Val-d’Espoir increased during the Depression, when the Saint-Viateur fathers founded an agricultural school in buildings left to them by a Cistercian order. Despite decline resulting from a 1970s government policy of parish closures, parishioners have fought to keep Saint-François-de-Sales, the local Catholic church, and their community alive.

The tour concludes with a walking-tour of Percé, a town of some 1,000 persons, now famed for its tourism.

North Tour

From Gaspé, North Tour participants will first visit Rivière-au-Renard, one of the dynamic fishing ports of the region. The Hyman chafaud, a building where salt-dried cod was packed and stored, is a testament to the Gaspé’s importance as a supplier of quality fish to countries where observant Catholics fasted on Fridays. While they were not allowed meat, they could eat fish. As elsewhere in the province, a large illuminated metal cross erected on the mountainside dominates the town.

At Anse-au-Griffon, participants will have the opportunity to compare a seigneurial manor to the modest home of a devout French-Canadian family, as well as examine a freezer, a building where members of the fisherman’s cooperative stored their catch. This building has since been converted into the Anse-au-Griffon Cultural Center.

Cap-de-Rosiers was one of several villages greatly affected by the expropriation of families in the making of Forillon National Park in the 1970s. By comparing it with Grande Grève, where a number of significant buildings have been restored for interpretation, the extent of parish destructuration that came with the creation of a monumental natural park can be understood. In Grande Grève, participants will have the opportunity to explore a couple of relatively untouched houses that are not open to the public.

The day will end with the twin sites of Saint-Majorique, whose wooden Catholic church illustrates 19th-century siting and construction practices, and Pointe-Navarre Sanctuary, built in the aftermath of a schism in the parish of Saint-Majorique. Pointe-Navarre Sanctuary, mausoleum, grotto, Calvary, and landscape features are now the third largest pilgrimage site in the province. The site adjoins Gespeg, where the Micmac Nation has reconstructed and interpreted their traditional architecture.

Optional Tours

Town of Gaspé: Berceau du Canada has developed a walking tour of Gaspé Center.

Town of Percé and Bonaventure Island: From Percé, hourly boat tours leave for Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park where Forum participants will have the opportunity to disembark. Although the Park has a number of cultural of resources, it is notably a bird sanctuary. Its principal attraction is the famous gannet colony with over 60,000 couples.

Other Information

Travel: The Gaspé Airport is 15 minutes from downtown Gaspé. Those flying from US destinations will travel through either Montreal or Québec City.

Cuisine: Early June is seafood season. There will be fresh shrimp, lobster, and snow crab, not to mention fresh cod, aplenty.

Registration: Look for registration details in January, 2013.

Questions? Contact Pascale Deschamps, local coordinator, at