Conference Brochure

Conference Program

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Mennonites, Land and the Environment:
A Global History Conference
28 and 29 October 2016

An academic and community education conference

Hosted by the Center for Transnational Mennonite Studies

A Divergent Voices of Mennonites in Canada (DVCM) Conference

Eckhardt Gramatté Hall, Centennial Building



Mennonites, Land and the Environment - program


Environmental history is a particular way of interpreting the past.  In one respect it directs us to consider the effect of human activity on farmland, but then also nature’s effect on human culture.  In short, human-land relations are dialectical in nature.  It’s not that simple though, for humans have had a range of effects on the land.  Oftentimes this activity has left the environment in degraded state, the result of a kind of “environmental sin.” At other times humans have engaged in multiple ways to create sustainable environments.  Some have done so by debating the very idea of “sustainability,” others by employing ancient farming methods, and others by harnessing the most innovative and technologically advanced agricultural systems.

Mennonites have had a particular experience on the land.  As a people disproportionately rural and committed to relative simplicity, they had been more active in agriculture than many other faith-based communities.  For this reason Mennonites have often gathered to consider ways their rootedness in the soil.  They have pondered the intersection of ‘Anabaptist’ teachings on community cohesiveness, on nonviolence and on service with a healthy interaction with the land. 

At this conference we consider the history of this relationship, mostly in the 20th century.  It has been a period of remarkable change: old organic-based, community-oriented approaches have given way to a new reliance on fossil fuels, herbicides, global markets, governmental programs, and economies of scale.  But we also take a much-needed global perspective, seeking to understand how climate, specific commodities, levels of wealth, types of government, cultural and ethnic contexts, histories with colonialism, settler-indigenous relations, have affected agriculture.  By focusing on seven broadly conceived communities, we try to make the global approach manageable.  But we also seek a comparative history, and through this approach hone the questions we may have of environmental history.

So, welcome to this conference.  May the rich array of papers stimulate your thinking, adding knowledge and understanding to a crucial concern of all us.  What has the Mennonites’ relationship with the environment been?  How and why has it changed over time?   What is the basis of hope for the future?  


7:00 p.m. Paper Presenters and Chairs meet in the Faculty Club, 4th Floor Wesley Hall, University of Winnipeg, for a pre-conference reception.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 8:30 a.m.

Welcome and Introducing the Conference

Friesland and Northern Europe: A Land Tried and Transformed
Chair: Mark Meuwese, University of Winnipeg

10:25-10:55 Coffee

Iowa and the US Midwest: Land of ‘Destiny’ and Diversity
Chair: Franklin Rempel, Miller Collegiate, Altona

12:30-1:30 Lunch (*note that ‘Seven Points on Earth: A Photographic Montage’ on the seven regions considered in this conference will be shown at 1:00 pm)

Java: A Land of Inter-religiosity
Chair: Stephanie Phetsamay Stobbe, Menno Simons College

3:05-3:35 Coffee

Siberia and the Russian Empire: A Land of Vision and Bitterness
Chair: Rudy P. Friesen, Winnipeg

Friday 7:30 pm: Featured Evening: An Anabaptist Theology of the Environment
Welcome: Annette Trimbee, President, University of Winnipeg
Chair: Bill Blaikie, United Centre for Theological Studies

Please join us for the Reception to Follow in Foyer

Saturday: 8:30 am
Manitoba and Beyond: Lands of Transplantation
Chair: Robyn Sneath, Oxford University

9:35-10:05 am  Coffee

Manitoba and Beyond: Lands of Transition
Chair: Kenton Lobe, Canadian Mennonite University

Lunch 11:45-12:45 (*note that ‘Seven Points on Earth: A Photographic Montage’ of the seven regions considered in this conference will be shown at 12:15 pm)

Zimbabwe: A Land of Hope and Struggle
Chair: Daryl Climenhaga, Providence College

2:20-2:50 Coffee

Bolivia and Its Neighbours: A Land of Environmental Irony
Chair: James Schellenberg, MCC Canada

Seven Points on Earth: A Film and A Reflection
Chair: Royden Loewen

Plett, Ode Productions

Conference Details:

Major Contributors: Special thanks to: the DVCM Committee of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada with a grant from MCC Canada; The University of Winnipeg; D.F. Plett Historical Research Foundation Inc.

The Planning Committee: John Eicher (Washington), Hans Peter Fast (Utrecht), Susie Fisher (Gretna), Aileen Friesen (Kitchener), Danang Kristiawan (Jepara), Royden Loewen (Winnipeg), Belinda Ncube (Bulawayo), Ben Nobbs Thiessen (Phoenix).

Special Thanks: Andrea Dyck, Sabrina Janke, Sara Jantzen, Kelly Thiessen,

Lodging: Suggested lodging is at Holiday Inn, Colony Street, Winnipeg.  Phone 204-786-7011 and ask for special University of Winnipeg (Mennonite Studies Conference) rates.

Parking: Park at any one of a dozen Impark parking lots around the University, at the ANX Parkade off of Colony, or the Hudson’s Bay Parkade.  Street parking on both Friday night and on Saturdays is possible as well.

Food: Eat at any one of a dozen restaurants within a block or two of the University or at one of the University’s five restaurants: Stella’s, Elements, Riddell Hall Cafeteria, Starbucks, etc.

Proceedings: Selected, peer-reviewed papers will be published in the Journal of Mennonite Studies 2017.  To subscribe, email  Current subscription cost $28/year. 

Back issues are available at $18 per issue: 2016, “Mennonites, Medicine and the Body’; 2015; “Ex-Mennonite/Near Mennonite,” 2014, Mennonites, Human Rights and State Power; 2013, Anti-Modern ‘Horse and Buggy’ Pathways; 2012, Mennonites in Siberia; 2011, Mennonite/s Writing; 2010, Mennonites, Melancholy and Mental Health; 2009, Mennonites and Money; 2008, Family and Sexuality; 2007, War and the Conscientious Objector; 2006, Refugee Newcomers; 2005, North American Mennonite Historiography; 2004, Return of the Kanadier; 2003, Mennonite Studies: A 25th Anniversary Conference;  2002, Mennonites and the City; 2001, Mennonite-Aboriginal Relations; 2000, 1874 Revisited; 1999, EnGendering the Past; 1998, Mennonites and the Soviet Inferno; 1997, Mennonites as a People Transformed; 1996-1983, Various Themes

For More Information call 786.9391 or email