This year’s Annual Canadian Studies Lecture will be given by Dr Audra Simpson (Columbia University, Department of Anthropology), who will speak on the subject of ‘Reconciliation and its discontents’.
“Reconciliation” has achieved a seemingly unquestioned status in Canada as the good thing that is to usher in the better thing that will be. That “better thing is a repaired past, a better future, an ethical, and balanced present. This move to reconcile has emerged from three decades of overt and unambiguous Indigenous foment, resistance and refusal in the face of neoliberal and dispossessive settlement and statecraft, statecraft that is was manifest and embodied in especially unambiguous ways by the former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. It was his government however, that ushered in the twin move of official “reconciliation” and simultaneously violent resource extraction.
This discourse of repair was inaugurated by an official apology for one state violence, that of Indian residential schools and in this atomizing and reifying move, now finds its ways into legal decision on land rights (Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014), institutionalized spaces of listening (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2008-2014), but also circulates through various publics in a manner that can perform in supple and dexterous ways, different meanings. This paper takes the highly gestural work of reconciliation to examine how it can abet violence towards land and people through an emotional performance of singular contrition – contrition that attempts to ameliorate all forms of violence and move indigenous polities out of the status of polities and into the space of suffering, minoritized and incapacitated victims of a history that once acknowledged, are somehow healed, or repaired and, in this, whose variegated and violent histories are no longer to be dealt with. The paper stages its argument with recourse to ethnographic conversations with those who stand in active critical, ethical and political relationship to the project of reconciliation.
Free, please book online.
11 — 12 January 2022
2 February 2022