Skip to content

Debunking the half-truths and exaggerations in the National Post

NCTR-Turtle1-1200x800
As scholars located at the University of Manitoba, it was with great concern and some embarrassment that we read the recent editorial on the final report of Canada’s TRC by Hymie Rubenstein and Rodney Clifton. Their perspective both on the TRC’s report and Canadian colonialism more generally in no way reflects the main currents of thought in those disciplines devoted to understanding genocide and settler-Indigenous relations, nor is it consistent with the view of the vast majority of our colleagues at the University of Manitoba. The U of M has publicly acknowledged both the harms of Canada’s Indian Residential School system and the university’s own role in perpetrating to them. Moreover, later this year the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation containing the archives of the TRC will open at the University of Manitoba, where it will act to preserve the memory of Canada’s residential schools while serving as a powerful resource for survivors, their families, researchers and members of the public.

Rubenstein’s and Clifton’s remarks echo the insensitivity and moral inattention the TRC is attempting to redress. They lean on a half-baked understanding of what genocide is and show little evidence of having read the TRC’s report. They assume the role of arbiters in an unsavoury competition for the mantle of true victimhood and bizarrely equate the boarding school experiences of Indigenous children with those of immigrants and the wealthy. Their editorial also ignores the substantial historical record and places heavy weight on the authors’ own anecdotal experience from late in the IRS era. It also minimizes the high death tolls and abuse occurring in IRS as simply common features of an earlier era of schooling and portrays the stripping away and denigration of indigenous languages, beliefs and cultural practices as somehow good for Aboriginal children. To suggest that others are reinforcing half-truths is to misunderstand the concept of truth itself. It also shows a lack of willingness to engage in a process of reconciliation by accepting the truths of others or truths that may be difficult to admit.

We reject Rubenstein’s and Clifton’s characterization of the Indian Residential School system and its effects. Their attempt to downplay residential schools’ harms is indicative of their failure to understand the history of residential schooling and the TRC, its mandate, its careful evaluation of the available sources and scholarship, and its conclusions.

Signed:
Sharon Alward, Fine Art
Marlene Atleo, Education
Greg Bak, Archival Studies and History
Jarvis Brownlie, History
Diana Brydon, Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies
Karen Busby, Faculty of Law
Warren Cariou, Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture
Mary Anne Clarke, Peace and Conflict Studies
Elizabeth Comack, Sociology
Aimee Craft, Faculty of Law
Joan Durant, Family Social Sciences
Maureen P. Flaherty, Peace & Conflict Studies
Deana Halonen, Social Work
Nancy Hansen, Disability Studies
Mary-­‐Anne Kandrack, Sociology
Kiera Ladner, Political Studies
Rick Linden, Sociology
Jayme Menzies, recent graduate Faculty of Law
Eveline Milliken, Inner City Social Work Program
Adam Muller, English, Film and Theatre
Tom Nesmith, Archival Studies and History
Judith Owens, English, Film and Theatre
Debra Parkes, Faculty of Law
Adele Perry, History
Tracey Peter, Sociology
Susan Prentice, Sociology
Jennifer L. Schulz, Faculty of Law
Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, Native Studies
Struan Sinclair, English, Film, and Theatre
Katherine Starzyk, Psychology
Shirley Thompson, Natural Resource Institute
Jocelyn Thorpe, Women’s and Gender Studies
Christopher Trott, Warden, St John’s College
Lorna Turnbull, Faculty of Law
Andrew Woolford,Sociology

University of Manitoba profs can add their name to a petition here: http://t.co/ru6Nh0gT79

response to Clifton & Rubenstein

CSSHE Panel. The state of internationalization on Canadian campuses: Results from Univcan’s institutional surveys.

Some questions derived from reading the results
I am grateful to the AUCC, now Universities Canada, for compiling this survey and enabling us to get a snapshot of the national picture of internationalization in Canadian higher education in our times. Internationalization research often addresses what is happening within the transnational higher education regime with a focus on developments within national or regional systems that have much more centralized degrees of control. The Canadian system, with its strong role for provincial direction, is something of an outlier when studied in comparison to Australia, Europe, or the UK. We need to understand the ways our developments are matching these developments elsewhere and where we are diverging from them. The survey is valuable and it is fascinating. The information it provides and the gaps it identifies require our attention, as does its silences in certain areas. Sponsored by Universities Canada, it is written from the perspective of this constituency, with a representative on the Advisory Committee from the International Association of Universities, the American Council on Education, 2 university Presidents, 1 professor and department chair, and one manager of an office of international relations: Rhonda Friesen, the chair of this panel today. This is a good range of representation and a sensible committee size for getting things done.
But I wonder: Would consultation with other organizations that have internationalization committees have made a difference in the framing and conclusions of the report? I am thinking here of faculty-focussed associations such as the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada. These are all bodies that represent the faculty investments in internationalization. Their perspective could valuably enrich the institutional and administrative view privileged in this report. Furthermore, would consultation with the three federal granting councils have helped round out some of the areas where information is currently scanty? I ask these questions because research seldom gets the attention it deserves in discussions of internationalization. The focus more often falls on student recruitment, mobility, and dollars—the issues my colleagues on this panel are addressing.
My presentation considers Chapter 4, on Teaching, learning, and faculty engagement, and Chapter 5, on International research collaboration. These are two parts of the survey where information is scanty and more research needs to be done. I will raise questions about faculty engagement in internationalization in relation to research partnerships and transnational collaborations, curriculum development, and pedagogical innovation and I will raise faculty concerns about the ways in which internationalization is being used to support measurement and impact assessments that seem to reduce individual faculty and program autonomy.
Chapter 4 reports that “In line with competency-based learning models, some universities are defining relevant learning outcomes related to international competencies that all their undergraduates should achieve.” However, currently “50 % have no such plans.” The report does not address faculty concerns with these initiatives, although they have been expressed for years by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), particularly in relation to establishing benchmarks and identifying generic competencies across disciplines, institutions, and countries. Although the survey does not mention the OECD AHELO initiative specifically, this initiative seems relevant to what is being envisioned here. The AHELO initiative, you may remember, “was set up to compare learning outcomes in different fields in different countries” (Altbach 1). Some refer to it as PISA for universities. The pilot was deemed a failure in 2012, but in 2015, it looks as if it is about to be revived. The instrument used, “based on the US Collegiate Learning Assessment” (Altbach 1) would impose a nation-specific methodology onto an international system. The cost for such an imposition, many fear, is not just local autonomy but also essential elements of distinctive forms of knowledge and learning.
Crucially, the UC survey does not know how such goals for achieving international competencies are being envisioned, administered, or assessed in the ten per cent of Canadian universities who have actually defined them, or in the 32% currently working to define them in terms of learning outcomes, The survey states that “Just how this assessment is being done within universities and what outcomes are being attained is an important question for future study, if internationalization efforts are to be measured in part by their impact on students” (29-30). I agree it is an important question for future study, but I question that proviso. Impact on students is important, but by moving immediately to the student experience, this paragraph ignores the impact on what is being taught, how it is taught and how learned, and how this focus on measuring outcomes may impact genuine learning. What will happen to dimensions of learning that are not amenable to coordinated measurement across diverse systems? The report mentions that “Workshops on global learning assessments have been offered at 8% of universities” (30). I would like to learn more about the subject matter and structure of such workshops, and what constituencies they were meant to serve. Are they designed for university administrators or for faculty who are incorporating international dimensions into their teaching and research?
The survey usefully acknowledges that “Faculty willingness to undertake efforts to internationalize teaching and research is partly related to the institutional incentives for doing so” (30). Currently, only “6% of universities have institution-wide policies” (30) in this area. Just as important as the absence of clear incentives for faculty to internationalize, are the many currently existing, and growing, institutional disincentives for doing so. Not only are there very few rewards for working internationally, but speaking from my own experience, I see many barriers. We are told that “80% of Canadian universities…are actively supporting faculty efforts to incorporate an international dimension to their work and teaching,” but we are not given specifics as to how this support operates or what it involves let alone what principles guide it. Given the survey’s findings elsewhere about faculty and student preferences for shrinking internationalization into largely transatlantic engagements, any global forms of internationalization still seem remote from realization. The gap between two statements on page 30 of Chapter 4 is puzzling. Eighty per cent of responding institutions are “actively supporting” internationalization but at the same time “87% have no formal guidelines” in this matter. In other words, much of what is happening remains ad hoc.
The recognition of barriers emerges most clearly in Chapter 5, in relation to research funding and institutional support, especially in relation to different risk profiles and overhead costs. These may be related to the increased bureaucratization and institutionalization of internationalization more generally.
I am disappointed that “the survey was unable to gather useful data about the financing of international research efforts.” Although they asked, they received few answers. The survey therefore lacks a comprehensive aggregate portrayal of international research funding at Canadian universities. This is a big gap. As the authors conclude, “it would be desirable to track this financial data for an overall picture of this dimension of internationalization in Canadian universities” (34). What does it tell us when this information is not readily available? Three case study examples are provided of some of the international research collaborations currently underway in lieu of the larger global picture. These are partnership and network projects built around an interdisciplinary inquiry conducted across national borders. We know such projects are underway in many places but we still have no information for contextualizing them within the Canadian higher education frame.
In concluding, I am especially interested in the frameworks assumed by the survey and the ways in which those frameworks shape the directions identified for future developments and research. In 2005, Jan Aart Scholte concluded that “Most accounts of globalization have been silent on its consequences for knowledge frameworks” (Globalization :27). This 2014 survey concludes that much the same may be said today about the consequences of internationalization initiatives for knowledge frameworks, knowledge production, and knowledge sharing across borders. The question of knowledge frameworks is not raised as an issue here except to reassure readers that “core academic values, quality and equity remain paramount considerations” (40). As a postcolonial scholar working with a project on Ethical Internationalization in Higher Education, I am interested in challenging the idea that internationalization is equivalent to homogenization according to a Western and Anglophone model.
The survey indicates that student and faculty continue to share a largely transatlantic imaginary, focused on Europe, in contrast to administrations that put China and to a lesser extent India at the top of their priorities. Ironically, Canada’s decentralized university system has led to a much greater homogenization in the setting of priorities than more centrally managed systems achieve. Almost every university administration in Canada identifies increased links with China as a priority but that priority is not reflected in faculty engagement within curricular, pedagogical, or research internationalization initiatives. The survey correctly sees this as a problem. I am arguing it is an even deeper problem than is recognized here.
My reading of these sections of the survey leads me to raise the following questions. How are internationalization learning goals currently being set? How are they currently being evaluated? How best should they be evaluated? The survey asks if these should be assessed at the program, curriculum, or pedagogical level (30). But it does not fully consider the criteria for such assessments. For example, the map used to illustrate global connections is still biased toward the trans-Atlantic –as are student and faculty goals (p.32). How might the map be altered to privilege trans-Pacific connections instead? How might criteria for assessment be similarly de-Europeanized and de-colonized?
What are the disincentives for faculty to engage in internationalization initiatives? What, if any, are the rewards? In the institutionalization and bureaucratization of internationalization initiatives, is there a discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality? The survey notes that international research remains a big gap in the data (34). How might that gap be filled? The report relies on university administrators for its data. How might this informant pool be broadened?
The survey ends with a boxed statement that seems meant to be reassuring but that raises alarm bells for me on two fronts. The final words promise: “While strengthening international linkages will continue to serve a range of interests among various stakeholders, all parties will want to ensure that core academic values, quality and equity remain paramount considerations” (40). This statement implicitly recognizes some Canadian fears that our quality might be diluted or threatened by some internationalization initiatives. It assumes that we know what these “core academic values” mean and how they are best ensured and measured, so that internationalization will function as a useful add-on to a stable system and provide a new source of funds while core business remains unchanged. But there are other ways of understanding internationalization. These other ways seek to redefine what the university means by quality and equity through expanding our knowledge frameworks beyond those determined by an Anglocentric West. For example, there is a debate as to whether internationalization should mean more foreign languages or just more English. Many reports on internationalization equate it with universities outside the Anglosphere offering more courses in English. Such a view downplays the values such universities might bring from within their own cultural knowledge systems. The language question is hugely complex but it is easier to grasp than other questions about the frameworks that determine what value and equity mean, and what they could mean. Such questions need to be addressed if internationalization initiatives are to meet their full potential.
Works Cited
“Canada’s Universities in the World: AUCC Internationalization Survey 2014. http://www.univcan.ca/media-room/publications/canadas-universities-world-aucc-internationalization-survey/
Altbach, Philip G. “AHELO: the myth of measurement and comparability.” 15 May 2015. University World News Global Edition Issue 367. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150515064746124&mode+print
Accesssed 5/18/2015.

Canada in the World Today: Insights from the Humanities

Oodena_night2

I wish to begin by congratulating my fellow honorees, and thanking the Canada Research Chairs programme and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the ongoing funding that made this research possible, as well as the R.H. Institute Foundation for their generosity in funding this Bowman award, the Faculty of Arts for nominating me, and the adjudication committee for awarding me the John M. Bowman Memorial Award for 2014. This recognition honours not just me but also my colleagues and students and the entire research community, local and global, on whom I rely in shaping my individual and group contributions.

As is now customary, I also wish to acknowledge, with deep respect, that we are meeting tonight on Treaty One territory, at the crossroads of the Anishinabe, Métis, Cree, Dakota and the Oji Cree nations. This ceremonial acknowledgement constitutes an important step toward decolonizing our imaginations, rethinking our local and national history in its colonial, capitalist, and global interactions, and learning to respect the value of story, and of ceremonial performance, not just within indigenous knowledge systems, although that remains central, but also for the enrichment it can bring to the lives of each of us who find ourselves at this crossroads today.  The historical reality and the rich symbolism of the crossroads resonates deeply within the materials I study. The crossroads, the horizontal meeting place of roads from many places and the vertical meeting place of earth and sky in Vodun ceremony, symbolizes the catastrophe and new beginning that 1492 brought to the Americas, bringing indigenous imaginaries into dialogue with Christian and African spiritual systems, and enabling potentially happier ways of imagining how to live together in our differences in the future. The Forks, Confusion Corner, and the University of Manitoba itself embody some of the challenges and potential of the crossroads as places where differences may collide and connect. In thinking through the crossroads, we must not shirk the difficult forms of knowledge that come from a history of violence. But we can work through that violence through stories that imagine beyond their reach.

So tonight I want to think about crossroads, stories, and decolonization. They are the routes through which I can share my research with you, and they come together in this ceremonial acknowledgement of our own Red River Valley crossroads. This acknowledgement is a first step toward imagining the goal of decolonization. If we can take the time to listen to these words and learn from the respect and reciprocity they enact, then we can see that these words perform a story about this place and our history in the place that differs from the older stories of explorers, pioneers, and settlers. I have heard jaded reactions to the performance of similar acknowledgements of aboriginal priority in Australia where the initial promise of decolonizing initiatives implicit in that acknowledgement was later betrayed. The words will seem empty unless they lead to other, more difficult changes. Still, I value them as a beginning for how we Canadians can start living a different story together.

Thomas King reminds us that “the truth about stories is that’s all we are” (2). He asks what kind of world we create with the stories we tell; what kind of world we might have if we take responsibility for the stories we tell;  and he asks where we would be if we can learn to listen to others’ stories, and through that listening, begin to question the tyranny of the single story.  J. Edward Chamberlin, in his important book, If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? takes his title from the indigenous challenge issued to British settler/colonials who claimed this land by over-riding the claims of its original inhabitants, Chamberlin stresses the world-making power of stories this way. He writes: “In many ways, home is an image for the power of stories. With both, we need to live in them if they are to take hold, and we need to stand back from them if we are to understand their power” (77). King and Chamberlin write for general audiences but these are also the methods of academic work in literary studies, combining deep intimacy with critical reflection. Not only letting go of oneself to inhabit another’s world, in humility, without appropriation, but also standing back to contemplate how that experience has changed us.  In Inventory, Dionne Brand describes this critical receptivity as the task of the poet in global times. Confronted by the horror of the daily news, her witnessing speaker takes a visceral inventory, explaining:  “there are atomic openings in my chest / to hold the wounded’ (100). Poetry is not a helpless witnessing; it performs its own engagements and problematize what is too often taken for granted.

I try to follow that lead. As a Canadianist, I ask what it means to make your home at the crossroads of cultures. As a student of decolonization across the old British empire, I know that all cultures are formed at the crossroads but some places strategically forget those origins, and genocides can be born from denying them.

For tonight’s talk, I have struggled to find an appropriate way to convey my life’s work. Stories can seem harder to grasp than ice or manure. I learned this during our first Visionary Conversations evening, depicted here. Maybe “grasp” is not the best metaphor for me to use. Ice is cold and manure is messy.

But people can see them clearly. Stories are elusive and changeable.  They are not things; they arise from relations. I study stories, and I tell stories about stories, and the ultimate goal of my research is to advance understanding of the power of stories—for good and for ill. Some stories need to be decolonized. Other stories need to be heard. Stories need to be refreshed, recreated in dialogue with their times. We can learn from the so-called creative genres of story, from poetry, fiction, film, and video games, but we also need to attend more carefully to stories that deny they are stories: stories that claim to be merely the facts and what everybody already knows.

I have written about some of the stories told about globalization, and the teams with which I have worked have challenged those who argue that globalization in inevitable, unstoppable, nation-state destroying and globally flattening. In these interdisciplinary teams addressing Globalization and Autonomy and thinking about Building Global Democracy our teams have struggled with two big challenges: how to tell a truer story and how to find a story that could enable ordinary people to reclaim and exercise self-determination to shape a better world for themselves and their descendants.

This kind of work seldom leads to immediate conclusions, except perhaps within certain case studies. For that reason, we chose case studies as our methodology, and we remained cautious about deriving larger conclusions about the applicability of our findings beyond those specific cases.  Nonetheless, a certain composite picture of the changing dynamics of globalization and autonomy across various sites of investigation does emerge. Eight volumes have now appeared in the Globalization and Autonomy series and the global democracy publications are underway. My point here is that the larger questions we were asking need to be revived to meet the demands of changing situations. In retrospect, I can see that the “Globalization and Autonomy” project, which began in 2001, took its founding questions about autonomy from the demands of Quebec within the Canadian federation and concerns about the Canadian economy arising from NAFTA, Mulroney’s North American Free Trade agreement. It haunts us still. The project looked at globalization through a specifically Canadian lens.

“Building Global Democracy,” begun in 2007, sought to address the very real problem of global governance in a world where many life-changing decisions were being made without any democratic input and beyond the control of individual nation-states and of the United Nations system. This project brought academics together with civil society practitioners and policy makers from around the globe to think about how to advance knowledge and practice for greater public participation and control in the governance of global affairs. We did not find many answers but we did get a better sense of the problem. What stands out most strongly for me from this work is the continuing dominance and power of the colonizing Western perspective to determine which stories get heard and to shape how those stories are told. Project participants were selected in an effort to circumvent that power but the effort to bring more voices from the Global South to the table failed for several reasons. Even participants from the Global South had been educated within West, and more surprisingly, even though participants were selected to represent different regions of the world, what happened was that many of these participants now lived outside their place of birth, and in fact, several of them turned out to be living in Toronto. This is a clip from us at the World Social Forum in Dakar.

bgd

What I took from these team encounters was a revised way of asking my research questions, which are returning me to the core questions of literary studies.  How are meanings made? Values negotiated? How can the imagination be freed from the “mind-forged manacles” that lock us into accepting an unfair world? The answers will be specific to each time and place, but there may be elements they share with places elsewhere. These are cross-disciplinary questions that seem particularly acute in a settler-colonial immigrant society such as Canada.

Research finds its way through asking questions. Literary critics ask: What kind of thing is this? What form does it take? How does it work? What does it mean? Who is it for? How do ideas travel? For me, these questions come together in versions of Northrop Frye’s question, “where is here?” What are the stories of this place? How they can they help us learn from the past, live in the present, and imagine better futures? I have written two articles exploring Northrop Frye’s question, “where is here?” It is more complex than it seems. This picture shows Frye’s statue on the Victoria College campus in a shared moment that documents the changing nature of shared space.

For Dionne Brand, ‘Poetry is here, just here. Something wrestling with how we live, something dangerous, something honest’ (“On Poetry”:183). For Ojibway and Anishinabe “here,” is called Turtle Island. Turtle Island creates a strong visual image, referring to an origin story that links this place to other peoples and stories within the ocean of stories, and to the ecosystem of knowledges that feeds that ocean. That name, “Turtle Island,” recognizes other histories and other origin stories, beyond those told about European Discovery, Conquest, or Development. For example, the shape-shifting mink narrator who witnesses part of the story that Sto:lo writer Lee Maracle tells in her novel, Celia’s Song, refers dismissively to the white scientist Frederick as “one of the hopeless who now inhabit Turtle Island” (19). In that expansive sense, Turtle Island gives life to Thomas King’s latest novel, The Back of the Turtle. King implies that all of live on the back of the turtle, in forms of relation and reciprocity whether recognized or not, with other living beings, even those we consider to be inert or non-sentient. For King, this becomes another way of describing our home, and the novel tells of how badly our civilization is treating that home today.

Other origin stories from other peoples and places shape local stories of belonging that have been similarly adapted to explain national and global interconnectedness in current times.  I think here of Bill Reid’s famous sculptures, “The Raven and the First Men,” and Reid’s “Spirit of Haida Gwaii,” which political scientist James Tully used as the cover and animating metaphor for his influential book from 1995, Strange Multiplicity: Constitutionalism in an Age of Diversity. For Tully, the national boat holds a diversity of occupants. For globalization and climate change theorists, that boat becomes an image for precarious survival on the planet itself. As in the story of Noah’s Ark, the boat can function as either an inclusive or exclusive vision of community, putting animals and humans in the same boat but also excluding others from participation in the voyage. I think of the drowned refugees lost in the Mediterranean. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women whose stories are now being reclaimed and whose names are remembered. Naming matters. Posters across our campus show us how such naming matters through K.C. Adams’s Perception Project.
kc
For Tomson Highway, ancient Greek, European Christian, and Cree cosmologies are all mythologies that shape understanding of the world through story-telling. I prefer, however, to follow Lee Maracle, in describing the stories that embody these systems as theories, in order to stress their legitimacy as knowledge-producing systems. To attend seriously to these story-theories can take us beyond the limitations of “superpower parochialism” (35)—the wonderful term Rob Nixon uses in his book, Slow Violence: The Environmentalism of the Poor, beyond what Vandana Shiva and Gayatri Spivak call a “monoculture of the mind.” These terms question the assumption that Western knowledge systems alone can claim to be universal, confining other forms of knowledge to the merely local. To “decolonize the mind” (Ngugi), scholars will need to deparochialize research away from this “superpower parochialism” that ignores the wisdom generated beyond the limits of its imagination. For these reasons, I welcome the questions the University of Manitoba is beginning to ask about what it might mean to decolonize the university. This is a challenging task and there will be disagreements about what decolonization could mean, how best it might be achieved, and how we will know when the decolonization process has achieved its goals.

After a lifetime of searching, I feel I have found a place that takes these questions seriously in a university-wide way.  I began my career seeking a comparative context for understanding Canada within the Australian experience. I located different dimensions of Canadian national imaginaries within colonial, postcolonial, and globalizing contexts, and analyzed Canadian contributions to current cultural debates. From focusing on Canada in trans-Pacific contexts when I was based at the University of British Columbia, I moved to analyzing Canada’s place within the Americas, focusing first on the Caribbean and then on Brazil. With the move to Winnipeg, I became interested in Canada’s Northern identity and began collaborating with colleagues in Sweden. Each of these comparative contexts have moved in recent years from being seen as peripheral to global centres toward assuming new significance within the changing, multilateral global system. Australia is not only a boom and bust resource economy but also a leader in the commercialization of global higher education and a laggard in addressing aboriginal inequality and refugee rights. Brazil is reducing poverty but still struggles with massive inequality and corruption. It has a long history of slavery, exploitation of indigenous peoples, and faces its own multicultural challenges. Sweden, long seen as a leader in ethical internationalism, is confronting its role within Nordic colonialisms and the challenges of integrating immigrants into a relatively homogeneous society. Like Canada, these countries face inequities within their own internal Northern and Southern regions. Each offers different models of engagement with indigenous and immigrant populations, and the knowledges they bring to educational programs. They provide distinctive models for managing dominant settler/indigenous and multicultural relations; and different ways of dealing with English as a dominant academic and business language. How each negotiates their national position within global imaginaries can help Canadians clarify what is at stake for us in globalizing trends.

I called this talk “Canada and the World” because I don’t believe you can understand this country without understanding the many ways in which it is enmeshed within larger global systems and always has been.  Climate change brings this awareness most clearly to our attention but it should not obscure the many other ways in which Canada has been shaped and has participated in shaping the world around us. How we understand our past shapes our ability to imagine the spaces open to our agency, now and in the future. If we cannot imagine beyond the limits of our present, we will not be able to shape an alternative future. Imagination is key.

My inspiration comes from creative writers, artists, and the work of many scholars across the disciplines. Anthropologist Julie Cruikshank’s 2005 book, Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination details the entanglements of local and global in ways that reveal “how porous knowledge practices are” (10). Cruikshank explains how many terms Western-educated scholars assume are self-explanatory are in fact highly contested. Her examples include “land,” “hunting” “resources,” and “property” (11). In my own work, I am especially concerned with the different resonances attached to the word “home.” Rights is another contested term that seems to be proliferating everywhere. In The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet, Sheila Watt-Cloutier argues that “a human rights-based approach [to climate change]… refocuses the debate on humanity rather than solely on economics,” a shift in rhetoric she hopes could “save the planet.” She explains “Everything is connected through out common atmosphere, not to mention our common spirit and humanity. What affects one affects us all. The Arctic, after all, is the cooling system, ‘the air conditioner,’ if you will, for the entire planet.” She concludes, “The future of Inuit is the future of the rest of the world—our home is a barometer for what is happening to our entire planet.”  These are compelling images. As a Winnipegger, I appreciate the rightness of insisting on the “right to be cold” in the face of dominant dismissals of our home as Winterpeg. Our city has also embraced human rights as our official story. But there are limits to making this our single story.

For some critics, human-centred worldviews have caused the problem and so cannot be counted upon to solve it.  Some argue we need to expand our concept of rights to include the rights of Mother Nature, as the Bolivian constitution recently has, or even more dramatically, we need to move beyond human-centred views of the world entirely, to recognize the sentience and the agency of all matter. Still others argue more pragmatically that in practice, a human-rights-based focus can actually block a quest for justice.  As Arundhati Roy explains, human rights do matter but “they are not a good enough prism through which to view or remotely understand the great injustices in the world we live in” (2014: 34). What could it mean to shift the framework from rights to justice? This question motivates my current research and teaching.

I have published recently on how contemporary Canadian texts renegotiate urban civic space, looking at Cree poet Marvin Francis’s City Treaty: A Long Poem, set in Winnipeg, and Trinidadian-Canadian Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For: A Novel, set in Toronto. With the aim of providing a revised model for understanding locality in a globalizing world, I argue that these texts reveal locality to be a living, moving, changing space rather than a determinant place of origin.

Forthcoming work includes a collaboratively written account of Canadian and Quebec postcolonialisms for The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Literature; an article on Canadian public poetics; and another on the evolving dialogue between settler colonial studies and human rights studies. A work in progress, “Reading Across the Pacific, Reorienting ‘North,’” asks “What would it mean for North American literary studies to shift our gaze from still dominant transatlantic imaginaries toward the transPacific?” This article is part of a larger project investigating literary experimentation developed out of non-metropolitan contexts in dialogue with alternative understandings of the earth, the world, and the globe. As I write the entry on “Globalization Studies” for The Blackwell Companion to Literary Theory, I am acutely aware of balancing the need to tell the official stories against the many efforts to give breath to alternative stories.

All this work recognizes that stories need readers and listeners to bring them to completion, and to carry them into public voice so they can enter and shape the public sphere, and in their turn, be reshaped by interaction with it. All kinds of readers, and listeners, are necessary. Specialists have an important role to play, perhaps especially to show the ways in which particular texts weave themselves into larger patterns of experience and expression. But the wonderful thing about stories is the ways they find to reach us all.

Drew Haydn Taylor begins his book, The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel, with a story about a terrible fight between two wolves, each inhabiting the same body. When the child listening asks: “Grandfather, which wolf will win? Which one is stronger?” he is told: “the one you feed” (v). We all face that choice.

Lee Maracle tells a similar story in Celia’s Song, which is dedicated “to all those children who were removed from our homes and who did not survive residential school.” She tells the tale of a two-headed sea-serpent, Restless and Loyal, who pull against each other, creating devastation because the people have failed to feed them through honouring the dead. The balance between the two has been destroyed and the restless, voracious, destructive serpent head runs rampant until the villagers learn to stop feeding it and begin to heal themselves. Each story is directed first of all to an indigenous readership but creates space for a widening circle of reception and engagement.

The University of Manitoba is a wonderfully supportive environment in which to work, and I am so grateful to my colleagues from all across campus, and most especially to my students, who continue to inspire me with hope for the future.  I am grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs program for funding much of this research and to the many colleagues whose work has enriched my own as we struggle to grapple with our changing world and the role of the humanities within it. Finally, I thank all of you, who have come out here tonight to join in celebrating the research of everyone honoured through the Bowman awards. Research is a community achievement and it’s your support that helps make it happen. I hope you have questions.

 

Works Cited Brand, Dionne. Inventory. —. “On Poetry.” Bread Out Of Stone. Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Alfred Knopf, 2003. Cruikshank, Julie. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. Vancouver, UBC P, 2005. Frye, Northrop. “Conclusion to a Literary History of Canada.” In The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, ed. Carl F. Klinck. Toronto: UTP, 1965. King, Thomas. The Back of the Turtle. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2014. —. The Truth about Stories. Toronto: Anansi, 2003. Maracle, Lee. Celia’s Song. Toronto: Cormorant, 2014. –“Oratory as Story: Coming to Theory.” Nixon, Rob Slow violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2011. Roy, Arundhati. Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Chicago: Haymarket, 2014. Shiva, Vandana. “Monocultures of the Mind” Trumpeter. 10.4.. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Globalization. Harvard UP, 2012. Taylor, Drew Hayden. The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel. Toronto: Annick Press, 2007. Tully, James. Strange Multiplicity: Constitutionalism in an Age of Diversity. 1995. Watt-Cloutier, Sheila. The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet. Penguin, 2015.

Review of “Maroon Lives” and “Revolution as Poetic Inspiration”

Diana Brydon:

Jacqueline Sample asks, “When is art revolutionary? Why does it appear, at critical times, that there is an irresistible attraction between the work of artists and revolutionaries? How do nature and humanity inspire and benefit from art, literature, and revolution?” She goes on to offer a detailed review of the book Maroon Lives–Tribute to Maurice Bishop and Grenadian Freedom Fighters by Lasana M. Sekou, which also includes the essay Revolution as Poetic Inspiration: Grenada in ‘Maroon Lives’ by Fabian Adekunle Badejo. She also describes the role of Jason deCaires Taylor’s haunting and inspiring undersea sculptures to illustrate many of the book’s concepts.

Originally posted on Repeating Islands:

jason.

Jacqueline Sample asks, “When is art revolutionary? Why does it appear, at critical times, that there is an irresistible attraction between the work of artists and revolutionaries? How do nature and humanity inspire and benefit from art, literature, and revolution?” She goes on to offer a detailed review of the book Maroon Lives–Tribute to Maurice Bishop and Grenadian Freedom Fighters by Lasana M. Sekou, which also includes the essay Revolution as Poetic Inspiration: Grenada in ‘Maroon Lives’  by Fabian Adekunle Badejo. She also describes the role of Jason deCaires Taylor’s haunting and inspiring undersea sculptures to illustrate many of the book’s concepts.

Writers Lasana Sekou and Fabian Badejo may only give cause for more questions to the above with their revisit and treatment of the Grenada Revolution in the new title from House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). However, the book includes color photos of extraordinary undersea sculptures by Jason deCaires…

View original 958 more words

Mobile Localities Beyond Monocultures of the Mind

dbkorea

Abstract Employing insights from contemporary postcolonial, decolonial, and indigenous theory, this article argues that home, identity, and the politics of naming “here” are emerging as complex “mobile localities” with implications for how a globalizing world is understood. The Cartesian reasoning that enabled Eurocentric perspectives to lay sole claim to universality is now being challenged by decolonizing views that understand locality through a framework more closely attuned to what Boaventura Sousa de Santos calls “an ecology of knowledges.” To hold to a single definition in a globalizing world increasingly marks a failure of imagination: a “monoculture of the mind” in a multicultural world. For many, locality may now be a form of translocality, in which alternative understandings of space and time co‐exist, sometimes only concurrently, and sometimes mingling to form emergent understandings. The paper interprets two contemporary Canadian texts involved in renegotiating urban civic space‐‐Cree poet Marvin Francis’s City Treaty: A Long Poem and Trinidadian‐Canadian Dionne Brand’s What Localities We All Long For: A Novel –with the aim of providing a revised model for understanding locality in a globalizing world. Revisions of the local such as those offered by Brand and Francis reveal the potential for understanding locality as a living, moving, metamorphizing space rather than a determinant place of origin.

The full paper is published in Localities Vol. 4, 2014, pp. 7-49 

A Link to the open access document is here. http://www.localities.kr/sub_pg/img/A-1.pdf

 

Diana Brydon Introductory Remarks Brazil Canada Knowledge Exchange

20140520_YWG_0957Welcome—and welcome back—to the Brazil/Canada Knowledge Exchange : a SSHRC partnership development project. This is the fourth formal workshop of our team, although we have met and co-presented in other venues over the last three years. Some of you have been with us since the beginning; others are meeting for the first time. Therefore, some introductory explanation remains necessary. For some of you, this will function as a reminder; for others, it will be new. But I hope you’ll all find it helpful as we push forward into new territory. This evolving structure of expanding our partnerships is part of our mandate to build on our existing partnerships and develop new ones. Ours is an international, interedisciplinary, and intergenerational team project so we are especially pleased to be welcoming so many students today—as well as some of you who began the project as students and are now working as professors. The meetings are about information sharing as we strengthen our capacity to co-produce research
We are experimenting with a new, more open structure this year. In past sessions, our program was so packed with formal panels and presentations, we felt we had insufficient time to dig deeply, to explore our uncertainties, develop our questions, and push ourselves forward into experimentation and more difficult analytical territory. After this morning’s few formal presentations, we will move into discussion mode. Here we hope everyone will share your questions, your insights, your difficulties with the material, where you find it helpful and where you do not. Your uncertainties will be especially welcome, as they often open the places where we realize we may be speaking at cross-purposes without even realizing it. You have heard me cite Anna Tsing’s Friction, where she talks about those “zones of awkward engagement where words mean something different across a divide even as people agree to speak” (xi). These zones can open up anywhere between any two people but can become more awkward when people are speaking across borders set up by disciplines, nations, regions, and languages. With imperialism and globalization, more and more people are crossing these borders and exploring the richness of these zones of engagement. Marta Dvorak and I began our book Crosstalk with the question: “How do readers negotiate meaning in contexts where norms of understanding diverge?” (1). For me, this is one of the questions transnational literacy raises for teachers of English language and literature in our times. Crosstalk focusses on Canada and its global engagements. Our team expands its scope to think about Brazil and Canada, our evolving relations to each other, and to the fields of critical, transnational, and multimodal literacies.
We have the room set up where it will be easy for us to break into small discussion groups and quickly reconvene in full group sessions. We will follow that pattern over the next few days. You will notice that we don’t have people listed as formal presenters on the program. The idea is that each of us, after this opening session, will act as discussion facilitators.
I will start with some quick history before turning the floor over to Walkyria Monte Mor to introduce our major partner, the Brazilian National Project. The Brazil/Canada Knowledge Exchange was funded through the SSHRC partnership development program to develop transnational literacies in contexts of English language and literature teaching in selected sites within our two countries. Further partnering support has come from the Canada Research Chairs program, our various university partners, ABECAN, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade—and we thank them all. Our goals are to: 1. To strengthen transnational literacy and cross-cultural understanding within and between Brazil and Canada; 2.To work with English teachers and teachers-in-training to integrate theory and practice, developing site-specific pedagogies appropriate to global challenges; 3.To advance understanding of how globalization is impacting education (at all levels) in Canada and Brazil; 4. To advance the Brazil/Canada relationship more generally; and 5. To contribute to understanding of how to make transnational, interdisciplinary research partnerships work.
The partnership builds upon longstanding collaboration between the Centre for Globalization and Cultural Studies at the University of Manitoba (which I direct) and two units at the University of Sao Paulo: the National Curriculum Project in English (headed by Walkyria Monte Mor and Lynn Mario M.T. de Souza) –which you will hear about in a minute –and the Canadian Studies Nucleus (headed by Walkyria Monte Mor). In addition, we partner with Glendon College at York University, the University of Winnipeg, and colleagues at the State and Federal Universities of Mato Grosso do Sul, and the Federal Universities of Alagoas, Sergipe, and Minas Gerais, and APLIEMS (the Association of English Teachers of Mato Grosso do Sul) in Brazil.
Transnational literacy: Our first understandings of transnational literacy came from bringing postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak’s theories together with critical literacy approaches derived from dialogues with the New London School. More recently, we have begun to engage more seriously with decolonial theory engaged with rethinking the modernity/coloniality nexus. I come at these questions from a background in literary studies, working out of literature into dialogues with postcolonial cultural studies. Each of us here speaks from different disciplinary and interdisciplinary locations. We share a commitments to working across those differences with the goal of advancing decolonizing agendas in education, which can, potentially, shift the balance between the regulatory and emancipatory functions of education, moving it out of its current servitude to the hegemony of Western knowledge and the dominance of the Anglosphere within the current global higher education regime. .
Our project is built around reciprocal exchange, balancing Canadian and Brazilian perspectives, and setting up horizontal dialogues across regions within our countries, and between and across our national contexts. Our premise is that current frameworks through which internationalization is understood need to be revised in the light of the diversity of global knowledge systems and interlocking global trade relations, which have linked and continue to link more closely Canada with Brazil. We are working to set Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s model of an “ecology of knowledges” in dialogue with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theorization of transnational literacy to rethink our classroom and research projects. For Spivak, transnational literacy requires “deep language learning,” and a special attentiveness to what she terms the precapitalist cultures of the world, best developed, she suggests, through a process of mutual interruption between the multidisciplines of comparative literature and Area Studies (2003). To speak of transnational literacies is to recognize that our lives are becoming global in ways that are changing our experience of what it means to be a national subject and live in a particular locality. Brazilians and Canadians experience and express our national (and regional) identities differently. Without acting as native informants within an imperial power structure in which the agency is skewed to privilege a dominant partner, we interrogate those structures and advocate different ways of learning to work together, and together learning “to unlearn our privilege as our loss” and “learning to learn from below.” Spivak describes the task of transnational literacy as to keep “responsibility alive in the reading and teaching of the textual” (101-102). That’s a mandate we hope to advance, through taking reading beyond the textual into new forms of media and mediation. lan Liu poses a question relevant to our work: “How shall we live knowledge in common?” In its broadest sense, exploring that question will be our task over the next few days.

What have we learned from Mandela? Delivery Version Diana Brydon

Image

What have we learned from Mandela?  Hope, a willingness to listen and negotiate, a commitment to the dignity and full personhood of all, and a willingness to put the larger public good above personal interests. A reminder that democracy is an ongoing process. It needs to be exercised and defended.

Some of you may be asking: “Why is a white woman standing up there talking to us about race?” My answer is that the history of race relations impacts all of us and we all need to take responsibility for them, for what we have inherited, and what we do now.

I began my career by looking to Australia for ways to understand Canada. Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, I could see how class, religious, sexual, and racial oppression were linked and affected most dimensions of our everyday lives. I began to think about what it meant to live in a settler colonial society in which indigenous peoples were marginalized and stereotyped, and their history and cultural achievements denied.  I looked to Australia and other colonized countries for a way of understanding that history, because we need to know our past to avoid repeating it. I turned to literature to find alternative forms of remembering and creative ways to move forward together.

My work now asks how we can learn to see difference as a positive contribution to national resiliency and global survival. National community needs to be reimagined beyond defensive and fearful reactions against others. Mandela began to show us how. Appeals to race, ethnicity, and culture often function as the excuse for exercising economic control. The British ruled their empire through a policy of divide and conquer.

I study the stories people tell about the hurtful impact racist practices and stereotypes have on their daily lives, and the creative ways they develop to address such harm. As someone who specializes in the links connecting colonialism, racism, and globalization, I will stress nine points now that may serve as openings for further discussion.

1.How we talk about race matters. I speak of people as racialized rather than belonging to a particular race. When we understand that racism is a system for managing populations and making sense of the world, it is easier to resist claims that locate racism in the individual or nature alone. Of course, individuals can internalize racist beliefs but they are encouraged or discouraged from doing so by larger societal forces, including the media, governments, and schools.

2.Race has a history. One form of racialized thinking depends on chromatism; categorization on the basis of skin colour. It can seem natural. Yet looks can be deceiving. In North America, groups now considered white were once categorized as black. The Irish and Ukrainians, for example. Quebeckers who spoke French in the mid twentieth century were told: “speak white.”

3. Race thinking sees whiteness as the norm for the fully human, so that white people are just human while people from other places are categorized according to race, or increasingly by ethnicity, culture, or civilization. One problem these terms share is seeing individual people in terms of homogeneous categories, as if all members of a group share certain tendencies. In this system, only white people retain the privilege of choosing their affiliations. Others are seen as trapped by their race. Critical whiteness studies is a field that explores this problem of white privilege.

4. Constructions of blackness today have been heavily influenced by the struggles of black people in the Americas against legislated apartheid slavery systems that exploited their labour. We need to know that history, and to address it in productive ways, but we also need to be careful about how it is used. I support the current Caricom legal initiative to seek reparations from several European states once involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Caricom recognizes the effects of that trade continue today.

But if we think the Atlantic slave trade is over, and that it’s something we can deplore from our position in a more enlightened present, then it is harder to see its continuing impact today. It is also harder to see the ways in which contemporary forms of slavery still exist. Slavery today still relies on the belief that some people are less human than others. They are disposable.  Insofar as globalization encourages the exploitation and trafficking of people, it also encourages new forms of slavery.  Yet these attract little attention,

5. The media encourage attention to spectacular violence. What about the “slow violence” of new forms of slavery, gradual human rights restrictions, grinding poverty, and environmental degradation?

6. Racism is produced by the decisions we make, as a community, at all levels of our coexistence. It is too easy to forget the legislated restrictions on the lives of the colonized under colonialism and to neglect forms of oppression today. Critical race philosophers call this form of forgetting, “epistemologies of ignorance.” The point here is that ignorance can be taught and rewarded.

7.Today, racial prejudice still exists but it has also migrated into discussion of culture or civilizational difference. It is not helpful to talk about a “clash of civilizations” or to respond to calls for “white men to save brown women from brown men” (Spivak).

8. Race thinking thrives in times of financial crisis, insecurity, and rapid change. New racisms are coalescing around immigration and refugee policies and leading to the creation of spaces in which human rights are suspended. Guantanamo Bay. Australia’s island spaces where refugees are incarcerated indefinitely. Hostility to immigration is on the rise globally.

9. What can we do? Apartheid was a system of legislated racism. We need to ask: what forms of legislated racism are in place today, nationally and internationally? What forms of sanctioned ignorance support these? What might Canadian forms of ethical internationalism involve?

A related post from Visionary Conversations was my talk on Culture and Creativity which may be consulted on this blog

http://wp.me/p1qkMa-8L

Want to learn more about Visionary Conversations topics? After the Conversation is a home for articles, studies and links to websites that allow you to further explore University of Manitoba panel discussions.

OUR EXPERTS: Dr. Diana Brydon, Dr. Joy Chadya, Ry Moran

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers