Event Title

Colonial Inquiries and the Politics of Testimony

Start Date

12-1-2012 1:30 PM

End Date

12-1-2012 3:00 PM

Description

Legal discussions in Canada that have occurred in the context of reconciliation and compensation for violence and injustices against Aboriginal peoples have often been plagued by the question of responsibility; a question about what was done, who is to blame, and what is the appropriate legal and political response now. Consequently, responsibility for past injustice in white settler societies often moves away from traditional models of reparations (with clearly delineated perpetrators and victims). Scholars of settler contexts suggest that a notion of “collective responsibility” often becomes the filter through which the administration and demonstration of apology and remorse gains political and global traction.

This paper is part of a larger research project concerning the Aboriginal community of Kashechwan, Ontario, Canada. Kashechewan is one of the most impoverished places in Canada. A fly-in Aboriginal community on the south-west shores of the James Bay, its residents have experienced “Indian removal policies,” extreme poverty, residential school violence, seasonal flooding, water contamination, mass youth suicides, alcoholism, disease, lack of educational resources, lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and government neglect.

This paper explores a set of interrelated questions pertaining to the recognition of the legacy of colonialism and historical forms of injustice in contemporary settler societies. The deaths of two young men in a detention centre in a remote northern Ontario Indigenous community serve to highlight a dense transfer point between legal considerations of the present and the past. Examining legal responses to these deaths as well as the particular histories of colonialism and racism in the community, this paper examines links between legal testimony, temporality, memory, competing forms of evidence (oral histories, visual recordings and corporeal forms of memory) and the consolidation of particular racial logics through these discursive and visual fields. The analytic context for the paper is anchored in an analysis of archival documents of the area, transcripts from the Coroner’s Inquest and evidence presented at the inquest. This paper addresses the following questions: How do forms of legal testimony enable and restrict connections between historical forms of injustice and contemporary instances of (structural) violence? How do different forms of evidence and testimony constitute memory and the present? How does racial and colonial violence coordinate and attenuate legal and political attention in the form of reconciliation? How do particular racial logics serve as a pivot point for humanitarian and reconciliation initiatives?

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Jan 12th, 1:30 PM Jan 12th, 3:00 PM

Colonial Inquiries and the Politics of Testimony

Legal discussions in Canada that have occurred in the context of reconciliation and compensation for violence and injustices against Aboriginal peoples have often been plagued by the question of responsibility; a question about what was done, who is to blame, and what is the appropriate legal and political response now. Consequently, responsibility for past injustice in white settler societies often moves away from traditional models of reparations (with clearly delineated perpetrators and victims). Scholars of settler contexts suggest that a notion of “collective responsibility” often becomes the filter through which the administration and demonstration of apology and remorse gains political and global traction.

This paper is part of a larger research project concerning the Aboriginal community of Kashechwan, Ontario, Canada. Kashechewan is one of the most impoverished places in Canada. A fly-in Aboriginal community on the south-west shores of the James Bay, its residents have experienced “Indian removal policies,” extreme poverty, residential school violence, seasonal flooding, water contamination, mass youth suicides, alcoholism, disease, lack of educational resources, lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and government neglect.

This paper explores a set of interrelated questions pertaining to the recognition of the legacy of colonialism and historical forms of injustice in contemporary settler societies. The deaths of two young men in a detention centre in a remote northern Ontario Indigenous community serve to highlight a dense transfer point between legal considerations of the present and the past. Examining legal responses to these deaths as well as the particular histories of colonialism and racism in the community, this paper examines links between legal testimony, temporality, memory, competing forms of evidence (oral histories, visual recordings and corporeal forms of memory) and the consolidation of particular racial logics through these discursive and visual fields. The analytic context for the paper is anchored in an analysis of archival documents of the area, transcripts from the Coroner’s Inquest and evidence presented at the inquest. This paper addresses the following questions: How do forms of legal testimony enable and restrict connections between historical forms of injustice and contemporary instances of (structural) violence? How do different forms of evidence and testimony constitute memory and the present? How does racial and colonial violence coordinate and attenuate legal and political attention in the form of reconciliation? How do particular racial logics serve as a pivot point for humanitarian and reconciliation initiatives?