Crossroads of Memory – ACLA Seminar at Harvard

November 20, 2008

I recently found out that my paper proposal has been accepted for the American Comparative Literature Association Conference at Harvard. The conference will be in March of 2009 and I will be part of a seminar called Crossroads of Memory. My paper is entitled “Truth, History and Nation in the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The description follows:

In the latter half of the twentieth century, Truth Commissions have become one way in which human rights abuses of the past are confronted. They are based on the premise that dialogue about past crimes, violence and abuse can alleviate the suffering of victims and ease the relationship between oppressed and oppressor. They also assume a certain relationship between history and memory, presuming a duty to remember and the need for a re-articulation of history. By recognizing that certain narratives have been left out of discourses of nation-building and national history, Truth Commissions may allow memory to articulate these absences.

On June 1st, 2008, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in Canada. Its focus is the abuse and mistreatment of Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and placed in the Indian Residential School (IRS) system. The last of these schools closed in 1996. Under the colonial policy of assimilation, certain hierarchies of power were established where Aboriginal peoples were unable to exercise control in both public and private domains. My paper will explore several questions including: What does the process of the TRC reveal about the dialectical relationship between history and memory? Does a state-sponsored TRC work to re-inscribe or destabilize existing structures of power? And what are the tensions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal concepts of history, truth-telling and reconciliation? 


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