WGS Research Seminar with Margot Francis

Creative Subversions: Whiteness and Indigeneity in the National Imaginary

Date: November 30, 2011
Time: 3-5 p.m.
Speaker: Margot Francis
Location: Wilson Hall, Rm 2053


This paper will highlight selected moments from my forthcoming book Creative Subversions (UBC Press, November 2011) in order to explore how whiteness and Indigeneity are articulated through taken-for-granted images of Canadian identity — and the contested meanings these images evoke. I argue that benign, even kitschy symbols of national identity are haunted by ideas about race, masculinity, and sexuality that circulated during the formative years of Anglo-Canadian nationhood.

Through a richly illustrated presentation I will explore how national symbols such as the beaver, the wilderness of Banff National Park, and ideas about ‘Indianness’ evoke nostalgic versions of a past that cannot be expelled or assimilated.  The irony is that insofar as Canadians consume versions of a past that do not nourish, the living can themselves become ghostly. Juxtaposing historical images with work by contemporary artists, I explore how artists are giving taken-for-granted symbols new and suggestive meanings. From the work of Indigenous artists Jeff Thomas, in What’s the Point? and Kent Monkman, in The Moral Landscape, to Wendy Coburn’s sculptural The Spirit of Canada, Eating Beaver, and Shauna Dempsey and Lorri Milan’s performance, the Lesbian Park Rangers, the book explores how banal objects can be re-imagined in ways that offer the possibility of moving from an unproblematized possession by the past to an imaginative reconsideration of it. This presentation will invite us to question taken-for-granted ideas about history, memory, and national identity.

Margot Francis is Associate Professor in Women’s Studies and Sociology at Brock University.

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