Accepted Paper:

Reconciliation and the Pedagogy of Witnessing in Canadian Museums and Arts-based Research  

Author:

Jennifer Robinson (Queen's University )

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on interviews conducted with heritage professionals working in museums, galleries, and arts-based research collectives, this paper looks at the role of witnessing as both an active, self-reflexive process and pedagogical practice currently underway in heritage work in Canada.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last decade, a distinct practice of witnessing has developed in Canada. Through Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian Residential Schools (IRS), the concept of witnessing as form of knowledge transfer common in many (though not all) Indigenous communities, was incorporated as a platform for the national and local hearings that took place across the country. In this capacity, the TRC intended to produced bodies of witnesses in those that came to hear IRS survivors tell their experiences of the horrors that took place in these schools. However, in the atmosphere post the TRC and through the "Calls to Action" created by the TRC's Final Report (2015), witnessing as an embodied practice has developed as part of the growing vernacular concerning redress, reconciliation, and decolonial research praxis in Canada. Drawing on interviews conducted with heritage professionals working in museums, galleries, and arts-based research collectives, this paper looks at the role of witnessing as both an active, self-reflexive process and pedagogical practice currently underway in heritage work in Canada. This paper asks: What does it mean to witness in the context of art-based research? As scholars and heritage practitioners of Settler-European descent, how do we better engage in creative and decolonial research practices that require pedagogies of witnessing? And finally, how might we draw on witnessing as an embodied practice to build better skills such humility, empathy, listening, and reflection all of which are required when working with survivors of cultural inequality, discrimination, and violence?

Panel P091
Anthropologies of witnessing: imaginaries, technologies, practices