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Truth-telling/Story-telling: literary and critical perspectives on Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Caption: ‘Bone Box’ made by Michael Niccol Yahgulanaa UBC Museum of Anthropology. Image credit: "First Nations Art - UBC Vancouver" by Librarygroover is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0Truth-telling/Story-telling: literary and critical perspectives on Canada’s TRC is a project funded by the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship project, led by Dr Francesca Mussi, funded by the Levehulme Trust that investigates both the mandate and proceedings of the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that took place in Canada between 2008 and 2015. Charged with the task of addressing the harms caused by the Indian Residential School (IRS) system, the TRC (or Commission) was mainly designed to provide a culturally appropriate and safe setting for former IRS students, their families and communities as they came forward to the Commission and shared their stories. The Commission was also tasked with creating a historical record and promoting awareness and public education about the IRS system, its impacts and legacies, and with facilitating truth and reconciliation events at both the national and community levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

This project is interdisciplinary, connecting literature, history, politics, and Indigenous, postcolonial, trauma and gender studies. It examines the extent to which the Commission’s conceptualisations of truth-telling, restorative justice and reconciliation relate to Indigenous philosophies and epistemologies. In particular, it positions literary representation as a crucial means of understanding the complexity of cultural, political and social phenomena, as it explores a selection of Indigenous literary texts that were produced during the work of the Commission and that contribute to decolonising Western approaches to notions of gender, trauma, healing, justice, reconciliation and questions of land.

Dark blue Leverhulme Trust logoBuilding on my expertise in postcolonial, trauma and gender studies, as well as my doctoral research on the politics of reconciliation in the context of the South African truth commission, this project will produce a suite of outputs, including a monograph, journal articles, conference papers and outreach activities to interrogate to what extent storytelling expands or challenges the work of the Canadian TRC in relation to the history and impacts of Indian residential schools and ongoing legacies of settler-colonial practices still affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

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