Volume 50, Issue 2

Special Issue: Rethinking Social Studies in a Post-truth Era


Introduction to the special issue
The Sociality of Post-truth: Neoliberal Culture and Its Rationality
Truths, Wounded Innocence, and the Post-truth Syndrome
Truthing: An ontology of living an ethic of shakihi (love) and ikkimmapiiyipitsiin (sanctified kindness)
Curriculum in the Post Truth Era: Is Truth Dead?

Read the full issue

Introduction to the Special Issue: Rethinking Social Studies in a Post-truth Era

David Scott

Werklund School of Education

University of Calgary

Cathryn van Kessel

Department of Secondary Education

University of Alberta

The triumph of Trump and the ongoing popularity of far right parties across the world have brought into question basic liberal democratic values of a free press, the rule of law, and notions of truth. Reflecting these developments, in 2016 the Oxford Dictionary (2016) recognized “post-truth,” as the word of the year. Pointing to an emergent political landscape where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Oxford Dictionary, 2016, para. 1), the March 2017 cover of Time Magazine equally asked: Is Truth Dead?

The implications of these developments for social studies and education more generally are profound. In a recent article entitled History Educators in a New Era, Dr. Peter Seixas (2017) from the University of British Columbia, asserted: “This is a dangerous moment, globally, for the liberal arts, education and research, for democratic values generally, and for history and history education specifically” (para .1). He went on to argue that liberal democratic traditions have increasingly come under attack across the Western world. Populist political agitators like President Donald Trump now present ‘alternative facts’ to describe provable falsehoods. This trend has led many social studies

educators to reconsider what our role should be within this era of alternative facts.

Read the full article.

The Sociality of Post-truth: Neoliberal Culture and Its Rationality

Debbie Sonu

Associate Professor

Hunter College

City University of New York

In her essay, Neoliberalism’s Frankenstein, Wendy Brown (2018) unpacks with meticulous depth how the current neoliberal condition valorizes private venture by eroding trust in the meaning of the social. In an attempt to understand, like Michel Foucault (1977), the governing rationality that generates certain kinds of subjects and their conduct, Brown chooses as her object of study the recent hypervisibility of white male right political rage and the inconsequentiality of truth in the context of a liberal “democratic” nation, the United States. With key leaders now legitimizing bigotry as a form of ‘greatness’, white right rage is given permission to explode onto the scene, crushing political correctness, multiculturalism, plurality and all democratic values, crying liberty and freedom at the helm of hatred and anger. As said by Hannah Arendt (1951), “being right has nothing to do with the objective truthfulness of the Leader's statements which cannot be disproved by facts, but only by future success or failure” (p. 383). Thus, the only reassurance audiences need in a post-truth culture is the constant reassurance that he, the leader, is winning, winning, winning.

Read the full article

Truths, Wounded Innocence, and the Post-truth Syndrome

Kent den Heyer


Department of Secondary Education

University of Alberta

[W]hen I hear people denounce our political scene as "post-truth," I have to wonder when exactly they think it was that politics was determined by the truth? The same goes for those who decry today's "fake news." […]To claim that with Trump's election we've entered a post-truth era of fake news is to claim that the U.S. was built on truthful politics and media. Political struggle isn't really about an existing truth but rather concerns the formulation of new truths and, more importantly, the materialization of those truths […] The political project involves the power relations that compose truths, and the pedagogical project involves how we engage ourselves, each other, and the world in transformative processes. (Ford, 2018, paras. 1-4)

This quotation captures my concern with an emergent liberal nostalgia narrative, a type of wounded innocence, fashionable in response to what many see as a contemporary affliction affecting democratic institutions. According to this story, Trump and his administration have moved us into post-truth times. As definitive nostalgia, this post-truth narrative constructs a never existing political consensus that has now been lost, from the functioning of formal politics to truth claims found in the academe.

Read the full article.


An ontology of living an ethic of shakihi (love) and ikkimmapiiyipitsiin (sanctified kindness)

Victoria (Vicki) Bouvier

Doctoral Student


University of Calgary

I remember the exact day when I received the email inviting me to participate on a panel speaking to the notion of “post-truth,” and how perplexed I was by the idea that we, in Canada, might be post-truth or that truth might be dead (Scherer, 2017). Post-truth is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” [ CITATION Oxf16 \l 4105 ], thus meaning that facts are deemed less important or even irrelevant. The day I received the email was sunny and warm and I was at the park with my dog. I took a few extra laps that afternoon, mulling over what this post-truth might mean and the implications this might have on me, as a Michif-Métis woman, and main stream education system. A scroll of questions began to flow through my mind as I tried to align the meaning of post-truth and my own understanding of truth as a process of coming to know. I first questioned: When did truth become a noun, not a verb—an ontological orientation to the world? And further, when did truth become something that is fixed, and we acquire, something that can be consumed? I stopped mid-stride and wondered whose truths are being referred to in post-truth exactly? And, whose truths are being deemed irrelevant? At this time in Canada, it seems the truth of a history of genocide and the continuation of settler-colonialism has yet to have a deep impact on the consciousness of Canadian society.3 I was therefore troubled by this notion that we are post-truth. Thinking about the history and presence of Michif people, the claiming of a post-truth era is yet another move to colonize and oppress the truths of myself, my community, and of all Indigenous people in Canada (see Tuck & Yang, 2012). Nullifying and placating the facts—for example, dismissing the abuse in Residential Schools, not acknowledging the forced removal of people from the land, and ignoring institutional and personal racism—continues to erase our experiences, bodies, and stories from what is now called Canada.

Read the full article.

Curriculum in the Post Truth Era: Is Truth Dead?

James Colin Field

Werklund School of Education

University of Calgary

“Trump has discovered something about epistemology in the 21st Century. The truth may be real, but falsehood often works better” (Scherer, M., Time, April 3, 2017).

Ironically perhaps, I took what the Donald has discovered about Western epistemology in our age to be true, so my first cautious answer to the question posed in the title is a qualified yes: Truth might indeed be dead, or at least dying, in the same way that Nietzsche proclaimed, more than 100 years ago, that God is dead. I think it’s important to note that Nietzsche wasn’t proclaiming that God did not exist, rather, he was stating that his existence has ceased to matter in the sense of bringing order, commitment, and a sense of purpose to a secular society.

So, the question for me is not does truth exist? That is, can we sort truth from lies, or the “fake news” from the factual reporting of important events, and from the false histories constructed through colonial, imperial, racist, or homophobic discourses? I do think that is a very important task, and a very real threat to living together in truth. Hanna Arendt (1948/1976) has provocatively asserted that the inability of the masses to sort the truth from lies is the primary condition for the rise of totalitarianism and the rule of strong men, and we might add, the election and possible re-election of Donald Trump. But that is another conversation that takes me away from my primary concern.

Read the full article.

Volume 50, Issue 1

What’s a poem good for?

Pedagogical connections between poetry and Social Studies

Wanda Hurren


Department of Curriculum & Instruction

University of Victoria

In this article, Dr. Wanda Hurren highlights eight pedagogical opportunities that arise when sharing poetry in social studies classrooms. These opportunities are discussed as: aesthetic ways of knowing, contemplation, creativity, embodied knowing, pleasure, pondering, protest, and spirit. Connections between poetry as a way of coming to know things, and the overall goals and rationales for teaching social studies are highlighted. An annotated list of poetry resources that hold possibilities for social studies teaching and learning is included.

Read the full article.

“When it became equal”: How Historical Consciousness and Theories of Agency Can Explain Female Students’ Conceptions of Feminism

Scott Pollock


St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School

Marie-Hélène Brunet

Assistant Professor

Faculty of Education

University of Ottawa

This paper describes the results of two research projects, which were focused upon female students’ historical understanding of feminism. In both cases the researchers found that the student participants harbored ambivalent or negative attitudes towards feminism and saw little connection between the present and feminist struggles in the past. While this attitude could be attributed to a wide range of variables, the authors illustrate that a focus upon the students’ form of historical consciousness and theories of agency can explain the tendency to see a “gap” between past and present. This paper concludes with a call for further research into the interaction between historical thinking, historical consciousness, and theories of agency.

Read the full article.

Volume 49, Issue 1

Special Issue: Monumental Mistakes? Confronting Difficult Pasts

Introduction to the special issue
Editor’s provocation: On history, fantasia, and sacred commemorations
Is elevating Sir John A. Macdonald really worth it? Hitting the reset button on Canada’s founding narrative in the classroom
The question of residential schools in Canada: Preserve, demolish or Repurpose?
The ethical dimension of Canadian commemoration controversies
Reflections on continuity, change, and historical consciousness
Reconsidering the summer residence: The city-text, historical commemoration and banal settler geography
Hyper-activating Inukshuks: The renewal of social studies in Alberta
(Not so) monumental agents: De/colonizing places of learning

Read the full issue here

Introduction to the special issue

by David Scott & Cathryn van Kessel

This special issue of Canadian Social Studies, entitled Monumental Mistakes? Confronting Difficult Pasts, has brought together a diverse range of scholars offering insights into discussions regarding removing or altering monuments, buildings, and other reminders of difficult histories. We requested that contributors submit short essays that we hope will serve as accessible prompts for classroom and broader public conversations and inquiries. Read the full article.

Editor’s provocation: On history, fantasia, and sacred commemorations

by Kent den Heyer

In an opening provocation, editor Kent den Heyer calls on educators to attend to the ways public memorials embody powerful emotionally laden fictions around Canada’s official historical culture.

Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Rousseau, and Carl Schmidt have wrestled with the question of what role the sacred and theology plays in forming a functioning polity. The question concerns what kind of civic theology might become embodied as a sacred covenant in which individuals may be free through being bound together as a people; a people who assent to the ‘just’ rule of the executive branch of a government. Under this condition of political life, the people legislate and the executive carries out its wishes. In Simon Critchley’s (2014) reading, Rousseau, for example, railed against theatre for its simulacrum of human action and called for civic rituals, not by actors, but by people who, in shared performances, enact itself, ex nilio, into being as ‘the people’. Read the full article.

Is elevating Sir John A. Macdonald really worth it? Hitting the reset button on Canada’s founding narrative in the classroom

by Adam Gaudry

Adam Gaudry calls for Canadians to show their government how as a society we might amplify Indigenous voices to form a basis for more respectful relations on this land.

In August 2017, the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) passed a motion calling on the province to remove the name of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, from all of Ontario’s schools (Nasser, 2017). Building on years of criticism of Macdonald by Indigenous intellectuals, the ETFO’s motion is only the latest move to displace Macdonald in the Canadian nationalist mythos. To most Indigenous people (and to an ever-increasing number of Canadians) Macdonald is remembered chiefly for his horrors: Indian residential schools (Milloy, 1999), the starvation policy on the plains (Daschuk, 2013), the wholesale refusal to honour treaty relationships (Asch, 2014; Venne, 1997), a violent military confrontation with three Indigenous communities in 1885 (Adams, 1989; Stonechild & Waiser, 1997), and his longstanding goal of politically marginalizing (if not physically exterminating) Indigenous nations (Stanley, 2015). Read the full article.

The question of residential schools in Canada: Preserve, demolish or Repurpose?

by Adriana Boffa

Instead of the broader society seeking one "right" solution, the most helpful course of action for potential reconciliation, according to Boffa, will likely be different for each community.

With public debates surrounding the removal of historical monuments in Canada (e.g., statues of, or schools named after, John A. Macdonald) and the United States (e.g., Confederate monuments), at times the voices of those who are most directly affected by their presence can be either drowned out or left out of the conversation entirely. It seems easy for the broader public to pass judgements and come to a consensus on a "right" way to approach such debates, but these judgements tend to be overly simplistic and removed from the immediate context and its attendant complexities. Read the full article.

The ethical dimension of Canadian commemoration controversies

by Lindsay Gibson

Lindsay Gibson uses the ethical dimension of historical thinking to critically examine calls to rename an elementary school in Regina named after Nicholas Davin who wrote an influential report advocating for residential schools.

Many Canadians expected that the summer of 2017 would be a time of celebration for Canada 150, the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation, but few could have anticipated that it would be the year that commemoration controversies were thrust onto the main stage of public debates. In addition to the contentious arguments about the celebration of Canada 150, there have been, and continue to be, vigorous debates about whether commemorations of controversial historical figures such as Hector Langevin, Egerton Ryerson, Joseph Trutch, Nicholas Flood Davin, Mathew Baillie Begbie, Edward Cornwallis, and Sir John A. Macdonald should be renamed, altered, or removed. Read the full article.

Reflections on continuity, change, and historical consciousness

by Gabriel A. Reich

Adding further insight into how historical thinking can be used as a lens to examine such debates, Gabriel Reich’s piece on continuity, change, and historical consciousness shifts our focus to the U.S. context.

One of the greatest historical traumas experienced in the United States was our Civil War. Over 600,000 Americans died in that war, and chattel enslavement—described in Mississippi’s 1861 secession declaration as "the greatest material interest of the world" (Civil War Trust, 2017)—was abolished. The rebelling southern states were devastated. African Americans, long depicted as form of degraded farm animal, had proved themselves equal in humanity and battle and were voted into power across the South. Read the full article.

Reconsidering the summer residence: The city-text, historical commemoration and banal settler geography

by Bryan Smith

Through the example of the city now known as Toronto, Smith shows how critically examining city-texts can provide a generative way to thwart the insidiousness of the colonial settler project.

In 1793, Elizabeth Simcoe, along with her husband (John Graves Simcoe) and an accompanying surveyor, rowed out onto Lake Ontario and came across the white sand of the local area’s bluffs. Upon seeing it, Simcoe was reminded of Scarborough, England and the bluffs there that defined and constituted the community’s central geographic feature. Already named Glasgow, the area that "appeared so well" was renamed Scarborough by John Graves Simcoe, a name that remains to this day as the official toponym of Toronto’s easternmost borough (The Scarborough Historical Society, n.d.). Read the full article.

Hyper-activating Inukshuks: The renewal of social studies in Alberta

by J-C Couture

Along these lines, Couture reminds us that monuments (and curriculum) need not be reduced to one more piece of clutter, but, rather, reminders about where and how to be in the world.

A recent study that surveyed close to 500 Alberta social studies teachers concluded that irreconcilable pressures "point to tensions between the formal program of studies and its prescribed outcomes, and the realities and complexities of classrooms where teachers attempt to realize good practices" (Alberta Teachers’ Association, 2016, p, 46). Read the full article.

(Not so) monumental agents: De/colonizing places of learning

by Marc Higgins & Brooke Madden

Marc Higgins and Brooke Madden invite us to consider the colonial logics continually reified across both the materiality and spatiality of place.

What might it mean to inflect the current focus on public memory encapsulated in monuments by considering an equally important yet more subtle or (not so) monumental agent: educational institutions as products and producers of colonial logics and ways of being in relationship? In this essay, the authors offer pedagogical orientations that seek to embed curriculum in a multiplicity of colonial here-nows and there-thens that always already constitute our places of learning and learning selves in the making. Read the full article.

den Heyer, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No. 2

Editor’s Introduction: Roger I. Simon

Kent den Heyer Department of Secondary Education University of Alberta

This is a response to several people. I’d like to start with raising questions about two things: the sufficiency of identity and recognition as the basis of talking about historical consciousness or memory, and two, the sufficiency of narrative as Jörn talks about it in his paper as an organizing concept for understanding the form of collective memory... I think that how one takes up these particular issues of what is the underlying purpose of memory and what are its potential forms of modes of representation and transmission have a lot to do with questions of how we talk about hope, how we talk about the notion of history’s function in how it brings us together or not as human beings. So that’s sort of an opening gambit I suppose (Simon, in den Heyer, 2004, p. 204).

But I think today, in the work of collective memory or historical consciousness, there is an issue of secular historical work, of doing history in a post‐teleological and pre‐hopeful way! (Rüsen, in den Heyer, 2004, p. 211)

Jörn Rüsen spoke this final sentence to close a 15‐minute verbal exchange initiated by Roger Simon’s “opening gambit” during the first session of the August 2001, inaugural conference of the newly founded Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness (University of British Columbia), directed by Dr. Peter Seixas.

The invited working conference consisted of 22 international and established scholars engaged in the study of historical consciousness as expressed in collective memory, politics, literature, education, and public policy.1 At the time, I was completing my first year of doctoral studies with Professor Seixas. As the first sponsored student of the centre, I supported the event by setting up the microphones and recording machines to capture the rich dialogue that we hoped would occur throughout the formal exchanges. I was not seated at the main table but against the wall behind this impressive scholarly circle (space was tight).

Roger’s gambit transcribed above was the first offered in response to Dr. Chris Lorenz’s opening presentation detailing the topography of historical consciousness and its study from multiple scholarly lenses. To borrow from Robert Frost’s insight about happiness, this 15‐minute exchange primarily between Roger and Jörn made up in depth what it lacked in length. A wall‐fly, I witnessed two

1 In his introductory chapter, Seixas (2004) offers a helpful review of the many definitions of historical consciousness that exist. Rüsen (1989) likely still offers however the pithiest definition: historical consciousness is that "operation of human intellection rendering present actuality intelligible while fashioning its future perspective (p. 39).


den Heyer, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No. 2

minds engage in pointed collegial refutation working to arrive at the heart of a shared concern (I vividly remember repeatedly thinking as the exchange continued, ‘oh my, what can be said against that amazing point!?’). I witnessed again the pedagogical event that was Roger’s life, his learned capacity to quickly get to the critical choices at hand.

This exchange enabled me to view a discernable divide regarding how to approach history and memory that animate questions I still think about today: How might historical consciousness be defined for purposes of comparative studies? Does historical consciousness denote a form of human comprehension or a prescription for what ails it? Who is the subject of the study of historical consciousness, they in the past or we here today?

Animated by the Jewish call for Zakhor, the injunction to remember well, for Roger any discussion of historical consciousness involved both a moral obligation to remember community, and, an imperative to engage remembrance practices as an ethical type of performance filled with poetic disjuncture from which communities to come might emerge. As a social practice, remembrance links past to present and to a hoped for “futurity” through an invocation and lived enactment of our mutuality. From Roger I learned that identities, identifications, and commonplace templates of story telling contain within their very expression fragment, fracture, and palimpsest. Roger initiated this pedagogical event by questioning whether those in attendance would give sufficient attention to these descriptors in our use of narrative, identity, and recognition as the basis to think and to study historical consciousness.

Throughout his career at the University of Toronto, Roger explored with others practices of remembrance premised on the incompleteness of the traces of lives lived and our ability to sufficiently respond. Through ‘historiographic poetics’, historical thinkers arrange traces (e.g., photos, extracts from diaries, an old shoe) in juxtaposition to delay the inclination to narrate and, or, to indicate where our ability to narrate meaningful explanations fails. Rather than summative narrative wholes, the focus here lies with narrative holes. Incompleteness of traces, narratives, and our abilities to account for such demand new practices of reception, practices Roger hoped signaled the possibility, but never the guarantee, of better‐shared futures:

Rüsen: My question simply is, can you even think of presentation of memory not being a narrative? Simon: Yes Rüsen: Give me an example. Simon: The first response that we ask from people who are participating in our groups is for a non‐narrative response. The argument is that the task of memory is not necessarily to develop a grasp of an understanding of the event that one can transmit through narrative. Rather, the first task of memory is to confront the traces of lives lived in times and places other than one’s own and to try to come to grips with the sufficiency or insufficiency of one’s self in relationship to the adequacy of responding to those traces. The juxtapatory method is deliberately non‐narrative because it attempts to hold, in a very structure of the juxtaposition itself, the breakdowns, the


den Heyer, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No. 2

contradictions, and the insufficiencies of narrative form.[...] What we’ve done ... basically is to create a protocol for trying to [...]engage the past that is different from the basic narrative reflex [...] a juxtaposition that embodies their response to the kinds of questions, contradictions, astonishments, and the insufficiencies to hold the past that they’ve been asked to engage in relationship to the archival material [...]This begins to open up onto what I would call the education of their sensibilities in terms of thinking about in what ways our lives are structured so that it’s insufficient to hold the past, and what particular transformations might be necessary in our thinking.

Roger’s work offers a productive counter‐punctuation to Anglo‐German derived interpretations of historical thinking presently guiding Ministry reforms in history and social studies education in several Canadian provinces. In this approach second‐order concepts (e.g., significance, change, narrative) should guide the pedagogical development of students’ judgments about some past event or situation. Neither the political, subjective, nor, indeed, the politics of subjectivity regarding how our sensibilities have been trained in ways that suit particular power interests are part of that orientation. Rather, to train students to weigh evidence about a past event, like a lawyer, animates this pedagogical imperative. For Roger, the historical subject was not the past per say but a set of present and future possibilities that might be revealed through an encounter with the limitations of our institutionally shaped frames of reception. What might we become if invited to write marginalia into those scripts through which we’ve learned to act appropriately in places of remembrance (e.g., schools, museums, public memorials)?2 What futures become possible when we invite an unexpected dissonance or, more simply, attend to the inherent insufficiency within both the appropriated script and, or, ourselves? (Farley, 2009; Simon, 2005). Without subjectivity as the primary historical text and subject, schooled eyes more likely glaze than wrinkle with in‐sight.

This August event became woven with what I had earlier learned from Roger as a MA student at OISE/U of T in the mid 1990s. In an over subscribed graduate class, Roger negotiated, challenged, and prodded a full spectrum of concerns and interests meant to contextualize Columbus centennial memorial practices within ‘identity politics’ while also dealing with people like me, privileged enough to be initially shocked at the very existence, let alone complex intersections, of diverse voices fighting to be heard and taken seriously. Later, with great patience, Roger offered needed advice on my thesis poorly reinventing, as I shudder to recall, the Hegelian dialectic.

At UBC I remember my first meeting with Dr. John Willinsky hoping, as a close reader of his work, that he would agree to join my doctoral committee. When I tried to articulate a comprehensible topic I hoped he might be interested in, John asked about the people I had worked with at OISE. As I listed those who influenced me, he started gathering papers and preparing to leave for his next appointment and must have noticed some look on my face. His final line of that meeting was

2 I find ‘appropriate’ an interesting word when pronounced again to signify a State’s reserved right to appropriate.


den Heyer, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No. 2

something akin to “Look Kent its alright. You worked with Roger and that is good enough for me. Put me on your committee.” In imagined connective threads, Roger offers me an alternatively powerful formulation of what constitutes the historical and our concomitant obligations to those who arrive in traces from the past, and, a touchstone within an educational situation that continues to talk more about subjects than subjectivities (den Heyer, 2011; den Heyer & Abbott, 2011; Farley, 2009).

I want to note one characteristic about Roger about which I increasingly marvel. He somehow managed not to grow fangs:

The image I have of academia is one of a place filled with tremendously bright, insecure people. They do have bad glasses. And atrocious people skills. They are distracted, yet vicious when aroused. [In the university,] the nerds have filled teeth, like cannibals (Donohue, 2005, p. 144).

As many of his students and colleagues themselves recount, Roger could bite with a trenchant observation that might cut to underlying assumptions behind a statement or body of work. Yet, academic engagement for Roger was always about the work and the need to make it better so as to better serve. For me Roger personified an ideal that the academic life of study made a person better than who they might have been before they entered. Because we never belong only to ourselves, people like Roger make communities both holier and healthy. This special issue exemplifies t/his influence.

I wish to thank Drs. Lisa Farley and Aparna Mishra Tarc for guiding this special issue as guest editors and for their two important article contributions. Lindsay Herriot and David Scott spent many hours on copy and production. Their dedication to scholarship generally and to Canadian Social Studies specifically continues to make this community a vital space. Likewise, I want to acknowledge the patience of contributors as this issue evolved and their dedication to this work continued. I leave to Roger a final thought:

What I am interested in is questions of spaces of remembering that have the possibility for opening up... ways of engaging representations of the past, significations of the past, open[ing] up the possibilities for thinking about how we are to live our lives as human beings and what prospects for hope ...might exist in the present (Simon, in den Heyer, 2004, p. 206).


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den Heyer, K. (2004). A dialogue on narrative and historical consciousness. In P.

Seixas (Ed.), Theorizing Historical Consciousness (pp. 202‐211). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. den Heyer, K., (2011). History as a disciplined "ethic of truths." In P. Clark (Ed.), New

Possibilities for the Past (pp. 154‐172). Vancouver: UBC Press. den Heyer, K., & Abbott, L. (2011). Reverberating echoes: Challenging teacher

candidates to tell and learn from entwined narrations of Canadian history Curriculum Inquiry, 41(5), 610‐635.‐ 873x.2011.00567.x Donohue, J. (2005). Deshi. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur Farley, L. (2009). Radical hope: Or, the problem of uncertainty in history education

Curriculum Inquiry, 39(4), 537‐554.‐ 873x.2009.00456.x Rüsen, J. (1989). The development of narrative competence in historical learning:

An ontogenetic hypothesis concerning moral consciousness. History and Memory, 1(2), 35‐59. Seixas, P. (2004). Introduction. In Peter Seixas (Ed.), Theorizing Historical

Consciousness (pp. 3‐20). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Simon, R. I. (2005). The touch of the past: Remembrance, learning, and ethics. New

York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Farley & Mishra Tarc, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No 2

Remembering Roger I. Simon: A Pedagogy of Public Possibility

Lisa Farley Faculty of Education York University

Aparna Mishra Tarc Faculty of Education York University

Roger Simon’s scholarship bequeaths to theorists, teachers, and curators across Canada and beyond a theory of education that opens up responsibilities to past and present others. Writing the call for papers, we were struck by the deep and generative quality of Simon’s legacy, which is mirrored in the diversity of papers included in this issue. The papers gathered for this special issue address many of the difficulties that he dared educators to hold in mind. What Simon opens are big questions for education in a time more often consoled by the promise of solutions, best practices, and evaluation. These are questions about the interpretive quality of knowledge, the meaning of responsibility, justice, and the role of pedagogy in the reparation of historical trauma. Indeed, Simon lived with questions as the ground of his pedagogy, and in their articulation, he leaves behind an absence that is brimming with potential to make social and historical knowledge matter.

This issue gathering works inspired by Simon’s legacy is needed, now, more than ever. We find in Simon’s work a capacity to handle with grace and dignity questions of mass suffering and trauma that affect students and teachers around the world. In this issue readers will find inquiries related to the limits, dilemmas, and stakes of representing traumatic history: ethical questions about practices of remembrance and pedagogy: the emotional significance of reading history: notes on archival study: as well as aesthetic representations in the form of photography and poetry. Across this range of concerns, in form and content, readers will encounter scholars whose work embodies the unmistakable traces of Simon's sense of obligation and care, together with incisive critical thought and judgment. Yet another mark of his influence is found in the sense of intellectual freedom that his work grants to us. Perhaps a testament to Simon’s concern about the repetitions of history, we note a hopeful diversity in the contributions to this volume. No one asks the same question. Because of Simon, each of us has something unique to say and to ask of the past.

The poetic representation opening this special issue bears witness to Simon's enduring commitment to the arts as a means by which history can be otherwise represented, engaged, and renewed. Artistic work offers the possibility of viewing Simon's pedagogy and scholarship in ways that transform language, affect, and image into representations of knowledge that support our capacity to attend to the singularities of others. In the first of three such renditions, Carl Leggo creates a poetic rumination on Simon's influential text Teaching Against the Grain. Leggo


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wisely meditates on the importance of his work for bringing to scholars concerns of a wild world in their studies of education. Through this undertaking he renews Simon's notion of teaching against the grain as the creative work of using “a grain of salt” for “seasoning the wounds of history.” Within this inspiring memory work of intellectual legacy and difficult human histories, Leggo suggests that the impact of Simon's scholarship is to renew a mandate of education for a new generation of thinkers. This renewed mandate carries the promise of artistic creation in the development of a world more hospitable to others.

In the article, “Learning from Roger Simon: The Work of Pedagogy in the Social Studies Curriculum,” Aparna Mishra Tarc offers a historical trajectory of Simon’s scholarship. Mishra Tarc’s paper traces key turns in Simon’s scholarship that he brought to bear on debates not only in education, but also within such diverse fields as philosophy, social theory, and cultural studies. However, rather than offer an exhaustive history of Simon’s thought, Mishra Tarc turns to Derrida’s notion of “affirmative reading,” which works against the implied assumption made in some forms of critical reading that seek “to demonstrate mastery” over the Other’s words. In undertaking this work, Mishra Tarc’s paper begins with an affirmative promise, which is to represent the singularity of Simon’s writing for the way his words open new insight in the reader and in turn, how they themselves can become open to renewal through the practice of reading. Among the conceptual history that Mishra Tarc traces, she highlights the important ways in which Simon traversed realms of school history and public pedagogy at work in the aesthetic curation of “counter histories and narratives” on display in museums and galleries of photography art. At every turn, Mishra Tarc demonstrates her learning from Simon, particularly for the way he insisted on the obligation to represent the hard truths of history, even while inviting open debate, dialogue, and discussion. For Mishra Tarc, reading Simon invites us to “say yes” to the possibility of newness in ourselves to encounter people beyond the world we already know, and in so doing, renew the world through words.

Lisa Farley brings D.W. Winnicott's notion of transitional space to Simon’s historical concerns about maintaining distance across connections to the past. Drawing on Winnicott's conception of the creative possibility of play in the child's ontic production of knowledge, Farley conceptually poses historical inquiry as an emotive process and response to the losses that flood the mind in facing the past. For Farley history emerges from the historian's capacity to make meaning from loss through the creative use of facts, events, perspectives, and interpretations. Positioned as a set of "representations from which we all may draw," the historian's work is one of renewal that involves “shaping and re‐shaping ties to culture and history.” Heeding Simon's ethical concerns about not reworking history for one's own end, Farley suggests that history, nonetheless, involves the self. The question is how history may become emotionally significant, and in so doing, respond to and redress its “terrible gift.” Turning to an account of collaboration with Simon in a study group's work with “surviving documents from the Vilna Ghetto,” Farley demonstrates how histories survive because of the historian’s capacity to put them into a transitional space of creative investigation. Reflecting on this scholarship a decade later, Farley unearths the delicate work of making history matter, which


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involves tracing a fine line between the emotional and social significance of the past that Simon himself embodied in the intuitive and rigorous quality of his pedagogy and scholarly texts.

The photo essay of Renée Saklikar attempts to attend to the grief of violence waged against the humanity of passengers on Air India flight 182. The visual installation, "Bomb me," assembles a number of images that the artist and viewer are required to piece together to gain a sense of the unthinkable that transpired on June 10, 1985. The "hand" that features in each of the documented images gives us a sense of the artist's and viewer's implication in conceptually curating a barely accounted for event that is past, unfamiliar, and yet remains waiting to be addressed in the numerous pieces of testimony left behind in the wake of the bombing.

Nicholas Ng‐A‐Fook and Robin Milne offer a reflective piece that seeks to “un‐ settle” educational narratives of history rooted in “settler denial.” These authors begin with a reminder of how curricular representations, in the glorification of “hardships and sacrifices” made by French and British settlers, relentlessly deny the ways in which colonial efforts violently “dispossessed” Indigenous peoples. Citing Simon, Ng‐A‐Fook and Milne suggest that celebratory or apologetic narratives continue to dominate school curriculum. However, they now most often come in the form of public remorse, empathy, or “facile notions of solidarity” that re‐inscribe the norm of “settler state citizenship” in ways that continue to “co‐opt” the other “in the service of the self.” Together, Ng‐A‐Fook and Milne urge us to begin thinking from a different place, one that shines a light on historical and contemporary struggles among First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities to speak out about crimes committed in education’s name before the settlers’ mythology is able to co‐opt these very reparative efforts. Ng‐A‐Fook and Milne’s narrative emerges at the point where oral histories of the other obligate settlers – British, French, and the “cosmopolitan” among us – to represent a relationship to the difficult knowledge of history beyond guilty performances of “worrying‐in‐public.” The result is a collaborative re‐ constructive effort that weaves together both authors’ school memories of (not) learning from Indigenous history. In exploring these memories, the authors highlight the state‐sanctioned violence that, under the school cloak of “settler denial,” might otherwise be repressed within an old colonial narrative of rescue.

Lisa Taylor's article turns from scholarly concerns of the terrible fact of history to its more malleable pedagogical implications in her work as a professor with pre‐service teachers. Her theoretical framing follows Simon's longstanding concern with the ethical and pedagogical implications of Indigenous and settler historical relations in Canada on the public multicultural imaginary. Her paper "proposes concrete strategies that teacher educators and teachers in Canada might bring to our classrooms as we take up the invitation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to engage the broader Canadian society in the task of publicly witnessing and commemorating the testimonies of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (FNIM) survivors." In her paper Taylor turns to "aesthetic texts" to support students’ learning from terrible history and to confront their personal and social conflicts implicating them in these histories. She describes the ethical tensions that confront students as they work through feelings of "blame and shame" when engaging with survivor testimony. Taylor offers reading lenses' that aim to help


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beginning teachers attend to, and perhaps, 'bracket' self‐absorbed feelings while listening to the voice of others. She proposes that these lenses can produce re‐ readings of traumatic history and the feelings it animates that "attend[s] explicitly to the demands of transactive memory and the pedagogical impulse of indigenous storytelling traditions."

Naomi Norquay’s paper addresses the question of how traces of “people meant to be forgotten” surface in uncanny forms. Her oral history project unearths the knowledge of a black settler community in northern Ontario’s Grey‐Bruce County through a study of silences, gossip, and mythic lore that haunt the memories and narratives of those who live along Old Durham Road. Drawing on interviews with contemporary residents, Norquay shows how history can be found in contradictory utterances, even among white residents who seek to deny or negate traces of black settlers to the land. It is this negated history that Norquay’s essay seeks to re‐claim by animating untold questions, mysteries, and meanings that emerge from history’s silences and gaps. Through her analysis, readers find visceral evidence of Jacques Derrida’s archive: a metaphor that is as much about what is to be remembered, as it is a metaphor of “what is deemed necessary to forget.” Norquay suggests that what is forgotten never really goes away, but rather returns to the historian in the form of an obligation to seek meanings elsewhere, and to revise the very terms of the search in the name of justice and recognition

Finally, Judith Robertson's luminous poetic renditions intimately recount Simon's influence in the creation of new ideas of the self, other, and the world. Singing of "the poet electric," Robertson brings readers inside Roger Simon’s scholarship, where, within ruins and injury, there resided within the trembling minds of his students a world of possibility in the potential of hope. Perhaps more than any other contemporary of Simon, Robertson carves out a space in Simon's ouvre for the thought of beauty that lives despite all worldly attempts to destroy its indomitable spirit of love and creation. Her work, inspired by Simon, reminds us that the world is not simply broken; the world whispers to all of us a call for repair. Robertson's poetic pedagogy teaches us that despite every human obstacle and wish for folly and destruction, justice and love prevail in small, flailing, gifts of the just, the good, the creative, and the beautiful.

Holding each of the contributions in this special issue together is the indelible mark of Simon’s commitment to the transformative potential of pedagogy, a quality that Simon himself described with reference to Lévinas’s metaphor of the gift. The irony is that to “receive” the gift of Simon’s legacy is not to “keep” or “possess” anything, least of all for the self. It is rather an inheritance that obliges us to pass it on to others, to readers, and to students of our own, so that they might pass it on in kind. The future of Simon’s legacy—its gift—depends on a painstaking attention to his commitment to the transformative power of historical study and to ethical practices of remembrance, and the care of thought. But it is a future that also depends upon no one among us presuming to “catch” Simon’s ever‐elusive spirit once and for all. However tempting to hold on in the face of his death, the gift of Simon’s pedagogy is also an invitation to freedom, a difficult freedom, that means letting go and giving to others so that he can survive in our collective capacities to write, to play, and to love the world after Simon, après vous.


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Grains of Truth: A Rumination and Poem for Roger Simon

Carl Leggo Department of Language and Literacy Education University of British Columbia

As a young teacher in a small town in Newfoundland where everybody claimed to know everything worth knowing, where fundamentalism raised its voracious, even rapacious, head with violent hunger, I needed wise voices who could call me to other possibilities, visions, and stories. Roger Simon was one of the most important wise voices I heard.

As a graduate scholar I gravitated to a circle of scholars I knew as the critical pedagogues, the romantic radicals, a club of apparently cool scholars who questioned everything (and I was on a tireless quest of questioning), but in the midst of that often cacophonous circle, the two scholars I most admired were Paulo Freire and Roger Simon.

As a professor I have always been glad that Roger Simon sustained the spirit of his work. While many others seemed to grow angry or bitter or inconsequential, Roger Simon remained vital and visionary, advancing new proposals and projects ingrained with critical and compelling and complex conversations about the pedagogy of culture and the culture of pedagogy, conversations that celebrated collaboration, conflict, community, and contradiction in a contrapuntal composition.

I have never held to a hope that the world will be transformed by my words or the words of anybody else, but I still hold to a hope that calling out the words is a good and necessary way of living in the world. The world is often vile and violent, but that’s not all the world is. It is the “not all” that Roger Simon searched hopefully for, and it is the “not all” that sustains me. I devote the poem “Against the Grain” to Roger Simon who has inspirited me for many decades, as he conscientiously continues to call us to deliberate and intentional awakeness.

Against the Grain (for Roger Simon)

never satisfied with staying in a singular moment where he might linger between past and future, he lived metaphorically, a bridge engaged in carrying forward interpretations against the grain

the prophet’s vocation is to speak, even especially a message others do not want,


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to evoke, invoke, provoke with a language spelling the possibilities of prefixes calling out the grain of the voice

he questioned and challenged, remembered the world’s violence with conscientious consciousness in a collective and complex memory, a witness with a resilient heart beating between hope and despair with fecund grains of truth

the keeper of stories remembers the past, even the wounds wound tight like ligatures around the throat, seeks pedagogical imagination, refuses facile solutions along the grain, knows politics and ethics are entwined in a public pedagogy of possibility

he counted on counter narratives to hold the pedagogy of memory, steadfast in the dramatic possibilities of translation for transforming trauma, will not turn from emergency, instead insists on the power of a grain of salt to both seize and season the wound


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Learning from Roger Simon: The work of Pedagogy in the Social Studies Curriculum

Aparna Mishra Tarc Faculty of Education York University


This paper conducts an affirmative reading of key constructs of pedagogy, ethics, culture and justice put forth in the texts of Roger Simon. Rereading these texts with, against and across the trajectory of one thinker’s thought, the article generates new possibilities for pedagogy in global and contemporary times. The paper demonstrates that reading affirmatively is a generative form of critical thinking that considers, deliberates and renews thought as an active ongoing and dialogical process of meaning making. This way of reading, as closely inhabiting the lines of the other’s thought, seeks to do justice to the lifework of this remarkable thinker and contributes a view of reading the other’s words as a vital to thinking, learning, teaching and acting in the world.

It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children. One is tempted to turn away with a grimace and close one's mind: this is a temptation one must resist.

—Primo Levi

I first read Roger Simon's groundbreaking book Teaching Against the Grain (1992) twenty years ago. Recently finished teacher's college, the book entered into my consciousness when I was a young and idealist teacher ready to take on the world. However, before embarking on classroom teaching, a professor in the faculty of education at Queen's University urged me to 'slow down' and continue reading in the field of critical pedagogy by entering into graduate studies. Following this advice, I was introduced to Simon's (1992) beautiful book in a cultural sociology class. Taught by Dr. Glenn Eastabrook (1977), a contemporary and intellectual comrade of Simon, I was plunged into the ideas of a range of scholars grappling with the implications of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1977/1981). Among the more unforgettable readings we engaged during this time was Simon's (1992) book on pedagogy: Teaching Against the Grain tentatively offered to teachers and students engaging with each other and the world.

First books are a precious gift. The more stunning and ground‐breaking of first books archive a faint blueprint of a great thinker's intellectual development and trajectory. First encounters with such books are also precious. As it did for my cohort and I, this first book set the scene for the ideas and intellectual development of emerging thinkers. I would go on to follow and read all of Simon's works for


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twenty years before meeting him in person at a cultural studies conference. He is perhaps, the only scholar I have encountered whose ideas, way of being in the world, and professional practice seemed remarkably aligned. As we talked, his ideas came to life in person. And the rest, as they like to say, in regards to our too brief yet profound intellectual collaboration, is history.

Simon was my beloved mentor, yet this paper will not give a personal reflection of his teaching: I never sat in his class, and Simon was not my teacher in any formalized or conventional sense. Instead, this paper explores the implications of particular aspects of his theory of pedagogy for teachers of the humanities and social sciences. Although we collaborated in person, my most searing pedagogical memories of Roger Simon are a direct result of my sustained attention to reading and interpreting his work. His thoughts inform my own theories of pedagogy, and I am sure, a new generation of scholars will continue to be deeply influenced by his many books, papers, and published lecture notes. These engagements will in turn carry on and renew Simon's ideas on pedagogy into the future because, as Derrida (1993) insists, writing survives us as long as we continue to be read by others. In this spirit, in what follows I seek to engage one of the strongest threads in Simon’s thought through the primary way I engaged with his theory—through reading.

Part of my paper then pedagogically demonstrates how reading along the trajectory of a thinker's development supports us to learn in ways unseen. In my work I deliberately depart from a scholarly reading practice that rehearses or parses out the arguments of a thinker as way to demonstrate mastery of ideas. Although Simon was trained in a rigorous philosophical and sociological tradition, and moreover, strongly believed that thinking required disciplined training, I employ a version of close reading that attends to the intrapersonal qualities of reading that often facilitate for the reader a pedagogical experience. In doing this, I theorize a reading that causes us to think in a way that is akin to the teaching relationship, where a pressing exchange of ideas between our self and the other can foster communion, conflict, or a meeting of minds (Coleman, 2011). Rather than employ what I have come to view as a somewhat masterful and non‐generative strategy of reading and/or critiquing the logics of a work that tends to fixate on small details, close down meaning, and/or moves cleverly to produce triumphant new versions of old academic arguments, I insist that we read affirmatively to gain a sense of the forms of life produced by a thinker's use of particular kinds of discursive strategies. Derrida (1993) refers to this kind of affirmative reading as saying 'Yes' to the Other. He writes:

When you address the Other, even if it is to oppose the Other, you make a sort of promise ‐ that is, to address the Other as Other, not to reduce the otherness of the Other, and to take into account the singularity of the Other. That's an irreducible affirmation. (p. l)

Affirmative reading follows the pedagogical operations of the text in relation to the kinds of contents that aesthetic forms labor to articulate. In this kind of literacy that invites us to engage a world outside our own we attend to the formal constraints


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and aesthetic registers giving significance to the objective, persuasive, factual and fictive descriptions of social life (Tarc, 2013).

Reading as an intimate renewal of the other’s words supports the reader and the student to say something of our relation to the other's thought through our communication of what we imagine the other thinks. Held to solitude and the other's pressing address, the soft, inside space of the other's thought enters our own. In the uninterrupted exchange of words, we lay ourselves open to “allow the knowledge of an/other to touch the mind” (Robertson, 2001, p. 42). In this meeting of minds in bodies without personal attachment or prior affiliation, the reader projectively imagines an association with and from the other's words that can overwhelm, animate, excite, challenge, or provoke a great desire to make meaning, interpret, translate, and return a thinker's often challenging ideas for oneself and the other (Coleman, 2011). In my own reading history of engaging the great thinkers of our time, I liken reading to having met someone so striking that I cannot help but learn from them through my engagement of what I imagine is their ideas. "Reading," Deborah Britzman (2006) writes:

feels as if it begins with taking in, introjecting the text/body and projecting meanings into it. In the logic of emotions, introjection is our turn to the act of copying the object, only to project it back into the world, now accompanied by our own difference. (311)

In this conception of reading as inhabiting to return or regurgitate a sense of our self in interpretation of the other's psychical and social formulations of thought, reading is a deeply intellectual and emotional situation (Britzman, 2006). This paper then is written with the pedagogical imperative of reading to take in, return, and pass on the gift of Simon's thought to those working with students in the classroom so they too might bring to theory new editions of enduring problems. Finding and giving significance to Simon's ideas can support the work of a new generation of social studies teachers and scholars of the social living in today's world.

Reading Simon After a Century of Traumatic History

The quotation opening this paper expresses Primo Levi's (1988) grave concerns for pedagogy and the role it could play in bearing witness to unthinkable practices of violence waged through deliberate acts of mass genocide, colonization, and, education. Addressing traumatic human history both today and in the last century was a concern that Simon (1992, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013, 2014) shared with survivors of mass violence, degradation and genocide all his life. His thought and writing emerged in the terrible aftermath of the Holocaust, World War II, and the disassembling of massively violent colonial projects throughout the world, particularly in Canada. In this regard Simon took seriously, and as matter of scholarly obligation to others and to history, Levi's (1989) call to bear witness to atrocity. This ethic of response through remembrance is reflected in Simon's every act of thinking, speaking, teaching, and writing. Looking towards an ethical horizon of co‐existence offered by Emmanuel Levinas, in his works we engage a questioning


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orientation towards thinking that took its basis in response to Others. Facing others, Simon insisted, behooves us to take responsibility for our implication in the other's suffering. But more than this, Simon took to heart Levinas's (1989) injunction to attend to my own attending of others implicating scholarship and pedagogy as a responsive and vigilant practice of responsive attendance of others.

Simon's sustained investigation of the implications of mass violence and genocide on social thought was far reaching. He identified particular histories of oppression as linked to dehumanizing ontological and epistemological tenets that required deep scrutiny and debate rather than dismissal, rivalry, comparison and silence. Before his death in 2012, in works like Towards a Hopeful Worrying Together Simon (2013) continued to extend his enduring thoughts on teaching against the grain, to a public pedagogy of witness in the form of teaching and learning from a history of mass violence in Canada towards Aboriginal people. Emerging from the Canadian Government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on residential schooling (citation), he argued for an explicit educational responsibility that he deemed critical to public education. Making this call, he demanded that we extend public responsibility beyond the instrumental confines of public schooling because public and political culture in Canada has yet to assume a critical response to this terrible history. In his late work in particular, Simon calls for a new pedagogical practice of public history through remembrance that supports a reflexive, ethical and learned response to survivors' testimony of residential schooling. Without the development of historical inquiry as pedagogically significant, teachers in schools will continue to frame history as set of facts to be learned and digested rather than facilitating a responsive, politically‐informed, active curriculum for a change in the national imaginary of this country. For Simon the educational implications of legal forms of justice for Aboriginal people required a corresponding development of an ethical, responsible, and dialogical capacity to respond and repair on the part of the Canadian public. However, rhetorical and often‐stagnant forms of guilt, shame, and sorrow continue to impede the dynamic production of a public sphere of thinking and dialogue necessary for the reparation and renewal of health and education within Aboriginal communities, as well as their particular claims to land and self‐sovereignty. Keeping these commitments in mind, I situate my readings of Simon's intellectual thought in the context of his ongoing scholarly efforts to developing in Canadians a public, critical, and educational response, in terms of the civic, communal, and individual responsibility all Canadians have to the reparation of atrocities committed to Aboriginal communities and peoples in Canada

Key conceptualizations of critical pedagogy as theorized by Simon can be used in teacher education to develop critical‐historical consciousness on the part of teachers. Simon argued that it is imperative to develop in teachers a responsive and reflexive capacity to learn from survivors' testimony to help pre‐service teachers engage histories of oppression countering official records and undergirding the Canadian system of public education. Among Simon's constructions of pedagogy that I most identify as critical for teacher education are: teaching against the grain, along with bearing witness to traumatic history and 'curating' counter histories and narratives that support the possibility of generative dialogue and responses


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amongst, between, and beyond communities affected by mass violence. These constructs support the work of the social studies teacher in the provocation of a curriculum that responds to the imperatives of critical thought, creative possibility and, above all, hope, which Simon advanced over and over again as central to the cultural and pedagogical work of teachers committed to social justice and well being for all students. In undertaking this mission, teachers might also become a "cultural worker" to, as Henry Giroux (2005) put it, understand her and the Others lived conditions and to transform those conditions through the work of ethical, dialogical, social, and critical inquiry. The task of the teacher in this view is to engage students "so as to provoke their inquiry and challenge their existing views of the way things are and should be" (Simon, 1992, 47). For Simon (1992) this meant "offering questions, analyses, visions, and practical options that people can pursue in their attempts to participate in the determination of various aspects of their lives" (47). Educational responses to the bare and counter facts of history is a subjective and supplemental practice that "attempts to take people beyond the world they already know but in a way that does not insist on a fixed set of altered meanings" (47).

Central to my understanding of Simon's vision of social renewal through public history and education for the common good is the readerly development of teacher capacities for ethical, critical, and pedagogic response. For Simon it is not enough, and indeed we risk further violating the other when delivering instrumentally designed curriculum that compartmentalizes unthinkable aspects of the other's lived realities. Without some prior preparation and sustained knowledge and care given to the forms of life we present in the classroom we risk silencing, misrepresenting, and violating the unique experience of others. Studying the social world goes beyond surface comprehension of historical facts, and requires humility and tentativeness on the part of the teacher to pedagogically develop in students a capacity for curiosity around, questioning of and implication in one's place in historical situations beyond one's reach (Simon et al,, 2000). This development is partly fostered by internal work into one's limits to knowing, combined with a sustained and penetrating analytical attention to representations of knowledge claiming to account for history. In the sections to follow I discuss three components of analytic capacity that Simon theorized as critical to the teachers delivery of a social studies curriculum and pedagogy that serves the call for an educational response and justice in relation to a traumatic national past.

Critical pedagogy: Teaching Against the Grain

Simon's theory of pedagogy follows the work of Paulo Freire (1981/1997) who viewed education as the means by which people form, assume, and come to understand their subjectivities and social location. As a key mechanism of state control, Freire argued that education and particularly the banking method, assigns students to a brutal socioeconomic structure designed to serve the materially elite and power‐holders of a nation. Education as a form of deposit and exchange aligns the socio‐cultural position of children along particular political, economic, racial and cultural structures of power/knowledge. More devastating though than streaming and sorting, was the formation of student's subjectivities such that they begin to


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accept their class position as their educational destiny and potential. As with Freire, Simon (1992) suggested that once one becomes critically aware of the social effects of relations and flows of power circulating in state produced and sanctioned discourses of identity one could begin to work against those frames conditioning ones modes of thinking and acting in the world to transform both oneself and one's possibilities in and for the world. As Freire (1981/1997) reminds us:

The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a 'circle of certainty' within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side. (21)

For Freire the work of pedagogy is to support students to become radically aware of the dehumanizing aspects of their lived conditions to transform themselves and others through education. Literacy is the term that Freire gives to the development of the capacity to be critical of one’s place in relation to others to interrupt and transform social processes. Simon uses the metaphor of "teaching against the grain" to image the development of this radical, critical capacity that ran counter to official and normalizing, educational records, discourses and expectations. This capacity for critical thought finds itself in tension and conflict with various forms of knowledge rather than be enlightened by it. Insight came from asking questions and holding tensions around the limits of knowledge in abeyance of a hasty judgment that was oriented towards immediate justice. To develop this capacity required on the part of teachers, a critical engagement with the normative social structures and frames of reference that form teacher identity and subjectivity. However, the critical capacity was not simply to tear down the system or to claim transformation for the self, as for Simon these ends could be equally or more violent, dangerous, tautological, and unproductive. Instead, critical pedagogy works within the cracks of a totalizing system to generate a creative means by which to deconstruct and then supplement that system with other visions and versions of schooling. Simon (1992) writes that teaching against the grain "articulates a framework that might aid in constructing educational practices that express and engender hope" (4). He (1992) goes on to state that the "intent is to help to construct a pedagogy of possibility, one that works for the reconstruction of social imagination in the service of human freedom" (4). Simon (1992) identified schools as one of many cultural sites of pedagogical possibility, for social understanding, engagement, and action. Working with teachers Simon supported educators to see curriculum as part of a pedagogically mediated cultural production rather than its final product.

Theorizing curriculum as a cultural production mediated by pedagogy Simon sought to highlight the distinct quality of knowledge produced from a social context


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as an effect of power relations further subject to a set of social conventions, rules, performances, discourses and relations. This is not to say that there are no facts, objective or universal truths circulating in the production of knowledge. Instead Simon called for one to make claim to facts, objectives and truths with the acknowledgement that one’s claims are personally, socially and culturally constructed and mediated. Simon insisted that as constructors and carriers of socially mediated knowledge, teachers might begin to critically examine the cultural modes and interpersonal dynamics of social and political production, including the pedagogies that contributed to one's understanding of the truth in a world of others.

In Teaching Against the Grain Simon provides models of inquiry by which teachers can begin to develop a critical capacity. He insists that teachers examine with their students, modes of cultural production that both reinforce and interrupt nationalist versions of history and belonging to which many of us become passionately attached, ironically through our education. Citing the Canadian context of nationhood, he (1992) calls to teachers to begin critically examining the Canadian government's violent mandate to "assimilate" Aboriginal children into mainstream of Canadian society through a policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their parents and communities under the auspices of 'education' and adoption. This policy continues to negatively impact on the social fabric of Aboriginal communities and on Aboriginal peoples' relationship to schooling, their children, and social services. The policy denying Aboriginal people the right to self‐determination also haunts and diminishes Canadian democratic and multicultural society and continues to obstruct the possibility of forging a functional multicultural public in Canada today.

As early as the mid eighties, long before the last residential school in Canada was closed and, decades before the Canadian government's official apology and recognition of wrong doing gave way to its commission of truth, Simon began to insist that teachers engage conflicting and counter versions of history that formed the basis for miseducation on the part of both teachers and the general Canadian public. This meant that teachers produce objects and events of curriculum that constructed pedagogical space for teachers and students to investigate, deliberate and dialogue on the misdoings of their government and the wrongful action of the civil state. To produce counter versions of national history, Simon suggested that teachers begin to critically engage, with their students, cultural accounts and objects that question the veracity of official statements. In his first book, he (1992) begins to parse out a "method" of curating history that uses unknown, foreclosed or disappeared curricular objects to unearth other versions of national history and belonging. For example, he juxtaposes photographs of police brutality and violence against Aboriginal people protesting a land claim against a news article documenting the then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney's statement that "Canada was not built by expropriating retroactively other people's property" (145). Simon suggests that when placed uneasily against each together, these two objects of curriculum representing radically different versions of the same story‐‐a photo and a news article‐‐can critically support students to consider, deliberate and inquire into contesting versions of a historical account. Teaching against the grain of the official statement, Simon (1992) suggests:


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provokes a pedagogical call for an elaboration of how conquest and coercion were manufactured into the often told 'official' story of 'Indian' consent and government beneficence. This story has hidden untold suffering produced through government failures to confront and resolve questions of native claims to sovereignty. It is also a story of an inability or unwillingness of many Canadian to adequately assess the response and moral commitments due people of the First Nations. Perhaps from the vantage point of 'now time,' the reconsideration of how such stories were written might inform what now must be done to assert a project of possibility for all communities of people living about the forty‐ninth parallel. (146)

Part of the 'now time' of teaching against the grain involves Canadian teachers to sustain critical engagement of a history of oppression that continues to shape Canadian schooling in the contemporary moment. However for Simon this kind of pedagogical examination of competing versions of history is only a beginning. Also important was the construction of new versions or what he called counter memories to interrupt the common national curriculum in schools and within the public sphere.

Counter Memory: Repairing Social Ruin, Renewing History

Writing in a time of the critical, linguistic, pedagogical, affective and now visual turn, Simon maintained that symbolic and discursive knowledge is a product of mediated human relations, or what he came to term pedagogy. The symbolic for Simon was pedagogically and socially mediated as an effect, as well as a function of text. This conception of language as representative of thought required of the reader or viewer theoretical resources that followed both their intra and interpersonal dynamics of meaning‐making in the context of the cultural and social construction of particular forms of knowledge as a pedagogical relation, a linguistic formation, and inherited practice. Rather than produced from a self contained and omnipotent mind, knowledge is handed down and given to us from others. For this reason, Simon fixed his gaze on human mediations of the social, what he would term cultural production, as key to the circulation of great and destructive ideas of the social, social structure, and the possibility of altering existing inequitable relations. Altering the social imaginary, he claimed was, the promise of pedagogy as the creator of the social and the relational means by which a person gained social sanction and membership. Perhaps the social itself was for Simon, a grand, and sometimes devastating, incredible cultural and pedagogical production.

Simon embraced with some hope the generative qualities of cultural productions. As shown in the example of his juxtaposition of the prime minister's denial of a policy of land appropriation against photographs of police brutality against Aboriginal land claim protesters, Simon felt that counter memory had do be curated with care and a thought to pedagogical response. Rather than replicate the fact‐finding and giving missions of the historian and the educator, Simon (2011) argued that counter memory's force came from its pedagogical imperative to both take care and carry forward the difficult and erased knowledge of history.


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In his late work, Simon turned away from school for its pedagogical potential to public sites of education, and particularly the museum. Curating history became a significant form of public pedagogy that might alter the social imaginary of citizens and students. In museum studies the act of curating involves a deliberate selection of texts, images, poetry, testimony, sound and other cultural objects of interest to present to the general public. Rather than let objects of history stand alone as spectacle of human experience or used for didactive teaching, the pedagogical notion of curation draws attention to the responsibilities of both the exhibitor and the viewer –– the teacher and the student. Curation is the scholars deliberate effort to elicit thinking and to support viewers to make links between the past and the present when learning from an object or exhibit of testimony.

Carefully selected and arranged counter memories and historical artifacts, for Simon, created a dialogical social space, or mise­en­scene, where intersections between the social and the past uneasily meet. Rather than rely on historical knowledge as a stable fixed narrative of verifiable facts, for Simon, the bare facts of traumatic history is supplemented by diverse and uncertain accounts and forms of knowledge that provoke, challenge, and extend our learning. Simon (2005) asserts: “Such a process does not mean mindlessly accepting all counter‐memories but means learning to hear what is within them and seriously considering the claim they make on our understanding of the present” (17). In the consideration of multiple and interdisciplinary sources of historical, social and cultural knowledge, pedagogical approaches to equity and justice can become a political and ethical minefield. Simon felt we might tread through this charged ground with careful preparation and an openness to the unexpected that might arise in the pedagogical encounter with difficult knowledge. Rather than relying on omnipotent sources of knowledge, teachers in this way can involve students in debates that constitute the shaky ground of memory and its reconstruction of humanity in the aftermath of social devastation.

Pedagogy of Witness

Central to Simon's conceptualization of counter memory, then, are practices of remembrance. Working with colleagues in the important book Between Hope and Despair (2000), Simon began theorizing pedagogy of witness as a deeply subjective pedagogical practice. This practice involves the testimony of survivors, as often the last remaining sources of knowledge that runs counter to the official record. Counter history that takes its basis in survivor testimony opened, for Simon, a whole set of new concerns and questions for pedagogy that could not be easily resolved through a critical capacity or by judgment. As Simon's (2005) thought moved from teaching against the grain towards a pedagogy of witness he began to highlight the affected and unconscious quality of counter memory, both from the perspective of those offering other versions of history and those receiving the "terrible gift".

The question of witnessing as the basis for the pedagogical production of counter memory becomes particularly salient for educators working with residential school survivor testimony emerging out of the Canadian government's TRC. In light of his previous findings of the difficulty of pedagogically engaging the


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unthinkable experience of others, Simon (2011) was worried about the 'use' of testimony in public school classrooms and other forums of public display and dialogue. He was also concerned about the pedagogical mediation of such material in the public sphere by media outlets and newspaper articles in that these technologies began to shape the kinds of encounters the public might have with more sensitive forms of knowledge and suffering.

For Simon, witnessing animates unexpected obstacles and conflicts in learning that require pedagogical mediation. He found, in his own work with students and by participating in the TRC, that thinking devolves into unreliable affect when learning becomes hard and unbearable for those bearing primary and secondary witness to terrible histories. Leaning on Pitt and Britzman's (1992) concept of difficult knowledge, Simon (2011) does not describe testimony and other cultural productions as difficult in of themselves. Instead, difficult knowledge resides in the indeterminate yet potentially problematic relation between the affective force provoked by encounters with testimony and the sense one makes from this encounter. The danger of such affective encounters,–– the very force that gives pedagogy its potential –– is that the learner's emotional experience of witnessing overwhelms and shuts down the possibility of learning. To prepare for disturbances in learning, Simon (2011) insisted that teachers curate curricular objects of witness in the classroom in a:

generative mise­en­scene, a dynamic space that embodies a pedagogy of emplacement with the potential not only to mobilize the dialectical movement between affect and thought, but also to effect some degree of influence in regard to the direction and substance of this movement. (p. 201)

For Simon, it is important that teachers engaging counter memory prepare for and think about their pedagogical intervention before, during and after student’s engagements with objects witness. He suggested that teachers attend to the ethical framework in which the pedagogical intervention is devised , the emplacement of a cultural object to exhibit in the classroom, and the student's possible reception of the film, text, image or sound in their difficult encounter with history. Though there are no guarantees, the deliberate constructing of the scene accounting for counter memory, is to work against consuming or sensationalizing survivor testimony, which can provide a response that often reproduces the very violence the testimony seeks to lessen.

A pedagogy of witness that stages unthinkable versions of history and sociality is fraught with difficulty and yet necessary to move learning beyond rhetorical forms of understanding, transformation, and resolution. Above all his concerns, Simon (in Simon et al., 2000) advocated for a responsive witnessing that formed the basis of critical engagement with the others’ life as a form of vigilance that might lead to "new forms of living on after the event, new forms that initiate thought that has no rest, that can neither be completed nor end "(p. 19).

In his article "Hopeful worrying" discussing the public educational use of Aboriginal survivor testimony, Simon (2013) puts forth the important but fraught pedagogical concept of bearing witness as a public learning from history.


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Acknowledging the importance of forums such as truths commission in bringing unthinkable histories to public record, Simon worries that as public school teachers we have not yet developed modes of listening, thinking, reading, and learning that support a responsive and responsible engagement with the other's testimony. If teaching against the grain is a critical inquiry into official versions of history, witnessing can foster a relationship to those versions that can further move us to material and social acts of redress, reparation, and renewal of social ruin. Witnessing, as with pedagogy, is relational and makes useless our learned modes of understanding others through frames of mastery, certainty, stereotype, and comprehension. This kind of pedagogy compels a response involving a call to listen, rather than a demand to understand.

Simon's framework for bearing witness is both ethical and pedagogical. He calls for a response that works through rhetoric or feeling guilty and bad to a fostering of public dialogue and debate that moves beyond the state facilitated performance or ritual of apology. Without political will, along with an ethical and responsive orientation and critical engagement, he feared that state‐run public schools could fall into uncritical consumption of testimony that is revised for the instrumental or gestural purpose of meeting curriculum objectives rather than the more ethically responsible and justice‐oriented imperative of learning from history. For Simon (in Simon et al., 2000) witnessing

necessitates a practice of remembrance in which one is required to draw near but remain distant, a memorial stance in which one is required to study, teach, and keep/preserve the memories of another, not in ossified form, but through a 'handing down' whose substance lies in vitality, inventiveness and renewal. (p. 18)

Rather than view the other's testimony or representation of experience as comprehensible, when we engage with testimony we are given a difficult inheritance obligating us to receive and then consider the implication of such a gift as a disrupting the framework of the singular, or self and communal interest. Given the constraints of schooling and the lack of teacher education of oppressive histories that found the Canadian schools system, it is not enough to simply mandate that all teachers learn about and deliver a violent history of residential schooling to students in the classroom, as is recently mandated in the Alberta public school system (citation). Although the Alberta government's initiative is welcome and about time, Simon might have expressed concern over teachers' lack of prior engagement with this history, and lack of trained capacity to attend to their delivery of the testimony. Social studies teachers are in great need of prior training and sustained attention to thinking about the use of testimony, accounts and artifacts in the classroom. Historical thinking supports a creation of a historical and social scene [mise­en­scene] that bears witness to a dark time in Canadian history, in a way that does not invoke stereotype, violence, and further suffering to the Aboriginal community. In this regard, Simon's (2014) pedagogy of witnessing through an ethic of response is relevant to teacher education and engagement with survivor testimony. By engaging with survivor testimony through the practice of


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remembrance and pedagogy of witness, teachers gain theoretically‐informed and responsive capacities that might begin supporting students to listen to and learn from a terrible Aboriginal account of Canadian history.

Conclusion: Holding on to hope: Lasting impressions of the thought of Roger Simon.

Learning from Simon's dynamic conception of knowledge as a relational, symbolic, pedagogical, and cultural production, teachers and students can begin to engage the social studies curriculum as offering a space for critical thinking about history, politics, societal structure and ruin along with one's place within a complex constellation of social life. Simon (1992) suggested that to bring students into the world, we as teachers, first had to understand the myriad dynamics of social construction and destruction that obscured our view on the intricate workings of social life. Simon's scholarly and public commitment to reckon with and address a history of violence and wrongdoing towards Aboriginal peoples and communities in Canada reflects his commitment to public pedagogy of matters of national collective concern. Because we increasingly live in amnesiac times, perhaps now more than ever, the relevance of Simon's work bears significant fruit in contemporary theories and understandings of pedagogy and to the work of schoolteachers across Canada. Pedagogy in this view is not simply about delivery of content or a teaching and learning transaction. Pedagogy structures a form of witness that, as Levi (1988) insists, supports our efforts to face the inhuman, unthinkable qualities of human thought and action. Theorized as an attendant and caring practice, this pedagogy provides a relational, intellectual and dialogical forum for thought and action, for action through thought and thoughtful action when confronting some of the most difficult human ideas and acts of our time. Simon was not a public intellectual in the great, and highly politicized tradition of speaking 'truth to power'. His work instead gently, attentively, painstakingly, and carefully yet insistently, compels a 'thinking through' the meanings of justice with others. In every sense of the word Simon is a public scholar; Simon is a scholar who attended to his response to others, a scholar who thought, read and dialogued with and for others for the common betterment of society and for the development of an intellectual sphere vested with the difficult obligation of taking public responsibility for and to all.

Simon implies that every teacher in the classroom might work towards furthering the limits of their own thought and aspire to take on and take care of their role as public scholar. A public scholar is a deeply thoughtful and knowledgeable individual that develops thinking in and with their students, through sustained reading, dialogue and judgment,. She fosters an intellectual, imaginative, and emotional capacity to consider, communicate, attach to, feel concern, and take responsibility for lives outside their own. Public scholars develop in student’s worldliness but also one’s sense of implication in historical conditions "not of one's own deed or making". In his book A Touch of the Past (2006) Simon calls this implication a "terrible gift," (p. 187) a difficult inheritance, one that cannot refuse nor return, one that obligates one to acknowledge the lives of others that walked on


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the land upon which one forges her own first shaky steps. Simon (2006) theorized that the pedagogical task of accepting the terrible gift of the other's testimony was a problematic confronting social inquiry, rather than an avenue to assuage collective guilt, or give a resolution to suffering. As indicated by Levi (1988), working with the unthinkable of history, one is brought to one's implication. The grounds for learning come from engagement with the lives of others, while also providing the very grounds for the enactment of a responsive pedagogy for the generations to come.

The lasting impression of the thought of Roger Simon continues to influence the work of scholars, teachers, and students engaged in the work of pedagogy. His thought is so critical to a vision of human co‐existence in the wake of a new century of mass violence and genocide. The pressing existential question of 'how do we live' in the midst of worldwide suffering from mass human violence, and how do we live together' in attendance of such suffering, is for Simon, a pedagogical imperative of the helping profession, the common good, and the public sphere oriented always to the Other. Reading his work can support teachers to learn to teach critically, responsively, and with a thought to others and to the historical, social and cultural circumstances in which we are caught, which include terrible moments in human life that estrange and bring us closer to others. Learning from Simon we might work towards a pedagogy of attending to our attendance of others as an ethically responsive means to teach against the grain, generate counter memory, bear witness to the unthinkable history and to hold on, as Roger Simon holds on without consolation, to hope, and the possibility of justice through education.


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Britzman, D. (2006). On being a slow reader. Psychoanalytic problems in Ishiguro's

Never let me go. Changing English, 13(3), 307‐318. doi: 10.1080/13586840600971810 Coleman, D. (2011). In bed with the word. Reading, spirituality and cultural politics.

Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press. Derrida, J. (1993). Spectres of Marx. The state of the debt, the work of mourning and

the New International. (trans. P. Kamuf) New York: Routledge. Derrida, J. & Padgaonkar, N. (I997) "An Interview with Jacques Derrida." in: Web

Archive. (Last update:) March 17, 1997. Eastabrook, G. (1977). School change and the implications for student's rights.

Interchange, 8(1‐2), 128‐142. doi: 10.1007/BF01188023 Freire, P. (1981/1997). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum. Giroux, H. (2005). Border crossings and the politics of education. Routledge: New

York. Levi, P. (1989) The Drowned and the Saved. New York: Vintage Levinas, E. (1998). Entre­nous: On thinking of the other. New York: Columbia

University Press. Pitt, A. & Britzman, D. (1992). Speculation on qualities of difficult knowledge in teaching and learning. An experiment in psychoanalytic research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(6): 755‐766. doi: 10.1080/09518390310001632135 Robertson, J.P. (2001). ‘Art made tongue‐tied by authority’: A literary

psychoanalysis of obstacles in teacher learning. JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 17 (1), 27‐44 Simon. R. (1992). Teaching against the grain. Texts for a pedagogy of possibility. New

York: Bergin & Garvey. Simon, R, (2005). A touch of the past. Remembrance, learning and ethics. New York:

Palgrave & MacMillan. Simon, R. (2006). The terrible gift. Museums and the possibility of hope without

consolation. Museum management and curatorship, 21(3): 187‐204. . doi: 10.1080/09647770600202103 Simon, R. (2011). The turn to pedagogy. A needed conversation on the practice of

curating difficult knowledge. In E. Lehrer & C. Milton (Eds.), Curating difficult knowledge. Violent pasts in public places (193‐209). New York: Palgrave & MacMillan. Simon, R. (2013). Towards a hopeful practice of worrying. The problematics of

listening and the educative responsibilities of Canada's truth and reconciliation commission. In. J. Henderson & P. Wakeham, Reconciling Canada: Critical perspectives on the cultures of redress (pp. 129‐142). Toronto: University of Toronto Press Simon, R. (2014). A pedagogy of witnessing. Curatorial Practice and the pursuit of

social justice. New York: SUNY Press.


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Simon, R., Rosenberg, S. & Eppert, C. (2000). Between hope and despair. Pedagogy

and the remembrance of historical trauma. New York: Rowan and Littlefield. Tarc, P. (2013). International education in global times. Engaging the pedagogic.

New York: Peter Lang.


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The Transitional Space of History: Reflections on the Play of Roger Simon’s Remembrance Pedagogy

Lisa Farley Faculty of Education York University


This paper reads Roger Simon’s concept of “transactional memory” in relationship to D.W. Winnicott’s theory of “transitional space” to examine the emotional dimensions of making historical significance. Drawing on a personal memory of archival study with Simon, I suggest that his attention to the ethical qualities of remembrance at the same time offers a theory of remembrance as a work of creative play that sets into motion the painful and hopeful process of working through the anguish of loss.

A genuine tomorrow, and not a repeat of yesterday or today requires we reassess what we have learned and repressed (Simon, 2000, p. 22)

An old adage tells us that this, too, shall pass. Today will soon be yesterday and tomorrow will one day arrive. But time is also uneven and uncanny, for what feels immediately present can at the same time usher in the return of what is familiar and old. Yesterday is never finally over and done with, even if seemingly forgotten. Together with colleagues Sharon Rosenberg and Claudia Eppert, Roger Simon (2000) reminds us that time is not solely a linear concept. History is both a “difficult return” and a difficult education: “a psychic and social responsibility to bring the dead into presence, a responsibility that concurrently involves learning to live with, in relation to loss” (p. 3). Simon devoted the latter part of his scholarship to the study of the ethical complexity of summoning a relation with history’s haunting returns. Across a range of sites such as the classroom, the museum, and the art gallery, Simon was concerned with developing remembrance practices that could create “points of connection” among past, present, and future (2005, p. 89). At the same time, Simon was wary of symbolic collapse. To his mind, there could be no “genuine tomorrow” if it had been already determined by either today or yesterday. Equally, there can be no yesterday if it is overshadowed by the concerns of tomorrow and today. Indeed, the opposite of history is, from Simon’s view, not the future but “a repeat of yesterday or today” that cannot hold open the distance afforded by thought and by time.

The “points of connection” to which Simon refers are, then, points also of separation. This separation, Simon argues, is needed to symbolize history for its inherent dissension, “an expression of struggle” over the representation of past events in curriculum and pedagogy (Giroux & Simon, 1984, p. 231). Rather than a fantasy of historical objectivity, Simon’s use of the term separation refers to a space in which students and teachers alike can engage history as a conflicting record of incomplete interpretations with the potential to affect, challenge, and think anew.


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His was a pedagogy of looking before leaping to certain conclusions and in that gap, taking a closer look at how historical knowledge is fraught with resistances, doubt, and senses of debt and obligation. Simon found generative and ethical potential in the construction of and engagement with counter narratives, symbolic dissidents, psychic remainders and forgotten others, which he believed opened the heroic study of history to its discarded remains. At every turn, his scholarly and pedagogical work slowed down the rush to triumphant conclusions, attending instead to the stories, conditions, and processes that could welcome the disruptive force of histories “undergone and spoken of by others” (Simon, 2005, p. 90).

Simon’s idea of there being “points of connection” between yesterday and today therefore implies an obligation to represent a relationship to history in the awareness that knowledge cannot conclusively close the gap through mastery of facts or information. Simon describes such “points of connection” as “boundaries [that] estrange me from various pasts to which I always arrive too late, reminding me that the time of other people’s memories is not my time” (ibid, p. 90). It is in this temporal and conceptual distance that Simon locates the possibility for ethics insofar as it involves “being claimed in relation to the experiences of others,” without at the same time collapsing those experiences into a version of one’s own (ibid, p. 89). History’s capacity to “break in on the present,” Simon (2000) argues, holds ethical potential insofar as it works against the grain of present assumptions and opens onto unknown corridors of significance, enabling “any given moment to bear a new meaning” (p. 17). To paraphrase Simon’s vision above, tomorrow depends upon the reassessment of yesterday in the symbolic realm of representation, where it can be thought about, contemplated, and debated with others. While Simon’s hope for tomorrow is not “a repeat” of yesterday, it is also not without history. The future instead depends upon a witness to make something new, something narrative, from the wreckage that piles up at their feet.

Amid the difficult and traumatic histories that concerned Simon’s scholarship, he only rarely used the term creativity and never, to my knowledge, did he use the word “play”. To have done so, I imagine, might have felt too glib in the face of historical suffering. And yet, it is my suggestion that Simon’s theory of remembrance as a point of connection across distance sets history education into a transitional space of creative play, with the caveat that creative play is not synonymous with selfishness, even though it involves the self. Rather, I draw from the work of D.W. Winnicott (1971) to suggest that creative play is also an emotional labour of renewal in the face of loss, needed for the construction of both culture and history. If we can mine from Simon’s work a theory of history as “transitional space,” as I am proposing to do, then we are well positioned, with and after Simon, to think about the emotional significance of his theories of remembrance. We can ask, moreover, about the psychical labour of making meaning from the hard blows of history’s ethical force. Finally, we might even begin to ask how Simon’s own efforts to grapple with these questions bequeath to the generations of teachers, scholars, and students he leaves behind, the resources we need to live with and after his devastating loss.


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Transactional Memory and Transitional Space

Among the many terms that Simon (2005) used to describe the ethical force of memory, he used “the transactional sphere of memory” to denote the disruptive effect of its address (p. 87). The ethical dimension of memory is not at all masterful, but rather proceeds, quoting Simon (1992), “in a way that does not insist on a fixed set of altered meanings” (p. 47). Citing the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Simon (2005) argued that history “humbles any design to master the past” when we can bear to take as our starting point the ruins of trauma that disillusion heroic myths (Simon, Rosenberg & Eppert, 2000, p. 7). Disruptive and expansive, history “enacts[s] a claim on us, providing accounts of the past that may wound, or haunt” in ways that “interrupt one’s self‐sufficiency” (Simon, 2005, p. 89). Here, history’s force is derived from “an otherness that cannot be reduced to a version of our own stories” (ibid, p. 89). History’s transactional claim does not, then, begin or end within the closed borders of the ego’s own orbit of existence. It enlarges a space of community and culture, as “a transactive memory has the potential to expand that ensemble of people who count for us, who we encounter not merely as strangers, but as ‘teachers,’ people who in telling their stories change our own” (ibid, p. 89).

While ethical and social, I am suggesting that the force of memory also implies an emotional labour insofar as history demands something of the ego. Early on, Simon (1992) identified this labour as the task of education, which he defined as, “a basic resource for the task of self‐constitution” (p. 22). To the extent that Simon would later on insist upon the continual labour of becoming (or, perhaps re‐ constitution) in relationship to history’s difficult returns, creative play seems to me an apt metaphor for thinking about his theories of remembrance as well. I take for my interlocutor, analyst D.W. Winnicott, who was also deeply concerned with how the ego might make something from the disillusioning blows left behind by the past. Winnicott offers a frame through which we might think about the emotional developments at work in Simon’s vision of remembrance. While I intuit that Simon might have been wary of imposing a frame on the messy, excessive labour of historical thought, it is important to note that Winnicott’s frame of development is neither linear, nor complete. What draws these two thinkers together in my mind is a complementarity of thought on the continual labour of drawing linkages among “past, present, and future” (Winnicott, 1971, p. 109). What Simon called “points of connection” across distance, Winnicott called the transitional space of play.

Winnicott used playing as a metaphor for the psychical activity of creation, an activity not limited to children but also accessible to adults in the form of cultural experiences, such as in art, philosophy, and history. The transitional space of creative play straddles both subjective experience and objective knowledge. In this third space, external reality becomes meaningful through the affective sediments of the ego, whether desire, or aggression, or longing, or grief. But as much as playing mobilizes inner life, for Winnicott (1971), playing is also a social activity that involves creating and contributing with others to a “pool” of symbols and representations from which we all may draw, differently, in the continual work of shaping and reshaping ties to culture and history (p. 101). Playing, then, implies a


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shared set of signs and symbols that we use to represent meaning through creative and aesthetic work.

Playing, not unlike Simon’s understanding of witnessing, calls the ego into relation even while it is not characterized by the “deliberateness of trying”, at which point, it would feel more like coercion (Winnicott, 1971, p. 109). And, if Winnicott distinguished playing from coercion, playing did not at the same time refer to total self‐satisfaction or whimsy. Rather, Winnicott describes play as the serious labour of making meaning from the losses that constitute being alive and in relation to others. In this way, Winnicott’s view interrupts the adult fantasy that playing is simply childish. Playing is more like a work of mourning. Through play, the ego uses signs and objects to make a symbolic relation to loss, needed to give meaning to its lasting and lingering effects. Winnicott believed that through playing, for instance, one could represent the emotional significance of the acute and sharp edges of loss without literally repeating the agony or its opposite, claiming utter indifference or apathy. Play is a balance between the anguish of loss and its renewal in the life of signification.

For Simon, too, ethical forms of remembrance depend on the ego’s capacity to balance or play with hope and despair. William Pinar (2014) elaborates this paradox as central to Simon’s memorial scholarship. While “history’s not going to get any better,” he suggests that Simon also found some “resolve” in the idea that we can at the same time represent and revise repressed and repressive narratives (p. 8). By this, I take Pinar to mean that Simon’s vision of history was not progressive, even if it did involve renewal, the direction of which could not be determined or marshaled in unilateral direction. If Simon locates the possibility of renewal in the distance afforded by language and representation, Winnicott gives us good reason to think that playing is “a basic resource” to re‐assemble a sense of self in the face of such distance (Simon, 1992, p. 22).

Despite the relation I construct between remembering and playing, it deserves mention that Simon was wary of turning to psychical processes as the grounds of thinking about memory. In contrast with Simon’s aim to “humbl[e] any design to master the past” (2000, p. 3), playing initially promises “some experience of magical control” (Winnicott, 1971, p. 47).1 Even so, such magical beginnings are needed to accept the fading glamour of entering into the world that fails. Provided the ego can exchange ideals for symbolic substitutes, the magic of beginning eventually gives way to disillusionment. In Winnicott’s (1971) words, playing bridges the gap between inner illusion and outer worlds of disillusion through “the use of symbols, and with all that eventually adds up to cultural life” (p. 109). From the vantage of Winnicott, Simon’s theory of ethical remembrance may now look like this: history must first survive the omnipotent wish on the part of the witness that defends against its very loss. For history to be remembered, it will depend on the ego’s capacity to play with symbolic substitutes that fail to repeat the spellbinding agony of historical loss. Ethically and playfully, the practice of remembrance brings the past into symbolization through renewed arrangements and ties to history’s remnants, beyond the fantasy of their magical recuperation.


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A Story From the Archive

With colleagues Mario DiPaolantonio and Mark Clamen (2005), Simon offers a glimpse of ethical remembrance in practice. Significant to Winnicott’s notion of play, these theorists propose a practice that is in their words, “as much a creative act as a responsive one” to lives once lived (p. 148). Quite differently from the tightened spine of an already completed history text, this method juxtaposes citations from archival documents that, together, are intended to represent the significance of one’s learning in the belated encounter with testimony. Simon’s method radically revises the typical hierarchy of the teacher‐student relationship. The act of witnessing is here not only cognitive, but a commitment made with others to remember together in ways that attend to the epistemological frames and affective commitments that both open and obscure the attention of the witness. The witness in this juxtaposition has an active responsibility to “give expression to what astonishes, what exceeds my horizon of expectations, what is contradictory and heterogeneous” (Simon, DiPaolantonio & Clamen, 2005, p. 149).

I was fortunate enough to be a part of one of Roger’s study groups working with the practice of citation described briefly above. The history under investigation was that of the ghetto in Vilna, established and operated by Nazi Germany between September 6, 1941 and September 24, 1943. Our group constructed a multi‐modal and multi‐vocal archive of materials designed to support our engagements with the history of lives lived and lost in this community under siege. From our work, Simon hoped to generate varied, counter, and conflicting historical accounts from diaries, chronicles, letters, notebooks, newspapers, recorded songs, as well as official ghetto decrees and documents. Each member took turns to compile and present to the study group a juxtaposition of citations from archival documents, with the view to give expression to the direction and detours of learning in the archive.

For the occasion of this article, I looked back into my computer’s digital archive. My search term was “juxtaposition,” which yielded a range of documents related to the study group, named “The Testimony and Historical Memory Project.” Among these documents, one in particular caught me by the throat: my own juxtaposition, dated January 31, 2001. I offer a brief discussion of this document as one instance of the kind of remembrance practice that Simon’s theories generated. In light of his recent passing, this document marks also my belated effort to represent a relationship to the memory of Roger’s work, and to him.

Similar to my colleagues’ juxtapositions, my own compilation consisted of citations from surviving documents from the Vilna Ghetto. Although each of my citations meticulously records the date, author’s name, and source, my representation of this learning is not chronological, nor limited to facts and information. From my juxtaposition of citations, I can see that my concern was with the experience of death not directly organized around Nazi roundups or deportation, and instead focused on other painful effects of the genocide such as miscarriage, illness, and assisted suicide. Amid a backdrop of spraying bullets, nighttime roundups, and the horror of public hangings, what concerned me was the meaning and status of cultural practices through which ghetto inhabitants mourned the dead. What stands out among them today is diary entry of a young student,


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Rudashevski. In this entry, he describes the experience of reading aloud a eulogy for the occasion of his teacher Gershteyn’s memorial:

Arriving half an hour early, I practised reading a little. I was edgy as usual. At first I do not feel at ease. However the fine, well‐rounded speeches, and listening to the magnificent history of this beautiful person, Gershteyn, calmed me. The speakers spoke a long time. Epochs, periods of Gershteyn’s beautiful life emerge. Finally teacher Lubotski delivers the concluding speech. He concludes by saying that we do not know what post‐war life will look like. We know one thing, however: that Gershteyn’s place has remained blank. There is no one to replace him. (p. 75)

There is nothing particularly unusual about this nervous scene of a student reading aloud. At the same time, the context of genocide in which Gershteyn’s funeral took place struck me as a poignant representation of human dignity against a historical backdrop bent on its violent destruction.

Rudashevski also laments the interruption of memorialization by the ghetto’s unyielding clockwork, writing “...we cannot even accompany him to the cemetery. We return and breathe his anger” (Vol. I, p. 65). A diary entry from another young boy, Kruk, follows from this opening citation, describing the madness of living in a world that marches on as if nothing changed, even while hearts “stop with grief” (1942, Vol 1. p. 87). As he puts it, “everything around here runs like a magic wheel, a kaleidoscope where you can’t catch everything at once” (p. 87). Reading it now, almost 15 years later, my juxtaposition brings to the foreground also my struggle with a question. If ethics implies the distance needed to engage the otherness of history, what can this labour entail in an emotionally charged context “stopped with grief”? What can it mean to let go of loss when it feels like there is nothing to adequately represent it? Today, these questions register anew in the context of Roger’s death. All of us who survive him are faced with the challenge of letting go without knowing what life, post‐Simon, will look like. We are left with the question of how to represent Simon’s legacy, to ask and risk a relationship to what matters, all the while knowing that we can’t “catch everything” and that “there is no one to replace him.”

Nonetheless, I’ve feverishly searched the archive of my computer for Roger’s written response to my juxtaposition, looking to fill a void where there was once his response, his prose, and his voice. The document is nowhere to be found in the belly of my computer’s memory. In my feverish search, Jacques Derrida’s insight leapt to mind, for as much as archive is a metaphor of our culture’s refusal to give up the past, it is also a metaphor of the impossibility of memory. We can never “catch everything”, but are rather left to piece together the details for their lasting significance. Without the written document, only fragments of Roger’s response return for memory, of course, shot through the screens of my worries and wishes. The fact of Roger’s death calls to mind the context in which I presented my juxtaposition to the group. My own father was gravely ill, and would die months later on Father’s Day, 2001. Just fifty‐seven, he was born in 1943: one year after


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Kruk and Rudashevski penned their diary entries. At the time, I was twenty‐seven. Clearly anticipating my paternal loss, Roger seemed to recognize that the archive, so full of pain and suffering of distant others, was also a transitional space in which I had attempted to “catch” the loss that I anticipated and would soon have to endure.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can recognize the inwardly focused melancholia of my archival reading. My juxtaposition of children’s texts in mourning for figures of paternal authority gave “substance to my own attachments”, in this case, to my anticipatory melancholia for my dad (2005, p. 91). Roger recognized this too. But ever the pedagogue, and not the police, Roger (1992) also recognized my archival inquiry as a “basic resource” needed to constitute myself in the face of my first unthinkable loss (p. 22). But even more, he helped me think simultaneously about my denial of the very rituals of grief I had represented in others. Despite his wariness of affective ties, Simon did not demand I let go of my attachments too soon. He rather brought into symbolization the grief that was stopped in my heart. What emerged was no less difficult, but perhaps more hopeful, in that there was now a narrative to represent the emotional pain framing my archival reading. Roger helped me to think about how the grieving children I had “found” in the archive represented a wish that I might somehow prepare myself for the loss I anticipated in my own future history. Thinking about this experience today, I speculate that this tension might be the difficult quality of historical knowledge itself, caught between excess (the knowledge of death is too much) and lack (the knowledge of death can never help or prepare). The difficult labour of history is to represent loss that cannot at the same time be replaced in that very effort. Yet, in spite of such difficulty, and perhaps because of it, Simon also found hope.

The Hope of Pedagogy

Simon’s theory of remembrance mirrors a larger “archival turn” within the field of history education (Seixas, 2004). This turn to the archive, much like Simon’s, actively invites students of history to read, encounter and make meaning from a series of fragments and clues, as opposed to an already‐finished set of events. But while Simon took as axiomatic “the remnants themselves,” the remembrance practices for which he advocated were not solely organized by to historical yardsticks of truth, coherence and rationality (Simon, DiPaolantonio & Clamen, 2005, p. 150). The “otherwise” of remembrance, for Simon (2005), meant finding meaning in the displacement of plausible knowledge, in the incredible affective ties that bind us to past others and in the breakdown of the categories with which we typically make sense of the world (p. 1). “The obligation,” writes Simon and his colleagues, “is to a constant rewriting” that is less about telling a better story than those currently on the books, and more about representing how historical knowledge unsettles and disrupts the inner lives of those left behind to carry on its traces (Simon, DiPaolantonio & Clamen, 2005, p. 150).

If Simon’s pedagogy of remembrance highlights the ethical quality of renewal, and if I have linked this labour with creativity and play, it is not at the same time merely a wishful release from the difficult knowledge of the past. It is rather a labour of hope: a concept already at the forefront of Simon’s early work. There,


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Simon (1992) distinguishes hope from wishing. Where wishing refers to “a diversion” that provides “temporary release from routine,” hope is “the acknowledgement of more openness in a situation than the situation easily reveals” (p. 3). Thus while wishing yearns for the ideal of “ultimate peace and resolution” (p. 4), hope offers no such consolation, characterized instead by “loosening and refusing the hold that taken for granted realities and routines have over imagination” (p. 3). Simon’s theory of historical citation is also a practice of hope insofar as it seeks to loosen hardened truths and open new interpretive possibilities. For Simon, hope is defined by the mind’s openness to the futurity of history, without the wish to pin down once and for all what that will mean.

Jonathan Lear (2006) might well have read Simon on the topic of hope, for he, too, describes its capacity to renew stalled, or “thick” concepts in the aftermath of loss (p. 65). For Lear, hope is characterized by the labile quality of the mind that can risk being open to and changed by ideas that break fixed patterns. Simon, before Lear, described this quality of mind as an “openness” to meanings in excess of what “the situation easily reveals” (p. 3). Transposed to the scene of historical learning, Simon’s theories of remembrance challenge us to engage in practices that renew the meaning of events that have already occurred. He did so also by encouraging us to make a distinction between the hopeful renewal of meaning and the wishful fantasy of un‐doing past wrongs. Indeed, he encouraged us all to represent the significance of historical trauma that at the same time could not be un‐ done or “get better” (Pinar, 2014, p. 8). Simon’s emphasis on the disillusioning qualities of remembrance is also the grounds of hope.

Simon’s vision of hope therefore poses a challenge to engage history’s forgotten content in ways that push back against linear procedures of time and “frames of certitude” that typically organize how we imagine the past (Simon, Rosenberg & Eppert, 2000, p. 7). Hope cannot satisfy the wish for certitude that protects us from conflict and loss. On the contrary, Simon’s vision positions history education as a tension: on the one side, a felt obligation to respond to history’s ethical claim and on the other side, an excess of meaning beyond what it “easily reveals” about the past (Simon, 1992, p. 3). We “can’t catch everything at once”. But if this claim is to retain a shred of hope, and not repeat the “magic wheel” of a turning kaleidoscope, then we might follow Simon’s example, and enter history into a symbolic space of creative play. For Simon, this involved a lifetime of scholarship marked by the rigorous study of history’s forgotten content, a tireless effort to represent difficult knowledge that eludes understanding, and a vigilant attentiveness to evidentiary traces that pierce the boundaries we typically use to keep safe from pain. Within each turn is the lasting glimmer of a scholar who knew how to play, seriously. If all goes well, we might ourselves receive Simon’s example in life and in scholarship as an invitation to play seriously, too, so that history’s unfinished legacies, including his own, can have hope for a “genuine tomorrow.”


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Giroux, H. & Simon, R. (1984). Curriculum Study and Cultural Politics, The Journal of

Education, 166(3), 226‐253. Lear, J. (2006). Radical hope: Ethics in the face of cultural devastation.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Pinar, W. (2014). Between hope and despair is resolve: Remembering Roger

Simon, Journal of the Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies, 11(2): 6‐20. URL:!v122a‐between‐hope‐and‐despair/c1n5f Seixas, P. (2004). Theorizing historical consciousness. Toronto: University of

Toronto Press. Simon, R. I. (1992). Teaching against the grain: Texts for a pedagogy of

possibility. New York: Bergin & Garvey. Simon, R. I., Rosenberg, S. & Eppert, C. (2000). Between hope and

despair: Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical trauma. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Simon, R. I. (2005). The touch of the past: Remembrance, learning, and ethics.

New York: Palgrave. Simon, R. I.; Dipaolantonio, M., & Clamen, M. (2005). Remembrance as

praxis and the ethics of the interhuman. In R. Simon, The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics (pp. 132‐155). New York: Palgrave. Originally published in 2002, Culture Machine Vol. 4, Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Playing and reality. New York: Brunner‐Routledge.


1 Together with Mario DiPaolantonio and Mark Clamen (2005), Simon articulates a concern about fantasied promise of history to un‐do the losses it also represents. They offer the example of “phantasmagoria,” which refers to both a notion and performance that first emerged in connection with a form of theatre popular in the early 19th Century in France, England and the United States. The performance involved shining a light through a paper lantern with the view to project onto smokescreens images of ghosts, demons, and skeletons. In the example of phantasmagoria, Simon, Dipaolantonio and Clamen (2005) find an over‐valuation of “the recuperative power of the present” rooted in the belief that “everything can be brought back – resurrected and re‐animated” (pp. 140‐141). Simon, DiPaolantonio and Clamen suggest that the logic of phantasmagoria is itself alive and well in remembrance practices that promise a unifying and continuous tie between the past and the present, that is, without disruption. It is this fantasy of magical return that Simon sought to expand through a study history’s representational limits and conflicting traces.


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Bomb Me: trans/acting subject into object, an installation for R.I. Simon and Angela Failler

Renée Sarojini Saklikar The Canada Project

Meditation: “Angela, tell me again about those ideas, the ones from your teacher.”


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Exhibit: in memoriam, this archive, musée: it is always happening


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air india numerology, incomplete and from a series

June 23, 1985 1 plane 2 bombs 2 baggage handlers 329 passengers and crew 82 children under the age of 13 137 children under the age of 18 the years: 25, 26, 27, 28... number of[redactions]: unknown 5 volumes 230 updates in evidence binders: 3, 300 documents 230 updates 15 research papers 17, 692 documents 27 counts of perjury 64 recommendations Testimony 85 days 195 witnesses be continued

Exhibit: subject / object


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Inside the archive of loss, there is that which is public, an object. Incident as bombing: objectionable.

Release: the body, subject. Survivor, and family. Inside, what it is means to touch. What is means to live in aftermath.

Subject:: history, a reduction. My hand is made, body to material. Icon‐hand.

Exhibit: to touch

Subject: this is the hand. The subject is touching. Objection, it is we the living. Replicated. Sara Ahmed writes about a Willfulness Archive, examining the hand, the body as resistance. So, too, within the saga that is Air India, we find the body.

Angela, do you remember, in Paris? We sat on that bench outside the main symposium. We spoke of your teacher, then, too.


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Exhibit: when confirming attendance

When confirming attendance:

Do not speak the words. All questions are exhibitions of violence.


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Exhibit: documents and interventions: to touch a system

Into this long shadow...


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Exhibit: We over redact, we over classify

Winding sheet, the past. O teach us! The body. What does it mean to?


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Exhibit: document as guide. And Musée, you, too, shall intervene.

This lexicon is new‐old, giving time, another dimension. To exist, not exist. To be a student of the document. To transgress against official narratives. Even into cliché. The weight produces exhaustion. To witness. Everything is continuance—


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Artist Statement

This installation is one of a series made and being made while I write a life‐long poem chronicle, thecanadaproject. The photographs are taken as I sift through my personal archive, a collection that is at once intimate and filled with fragments from a public repository: that of the bombing of an airplane.

The first completed series of thecanadaproject is Children of Air India, (Nightwood Editions, 2013) the first sequence of poems about the bombing of Air India Flight 182 to be published in Canada. The bombing took place on June, 23, 1985. All passengers and crew died, including 82 children under the age of 13. My aunt and uncle died in the bombing. In 2009, I began a process of writing about the bombing. That process led me to the work of Angela Failler, and in conversation with her, to the ideas of R.I. Simon.

The current photo series explores the idea of a “transactional space” where private grief meets public memory‐history, as un/settled, on/going—where objectification is toyed with, that which is inherent in record‐keeping, in news gathering, and in all forms of representation. What does it mean, to exhibit history?

The idea of “transactional or transactive space” comes to me via discussions with Dr. Failler about R.I. Simon’s descriptions of public memory as a “ ‘shared pedagogy’,” where such memory is not a common story nor even an agreed upon record of history, but a living social practice through...” (my emphasis). (Simon, Roger I. The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

Subjects, always other, in search of becoming— An(d) object.

Informant: “She puts that brown hand into her pictures.”


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Unsettling our Narrative Encounters within and outside of Canadian Social Studies

Nicholas Ng­A­Fook Faculty of Education University of Ottawa

Robin Milne Faculty of Education University of Ottawa


In 2007, Indian Residential School System (IRS) survivors won a class action settlement worth an estimated 2 billion dollars from the Canadian Government. The settlement also included the establishment a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Despite the public acknowledgement, we posit that there is still a lack of opportunity and the necessary historical knowledge to address the intergenerational impacts of the IRS system in Ontario’s social studies classrooms. In this essay we therefore ask: How might we learn to reread and rewrite the individual and collective narratives that constitute Canadian history? In response to such curriculum inquiries, we lean upon the work of Roger Simon to reread and rewrite historical narratives as shadow texts. For us, life writing as shadow texts, as currere, enables us to revisit the past as a practice of unsettling the present, toward reimagining more hopeful future relations between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities across the territories we now call Canada. As Simon’s life‐long scholarly commitments make clear in this essay, the onus lies with those present to teach against the grain so that we might encounter each other’s unsettling historical traumas with compassion, knowledge, and justice.

Our project requires that we subvert a view which constitutes existing forms of social life and social consciousness as obvious, natural, and taken for granted. We need to comprehend how the limits we all live within are historical limits. (Simon & Dippo, 1986, p. 198)

I am estranged from a past to which I always arrive too late (thus as I come close, I find myself moving away). Yet this boundary is not simply the limit of my social imagination condemning me to indifference, voyeurism, or an epistemological violence that renders the experience of others in terms I recognize or imagine as


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my own. This boundary rather initiates the terms for the reconstructions of my historical memory. (Simon, 2000, p. 21)

Yet at times, unsettling questions need to be asked. (Simon, 2013, p. 133)

Nicholas and Robin: What is Truth and Reconciliation for Canadians? Why and how should it matter for teachers and students across Canada? What are our pedagogical obligations toward collectively witnessing, acknowledging, and remembering the historical experiences, impacts, and consequences of establishing the Indian Residential Schooling (IRS) system to ensure the future security of a settler nation‐state? Studying such ethical, historical, and social questions provokes us to subvert, as Simon and Dippo (1986) suggest, the historical limits of what constitutes our contemporary and future normative understandings of Indigenous and non‐Indigenous peoples’ treaty relations.

In Settler Colonialism, Lorenzo Veracini (2010) situates some important discursive, material, political, and psychical distinctions among the descendants of European settlers, immigrant exogenous Others, and Indigenous peoples. Although, “immigrant exogenous Others often benefit from the dispossession of indigenous people, even as their incorporation into the settler body politics remains pending, is, the settler that establishes himself as the normative” (p. 18). The settler often hides behind historical narratives whose storylines describe “the metropolitan colonizer,” “labour and hardship,” and “the peacemaker” (p. 14). Though we grew up in different places, our public school history courses taught us, as diasporic settler Canadians, that our descendants did not have the right to make economic, political, or military decisions reserved for kings, queens, lords, dictators, and elected governments who by manifest destiny pioneered colonial nation‐ states like Canada. Outside of formal schooling, we learned from our parents and grandparents about the hardships and sacrifices they had to make to leave their homelands and immigrate to Canada. Their arrival perpetuated the chain of settler colonialism, and they profited from the appropriation of newly allotted, Indigenous dispossessed land.

For the most part, in school we learned that colonial settlement here in Canada, compared to the United States, was a relatively non‐violent military activity. Indeed, a Judeo‐Christian commonwealth curriculum, and its mythical portrayals of a settler colonial democratic peacekeeping regime influenced the ways in which we socially imagined and narrated Canadian history (Tuck and Gaztambide‐Fernandez, 2013). During our lived experiences with the Ontario social studies curriculum, we were taught that French and British settlers sought to establish colonial settlements that mimicked their respective metropolitan (judicial, military, political, religious, schooling) institutions. What was absent from this historical account of our common countenance (Tomkins, 1986/2008), was that several different cosmopolitan settlers, such as English, Chinese, French, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Ukrainian, and so on, alongside First Nations communities, helped to found what is now constitutionally known as Canada (Battiste, 2013; Stanley, 2006). Such imagined inclusions and exclusions often manifest themselves as a certain kind


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of historical narrative of disavowal within our social studies curriculum here in Ontario. This is what Paulette Regan (2010) calls elsewhere a curriculum of settler denial.

After demanding acknowledgement of longstanding historical settler denial and a violent colonial past, several Indian residential school survivors won a class action settlement agreement worth an estimated 2 billion dollars from the Canadian Government in 2007. The Canadian government officially responded a year later with a public state apology for the violent intergenerational impacts of residential schooling. Soon after, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission travelled across Canada, listening to the stories of survivors, and facilitating various public commemorative events for both Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities.1 Often forgotten within this recent sequence of events, however, is that First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities and their leaders had been petitioning the Canadian government and its people to acknowledge their constitutional treaty obligations for several decades prior to the 2008 apology. Such obligations included land settlements, educational funding, and judicial and political recognition of First Nations sovereignty as part of Canada’s Constitutional Act – what Henderson Youngblood (2013) has termed constitutional reconciliation. Despite this momentum, opportunities to study the complexities of truth and reconciliation in terms of our historical and ongoing treaty obligations are for the most part absent from our school curriculum in Ontario and from the public memory of a settler nation‐state.

Given the disparity between public apology and personal knowledge, how might we work as curriculum theorists, social studies educators, teachers, and students toward rereading and rewriting our individual and collective memories within and beyond the boundaries of the existing narratives that constitute what Canadian history? To respond to this pedagogical and personal question, we lean upon the work of Roger Simon and life writing as a form of curriculum theorizing, as currere,2 to deconstruct and reconstruct our estrangements from the historical narratives that were, and in many ways still are, absent from our lived experiences with Canadian social studies and history curricula.

Our initial conversation for this essay began as part of Robin’s final life‐writing project for a graduate course entitled: Curriculum, culture, and language. There, we focused on the different ways in which life writing “requires researchers to craft pieces of autobiographical writing in which they research and teach themselves” (Hasebe‐Ludt, Chambers, and Leggo, 2009, p. 9). We examined different methodological strategies for engaging life writing research such as autobiography (as currere, literary métissage), auto/ethnography (as bricolage), A/r/tography, and oral history. Each assignment worked toward creating openings for graduate students to further develop their understandings of life writing as a research methodology that in turn informs educational research and the aesthetics of their academic writing as life writers, while also studying, theorizing, thinking through, and improvising playfully with the intellectual compositions put forth by past and present Canadian curriculum scholars.

Situating our Narrative Encounters


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Nicholas and Robin: During the winter term of 2012, we travelled with six Bachelor of Education students to conduct oral history interviews with Bertha Commanda, a residential school survivor, who live on the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki Québec. The oral history interview was part of a larger Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Development (SSHRC) Grant titled Making digital histories: Virtual historians, digital literacies, and education.3 The larger project was designed to explore the existing digital practices and respective literacies teacher candidates draw upon to both access and produce historical knowledge. During their coursework, teacher candidates were introduced to the concepts of historical thinking (Lévesque, 2008; Seixas, 2006; Seixas & Morton, 2013), followed by a workshop that introduced students to the Virtual Historian website ( This is a website through which history teachers can share lessons and historical content that not only facilitates the process of ‘doing history’ but also the pedagogical demands of 21st century digital classrooms.

As a supplement to their course, we offered teacher candidates opportunities to volunteer for the oral history component of the project. Prior to interviewing elders, teacher candidates attended several different workshops that examined the theoretical and methodological processes for doing oral history research as part of their future curriculum designs for teaching the Ontario social studies and history curriculum (see Perks & Thomson, 1998; Ritchie, 2003). For the final component of the SSHRC research project, eight senior history teacher candidates conducted oral history interviews with two Kitigan Zibi Algonquin elders. Through this, the teacher candidates had the chance to partake in the pedagogical processes of “rereading” and “rewriting” their existing historical narratives on the psychosocial, cultural, and material impacts of settler colonialism with First Nations elders.

In this project, we sought to create an epistemological space for us to identify and discuss the different tensions we experienced when confronted with alternative narratives that depart from the grand narratives of Canadian settler history. Engaging these narrative tensions is crucial for complicating our ongoing identifications with, and constructions of history. What is at stake in such epistemological commitments “is our imaginative and emotional abilities to learn from ‘multiple perspectives’ so as to potentially expand the range of responses to pressing issues of social concern by extending our circle of attention and care” (den Heyer & Abbott, 2011, p. 612). Such extensions involve becoming historical subjects capable of rereading historical narratives through the rewriting of alternatives.

Juxtaposing different alternative, or counternarrative historical texts such as historiographies, oral histories, and autobiographies alongside rewriting our individual and collective life histories promotes “a capacity to tolerate – and narrate – the disillusionment of encountering the otherness that history both references and provokes on the inside” (Farley, 2009, p. 538). In contrast to a “readerly” approach that anchors one to meaning explicitly found within a text, a “writerly” approach calls upon readers to create meanings with reference to the historical con/texts that inform their imagined past, present and future lives (den Heyer & Abbott, 2011).

In the ensuing sections, we take up Simon and Eppert’s (1997) concept of writing shadow texts, which recognize the juxtaposition of presences (governmental, judicial,


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curricular), and absences (cultural, place, psychic), in order to unsettle our “readerly” and “writerly” narrative encounters with the life histories of others. Part of this critical and ethical praxis of relational reflexive rewriting of history requires one to reread “as much for a text’s ‘absences’ or ‘silences’ as for what it more directly ‘says’” (Simon, 1982, p. 6). Such readings and rewritings are part of a “commemorative” praxis of ethics, of learning to bear witness to historical traumas, where one “becomes aware of, self‐present to, and responsive toward something/someone beyond oneself” (Simon and Eppert, 1997, p. 183). We, as historical subjects, are learning to work through the juxtaposition of alternative “readerly” and “writerly” shadow texts that in turn attempt to bear witness to the historical traumas of residential school survivors.

Here we draw upon William F. Pinar’s (2006) concept of “juxtaposition” to clarify a conceptual framework for the kinds of rereadings and rewritings of historical narratives we put forth in this essay. In The synoptic text today, Pinar calls for teachers and curriculum scholars to both paraphrase and juxtapose historical texts that have never been in narrative relations with each other before this moment in time. Such juxtapositions should include students’ questions, comments, and pedagogical engagements. He further explains that, “in addition to connecting the ‘text’ to students’ and her or his own subjective intellectual experience, the teacher enables students to connect ‘text’ to ‘social text,’ to society,” a concept he understands is situated in time, and thus historically (p. 9). As part of his experimentations with life writing and for his final course assignment, Robin juxtaposed the life histories of residential school survivors with the works of scholars like Roger Simon, which have never before been in narrative relation with one another, or with narratives that implicate us as historical subjects. Such kinds of historical rereadings and rewritings we suggest, are part of the pedagogical processes for recursively questioning the ways in which our research, theorizing, and conceptions of the Ontario social studies curriculum do or do not represent our individual and collective subjective relations with the past, present, and future.

Life Writing as Shadow Texts

Communities of memory designate structured sets of relationships through which people engage representations of past events and put forth shared, complementary, or competing versions of what should be remembered and how. (Simon & Eppert, 1997, p. 186)

If the Commission can create a space that allows people to feel that their stories are accepted without fear of repercussions, perhaps it can help to neutralize some of the negativity that has poisoned our relationships with each other. Hopefully, in some ways, our relationships with Canada can be improved. (Angeconeb, 2012, p. 30)


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Nicholas: Part of decolonizing the explicit, implicit, and null school curriculum involves learning how to remember the narratives that inform our understandings of Canadian history. It requires coming into contact with alternative historical narratives that we can juxtapose as complementary and competing versions of what and how our differing individual and collective histories are remembered. In Pedagogy and witnessing testimony of historical trauma, Simon and Eppert (1997) explain that writing shadow texts provides a potential personal and communal space for us to witness, teach, and learn from historical trauma. Yet, we have to remember that documenting historical trauma is difficult work. After all, “testimonies of historical trauma always enact a betrayal” due to the discursive limits of our interpretive translations that fail to fully render “the realities of human cruelty and suffering” (p. 183). Consequently, this “translational betrayal of the testimonial act means that narrative and images of historical trauma are commonly shot through with absences that, in their silence, solicit” and provoke us to ask interminable questions (ibid.). At this juncture in Canadian history, and living in a society which champions a neoliberal politic and ethos, it seems fair to ask how anyone could take away another parent’s child. We might ask the following questions: Why didn't more First Nations parents take more action to protect their children? Why did a supposedly “peacekeeping” settler nation‐state let such violent events happen?

Simon and Eppert (1997) invite us to write shadow texts as a potential response to answering such interminable historical questions. For them, shadow texts are “secondary narratives a reader or listener ‘writes’ (but does not necessarily write down) in response to the unresolved questions a primary narrative elicits” (p. 184), and where “attempts to write shadow texts are an ‘asking after’ something that has not been satisfied” (ibid.). Our attempts at constructing explanations which address these questions are not typically attached to something in historical texts but instead to something missing from such textual representations. Moreover, “shadow texts are neither juvenile nor narcissistic; they are cultivated precisely because they fuel an unrest—a movement without definitive end— which is the only possible way to sustain the pursuit of justice” (ibid.). However, shadow texts may also become, as Simon and Eppert warn, “simplistic (or worse yet, racist or sexist) rationalizations that short‐circuit one’s capacity to witness testimony” (ibid.). More troubling, testimonies like those of residential school survivors become an object of a lesson taught in schools, where the complexity and feelings evoked within their narratives are reduced and mobilized to illustrate the concept of “historical significance” as a means of addressing a specific category of knowledge and skills within the Ontario achievement chart (see Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 33). Despite significant benefits, developing shadow texts through life writing poses several pedagogical risks.

In The paradoxical practice of Zakhor: Memories of “what has never been my fault or my deed,” Simon (2000) outlines some of these risks. First, elders’ stories are in danger of becoming old news to which students claim to fully understand and respond. Second, the stories can become appropriated objects to be consumed, remembered and then forgotten. Similar to the 2008 government apology, a student can “accept the predefined importance of such stories and one’s responsibility to reiterate that significance when asked, but only


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when asked” (p. 18). Finally, as Simon makes clear, the stories can become transferential objects reduced and shaped by one’s obsessions, concerns, and own self‐understanding. My sense is in this article we perform such risks. How do we learn then to reread, rewrite, view, or listen to others’ pain when it is not recognizable as our own? This is an interminable curricular question. It is even perhaps unanswerable.

While mindful of the aforementioned risks, such learning involves opening ourselves up to the vulnerable processes of being wounded by the wounds of others while reading, listening, and reviewing “the shadows of history” and acting “against the grain of an objectifying and oppressive historical grammar” (Eppert, 2000, p. 216). During our courses together, I invite students to write their life narratives alongside and against the historical narratives of others—to risk being wounded. To do so, we watch films, read novels, and listen to the testimonies of Algonquin elders and each other. This pedagogical process demands reading and rewriting different historical accounts of what constitutes the places and people that make up the mythologies of Canada. As a praxis of decolonization, life writing as shadow texts, enables us in many ways, to honour survivors’ “names and to hold a place for their absent presence” as Canadians (Simon, 2000, p. 4). My hope is that through such practices of life writing, such as currere, we can envision narratives of the past, present, and for the future, that work to remember the names and lives of those who were lost and survived the violent colonial government curriculum of the Indian Residential Schooling (IRS) system.

Engendering Absences: A Curriculum of Apathy, Ignorance and Negligence

An education that creates silence is not an education. (Simon, 1987, p. 375)

Robin: Who is a Canadian? What does it mean to be a responsible citizen here in Canada or abroad? What do the geopolitical and historical landscapes of Canadian cultures look, sound, taste, smell, and feel like? Are we just a collection of disconnected micro‐cultures borrowed from faraway places? What makes us Canadian apart from being born here? Are Canadian social studies curricula and classrooms accountable for connecting different Canadians to the territories and histories that now make up what we, as intergenerational settlers, call Canada? These are for me the kinds of Canadian social studies questions we need to pose as teachers and students.

My lived experiences with such curricular inquiries at school were intertwined with the Ontario social studies curriculum where students were invited to “understand basic concepts,” “develop the skills, strategies and habits of mind required for effective inquiry and communication,” and then apply such “basic concepts of social studies, history, and geography to a variety of learning tasks” (see Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 3). Unfortunately, these goals engender little other than the ability for students to “continue to learn effectively in secondary school” (p. 3). Thinking back to my lived experiences within this social studies curriculum, I wonder at what point are we empowered to pose the following proverbial educational question: What knowledge is of most worth? We were not


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developing the skills in classrooms to become active members of society capable of critically identifying historical and contemporary injustices like the Indian Residential Schooling (IRS) system.

While some connections are made between self, local, national and global concerns, I experienced what Freire (1970/1990) terms a banking model of education. By simply fostering knowledge, skills and attitudes that afford certain students access to future university studies, teachers push students into higher studies where they continue to be comforted by settler narratives of the status quo, and only “know” history from one vantage point. Not surprisingly, students remain apathetic, ignorant and absent toward a greater social responsibility to discover the narrative complexity of what it means to be Canadian because they have not been taught that other narratives exist, much less how to investigate them. Questions like the ones I pose above often go unanswered, largely because they are never asked. My experience with the social studies curriculum certainly did not provoke any kind of critical thinking, witnessing and/or forms of historical remembering that Simon and Eppert (1997) call for.

Simon (1987) reminds us in Empowerment as a pedagogy of possibility, that “education is fundamentally about our hopes for the future given an understanding of current realities, that particular forms of educational practice offer both a particular version and vision of a future civic prospect and morality” (p. 370). Simon additionally calls for educators to create spaces for their students to romanticize with a particular “not yet” of how we might live our lives together. But we cannot do this with misguided narrative conceptions of the present. A limited historical understanding of the present clouds our potential visions toward the future while simultaneously perpetuating hegemonic constructions of the past. If our teaching of social studies continues to deny our collective remembering of the narrative ruins of a Canadian colonial past, our present and future conceptions of an uncommon common curricular countenance will continue to push narratives of survivors to the margins of Canadian social studies curriculum (Chambers, 2012).

At issue here is what we might call a curriculum of present absence (Aoki, 2000/2005). In my lived experiences within Ontario’s public schools, the social studies curriculum fostered unawareness and general apathy. The alternative voices, experiences and perspectives of many marginalized Canadians were pushed to the periphery of our national “knowing.” These voices, like those of the victims and survivors of the IRS system, are in many ways still waiting at the periphery to be heard and remembered (Donald, 2009; Weenie, 2008). Eurocentric conceptions of curricula allow teachers to “protect” their pupils from potentially discomforting and destabilizing notions that accompany the witnessing of difficult knowledge and traumatic Canadian histories (den Heyer & Abbott, 2011; Eppert, 2002).

The revised Ontario Social Studies curriculum seems to address the previous document’s shortcomings at least in part. It advocates for presenting students with opportunities to “learn about what it means to be a responsible, active citizen in the community of the classroom and the diverse communities to which they belong within and outside the school” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 9). Specifically, this curriculum


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asks Canadian teachers and students to: 1) Work for the common good in local, national, and global communities; 2) Foster a sense of personal identity as a member of various communities; 3) Understand power and systems within societies; and, 4) Develop character traits, values, and habits of mind (see Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 10). While this more engaged discourse sounds quite promising, there are still very powerful political forces and hegemonic agendas at play that must challenge the explicit, implicit, and null narrative dimensions of this policy document (Ng‐A‐Fook, 2013). In the sections that follow, I attempt to bring meaning to my recent connections to a Canadian history and narrative previously absent from my “knowing.” My goal is to critique current realities, deconstruct a curriculum of absence, and create in its place an imagination of alternative possible futures. To accomplish this, I see my task as a curriculum theorist not only to share testimony of what I have witnessed as an act of “learning from the past,” but also, to speak back to such testimony. Speaking to testimony requires us to “attend to the limits displayed” as we attend to experiences that are absolutely foreign to us, calling into question the predispositions we bring with us – an attending to our attending (Simon & Eppert, 1997).

Teaching Against the Grain: Toward a Vulnerable Education

The cultural politics from which I begin is one centrally committed to the task of creating specific social forms (such as schooling) that encourage and make possible the realization of a variety of differentiated human capacities; rather than denying, diluting or distorting those capacities. (Simon, 1987, p. 372)

Since the late 1800s, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly taken away from their families and shipped off to one of 130‐plus schools scattered across seven provinces and two territories. There, they were robbed of their language, their beliefs, their self‐respect, their cultural, and, in some cases, their very existence in a vain attempt to make them more Canadian. (Taylor, 2012, p. 142)

Nicholas: How do we begin to decolonize our relations with our selves, others, and the past? What are the local, national, and international implications of such cultural, historical, material and political relations in terms of Truth and Reconciliation? What is “truth?’ What is “reconciliation?” These are provocative curricular questions. Perhaps for some, they are dangerous ones. They are in‐deed complex ones (see Henderson & Wakeham, 2013).4 Nonetheless, these are the kinds of pedagogical questions Roger Simon (2013) asked “as a form of worrying‐in‐public” (p. 129). In many ways, his research continues to invite us to critically question our relations with each other by revisiting, listening, and remembering


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our individual and collective narrative conceptions of the past and our potential future relations to national programs of cultural redress and/or reconciliation.

Therefore, decolonizing our relations with the past also involves, as Simon (1992) suggests, a commitment toward teaching against the grain. Within such teachings, Marie Battiste (2013) calls our attention to the existing historical narratives that inform the public memory of settler colonialism and its ongoing denial of a colonizing past.

Consider for more than a century, Indigenous students have been part of a forced assimilation plan—their heritage and knowledge rejected and suppressed, and ignored by the education system. Imagine the consequence of a powerful ideology that positions one group as superior an gives away First Nations peoples’ lands and resources and invites churches and other administrative agents to inhabit their homeland, while negating their very existence and finally removing them from the Canadian landscape to lands no one wants. (p. 23)

Here, a commemorative ethics of “remembrance attempts to meet the challenge of what it might mean to live, not in the past but in relation with the past, acknowledging the claim the past has on the present” (Simon, 2000, p. 4). Acknowledging such kinds of ethical engagements with the past must be part of the politics of redress implicated in Truth and Reconciliation.

In our course together, Robin and I attended to such relations with our pasts by rereading and rewriting our memories and our narrative representations of them through life writing. We leaned on the different methodological dimensions of currere—regression, progression, analysis, and synthesis—to create a space “that risks our becoming wounded in the attendance to the wounds of another” (Simon, 2000, p. 5). The historical traumas of the victims and survivors of the IRS system call for such pedagogical risks as part of our responsibilities toward Truth and Reconciliation. But how do we create the necessary pedagogical spaces of vulnerability to encounter unsettling historical narratives as a project of possibility? Like Robin, I continue to struggle to learn the difficult knowledge associated with historical trauma. Such learning, as Britzman (1998) suggests, is belated, often coming to us when it is too late. Moreover, how do elementary, secondary, and/or university educators introduce difficult knowledge in productive ways that do not console our egos?

In Radical hope: Or, the problem of uncertainty in History Education, Lisa Farley (2009) puts forth the psychoanalytic concepts of “illusion,” “disillusionment,” and “re‐ illusions” to complicate the “readerly” and “writerly” processes of unsettling our relationships with the traumatic pasts of others.5 Farley draws upon these concepts to explore the uncertainty and tensions that exist in the psychic dynamics of teaching and learning from difficult knowledge. And within the contexts of history education such knowledge is, she writes,

... difficult not only because of its inclusion of traumatic content in and otherwise‐sanitized curriculum, but also because it poses a challenge to


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teachers and students, who, in efforts to understand such knowledge, may be confronted with affective traces of an internal history made from primal helplessness, disillusionment and crises of authority and (not) knowing. At stake here is a view of historical knowledge that is touched by the very anxieties it hopes to settle in answering “matter‐of‐ factly” a child’s burning question. (p. 539)

To reread and rewrite alternative historical narratives, or open ourselves up to an ethical engagement with others, means having to tolerate the loss of epistemological certainty in our very pedagogical efforts “to know” or “to interpret” others’ individual and collective traumatic pasts that are excluded from the school history curriculum.

In response to such discursive reproductions of an explicit, implicit, and null curriculum as well as our encounters with epistemologies of uncertainty, I suggest that we might learn the critical politics of remembering and forgetting certain historical narratives through life writing.6 “One concrete version of what this might entail would be a process,” as Simon (2013) proposes, “of reflecting on the experiences of listening to the stories told to the TRC and retelling these stories, not to co‐opt them in the service of the self, but interweaving them with one’s own life stories” (p. 136). Such “a critical politics of remembrance,” as Ranck (2000) stresses, “necessarily implies a decolonization of imagination that scrutinizes the discourses of neo‐colonialism for its contamination of the politics of the present” (p. 209). In turn, “the insight won in the struggle to learn from history,” as Simon (2013) maintains, “can offer a new foundation for rethinking the significance of a history of violation and violence beyond the idealizations of empathy, identification, and facile notions of solidarity that simply promote settler state citizenship” (p. 136). This is especially true when a curriculum of neo/colonial dominance—history textbooks, curriculum policies, popular films, and so on—continues to work here in Ontario to create myths about the Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal creation stories we tell (or don’t tell) each other.

Such mediated stories, as Dwayne Donald (2009, 2012) has illustrated in his thought‐ provoking research on forts, curriculum, and Indigenous métissage, work to represent the beliefs Canadian citizens hold regarding the narrative genesis of our nation‐state. The stories we (don’t) tell each other through the public school curriculum about the birth of our country have a significant impact on the institutional, political, and cultural character of the country, as well as the narrative preoccupations of its future citizens. In this groundbreaking work, Donald (2009) makes clear that Canadian institutions perpetuate the colonial establishment of the fort. Where “universities and schools are predicated on colonial frontier logics and have both served to enforce epistemological and social conformity to Euro‐western standards” (p. 4). Educational institutions as such, then symbolize academic forts that work to perpetuate certain inherent institutional discursive regimes that in turn obstruct our potential engagement of Indigenous perspectives and contribute to the violent pedagogical and epistemic curricular reproductions of exclusion and displacement of what does and does not constitute historical knowledge within the contexts of what we call “Canadian” history.


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If we think about the school, or the policy document as a public site implicated in the formation of our collective historical imagination, we can see how it institutionally operates in a similar fashion to that of the colonial fort. Curriculum policy documents, and the ways in which we might translate them form the political walls of the provincial (or state) curricula. History textbooks and teacher perceptions of history effectively erect certain discursive walls, establishing the territorial and disciplinary demarcations of a neoliberal, neoconservative, indeed neocolonial Eurocentric (white supremacist) narrative fort (Stanley, 2006).

The curriculum itself then becomes a discursive instructional and instrumental fortification where the teachings of history might seem, at first glance, self‐evident. However, as we all know, history is not an inert political or psychic text that students receive or create in a classroom. Rather history, or the current educational movement called historical thinking, is always about interpretative, discursive, and ethical relations with our narrative constructions of the past, its implication for present, and future visions of what constitutes Canadian history. Theorizing and doing such kinds of historical thinking or historical inquiry then need to foster ethical relational spaces for teachers and students to access the diverse alternative primary and secondary sources that inform our interpretations of the historical significance of creating settler state sponsored institutions like the IRS system.

Although the last residential schools closed in the mid‐1990s, narratives about the institutions or by their survivors did not exist within my school‐aged memories or as an undergraduate student. Not until graduate school in a course with Celia Haig‐Brown (2009) on decolonizing research methodologies, did I begin to question whose traditional lands I now occupied while learning to become a “good” diasporic Canadian. My prior educational experiences inside and outside the explicit, implicit, and null Catholic school curriculum did not create specific social forms that encouraged my capacity to imagine the diverse historical narratives of the differing Aboriginal communities who continue to live on what some call Turtle Island.

Unsettling Narrative Understandings of the Past: Experiencing Inexperience

On such terms, remembrance becomes a practice that supports a learning from “the past” that is a fresh cognizance or discovery that unsettles the very terms on which our understandings of ourselves and our world are based. In its most powerful form, such remembrance initiates forms of learning that shift and disrupt the present, opening one to new ways of perceiving, thinking and acting. (Simon, 2000, p.13)

Robin: In our teaching and learning together, Dr. Ng‐A‐Fook continually challenged my preconceptions and pushed me to accommodate new capacities for imagining the lives of others. This was possible because he complicated my understanding of curriculum, in how I was encouraged to attend to the testimonies of others – whether through artistic


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representations or the living accounts he invited into the classroom. He provoked me to expand upon my newly developed capacities by inviting me to identify, interrogate, situate, and present curriculum artifacts. Unlike any of my prior schooling, this experience at graduate school challenged the very epistemological foundations for comprehending my sense of self. My personal apathy led to my reductive notions of history; institutional and social structures became exposed through what I now understand was a process of re‐ remembering.

Coming to the realization that certain political ideologies had deeply structured how I received, remembered, and responded to knowledge and other representations completely dismantled my historical grounding as a Canadian teacher and student. I was rendered both vulnerable and fragile. Nonetheless, it afforded me pedagogical opportunities to encounter the “experience of my inexperience” – that is, to hear, and learn differently (Simon, 2000, p.19). I encountered my complicity in remembering and forgetting certain historical narratives. No longer naïve, I could not hide behind a veil of indifference. Instead, I now understand my responsibilities as a Canadian to re‐remember the various historical narratives that constitute my Canadian identity. To do so, “one must bear (support and endure),” as Simon and Eppert (1997) make clear, “the psychic burden of a traumatic history, and acknowledge that memories of violence and injustice press down on one’s sense of humanity and moral equilibrium” (p. 178). It is within such vulnerability, fragility and unsettling curriculum that a pedagogical space becomes available for learning difficult knowledge. Provoked by the unsettling experience of my inexperience, I desired alternative understandings of the past, opportunities to read, interpret, and re/write my ways of perceiving, thinking and acting as a Canadian. After discussing this with Nicholas, he invited me to join him on a trip to Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin reserve in Quebec.

When we arrived, the Kitigan Zibi School was lively with activity. Students from grades one to twelve filled the halls. Eagles, trees, a flock of Canadian geese and the lone wolf made up some of the Canadian topography painted on the walls. While wondering and witnessing, I could feel the soft gaze of students attempting to process my presence as the proverbial “Other.” My eyes drifted to theirs. They were met with an intrigued, yet bashful smile that turned into a series of timid little waves, welcoming me to the school. Others were slightly bolder, greeting me with the type of hug I would only be comfortable instigating with a dear friend. In the library, the principal readied her presentation of the Algonquin Anishinàbeg culture, language and curriculum. I listened intently to her describe the cultural, historical, and linguistic relevance of their locally developed education system and its seven grandfather teachings of honesty, truth, love, respect, humility, bravery and wisdom. I was also experiencing it all around me.

Then Bertha Commanda, an Algonquin elder and residential school survivor stood up in front of us. She expressed her gratitude for our presence and desire to learn about Algonquin history and culture. And, Bertha proceeded to share the following story:

A couple of years ago, I was in with the Assembly of First Nations. We went for a meeting [on] parliament hill and so the national Chief says, “this is Mrs. Commanda...this is her territory. Let’s thank her for being


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on her territory.” A lot of parliamentarians were confused there. After the meeting was over, I was getting ready to get up and a couple of women came to see me. White women! And you know what they said? “I’m so glad you people are here.” I said thank you. They then said, “You know what? If it wasn’t for you people, my ancestors would have never survived.” I told them we must have welcomed them because “Quebec” for me sounds like my language. If you come to my house in a boat or in a car all alone, I would say “kaba.” When there are many of you, I would say “kabak.” “Kabak kinebay” means in our language “get off and come on in.” That should be in our history! So that day, I told the Chiefs across Canada, “it’s about time we changed our history, I want a better history.” We got a lot of our own young people. They should be able to write and learn our history.

This alternative account emerged from the silent confines of the colonial narratives that previously prejudiced my understandings of Canadian history. In this moment, history and its respective narratives came alive differently for me, and not because I had witnessed survivor testimony, but more disturbingly because I became further aware of my complicity in the perpetration of what Malewski and Jaramillo (2011) call an epistemology of “ignorance.” Such unsettling narrative encounters were not just about unearthing facts that rendered history more accurate. Instead, I was awakened toward attending to Canadian history differently (Simon, 2000). Kanu and Glor (2006) explain, “by uncovering biographies, there can be an empowerment and a movement away from cultural authority and cultural reproduction” (p. 106). Engaging oral history projects with Algonquin elders as one example, forces us to interrogate our worldviews. In turn, it connects us to the multiplicity of historical accounts, many of which remain characterized by inequality, discrimination, stereotypes, paternalism, isolation, distrust and misunderstanding (Donald, 2004). Such acts of historical deconstruction and reconstruction within and outside the contexts of Canadian social studies may potentially lead to more hopeful relations between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities. And, within such encounters of remembrance, we may become unsettled in our rethinking, reassessing and re‐understanding of Canadian history.

Encountering Truth and Reconciliation: An Unfinished Story

This unfinished story is the story pedagogy must learn to tolerate. (Britzman, 2000, p. 50)

My understanding of what reconciliation means has evolved since that time. To me, it’s all about relationships and communication. (Angeconeb, 2012, p. 27)


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The worthy pedagogical idea inherent in such a form of public history is that the authority and moral weight of the commission will lead Canadians not only to become more aware of past policies and events excluded from the dominant narratives of Canadian history, but also to undertake an active, ethical engagement with this past, one that might forge new covenantal relations of solidarity with Indigenous communities in a collective struggle for a more hopeful future for all. (Simon, 2013, p. 130)

Nicholas: We seem to think we know Aboriginal people by name. And “we” as settlers continue to profit from renaming their ontological, epistemological, material, and political realities with the mythologies we call Canadian history (Donald, 2012). Such colonizing and nationalizing hubris should be an epistemological, curricular, and pedagogical worrying problem for Canadian citizens. For those of us who support and profit from a settler “neoliberal” colonial nation‐state we remain intoxicated by the convenient myths of what King (2012) calls elsewhere the Inconvenient Indian. In our Ontario social studies curriculum, we often toast to celebrations of economic, moral, and technological progress of our citizenship. Our national congratulatory cheers are so loud that we cannot see or hear the voices of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, men, and children who have experienced the systemic intergenerational traumas of cultural genocide. Who are experiencing it! Discursively and politically, the narratives occupying our newsstands, our classrooms, our individual and collective historical consciousness, are perhaps slowly changing. Ontario teachers and students can now find the term “residential schools” within the social studies curriculum policy document. But how do we take up the complexities of their historical representations as future strategic essential questions?

Over the course of our oral history work together, Bertha Commanda refused to let her lived experiences, her life narratives, or Algonquin histories be symbolized by the colonial discursive and material regimes of privatization, criminalization, and victimization. Despite her traumatic experiences at St. Joseph’s, the girls Indian Residential School in Spanish Ontario, she shared testimonies of her traumas with resilience and a generous pedagogical spirit. On several occasions, Bertha shared her teachings with pre‐ service history teachers and graduate students. She taught us how to reread, relearn, rewrite, and teach what we call “Canadian” history differently. Hers and other elders’ stories, like Garnet Angeconeb in Speaking My Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation and Residential School, have provoked me to question the ways in which I am (or not) addressing the commemorative ethics required for Truth and Reconciliation. And yet addressing such ethics as a critical pedagogy for questioning and remembering history will not be found within the disciplinary thinking skills of the Ontario social studies curriculum. And, like Robin, I am still learning how to attend to such kinds of commemorative ethics, of unsettling my encounters with others in the past, present, and future within my research and teaching as a pedagogy of worrying‐in‐public, as a shadow text, where my relationships with Truth and Reconciliation remain an unfinished story. Remembering


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Bertha’s parting words, I am learning to reread, rewrite, and relearn her Algonquin Kitigan Zibi history: “Kabak kinebay!”

Toward the Pedagogical Art of the Possibility of futurities

There is no future without uncanny memorial connections, responsibilities to memories other than one’s own, to memories you have no responsibility for but claim you to a memorial kinship. (Simon, 2000, p. 19)

Writers and intellectuals can name, we can describe, we can depict, we can witness—with—out sacrificing craft, nuance, or beauty. Above all, and at our best, we may sometimes help question the questions. (Rich, 2001, p. 167)

Nicholas and Robin: Throughout his work as a writer and public intellectual, Roger Simon challenged educators to question the questions that inform our understandings of history. His work continues to provoke us to think, listen, speak, and write differently. While the discourse in Ontario’s new social studies curriculum seems to enable educators to learn the shadow texts of Canadian history, the onus is still on curriculum theorists, teachers, and students of history to craft pedagogical spaces to encounter the unsettling historical traumas of others with compassion, knowledge, and justice (Eppert, 2002). These encounters, as Eppert reminds us, must also challenge our anxieties and egocentric investments that seek to forget as we remember the violent inheritance of a colonial history. Moreover, as she and Roger Simon stressed, we must continue to commit ourselves toward deconstructing and reconstructing current Western narratives in their “heroic” conventions for understanding the past. Such conventional historical plots fail to provide the necessary historical reading lenses to construct the shadow texts and affective excesses of residential school survivors’ testimonies. For us, life writing as shadow texts, as currere, enables us to revisit the past as “a practice of unsettling the present,” toward reimagining more hopeful future relations between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal communities across the territories we now call Canada (Simon, 2000, p. 20). Roger Simon and the works of former students like Aparna Mishra Tarc (2011), Claudia Eppert (2000, 2002), and Lisa Farley (2008, 2009, 2010) have provided an intellectual and pedagogical starting point for us to further develop alternative lenses to encounter unsettling histories inside and outside of Canadian social studies.

To this unfinished ending, we might heed Simon’s (1987) words, that “what we do in classrooms can matter; we can begin to enable students to enter the openness of the future as the place of human hope and worth” (p. 381). Such pedagogical openness might begin by taking account, listening, reading, and viewing the stories of elders like Bertha Commanda, Garnet Angeconeb, and the many nameless others who did and did not survive as part of our commemorative ethical commitment, as treaty people, to truth and reconciliation.


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1 To see a timeline on the establishment of the Indian Residential Schooling system and ensuing Truth and Reconciliation Commission consult the following website:‐timeline‐of‐residential‐schools‐the‐truth‐and‐ reconciliation‐commission‐1.724434.

2 Currere is the Latin infinitive etymological root for the term “curriculum” and can be translated as: “to run the course.” For Pinar (2012), the method of currere consists of the four following intertwining parts: regressive, progressive, analytical, and synthetical. In the regressive phase, one conducts free association with memories in order to collect autobiographical data. The purpose is to try and re‐enter the past in order to enlarge and transform one’s memories. The second phase, or the progressive, is where one looks towards what is not yet present. In the analytical stage, one examines how both the past and future inhabit the present. At the analytical stage, how might educational researchers bracket such experiences in order to loosen emotional attachments and their respective limit‐situations in relation to pedagogical concepts such as, but not limited to: decolonizing one’s self? The synthetical is the last stage, where one brings together past, present, and future limitations and possibilities in order to re‐enter the present moment, hopefully without instrumental certainty or promise, with a sense of self‐understanding, or insight, in relation to such pedagogical concepts. William Pinar’s (2012) concept of currere has been an integral part of Nicholas Ng‐A‐Fook’s (2009, 2012, in‐press) teaching and research at the University of Ottawa.

3 To learn more about the different components of the larger research project consult the following articles Corrigan, Ng‐A‐Fook, Lévesque, Smith (2013), Lévesque, Ng‐A‐Fook, Corrigan (2014), and Smith, Ng‐A‐Fook, Corrigan (in‐press).

4 Within the scope of this essay we cannot provide an in‐depth analysis of both the possibilities and limitations of examining the transnational culture of redress taking place across Western neoliberal and/or neoconservative nation‐states such as, but not limited to South Africa, Australia, and Canada. However, in Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress, Henderson and Wakeham, put forth an excellent edited collection of essays that examine the historical, political, and theoretical, and dimensions of what they call “the culture of redress” (p. 15). What we can take from their arguments put for in this thought‐provoking collection, is that several different several different neoliberal Western countries like Canada have sought to control the various political, economic, and discursive mechanisms for acknowledging historical traumas and in turn establishing the parameters around the kinds of redress that are given as part of any future settlements with descendants of interned Japanese‐Canadians, Chinese head tax, or residential school survivors as three examples.


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5 Within the scope of this essay we are not able to tease out the complexities of these psychoanalytical concepts in relation to juxtaposition of the texts related to the IRS system and/or Truth and Reconciliation. For a more thorough discussion and potential future juxtaposition of these concepts we strongly encourage readers to read Lisa Farley’s (2009) Radical hope: Or, the problem of uncertainty in History Education.

6 Thirty‐five years ago, Elliot Eisner (1979) situated the following three different types of curriculum within the contexts of public schooling: 1) Explicit, 2) Implicit, and 3) Null curriculum. The explicit curriculum refers to government policy documents like the Ontario Social Studies curriculum. The implicit refers the values and expectations that are not put forth in the formal curriculum. The null refers to what is excluded from the school curriculum. Often what is included and/or excluded could have significant impacts for different exogenous and/or Indigenous populations in a school. “The concept of evolution omitted from a biology curriculum,” as Flinders, Noddings, and Thornton (1986) suggest, “would be an example of this type of exclusion”. The null curriculum can also be considered in terms of the exclusion of particular facts. “For example an Ameri‐can history unit focusing on the New Deal without reference to the failure of the New Deal to solve the unemployment problem,” as these authors argue, “would consign this bit of information to the null curriculum” (p. 35). In Ontario a similar example would be the exclusion of various historical events, like the establishment of the Indian Residential Schooling system, from the history curriculum. Moreover, a lack of Indigenous historical perspectives within existing history textbooks on such events would be another example of the null curriculum. For a more thorough discussion of the different dimensions of the null curriculum see Flinders, Noddings, and Thornton’s (1986) essay The Null Curriculum: Its Theoretical Basis and Practical Implications.


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Aoki, T. (2005). Language, Culture, and Curriculum... (2000). In W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin

(Eds.), Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki, 321‐329.

Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Angeconeb, G. (2012). Speaking my truth: The journey to reconciliation. In Aboriginal

Healing Foundation (Ed.), Speaking my truth: Reflections on reconciliation & residential school (pp. 11‐36). Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing education: Nourishing the learning spirit. Saskatoon, SK:

Purich Publishing Limited. Britzman, D. (1998). Lost subjects, contested objects. New York, New York: State University

of New York Press. Britzman, D. (2000). If the story cannot end: Deferred action, ambivalence, and difficult

knowledge. In R. I. Simon, S. Rosenberg, & C. Eppert (Eds.), Between hope and despair: Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical trauma (pp. 27‐58). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield. Corrigan, J., & Ng‐A‐Fook, N., & Lévesque, S., & Smith, B. (2013). Looking to the future to

understand the past: A survey of pre‐service history teachers’ experiences with digital technology and content knowledge. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 49‐73. den Heyer, K., & Abbott, L. (2011). Reverberating echoes: Challenging teacher

candidates to tell and learn from entwined narrations of Canadian history. Curriculum Inquiry, 41(5), 610‐635.‐873x.2011.00567.x Donald, D. T. (2004). Edmonton Pentimento: Re‐reading history in the case of the

Papaschase Cree. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 2(1), 21‐ 54. Donald, D. T. (2009). Forts, curriculum, and Indigenous métissage: Imagining

decolonization of Aboriginal‐Canadian relations in educational contexts. First Nations Perspectives: The Journal of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, 2(1), 1‐24. Donald, D. (2012). Forts, curriculum, and ethical relationality. In N. Ng‐A‐Fook & J.

Rottmann (Eds.), Reconsidering Canadian curriculum studies (pp. 39‐46). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Eisner, E. W. (1979) The educational imagination: On the design and evaluation of school

programs. New York: Macmillan Publishing. Eppert, C. (2000). Relearning questions: Responding to the ethical address of past and present Others. In R. I. Simon, S. Rosenberg, & C. Eppert (Eds.), Between hope and despair: Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical trauma (pp. 213‐230). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield. Eppert, C. (2002). Entertaining history: (Un)heroic identifications, apt pupils, and an ethical

imagination. New German Critique, 8671‐101. Farley, L. (2008). “An Oedipus for our time: On the un‐discipline of historical relations.”

Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 24(1), 20–31.


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Farley, L. (2009). Radical Hope: On the problem of uncertainty in history education.

Curriculum Inquiry, 39(4), 537–554.‐ 873X.2009.00456.x Farley, L. (2010). The reluctant pilgrim: Questioning belief after historical loss. Journal of

the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 8(1), 6–40. Flinders, D., & Noddings, N., & Thornton, S. J. (1986). The null curriculum: Its theoretical

Basis and practical implications. Curriculum Inquiry, 16(1), 33‐42. Freire, P. (1970/1990). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, New York: Continuum Press. Haig‐Brown, C. (2009). Decolonizing Diasporic Studies: Whose Traditional Land Are We

On? Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry. 1(1), pp. 4‐21. Hasebe‐Ludt, E., C. Chambers & Leggo, C. (2009). Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an

Ethos for Our Times. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Henderson, J., & Wakeham, P. (2013). (Eds.). Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the

Culture of Redress. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. Kanu, Y. & Glor, M. (2006). ‘Currere’ to the rescue? Teachers as ‘amateur intellectuals’ in a

knowledge society. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 4(2), 101‐122. King, T. (2012). The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North

America. Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada. Lévesque, S. (2008). Thinking Historically: Educating Students for the 21st Century. Toronto,

ON: University of Toronto Press. Lévesque, S., & Ng‐A‐Fook, N., Corrigan, J. (2014). What does the eye see?: Reading online

primary source photographs in history. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Education. 14 (1), pp. 1‐23. Malewski, E. & Jaramillo, N. (2011). (Eds.). Epistemologies of Ignorance. Charlotte, North

Carolina: Information Age Publishing Inc. Mishra Tarc, A. (2011). “Reparative Curriculum.” Curriculum Inquiry, 41(3), pp. 350–372.‐873X.2011.00554.x Ng‐A‐Fook, N. (2009). Inhabiting the Hyphenated Spaces of Alienation and Appropriation:

Currere, Language, and Postcolonial Migrant Subjectivities. In James Nahachewsky and Ingrid Johnson (Eds.), Beyond Presentism, (pp. 87‐103). Rotterdam The Netherlands: Sense publishers. Ng‐A‐Fook, N. (2012). Navigating M/other‐Son Plots as a Migrant Act: Autobiography, Currere, and Gender. In Springgay, S. & Freedman, D. (Eds.). Mothering a bodied curriculum: Emplacement, desire, affect, pp. 160‐185. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. Ng‐A‐Fook, N. (2013). Contemplating A Canadian Curriculum Theory Project: Currere,

Denkbild and Intellectual Genealogies, (pp. 172‐181). In Erika Hasebe‐Ludt and Wanda Hurren (Eds.), Contemplating Curriculum: Genealogies/Times/Places. New York, New York: Routledge. Ng‐A‐Fook, N. (in‐press). Autobiography, Intellectual Topographies, and Teacher

Development. In Hua Zhang and William F. Pinar (Eds.). Teacher Autobiography and


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Teacher Development: A Reconceptualization of Teacher Education. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2004). The Ontario curriculum social studies grades 1‐6

History and Geography grades 7‐8 [Program of Studies]. Retrieved from: (accessed on February 26, 2014). Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). The Ontario curriculum social studies grades 1‐6

History and Geography grades 7‐8 [Program of Studies]. Retrieved from: (accessed on February 26, 2014). Perks, R. & Thomson, A. (Eds.). (1998). The Oral History Reader. New York, NY: Routledge. Pinar, W. F. (2006). The Synoptic Text Today and Other Essays: Curriculum Development after

the Reconceptualization. New York, New York: Peter Lang. Pinar, W. F. (2012). What is Curriculum Theory? (2nd edition). New York, New York:

Routledge. Ranck, J. (2000). Beyond Reconciliation: Memory and Alterity in Post‐Genocide Rwanda. In

Roger I. Simon, Sharon Rosenberg, & Claudia Eppert (Eds.), Between Hope and Despair: Pedagogy and the Remembrance of Historical Trauma (pp. 187‐212). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield. Regan, P. (2010). Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and

Reconciliation in Canada. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. Ritchie, D. (2003). Doing Oral History. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Rich, A. (2001). Arts of the Possible. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Sas, J. (2012, December). Uncomfortable truths: Dr. Marie Wilson on the history of

residential schools in Canada. Rabble. Retrieved from:‐schools‐uncomfortable‐truth‐about‐ canada (accessed on March 1st, 2013). Seixas, P. (2006). Benchmarks of Historical Thinking: A Framework for Assessment in Canada

(pp. 1–12). Vancouver, BC. Seixas, P., & Morton, T. (2013). The Big Six: Historical Thinking Benchmarks. Toronto, ON:

Nelson Education Ltd. Simon, R. I. (1982). Dialogue as a scholarly activity. Curriculum Inquiry, 12(1), 5‐7. Simon, R. I. (1987). Empowerment as a pedagogy of possibility. Language Arts, 64(4), 370‐

382. Simon, R. I. (1992). Teaching Against the Grain: Texts for a Pedagogy of Possibility. New York,

New York: Bergin and Garvey. Simon, R. I. (2000). The Paradoxical Practice of Zakhor. In Roger I. Simon, Sharon Rosenberg, & Claudia Eppert (Eds.), Between Hope and Despair: Pedagogy and the Remembrance of Historical Trauma (pp. 9‐26). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield. Simon, R. I. (2013). Towards a Hopeful Practice of Worrying: The Problematics of Listening and the Educative Responsibilities of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Jennifer Henderson, & Pauline Wakeham (Eds.), Reconciling Canada: Critical


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Perspectives on the Culture of Redress (pp. 129‐142). Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. Simon, R. I., & Dippo, D. (1986). On critical ethnographic work. Anthropology & Education

Quarterly, 17(4), 195‐202. Simon, R. & Eppert, C. (1997). Remembering obligation: Pedagogy and the witnessing of

testimony of historical trauma. Canadian Journal of Education, 22(2), 175‐191. Smith, B., Ng‐A‐Fook, N., Berry, S., & Spence, K. (2011). Deconstructing a Curriculum of

Dominance: Teacher Education, Colonial Frontier Logics, and Residential Schooling. Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 8(2), 53‐70. Smith, B., & Ng‐A‐Fook, N., & Corrigan, J. (in‐press). Mobile(izing) Educational Research:

Historical Thinking, M‐Learning, and Technopolitics. McGill Journal of Education. Stanley, T. J. (2006). Whose Public? Whose Memory? Racisms, Grand Narratives and Canadian History. In R.W. Sandwell (Ed.), To the Past: History Education, Public Memory, and Citizenship in Canada, (pp. 32‐49). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Taylor, H. D. (2012). Cry Me a River, White Boy. In Aboriginal Healing Foundation (Ed.).

Speaking My Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation & Residential School, (pp. 141‐152). Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Tomkins, G. (1986/2008). A Common Countenance: Stability and Change in the Canadian

Curriculum. Vancouver, BC: Pacific Educational Press. Tuck, E. & Gaztambide‐Fernández, R. (2013). Curriculum, Replacement, and Settler Futurity.

Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 29(1), pp. 72‐89. Veracini, L. (2010). Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview. New York, New York:

Palgrave Macmillan. Weenie, A. (2008). Curricular Theorizing From the Periphery. Curriculum Inquiry, 38(5),

545‐557.‐873X.2008.00435.x Youngblood, H. J. (2013). Incomprehensible Canada. In Jennifer Henderson, & Pauline

Wakeham (Eds.), Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress (pp. 115‐126). Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press.


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Inheritance as Intimate, Implicated Publics: Building Practices of Remembrance with Future Teachers in Response to Residential School Survivor Testimonial Media and Literature

Lisa Taylor School of Education Bishops University


In this article, I contextualize and outline my use of testimonial literature, including orature, by residential school survivors in a preservice course focused on building practices of witness­as­ study (Simon & Eppert, 2005). My theorization of the course curriculum and pedagogy draws on key texts by Roger Simon as a means of proposing pedagogical strategies that teacher educators and teachers in Canada might bring to their classrooms as we take up the invitation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to engage the broader Canadian society in the task of publicly witnessing and commemorating the testimonies of First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) residential school survivors.

In such community, we may yet find a way to be answerable to the gift we encounter in reading Levinas. (Simon, 2003, p. 58)

Throughout his career Roger Simon grappled with core questions concerning the relationship of education to social change1. From the possibilities and logocentric constraints of critical pedagogy,2 he increasingly focused on how education proposes to intervene in the affective structuring of subjectivity with the agenda of changing political structures3. Of particular interest to his later work are the affective dynamics of learning that might be sparked by rigorous reading practices of testamentary texts within communities forged through remembrance‐based pedagogies. It is in such reading practices that he locates the ethical impulse to thought that constitutes a non‐naïve hope.

Amongst the range of memory projects Roger examined, I have been deeply influenced by his teaching, writings, and conversations on the task of public pedagogy in relation to the mandate of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The trajectory of my own teaching has reflected an increasing focus on the question of how we, who locate our work within colonial nation‐building institutions of schooling, might take up our difficult colonial inheritance. I am fortunate to be able to pursue these concerns in the unique context of my university: a small, liberal arts‐focused, concurrent teacher education program that allows for sustained, intimate classroom conversations and reflects my department’s growing commitment to honour the ACDE (Association of Canadian Deans of Education) Accord on Indigenous Education (2009).

This paper is informed by a larger project of becoming answerable to the gift I have encountered in the testimonies and teachings of Indigenous educators4 and survivors who have generously shared their insights into inter‐generational trauma, healing, resistance, and truth‐telling in the face of ongoing colonization including the legacies of residential schools. In this article, I contextualize and outline my use of testimonial literature, including orature, by residential school survivors in a preservice course focused on building practices of witness‐


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as‐study (Simon & Eppert, 2005). These practices are framed within an understanding of schooling as both a state institution and a heterogeneous, intergenerational community with ongoing ethical implications and obligations. My theorization of the course curriculum and pedagogy draws on key texts by Roger Simon (2000, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2013) as a means of proposing concrete strategies that teacher educators and teachers in Canada might bring to their classrooms as we take up the invitation of the TRC to engage the broader Canadian society in the task of publicly witnessing and commemorating the testimonies of First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) residential school survivors. In doing this, I hope to take part in a greater historic process of fostering a historical imaginary that could offer new forms of citizenship and identity in Canada.

Contexts of Reception and the Task of Pedagogy

Any remembrance of the impact and legacy of residential schools needs to acknowledge the IRS policy not only as a singular violence against the over 150,000 interned children themselves (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), but more importantly as a key element in a continuous project of colonization, political disenfranchisement, and land dispossession justified by a settler colonial political culture that persists and elicits our ongoing participation in the present. In acknowledging this, it must also be recognized that the TRC was brought about by FNIM peoples who have battled for decades to secure this intergenerational forum of remembrance as part of a historic governmental settlement with survivors (Fontaine, 2008). This means that the commission’s first responsibility is to create a forum where the testimony of survivors can be honoured as part of a process of intergenerational healing. At the same time, as Roger outlined in 2008 (published as Simon, 2013), the gathering of such a historic body of survivor testimony will inspire a host of social responses and cultural production. The circulation of these testamentary and aesthetic texts beyond their contexts of production raises vital questions of how these texts will be received and interpreted by different readers and what may be learned.

These questions point to the separate TRC mandate of public pedagogy outside FNIM communities, one that is highly contested and subject to the discursive and affective dynamics of colonial political culture (see for example, Younging et al. 2009; Regan, 2010; Mathur et al., 2011; Henderson & Wakeham, 2013). This secondary mandate “to promote awareness and public education” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) is reiterated in Justice Murray Sinclair’s address to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples about the Winnipeg national event. He writes:

[T]he most powerful moments were often the quietest. At an exhibition of photographs from the residential schools, you could see people gazing into the small faces in the pictures. In the light of understanding that flickered in their eyes came the realization that these were children. Just children. And in moments like those, when realization gives way to understanding, resolve takes hold. It is then that the truth becomes not only known but felt. It is then that we move from a state of apology to one where true reconciliation can begin. It is those quiet moments in the hearts of all Canadians that we seek. (Sinclair, 2010, p.7)


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The kind of learning Justice Sinclair describes is of the highest importance to our shared present and future as Canadians. He posits that truth telling is pedagogical when it lights a movement from realization to understanding. Such an understanding is covenantal5, he implies, when a truth is felt—in an emotional, affective, or aesthetic way—such that understanding seals a commitment to a transformed way of being and acting in relation to others. There is a particular path implied in this pedagogy—from the unveiling of truth and its apprehension to the witness’ emotional response, conscious acknowledgment, and commitment to an ongoing, implicated, active relationality in their everyday lives. Such a model raises the question of what emotions teach.

In a paper entitled “Breaking the Silence” first presented to TRC commissioners, survivors, and scholars at a 2008 conference in Montreal, Roger Simon (2013) asked what sorts of emotional experience might “foster an ethics of responsibility in which condolence, regret, and reparation will underwrite the possibility of more just, historically informed, social and political bonds” (p. 130). Indeed, he questions the extent to which feelings are even sufficient to this curricular aspiration. We might also ask, with Sara Ahmed (2004), if feelings can be treated as discrete, stable, transferable properties that would act as guarantors of such learning (pp. 10‐11). In response, Simon (2013) outlines a number of risks inherent in the practice of listening to stories of suffering (especially across asymmetries of power), reminding us “there is present in contemporary society, a historically specific, socially organized mode of regarding the pain of others” (p. 131). In making this claim, Simon outlines how this organized practice of recognizing others’ suffering is informed by both the affective economies and discursive imperatives of memorialization where the mode of remembrance reduces the testifier to a spectacle of pain, a victim of history and an undifferentiated object of pathos even as the listener might self‐congratulatorily “feel good about feeling bad” (p. 133).

Losing sight of the singularity of a particular testimony, such listening practices risk privileging the most dramatic, emotive, and shocking examples of victimization (p. 134). Such spectacular representations of violence raise what Bal (2007) identifies as “the problem of sentimentality ... of an identification that either appropriates someone else’ pain or exploits it to feel oneself feeling” (p. 94). She explores this exploitative practice of passive identification as a mode of looking that seeks to mitigate the difficulty of viewing representations of great suffering and all that these unleash, including “undirected emotions, vicarious guilt, indifference as a shield to bear it, and secondary exploitation” of viewers (2007, p. 96). Simon urges educators to consider what critical questions these discursively organized modes of looking and listening preclude, as well as what kinds of politics they enact. He cautions that on their own, stories of suffering may be listened to in ways that deny implication, re‐institute colonial relations, and reduce civic responsibility to feelings of guilt that are easily domesticated, dissociated, and assigned to the forgotten actions of distant others long ago (2013, p. 133).

Emotional responses to representations of historic violence are not only susceptible to but can produce and reify a particular politics. As Ahmed (2004) argues, it is through emotions that subjects come to experience distinct social formations as real, to (dis)identify, align or orient themselves in relation to formations like nation, gender, or ethnos (pp. 10‐12). Examining the Australian Sorry movement that emerged in response to the Bringing Them Home report on residential schools, Ahmed observes the way non‐Aboriginals’ explicit declarations of collective shame circulated as a mode of (self) recognition that allowed a wounded, contemporary white Australian nation to take shape as a “felt community” (pp. 101‐105). Within this context, non‐Aboriginals’ shared feeling of national shame becomes a


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practice of identifying with the suffering of a shamed white nation: “what makes the injustice unjust is that it ... has deprived white Australia of its ability to declare its pride” (Ahmed 2004, p. 112). The white nation that comes to be collectively felt and materialized as it circulates within the Sorry movement is constituted as an object of pride, even—or particularly—as such a sentiment is threatened by the shame of residential schools. As a result, declarations of national shame ambivalently reaffirm patriotic love of the nation (Ahmed, 2004, p. 112). Paradoxically, it is to the bodies of survivors that the negativity of shame adheres, as it is the survivors’ testimonies that expose a national crime. As shame/pride intensifies (on) the surfaces of bodies—some bodies marked as sources of shame, others of (lost) pride— boundaries crystallize, harden and reproduce hegemonic identities of a white ‘us’ wounded by the painful knowledge that revelations of Aboriginal pain render impossible to ignore.

Feelings of shame can work, then, to materialize and harden boundaries between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal people, and to stitch non‐Aboriginal peoples affectively into the settler nation. Specifically, by passing through temporary shame, pride is lost but then recuperated through the idealization of pride as a unifying normative feeling of belonging (Ahmed, 2004, pp.107‐112). The problem here is that the politics of this form of shame forecloses on any ability to remain open to witness the testimonies of the injured other. It is the white nation’s presumed temporary slip from ideality that is being witnessed rather than the violation of Aboriginal people (pp.118‐119).

In mapping the circuits of ambivalent affects that flow through movements recognizing collective complicity, Ahmed (2004) suggests that it is less the content of the feeling that should concern educators than how specific emotions can work to anchor a particular sense of time, history, and (non)belonging. As educators, we need to disrupt the colonial temporalities and registers of memory and belonging that mediate non‐Aboriginal subjects’ sense of civic relationality—their sense of ‘Canadianness’, of ways of relating beyond, before or against the state—if we hope to shift their capacity to respond to the address and claim of a past outside their structures of recognition, and to open to the shared present and futures that claim implies. In illustration, Celermajor (2006) has examined the ways residential school history is partitioned off (not as Australian history and memory but as Aboriginal). This segregated model of history is a consequence of the necessity of Aboriginal groups to mobilize liberal rights discourses in order to extract recognition and redress by the state. Of concern to Celermajor, however, is how this sense of history privileges ahistorical liberal models of rights and citizenship, isolating the individual in their temporal and social context. As a result, learning about residential schools is reduced to learning about specific crimes committed by specific persons against other individuals. Ahistorical liberal juridical discourses risk reducing singular testimonies to a litany of child‐centred narratives of undifferentiated victimhood. In a similar vein, it is the image of the rights‐ and freedom‐deprived child that concerns Henderson (2013) as that image is mobilized in a contemporary “culture of redress and reconciliation” (p.63): this figure of the confined, interned or “Carceral” Child “condenses the classical liberal understanding of negative freedom” (2013, p. 70). While politically effective, the figure of the Carceral Child invites a broader public to take up modes of sympathetic identification that recognize only individual, time‐specific forms of harm or reparation and occlude collective legacies and implication (2013, pp. 66‐9). This decontextualization is exacerbated in political cultures that “[channel] the clarity and certainty of moral outrage produced by the publicization of grief towards privatized forms of political participation such as empathetic spectatorship” (Berlant, 2008 in Henderson & Wakeham, 2013, p. 77). When empathetic identification with an ahistorical figure of human rights is privatized and


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sentimentalized, it can work to reinforce the segregation of collective historical memory, fueling denial and dissociation (“I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even born”).

The problem of sentimentality (Bal, 2007, p. 94) lies, then, in the slipperiness of feelings, when representations of suffering stir up “bottomless but directionless emotion” (p.95) and passive, unreflective identification that is highly susceptible to transference and hegemonic affective economies as described above. If feeling is ambivalent, volatile and apt to ahistorical, dissociative practices of selective apprehension that commodify, privatize, and compartmentalize the polyvalent transitive force of testimony (Simon, 2003, p. 50), then it is pedagogy’s task to teach an affective aesthetics.6 By this, I refer to Simon’s vision of a pedagogy that offers conditions and prompts to “figurations of sensation‐based thought” (Bal, 2007, p.112) by which the face and force of history might be experienced as a rupture that initiates a “continuing affective heritage” and ethical project (Simon, 2011, p.9, 195). In what follows I describe the design of a young adult literature course for preservice teachers that aims to cultivate just such an affective aesthetics as a practice of reflexive, recursive (re)reading.

Course Context, Curriculum and Pedagogy: Rereading, Relearning, Retelling

The 4‐year B.Ed. program within the small liberal arts university in which I teach prepares a predominantly non‐Indigenous student body (over 90%), while offering practicum placements in collaboration with Nascapi and Cree communities in northern Quebec (Aitken & McKenzie, 2010; Aitken & Robinson, 2011). Within the program, one mandatory course in social justice education surveys ongoing histories and legacies of colonization including residential schools. In parallel to this, for 10 years I have also taught a course examining the complicities, complexities, and ethical implications of colonization through a reader response‐ based curriculum of young adult literature. The course curriculum offers students a range of reading frameworks to experiment with complex approaches to reading ‘outside the canon’ of hegemonic normative coming‐of‐age experiences, life‐worlds, communities, worldviews, and identities. While we begin with texts by such authors as Toni Morrison, Marjane Satrapi and Chimamanda Adichie, we spend six weeks (re)reading three main texts: Alexie’s (2007) Absolutely True Diary of a Part­time Indian, a highly autobiographical, ironically observed novel of a ‘rez kid’ disheartened enough by the structural confinement and intergenerational trauma of home life to face the alienation of attending a white high school; Indian Horse, Wagamese’s (2012) portrait of a boy’s passage from the bush through residential school sustained by a passion for hockey that can only insulate him from trauma for so long; We Were Children, Wolochatiuk’s (2012) documentary dramatizing the testimony of survivors Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod. We contextualize these texts alongside works by King (2003, 2012), Obomsawim (1993), Milloy (1999), and Kazimi (1997), as well as resources from the Legacy of Hope Foundation. As part of the course, Cree artist, educator, curriculum consultant, and survivor Ena Greyeyes offers a workshop on art and healing.

My pedagogical turn from sociological to aesthetic forms of learning reflects an interest in opening up the ordinary, intimate habits of sense‐making and world‐making (Berlant, 2011; Stewart, 2007) that students bring from personal, family, and collective histories (Taylor, 2011a, 2011b). Most significantly, I turn to aesthetic texts and literary pedagogy for the capacious methods and vocabulary they offer for the sustained, recursive, reflexive work demanded by testimony’s call not simply to learn, but to witness one’s struggles in learning (Simon, 2003). Educational scholars7 have long asserted the unique quality of aesthetic texts as imaginative, emotive forms that can “hold” (Winnicott, 1989) and host volatile libidinal


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dynamics, that is the difficulty of transference, breakdowns, defences and recuperations (Britzman, 2013; Pitt & Britzman, 2003; Ball, 2007) triggered by the “event of a testament” (Simon, 2003, p. 50). As described by Justice Sinclair, this event infuses testimony with a transitive address and singular, illocutionary affective force that “initiates a gift, an inheritance ... [bringing] the past with it, charging this event with a future, a possibility” (Simon, 2003, p. 50). In his sustained elaboration of a pedagogy of remembrance, Simon located the central challenge as one of directing this movement from affect to thought and judgment that is impulsed by testamentary force, “a movement ... whose precise content can never be specified in advance, nor assumed to be unitary, singular, or shared” (Simon, 2013, p.195). Key to literary pedagogy’s ethics, then, is an understanding of learning as a nonlinear, non‐instrumentalizable, volatile libidinal, and aesthetic experience.

At the same time, I am also keenly aware that Indigenous and non‐Indigenous students bring radically divergent learning stances, prior knowledge, and responses to curriculum that grapples with ongoing colonization, its legacies, and latencies. While I consider these very different learning processes to be essential to what Simon (2010a) envisions as the larger historical project of revising the terms of belonging and sharing on this land, my past conversations and teaching observation I have undertaken have persuaded me that the learning of non‐Indigenous students can be taxing, and even toxic, for Indigenous students expected to tolerate or facilitate this process. Of course, this depends on the histories of relationships, research, and thinking that particular students bring to the group. Pedagogically, this kind of work demands multiple, nested forums of differing privacy to document, observe, share, analyze, learn from, and extend one’s practices of response to testimony in ways that are supported by contextual knowledge, critical reflexivity, and different models of reading.

Such a response‐based approach to literature of social difference, disparity, injustice, and its inheritances is deeply fraught with challenges as there is a danger in any curriculum of reading across social difference and disparity that texts will be positioned as transparent objects of knowledge and ‘sounding boards’ for rehearsals of morally sanitized emotions and subjectivities within a program of privileged self‐care, edification, and redemption (Bogdan 1992; Palimbo‐liu 1995, pp.12‐13). Conventional approaches to reader response‐based pedagogy raise other challenges as they elicit and reinforce empathetic identification‐based reading strategies (Eppert, 2002). Britzman (1998, p.83) warns of the inherent moralism of empathetic identification: as a “projection of the self into the conditions of the other”, empathy positions the reader as “arbitrator and judge of the other’s actions and possibilities”. This course must be situated, then, within an institutional “site of consumption” (Ghosh 2000, p.39) characterized by a multiculturalist appetite for idealized literary subjects of knowledge and empathy that encourages the consolidation of normative sovereign reader formations.

The hegemonic dynamics striating such an institutional site of consumption were vividly illustrated in the 2014 CBC ‘Battle of the Books’, “Canada Reads” (CBC, 2014) as panelists debated whether and how the aesthetic experience of literature might matter in the sense of somehow inspiring social change. Championing the depictive and pedagogical efficacy of their particular novel, panelists in the four‐day, nationally televised program sought to enact a practice of public memory using the aesthetic objects of novels to explore various forms of social injustice and breakdown. For the purposes of this article, I will only note that debates tended to compare books in terms of representation and identification for an implicit normalized non‐Indigenous Canadian readership. Implicitly prioritizing these criteria of literary merit meant panelists combed through historical details in the novels for


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inaccuracies or specificities that, in their eyes, detracted from a book’s comprehensive portrayal of and case‐making for a particular marginalized population. Books were subjected to this sort of accuracy test despite different panelists’ defence of the autonomy of literary imagination. Alternatively, panelists supported the novels with characters they individually found the most ‘relatable’, referring to stories they believed “all Canadians could see themselves in” or “rally behind” (CBC, 2014).

Concerns about the accuracy and generalizability of depictions of the lived experience and subjectivity of populations presumed to signify systemic discrimination synedochally (e.g. an intersex character signifying the cause of gender equality) in part reflect the degree to which progressivist movements have shifted within late capitalism from a politics of redistribution to one of recognition (Fraser, 1997) and expression/voice (Bryson & de Castells, 1993; Grossberg, 1996). Nevertheless, the logic mobilized in the debates linking literature’s putative power to transform consciousness (and thereby inspire impactful action) to its efficacy in educating readers through either accurate explication or empathetic identification echoes the prevalent reading practices I have observed over a decade of teaching literature beyond the canon.

A multi‐year qualitative study of student reading logs (Taylor, 2014) identified two predominant modes of literary reading across social difference: reading ‘anthropologically’ and reading ‘empathetically’. Reflecting a desire to know the Other, the first reading strategy tends to reify and consume constructions of absolute difference, to read Alexie and Wagamese’ texts as history or documentary all First Nations’ lives (what I term ‘Reading for Enlightenment’). Animated by a desire to feel the Other, the second strategy reads through projective identification with characters based on selective commonalities of experience or identity (‘Reading for Empathetic Identification’).

Building on Davis’ (1996) model of reflexive recaptivation, the course pedagogy works against the grain of these institutional reception practices through structured exercises that explicitly apprentice students in a set of critical and ethical reading practices. Students write their response to course texts first in raw stream of consciousness (Response #1), then reread their initial response (Response #2) through a series of five ‘lenses’:

1. Proliferating and diversifying identifications 2. Situating ourselves as readers and learning to read our own readings symptomatically 3. Reading like a writer, attending to craft, textuality, generic conventions 4. Learning to listen, learning to witness 5. Reading as a social justice teacher (for a full description, see Taylor, 2014) My design of the lenses is informed by Simon’s (2003) analysis of the implicit pedagogies underpinning different practices of public remembrance through testamentary storytelling and reading. He argues that such practices tend to be approached with three aims: to understand the past (‘How could this happen?’); to preserve memory of that past (‘We shall not forget’); and to “instigate contemporary practices of justice, compassion, and tolerance” (‘Never again’) (2003, p. 43). While the first modality approaches the past as a distant object of knowledge and explication, in the second, the past is a more proximate object of feeling. “[I]nvoking iconic memories that mobilize affective structures of affiliation”, this second mode of memorialization invites empathy, identification and a sense of social continuity (Simon, 2003, pp. 46‐49).

Simon warns that memorialization can mount a deeply conservative structure of feeling if the ensuing identifications affirm primordial or exclusionary conceptions of community, or if the identificatory orientation remains fixed on a Past that is closed, discrete, or inert. In


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asking students to return to their initial response through Lens One to seek surprising, unexpected, or even uncanny connections (“commanded by a persistent sense of belonging to something or someone that is other than the grounds on which one recognizes oneself”, Simon, 2000, p.19), Lens 1 pursues a key course aim of de‐segregating memory (Diprose, 2002, pp. 158‐159; Donald, 2009). For example, one student returns to his initial reaction to the protagonist Saul’s residential school experiences in Indian Horse, “looking for something familiar in the unfamiliar”8. Resorting neither to superficial similarities nor abstract universals, the connection he finds deeply estranges his sense of the familiar and the rural, homogeneous farming community “devoid of natives”9 in which he grew up. He is shocked and repeatedly returns to Wagamese’ (2012, p. 80) observation of residential school life: “We were stock. That’s how we were treated”. The testamentary force of Wagamese’ comparison pierces the boundary separating personal and textual worlds, summoning his lived experience of responsible, caring animal husbandry and recasting it as attestation to the violence of colonization: “So when Saul says he was treated like a farm animal I say no. He was treated worse”10.

The course includes other exercises designed to guide students in using Lens 1 to seek connections through shared history and implication. Developed with my co‐facilitator Curran Jacobs, “All my Relations” is a graphic organizer that asks students to individually identify the presence of indigenous people in their daily life—in family, ancestors, friendship circles, communities, mixed or segregated neighborhoods, as represented within the social imaginary, media, school curriculum, the discursive and affective landscapes of their inner and social life. They next identify the absences and silences in their lives, and then envision the presences and awareness they hope to foster, as well as the responsibilities and kinship (Heath Justice, 2008) that ensue from different relationships they identify. Another assignment asks students to construct multimodal archives of their personal storied formation (Strong‐Wilson, 2008), juxtaposing visual images to interweave stories or novels read/heard in class with “touchstone” (Strong‐Wilson, 2008) family and childhood stories (Taylor, 2010). This exercise follows Thomas’ (2005) encouragement to pursue family histories and intergenerational conversations that reconnect youth to longer memories of belonging (Dion, 2008) and relationality as treaty people11. Like the student response described in the previous paragraph, this exercise aims to provoke a reimagining of intimate, everyday lived relations in a way that presences human and civic relationships occluded by a colonial national imaginary and social order (Simon, 2010b, p. 55).

The 2nd lens asks students to situate their initial responses as symptomatic and performative of the “structures of intelligibility” (Britzman, 1998) and “horizons of expectations” (Jauss, 1982) they bring to the text as particularly positioned and enculturated members of different discourse communities. This implies approaching their initial reactions to the text in RR#1 as threads that one might pull to unravel “one’s own entanglement of history and epistemology” and discern the contours of one’s historical consciousness (Simon, 2005, pp. 96‐98). My instructions for and facilitation of discussions of this 2nd lens are informed by Simon’s pedagogy of obscene questions and shadow texts (Simon & Armitage, 1995; Simon, 2005, pp. 96‐100). This allows for an examination of the discursive, psychically transferential, literary generic, and institutional conditions of students’ initial questions and reactions to Indigenous testimonial texts read in class.

Many students return, for example, to their initial responses of shock, disbelief, dis‐ identification, and moral outrage towards the portrayals of residential school teachers in Wagamese (2012) or Wolochatiuk (2012). I encourage students to use Lens 2 to reread these


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responses as symptomatic of their investment in education as an institution. This rereading demands the unsettling contextualization of students’ vocational investments within the colonial complicities and continuities of schooling. In this guided rereading, I pursue a central course goal of fostering my students’ institutional skepticism and memory as treaty people and members of a deeply implicated, transgenerational community of educators (Derrida, 2001; Pinkerton, 2009). The kind of skeptical institutional memory I’m thinking of aspires to Simon’s (2003) third mode of remembrance. He proposes that practices of “transformative recollection” take up the transitive demands of testimonies in ways that unsettle, “rend” or “tear” the apparently discrete, smooth, and teleological relation between past and present but that also crack the present open such that we experience it as vulnerable and exposed in all its “inherent incompleteness” (Simon 2003, p. 49). The way survivor narratives and historical documents (Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2005) lay bare the explicit culturally genocidal objectives of IRS policy pierces and unsettles the kinds of colonial optimism12 underpinning so many students’ investment in contemporary educational discourses that are grounded in colonial logics of civilizational progress and racial assimilation as social mobility13.

As an exercise in rereading the abject, “pathetic feelings” (Mishra‐Tarc, 2011) that tend to condense on the characters of IRS teachers in non‐Indigenous students’ initial written responses, I ask the class to brainstorm (in nested individual, small group, and class discussions) what makes them proud to be Canadian. Juxtaposing this list with archival television reports celebrating residential schools (CBC, 2012) and a close reading of the Canadian Human Rights Act’s section 6714, I then ask students to research historic and contemporary examples of injustice that would form the “But...” column of their “Proud to be Canadian” chart. Indigenous students have the choice of a range of alternative exercises with my co‐facilitator at their discretion. In the ensuing class discussion, I guide students in a situated, symptomatic rereading of settler colonial pride, betrayal, and shame as these sentiments ripple through their construction of the lengthy, contested list of “But...”. My facilitation is informed by Todd (2003) and Mishra‐Tarc’s (2011) counsel that any reparative pedagogy needs to attend to and hold the affective volatility and transference from students’ inner histories of making a meaningful relation to loss (Britzman (1998, 2003, 2013) as this transference is sparked by the affective force of this third, rupturing mode of remembrance15.

I encourage students to return to Alexie’s novel through Lens 2 in order to contextualize and historicize their initial (dis)identifications with Indigenous and non‐ Indigenous characters. This rereading shifts our attention from the text to the racial imaginaries we bring as readers, reinforced as these are by the profoundly segregated organization of most non‐Indigenous Canadians’ daily lives. My aim in this exercise is for all my students to develop understandings of intergenerational trauma in ways that are self‐ implicating and that preclude individualizing, pathologizing, or spectacularizing the impacts of unhealed trauma and systemic discrimination in the lives of families and communities. Through a guided reading of Sherman Alexie’s (1996) poem “Inside Dachau” alongside Canada’s selective adoption of the UNGC on Genocide (Younging, 2009), I distinguish insidious from spectacular trauma:

When faced with the evidence of the Holocaust, we are almost always overwhelmed by its naked brutality; the degree of inhumanity expressed through such an undertaking seems incomprehensible. And yet the same undertaking applied to Indigenous peoples – stretched over a century or two, dressed in a rational of progress, economics, and civilization – seems somehow to lose its quality of brutality and becomes not only


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comprehensible but defensible ... If real genocide is gruesome in its lack of subtlety, the forced assimilation as a means of cultural annihilation is sly in its generosity – the Indians were treated as children “for their own good”, the King “watchful over their interests and ever compassionate (Neu & Therrian, 2003, p. 25).

Returning to reread the contemporary setting of a rural white high school in Alexie’s novel demands more than the critical reflexivity of Lens 2. As Simon (2005) advises, it’s the call of memories not my own that estrange my current interpretive frames, attachments, and investments in all their inherent insufficiency:

[How am I] touched to respond to the memories of others, not in the sense of some meaningless sentiment, a too easy empathy, or the false nostalgia of a late imperialism, but rather as a means of experiencing certain events as part of ongoing relations of power and privilege, the legacy of which I participate in and I am called to transform? (Simon, 2005, p. 91).

Rereading both novels as a witness (Lens 4) attends explicitly to the demands of transactive memory and the pedagogical impulse of Indigenous storytelling traditions (Archibald, 2008; Corntassel, 2009) introduced by Curran Jacobs and Ena Greyeyes in class. Concretely, this fourth lens is introduced in a writing derby beginning with the prompt:

Take this story. It’s yours. Do with it what you will: tell it to friends; turn it into a television movie; forget it. But don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you would have heard this story. You’ve heard it now. (King, 2003 p.29)

Lens 4 asks students to experiment with practices of listening that rely on a sense of neither identification, nor understanding, nor belonging but rather “of being in relation to” (Simon, 2005, p. 89).

As we prepare to listen to Ena Greyeye’s testimony, I ask that we approach testimony as a “terrible gift” (Simon, 2006) that awakens listeners to relationships in which we’re always already embedded—be it actively or passively, consciously or implicitly—and inaugurates a relation of obligation. Following a discussion of Simon’s (2003) quote, “The gift of testimony is non‐reciprocal; that is, the only way to return the gift, to return the receipt of the problem of inheritance initiated by the movement of testament, is to give it to someone else ... speaking specifically of its teaching” (pp. 55‐6), I ask students to write four letters. One is addressed to Glen Anaquod, who testifies in the posthumous documentary (Wolocatiuk, 2012); two are delivered to Ena Greyeyes and Curran Jacobs. The fourth letter, a speculative creative writing exercise, is addressed to their future child who returns from school troubled by their Indigenous friend’s anger at the Eurocentric curriculum and the structural violence it elides. The instructions ask students to imagine their future child asking:

Mom/Dad, you remember my friend, JJ?

He got really upset after Canadian History class today. He said it was all bullshit. He said people like us stole this land from his people and now we’re destroying it. He says


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our government lied and broke their promises. That even our family’s house is on land that was stolen right from the start.

Mum/Dad, what’s this got to do with our family? How can I stay friends with JJ? (Taylor, 2013).

It is important to my design of this exercise that the child is turning to the parent in a search for truth but also a sincere desire to maintain a friendship and ongoing relationship they value.


Watchful of the many ways in which our modes of attending continues to be subject to forces of spectacularization (forces from which no solitary act of reading can ever entirely disengage itself), required is a space and a time within which one learns, one teaches how one learns, and one learns again. (Simon, 2003, p. 58)

I was struck by Wab Kinew’s challenge to Stephen Lewis’ failed empathy‐based reading of The Orenda that reinforced the programme’s liberal hegemonic frame normalizing a non‐ Indigenous reader as the arbiter of that elusive measure of literary quality, “relatability” (CBC, 2014). In response to Lewis’ critique that the ‘pornographic’ depictions of torture would discourage Canadians’ ‘rallying’ behind the cause of Aboriginal rights, Kinew posited that the novel asks to be read through Indigenous epistemologies: “these people are engaged in a relationship ... [in] a worldview where suffering is key to achieve something meaningful ... [as challenging as this might be for] a cubicle dweller” (CBC, 2014). He argues that selective, politically strategic alliances are inherently assimilationist: “‘Oh Indigenous people want to protect mother earth? Well I care about the environment, too so that’s great!’ But all of a sudden when Indigenous people stand for something different ... then all bets are off” (CBC, 2014). In arguing that “[R]econciliation must not be a second chance at assimilation”, Kinew takes up the programme’s aspiration to public pedagogy by modeling reading practices that might shift the terms on which non‐Indigenous Canadians listen to the stories coming forward at this historic juncture (CBC, 2014). In the examples from course activities above, I’ve briefly sketched some of the layers, twists, and doublings that I discern in such a recursive process of learning, learning to listen, and learning to learn.

For those of us engaged in preparing teachers to honour the TRC’s historic call, Simon’s pedagogy of public rememory implies a situated practice that not only ruptures deeply invested arcs of being and feeling but also opens a recursive temporality of response in which to experiment with different models of facing and hosting the testamentary force of an/Other’s memories in one’s intimate and public life (Simon, 2005, p. 91). I’m conscious of the limited and shrinking space within the overcrowded, over‐measured and over‐ determined curriculum of teacher education programs and schools to engage in the kind of sustained, reflexive witnessing practices that might shift the terms of public memory, belonging, and relationality. Despite our keen awareness of the insufficiency of resources at hand to the task, our project of inheritance lies in this interminable answerability.


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Canada. Younging, G. (2009). Inherited History, International Law, and the UN Declaration. In G.

Younging, J. Dewar & M. DeGagné (Eds.), Response, responsibility, and renewal: Canada’s truth and reconciliation journey (pp. 323‐338). Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Younging, G., Dewar, J. and DeGagné, M. (Eds.). (2009). Response, responsibility, and renewal: Canada’s truth and reconciliation journey. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.


I’m reminded of the conception of education he and many at OISE championed in 1995: “"For purposes of the argument here, any set of social practices deploying combinations of images, text, gestures and talk within a framework that facilitates the taking up, exploring and solving of personal and social questions may be understood as a site of learning. Such settings work on and transform subjectivities and abilities through the provision of information, the development of skills, the formation of desires, and the production of different forms of social imagination ... education is political in the sense that it is part of a value-based determination of the field of material, social and symbolic resources that both set limits and enable particular possibilities across a full range of daily activity” (pp. 109, 113).


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2 In his 2003 article tracing the implication of Levinas’ notions of sensibility for testimonial‐based pedagogies of remembrance, Simon (2003) notes that in a unsettling, transformative practice of remembrance “more is at stake than a form of conscientization in which we awaken to that to which we have been blind”; such a practice seeks not to learn and know more but to witness “the experience of my inexperience to hear and learn” (pp. 54‐55). 3

“[W]hat looks like a political structure is fundamentally an affective structure that forms our subjectivity” (Berlant 2008).

4 I’m indebted to Ena Greyeyes, Laara Fitznor, Cash Ahenakew, Curran Jacobs, Diem LaFortune, and Commissioner

Marie Wilson. I hope to honour testimonies witnessed at the TRC national events in Montreal, 2013 and Edmonton,


5 As I explore below, my use of covenantal draws from Simon’s (2010); see also Celermajor, 2006 and Azoulay, 2008.

6 I am indebted to my reviewers for suggesting this clarification.

7 See Britzman, 1998, 2009; Greene, 1995; Grumet, 1991; Pinar, 2004; Simon, 2005; Spivak, 2013; Mishra Tarc, 2011;

Sandlos, 2010.

8 Jeffrey (pseudonym), Response Log entry November 19, 2013.

9 Jeffrey (pseudonym), Response Log entry November 19, 2013.

10 An analysis of the surprising range of student response falls outside the scope of this article.

11 Space does not allow for a full description of course pedagogy (curriculum objects, activities) explored in my next


12 Berlant (2011) urges us as scholars to understand the circulation of particular affects like optimism as a hegemonic

structure of feeling that stitches subjects into political structures and institutions like the colonial state.

13 I elaborate and illustrate this argument in my next publication.

14 Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act states, “Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act" (AANDC, 2008; UBC, 2014).

15 I examine the full range of student responses to this execise in my next publication.


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Remembering in a Context of Forgetting: Hauntings and the Old Durham Road Black Pioneer Settlement

Naomi Norquay Faculty of Education York University


This paper explores the data produced from an oral history project about a Black pioneer settlement in Grey County, Ontario. Twelve area residents were interviewed and the data produced points to various community practices of both remembering and forgetting. I employ Avery Gordon’s (2008) theorization of ghosts and hauntings to make sense of the gaps, silences, and contradictions that populated the interviews. The paper ends with a consideration of Roger Simon’s (2000, 2005) plea for a practice of remembrance that is both ethical and pedagogical.

There is no future without uncanny memorial connections, without responsibilities to memories other than one’s own, to memories you have no responsibility for but to claim you to a memorial kinship. (Roger Simon, 2000, p. 19)

My current research concerns the historic Black pioneer settlement along the Old Durham Road in (the former) Artemesia Townshipi, Grey County, Ontario. Initially my interest in this community stemmed from the fact that my parents bought three 50‐acre lots along this historic road in the1960’s when I was a child. I had grown up with a few scant tales about “escaped Black slaves” who had been given land “by Queen Victoria”. Over the years, I have joined local efforts to reclaim this settler community’s history through doing archival research, editing a local Black history journal, organizing annual teachers’ field trips, among other things. Most recently, I have conducted a pilot project consisting of oral history interviews with people who have connections to the Old Durham Road1. This paper stems from this project and is about hauntings. I employ Avery Gordon’s (2008) definition of a haunting as “an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known, sometimes directly and sometimes more obliquely” (p. xvi). A haunting usually involves violence, pain or loss and may be populated by “people who are meant to be invisible” (ibid). In this way a haunting is “that which appears to be not there [that] is often a seething presence, acting on and often meddling with taken‐for‐ granted realities” (p. 8). A haunting thus marks an absent presence. Reflecting on photographs of a house in Port Hope, Ontario that document the removal of bricks due to their radioactivity, Roger Simon (2000) notes “the anxiety provoked by the absent presence of those bricks” (p. 14).

1 The research for this paper was funded by a Small SSHRC grant in 2011-2012.


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The interview data suggests three kinds of hauntings. The first has to do with the gossip and whispered warnings that newcomers to the road were given by local residents about the area’s Black history. Through the gossip, the Black history becomes a “seething presence” (Gordon, 2008, p. 8) that is there, and not there at the same time. The second kind of haunting has to do with the way in which this history is both denied and acknowledged through common place stories about neighbours and childhood friends, and through the persistent use of childhood nicknames. Hauntings persist in these stories because “the trouble they represent and symptomize is no longer contained or repressed or blocked from view” (p. xvi). The third kind of haunting concerns a couple of ghosts who populated the stories of two of the people I interviewed. Gordon entices: “the ghost gesticulates, signals, and sometimes mimics the unspeakable as it shines for both the remembered and the forgotten” (p.150).

The data for this paper comes from interviews I did with twelve residents in the area: 2 descendants of Black settlers, 3 descendants of White settlers and 7 who purchased property on the road or in the immediate area in the 1960’s, as my parents didii. This project is a companion piece to archival research wherein I have been digging up the ‘officially’ recorded traces of this community. Acquiring knowledge and information about this community has long been hampered by practices of silence and denial. It is because of this that I locate my research in what I call a context of forgetting which can be seen in the lingering attitudes and practices among some members of the current‐day community who insist that their White forebears were the first, or at least, the ‘authentic’ pioneers. Their silences and dismissals, their limited understanding of racism, their well‐meaning banalities, and their limited knowledge of the area’s first non‐indigenous settlers will creep into everyday conversations. When the historic Black community is mentioned, it is not uncommon to hear responses like: “they all left”, “they couldn’t take the cold climate”, “they weren’t really famers”, “they were still on the run from slave catchers”, and “they all died of typhoid fever and are buried in the swamp”. These pronouncements of dismissal and denial relegate this historic community to a distant, unimportant past. They were not the true pioneers. Honourific designations are only bestowed upon White settlers.

By way of a brief history of the settlement of the Old Durham Road, here is a condensed account: The Chippewa Nation ceded the land to the British Crown in what is now south east Grey County in 1818. In the first of several treaties in what would become Grey and Bruce Counties, the Crown gained 1.6 million acres for “a yearly payment for ever of 1200 pounds in goods at Montreal prices” (Marsh, 1931, p. 33). The very first settlers along what became the Durham Road were people of African descent (Davidson, 1972; Marsh, 1931). The land was not surveyed at that point in time, so the settlers basically squatted along what may have been a hunting trail, clearing the land and farming it. Varying sources suggest that these first settlers came from a variety of constituencies: United Empire Loyalists, Veterans of the War of 1812, those freed by British slave holders, and refugees fleeing slavery in the United States (Davidson, 1972; Holness and Sutherland, 2000; Marsh, 1931; Meyler, 2001). It is thought that these settlers started arriving as early as the late 1830's and the 1840's (Holness & Sutherland, 2000; Meyler, 2001). Many came from The Queen’s Bush settlement in current‐day Wellington County, Ontario, when attempts in the late 1840’s by community members to secure Crown Patents for land


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cleared and farmed, were denied (Brown‐Kubisch, 2004).

The land and the road were surveyed between 1848 and 1851. Long 50 acre lots were marked out and Crown Patents were granted along the road thereafter. Settlers who qualified received 50 acres of free land and were eligible to purchase another 50 acres for a modest amount. To qualify for the patents settlers had to clear 5 acres of land and build a log cabin that was at least 16' by 20'. Many of the Black settlers became property owners and some were tenants on land owned by others. Current‐day oral history suggests that some of these Black settlers lost their land through unscrupulous dealings between land agents and the growing immigrant population from the British Isles. Additionally, some may have lost their land through violence (Meyler, 2001; Holness &Sutherland, 2000).

The first census was taken in 1851 and it recorded what was already a well‐ established communityiii. In the new township of Artemesia, there were 118 Black settlers: men, women and children. It is believed that as early as the 1830’s, what is currently known as the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery, was the community’s designated burial ground. The pioneer settlement dwindled as the 19th century wore on. The land was not very good for farming, so settlers struggled to keep from starving in the winter, let alone make ends meet. Most male settlers had to seek out winter employment and their offspring often left to find livelihoods in the growing urban centres of Owen Sound, Collingwood, Guelph, and Hamilton. Many also intermarried with the White settler community. Those intermarriages most often resulted in the dropping of the Black heritage from the family tree. In a racist and hardscrabble climate, there was no apparent advantage in claiming a Black heritage when one could pass for White. Black heritage became invisible as it was dropped from both private and public tellings of family histories (Hubbert, 1986; Harrison, 1992). There are many families in the area today whose Black ancestry is either kept hidden or is simply not known as a result of previous generations’ thoroughness in erasing it.

For the most part, the area’s Black history is relegated a few lines in the local history books (Marsh, 1931, Davidson, 1972), or left out altogether. As late as 2005, the area’s District Chamber of Commerce provided this history in its annual business directory:

Artemesia Township was described by the Government of the Dominion of Canada as a >veritable Garden of Eden= in its solicitation for emigrants to settle in this area. With the promise of 50 acres free and 50 acres for 50 cents per acre, European [my emphasis] settlers began arriving in the mid 1850's. By 1861 Artemesia had a population of 2,575. (Flesherton and District Chamber of Commerce, 2005, p. 3)

As can be seen, the Black settlement is not denied; it is simply left out. Other ‘disappearing acts’ seem more insidious: The road register for the Old Durham Road (recorded between 1848 and 1851) listed the original owners of land in the various townships through which the road passed. The hand‐written entries included not only the names of the first settlers, but also their places of origin. While not a foolproof marker, it is generally believed that anyone who listed an American slave state as place of origin, was likely a refugee from slavery. What is as interesting as it is alarming is that some of the pages have been torn out. This came to light in 2003 when the Bruce and Grey Branch of


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the Ontario Genealogical Society and the Grey County Archives transcribed the register. The absence is noted thus: “[m]any pages have been cut out of the register” (Bruce and Grey County, Ontario Genealogical Society and Grey County Archives, 2003, p. 12). I regard this road register as a metaphor for the archives as a holder of both what is to be remembered (the road register and other historic documents), and the evidence of what is deemed necessary to forget (the effects of the torn‐out pages, so visible in the document).

These acts of denial have taken place even within a context of renewed interest in the history of the Black settlement. In 1989, a group of citizens came together to reclaim the historic Black burial ground on the Old Durham Road. The burial ground, which had served the burial needs of the community from the 1830s to the late 1880s, had become a farmer’s field with all of its headstones ploughed under or removed and then thrown into a nearby rock pile or taken away and put to uses such as flooring for basements and barns. While the missing headstones were not originally the focus of this group of citizens, their disappearance sparked public controversy that was later captured in the film, Speakers for the Dead (Holness & Sutherland, 2000). The citizens formed a committee, known as the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee and they convinced the farmer who owned the land to donate it to the municipality. The burial ground was re‐designated as a cemetery and registered with the provincial government. In 1990, (then) Lieu‐tenant Governor Lincoln Alexander officiated at the dedication ceremony. Four headstones that were recovered from the rock pile were proudly displayed under plexi‐glass and since then, the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery has been lovingly cared for by members of the committee.

Since 2002, an annual day‐long Black history conference has been held in the area, featuring local authors, genealogists, historians, and artists who are involved in Black history research. Grey Roots Museum and Archives produces an annual community journal, Northern Terminus: The African Canadian History Journal, which is now in its 12th year of publication.iv The Black community in Owen Sound (which is also known as the “northern terminus” of the Underground Railroad), has held an emancipation picnic / festival for the past 152 years, celebrating Britain’s 1833 Emancipation Act which ended slavery throughout the British Empire. And most recently, the South Grey Museum, which lies in the heart of Artemesia, has installed a permanent exhibit about this historic community.

Gossip and Whispered Warnings

Shortly after my parents purchased the land along the Old Durham Road, my father hired a local farmer to cut a road through the tall field grass. I remember standing beside my father as this elderly man looked inquisitively at my father, as if sizing him up in some fashion. “You’re a preacher, eh?” he asked. “Well, you’re not the first preacher to own this place.” The farmer proceeded to tell us about a Black preacher who had owned our place “a long time ago when Queen Victoria was giving away land to escaped slaves”. I do not know if this information was given because the farmer thought it amusing or interesting that two preachers, distanced by time, circumstance and race, had owned the same property. I recall that he laughed and my father laughed in response. Looking back, I have come to see this piece of information, so casually given, as a kind of warning: we needed to know what we


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were getting ourselves into. This exchange was very similar to what other newcomers to the road and area also experienced.

A mother and daughter I interviewed, like my own family, were ‘newcomers’ to the road. The mother (a White English post‐WWII immigrant) and her late husband had purchased an old farmhouse on the road around 1960 when their two children were quite small. She noted that “the neighbours were quick to tell me: ‘you are going into a rude name house’” (Interview, May 29, 2012). “[R]ude name house”’, she later explained, meant “a Darkie’s house”. She would not use the term “Darkie” until I pressed her to explain what she meant by “rude name”. An elderly White couple that had purchased a farm kitty‐corner to the Black burial ground in 1960 was warned too: “ ‘If you buy this house you buy right across the road from the Black cemetery.’ So we were told right from the start, but we just said ‘it won’t bother us’” (Interview, March 17, 2012). Another elderly White resident, who came to the area in the 1950s, described how the information she learned about the Black history was “all hush‐hush” and that it “circulated at the level of gossip, as if to create a sensation” (Interview, September 30, 2011). Gossip often suggests that secrets are being shared, and secrets do the work of signaling what is for public airing and what is not. In her now‐classic oral history of Italians under fascism, Luisa Passerini (1989) observed that “gossip can generally influence behavior more directly” than individual testimony or cultural myths, which are often less secretive (p. 194). Gossip has an immediacy and can create an insider / outsider effect. By learning about the Black history through whispered warnings and gossip, the newcomers to the road received a lesson in the community’s dominant cultural practice of silence. “A seething presence” (Gordon, 2008, p. 8), the silenced and largely invisible history boils over in the present through this constant meddling with other people’s business, as if the gossipers cannot leave it alone, as if they too are haunted by the lives their secrets seek to scorn.

These stories of warning that work to signal a Black historical presence as a community secret, go hand in hand with rumours that circulate about what happened to the headstones in the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery, and other Black burial grounds in the county. Long before Holness and Sutherland (2000) explored the controversy of the missing or ‘disappeared’ headstones in their film, Speakers for the Dead, stories in common circulation told of people dragging away fallen and ‘abandoned’ headstones behind their snowmobiles, recreation rooms having flooring made out of headstones, barns and sheds using headstones as subflooring, over which concrete was poured. All of these stories have circulated and continue to circulate as gossip because no one is ever named and no one has come forward with missing headstones. The Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery Committee continues to have a mandate to locate what they call ‘lost’ headstones and invites members of the public to drop off headstones at a local church, with no questions asked. This plea / invitation is made at the annual dedication ceremony held every autumn at the cemetery. In the spirit of ‘forgive and forget’, the committee, ironically, invites the community to continue the practice of ‘don’t know, can’t tell’. Yet, still, no stone has turned up.

Knowing and Not Knowing at the Same Time


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While none of the descendants I interviewed implicated themselves or their ancestors in fomenting the gossip experienced by their ‘newcomer’ neighbours, they were all very clear about their own attitudes towards the historic Black settlement. All of them mentioned the little church that the Black settlers attended. While that church was ‘long gone’ by the time my informants were born, it has held on as a marker of the community it served. One of the White pioneer descendants recalled “the older generation telling stories about walking along the road and hearing really good singing coming out of the church” (Interview, May 1, 2012). In a subsequent interview he suggested: “There’s no doubt in my mind but what these singers were nice to listen to. There’s no doubt in my mind at all. And they would be singing from their hearts” (Interview, September 16, 2012). The story of White pioneers walking along the road and hearing beautiful singing emanating from the little Black church is also told in the local history books (Harrison, 1992; Hubbert, 1986) and it is one that I have heard repeated from time to time in casual conversations.

I suggest that in part, it is meant to demonstrate goodwill towards this long‐ago community. All the participants in the research were anxious to declare their good feelings towards the descendants of the Black pioneers who still lived in their community – declarations that I understood were meant to demonstrate that they were not racist. This same male descendant of a White pioneer family described the Black pioneer descendants in his childhood as “members of the community, just like everyone else” (Interview, September 16, 2012). Recalling one person in particular, he added: “Yes, this lady was an exceptionally fine lady in the community. Actually, the colours [the skin­colour of our neighbours] and that didn’t mean anything to us when we were young” (Interview, September 16, 2012). It often seemed that because the Black Pioneer descendants were ‘simply’ neighbours; race was denied – not known, not interrogated. A female White pioneer descendant explained that, “I think I was in high school before I knew some people were Black, but to me, they were just neighbours” (Interview, July 20, 2012). However, this same person recalled a racial controversy that she remembers taking place when she was 10 years or 11 years old:

When [a White pioneer descendant] was running for Member of Parliament ... I would be 10 or 11 years old and the story – you know, at that time, it was all word of mouth. There was a story that went around that he was a Black descendant, which was literally untrue, you know. No relation whatsoever – well, he was related by marriage to some of them, the descendants. (Interview, July 20, 2012)

The colour‐blindness she practised in high school is negated by this earlier memory of racialized identity politics. This knowing and not knowing at one and the same time came up in another interview with one of the female White descendants:

I was raised at Proton Station and at that time, I had no idea that these [neighbours’] kids were any different than anyone else. But I know five families and it seems to me that in most cases it was the mother that was Black. On both sides of me there were families – and like, I didn’t know, but the grandmother was pretty brown. But everyone was brown in the summertime. ... I never seen her in the winter. She


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wasn’t very sociable and she just kept pretty much to herself. ... It must have been on the mother’s side, because the first cousins on the father’s side, there’s no sign of it in them. (Interview, September 16, 2012)

Race haunts these stories only when it concerns Black heritage. There is never any reference to Whiteness as a racialized category. Black heritage seems to lurk in the well‐ known shadows. In the above excerpt, the neighbours are marked by race because they are “pretty brown”. Race is evidenced in members of one side of a family, but not the other – where its absence is duly noted: “there’s no sign of it in them”. But just as skin colour is used as a marker of the historic Black community, it is immediately taken away: “But everyone was brown in the summertime”. The community is there and then not there. It matters and then it does not matter. Race enters onto the horizon, once again through the negation of colour‐blindness.

One of the Black pioneer descendants I interviewed was a man in his 70's. His heritage is mixed, being a descendent of both the Black and the White settlers. He grew up in a family that, while they acknowledged their Black heritage, identified as White. Near the end of his interview he told me that he has friends from his childhood who still sometimes refer to him in public by his grade school nickname: “Nig”. “But that never bothered me. In fact, a couple of them still call me ‘Nig’. It was never taken by me as slander. Most of us had nicknames among ourselves” (Interview, July 23, 2012). He insists that they say it cheerfully! They mean no harm. It doesn’t really matter. But with each cheerful greeting, he continues to be marked by the very history that is publicly denied. In Merna Summers’ (1974) short story, Portulaca, a character named H. Stanley Ungerman “was known far and wide for the nicknames he conferred on people, names that once spoken stuck like burrs” (p. 66). When the story’s main character hears the nickname Ungerman has bestowed upon her, she “knew that she didn’t belong to herself any more, and there was nothing she could do about it. For all the years ahead she would belong to anyone who called her by that name” (p. 74). My informant’s nickname, I suggest, sticks like a burr. It won’t go away and as such, it is another haunting. It is evidence that those who identify with the White community still seem haunted by a past some of them have worked so hard to ignore or deny. “Nig” acknowledges this past and works to put this Black descendant in his proper place, as someone with a heritage that can be both acknowledged and denied at the same time.

The Haunted Farmhouse

In her memoir about her life on a prairie farm, Sharon Butala (2000) provides an account of how her family’s newly built house was haunted. The “rattles, bangs, pings, snaps and creaks” (p.6) and the “heavy footsteps coming up the darkened hall” (p. 7) mostly go unacknowledged, “as if saying it out loud would keep it from being true” (p. 5). While she offers her readers assurance that “the ghosts were surely the souls of dead people, and they came from somewhere” (p. 11), she admits that “we didn’t know what the ghosts wanted, what they had against us” (p. 11). Butala’s memoir concerns itself with her engagement with “the field”, a fenced‐off quarter section on the ranch which she and her


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husband decided to stop using for grazing cattle so that it could to return to its natural (pre‐contact) state (p. 16). Butala writes about her coming to both acknowledge and seek knowledge about the area’s “Amerindian” past. Although it was never her intent to deal with the ghosts, her journey of coming to know “the field’s” history resulted in the ghosts eventually leaving her and her house alone (p.189).

The mother and daughter I interviewed who had been warned that they had purchased a “rude name house” (Interview, May 29, 2013), told me about two giggling females who haunt the farmhouse. Footsteps and laughter are heard in the front upstairs bedroom, along the upstairs hallway and on the staircase. At times, the smell of bread baking or lilacs is present in the house. The mother described it this way:

There were two girls, the daughters of the family. You can hear them sometimes. They are great gigglers, I can tell you that. ... But I swear to you, I hear the girls giggling, but it’s only in that one front bedroom. (Interview, May 29, 2012)

The daughter has never heard the giggling but she has heard footsteps on the stairs: “She would tell me about them and I really wanted to hear them but I never did” (Interview, May 29, 2012). The daughter did confirm that they had both experienced the smells: “We both, in the middle of the winter, could smell bread baking and lilacs. All along the front, in the spring, there’s lilacs out there” (Interview, May 29, 2012). She went on to offer reassurance that “they are all good ghosts. There are no bad feelings at all. I guess we’ve taken care of everything. They are not mad at us” (Interview, May 29, 2012).

Who the “they” are is inconclusive. My two informants were not altogether sure. They had vague memories of asking one of the Black descendants they know about who the ghosts might be, but were uncertain as to whether this person was able to enlighten them. I learned from one of the Black pioneer descendants (Interview, February 24, 2012) that the farmhouse had been built for the mixed‐race bride of a young man who was from one of the best‐known White pioneer families in the township. The bride was the daughter of one of the pioneer families who were identified as Black. Her father was a Black man from Maryland, a slave‐holding state, and was likely a refugee from slavery. He first settled in Hamilton where he met his bride‐to‐be, a young White woman from County Cork, Ireland. How the two met is not known, but they were married in a Catholic church in Hamilton in the late 1850’s and moved to the Durham Road where they raised a family of four mixed‐ race children. The two oldest children, a son and a daughter, married into the same White pioneer family and wound up living side by side. It is this young woman, the mixed‐race daughter, for whom the farmhouse was built.

During the interview with the mother and daughter they speculated about who the two ghosts might be. The mother assumed that the ghosts were children in the family. Her daughter wondered whether one of the ghosts might have been the bride, for whom the house was built. While the fact that there are ghosts continues to perk the interest of my two informants, they do not seem to be perturbed that they do not know who the ghosts were (or are). They have never visited the near‐by cemetery (that initially served the White pioneer community), where the bride, her husband, and two of their children are buried. There, they could have at least learned their names and learned that a daughter in this


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family died at age 29, outlived by both her parents. Gordon (2008) quotes a passage from Morrison’s Beloved that asks an important question about ghosts who remain nameless:

Everybody knew what she was called, but nobody anywhere knew her name. Disremembered and unaccounted for, she cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name? Although she has claim, she is not claimed. (cited in Gordon, p. 151, my emphasis)

How do we insert the ghosts into our historical accounts if we do not know who they are? How can we tell their stories if we do not know how they lived?

It was the son and/or brother of the ghosts who lived in the farmhouse when it was sold in 1960 to the newcomer family. The mother remembered him vividly as bearing what she identified as a marker of Black heritage: “He had colour. ... He was a very elderly gentleman when we met him and I think he went into a nursing home after we bought his place from him and he died not long after” (Interview, May 29, 2012). Would he have heard the ghosts? Would he have known who they were?

The absence of the ghosts’ names and stories also haunt in another manifestation of omission. In recent years, Grey Roots, the county’s museum and archives has built a pioneer village on land adjacent to their magnificent facility2. Moreston Village as it is called, hosts year‐round activities connected to notions of the Pioneer. Re‐enactors populate the growing number of buildings that include a school house, blacksmith’s shop, as well as modest log cabins. They perform a variety of pioneer tasks such as teaching unruly groups of tourist children, forging horseshoes, baking bread, walking arm and arm as they cross from the parking lot to the village. They are all White and they always seem to be smiling. A pioneer village is, after all, part teaching tool and part entertainment. Petty disagreements between neighbours, marital strife, loneliness, illness, winter starvation, pests and plagues, and racialized tensions, have no place in Moreston Village. There are no Black descendants portrayed by the eager group of volunteer re‐enactors. Although Grey Roots Museum and Archives hosts the annual Black History Event, publishes Northern Terminus, hosts the speaker’s night for the annual Emancipation Day celebrations, and houses a very fine exhibit about the Black community in Owen Sound, its pioneer village seems devoid of any acknowledgement of these first non‐indigenous settlers v.

So, I am left asking, what do the ghosts in the farmhouse on the Old Durham Road want? What troubles them? What are they trying to tell us? That they were more than the sum of their racialized heritage? That they too were happy? That they too were “real” pioneers who gentrified their lives on the frontier by planting lilacs? That kitchens full of the smell of baked bread knew no racial boundaries? That they too were here to stay? That the bride for whom the farmhouse was built was part Black and proud of it? Or are they trying to signal something else? That race, no matter how invisible, still weaves through the stories the descendants (both Black and White) tell? That as the older generation dies out, the stories they refused to tell will die with them? Are the ghosts trying to ensure we do not forget? Gordon (2008) suggests that by telling ghost stories, we “repair representational mistakes ... [and] strive to understand the conditions under which a memory was produced



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in the first place, toward a countermemory for the future” (p. 22).

I am uncertain as to whether the story of the haunted farmhouse is widely known, as I did not learn about the ghosts until I interviewed the mother and daughter, and by this time, I had already completed most of the interviews. As hauntings and stories of ghosts are not very common, nor necessarily believed, the mother did some checking‐in with me by saying: “It makes me sound like a nutcase” and later, “I honestly heard those two giggling. I truly did. I thought I was going round the bend” (Interview, May 29, 2012). This fear that one’s belief in ghosts makes one marginal or crazy is echoed in Sharon Butala’s memoir (2000), which opens thus:

Our house was haunted. ... I say ‘haunted’ blithely, without apprehension, not caring any more if I am believed or not. I know of no other word for what happened to us and there is no other explanation, although for a very long time I would never have said so out loud (p. 1).

I realize that believing in ghosts requires a willingness to believe. If one is willing to believe in ghosts, then one must also be willing to consider what they might want. I agree with Gordon (2008) on this one: “Haunting is part of our social world, and understanding it is essential to grasping the nature of our society and for changing it” (p. 27). Whether it is the ghosts that haunt the farmhouse, or the ways in which the Black pioneer settlement haunts what people say and do not say, what they know and what they do not know, what they choose to remember and choose to forget, understanding hauntings as part of our social world and as essential to our desire for change, seems key to reinserting this history into both the local and our national historical narratives.

As a former student of Roger Simon, I cannot undertake this historical research (in the archives and in oral history interviews) without giving some thought to the pedagogical imperative that both summons and drives my work. What drives me is the recognition that Canada’s historic narrative, particularly in relation to 19th century settlement, is too narrow and exclusive. I also take seriously Norman Ravvin’s (2001) warning that “[T]the Canadian past is too often made to go away without a struggle” (p. 17). I feel driven by the dearth of African Canadian stories in the current ‘pioneer lexicon’ taught in most Canadian schools. I feel an urgency to record a history that may disappear when the elderly people who still know that history are no longer able to share what they know. But what do I have? Scant actual stories about Black pioneers – nothing that adds very much to what I have already gleaned from the archives. Not really any stories – other than the one about the ghosts. What I do have is testimony that betrays a community’s long‐held practices of dismissal and denial, that contradicts itself, that turns well‐meaning community members into unwitting bigots. What use is that to this present‐day community? (Just who am I to be pointing fingers? What conversations might I risk closing down?)

It is Roger Simon who summons me to consider that I have ethical as well as pedagogical responsibilities, in terms of what I might do with my new‐found historical knowledge. Simon captures both the imperative and obligation to remember in his use of the Hebrew term “zakhor”. Zakhor necessitates “communicative practices” (Simon et al., 2000, p. 11). Simon, along with Mario DiPaolantonio and Mark Clamen (2005) asks: “what


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practices of response to the testamentary demand for nonindifference might enable an opening to learning” (p.135)? And, “how might remembrance be understood as a praxis creating the possibilities of new histories and altered subjectivities” (ibid)? This is the juncture I am at right now. If I have grasped the urgency and poignancy of these questions, the subjectivities of my elderly research participants matter beyond what they have made available to me through digitized interviews. Their stories and their sense‐making about this mostly disappeared history provide insight into how community members navigate around the shoals of race relations without the conceptual tools that are available to the likes of those of us who have access to the academy. I must not reduce their stories, their otherness, “to a version of [my] own stories” (Simon, 2005, p. 4). I am encouraged and bolstered by Roger Simon’s hopeful insistence that “[a] genuine tomorrow, not a repeat of yesterday or today, requires we reassess what we have learned and repressed; it is in this fundamental sense that zakhor becomes radically pedagogical” (Simon, 2000, p. 22). I am comforted to know that I will continue to puzzle over his often dense and always rich prose and attempt to tease out the urgent and the nuanced relationship between the past, the present, and the yet to come (Simon, 2000).


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Brown‐Kubisch, L. (2004). The Queen’s Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers, 1839­1865.

Toronto, ON: Natural Heritage Books. Bruce and Grey Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society and Grey County Archives. (2003). Old

Durham Road Register, 1848 – 1851 (Transcription). Butala, S. (2000). Wild stone heart: An apprentice in the fields. Toronto, ON: Harper Collins

Publishers Ltd. Davidson, T. A. (Ed.) (1972). A new history of Grey County. Owen Sound, ON: The Grey

County Historical Society / Richardson, Bond and Wright, Ltd. Flesherton and District Chamber of Commerce. (2005). Business directory, [no publication

information]. Gordon, A. E. (2008). Ghostly matters: Haunting and the sociological imagination.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Grey Roots Museum & Archives.(2014). “Moreston Village”. Retrieved from Harrison, K. & The Priceville (and Area) Historical Society (Eds.). (1992). Priceville and its

roots/routes. Owen Sound, ON: Stan Brown Printers. Holness, J. & Sutherland, D. (2000). Speakers for the dead. National Film Board of Canada. Hubbert, M. & The Artemesia Historical Society (Eds.). (1986). Split rail country a history of

Artemesia Township. Owen Sound, ON: Stan Brown Printers. Marsh, E.L. (1931). A history of the County of Grey. Owen Sound, ON: Fleming Publishers. Meyler, P. (Ed.) (2001). Broken shackles: Old Man Henson from slavery to freedom. Toronto,

ON: Natural Heritage Press. Passerini, L. (1989). Women’s personal narratives: Myths, experiences and emotions. In

The Personal Narratives Group (Eds.), Interpreting women’s lives: Feminist theory and personal narratives (pp. 189‐197). Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, Ravvin, N. (2001). Hidden Canada: An intimate travelogue. Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press. Simon, R, Rosenberg, S. & Eppert, C. (Eds.). (2000). Between hope and despair: Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical trauma. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. Simon, R. (2005). The touch of the past: Remembrance, learning and ethics. New York, NY:

Palgrave Macmillan. Summers, M. (1974). Portulaca. In The skating party (pp. 60‐74). Toronto, ON: Oberon


i The former Artemesia Township is now part of the Municipality of Grey Highlands. ii With the exception of one informant who was a post-WWII Dutch immigrant, all of the other informants were of British heritage. This includes the two Black descendants whose heritage included both Black and White settlers. All of the descendants of the pioneer settlers (five in total) had grown up on area farms. All five were elderly. Only two of this group still lived on their farm. Nine of the informants were women and three were men. Categories for data analysis included: self-identity, understandings of race, stories marked or framed by racial categories, family history, schooling, gender and class.


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iii It is important to note that there were several small Black pioneer settlements in Grey County on the mid- nineteenth century. The Old Durham Road settlement in Artemesia Township was one of several. iv Northern Terminus: The African Canadian History Journal is currently the only journal in Canada dedicated to African Canadian history. Produced annually by Grey Roots Museum and Archives, it publishes both peer-reviewed and general interest articles and reviews. v I wish to acknowledge how the very notion of a ‘pioneer village’ erases the indigenous history of the area. The indigenous history is still marked by its absence.


Robertson, 2014 Canadian Social Studies, Volume 47, No. 2

Poetry of Roger Simon

Judith Robertson, Ermeritus Faculty of Education University of Ottawa

At the Bookstore

In the Rare Book Room of the Strand I went looking for you, Three floors up and left off the red elevator, Past the gentlemen’s leather chairs upholstered with hammered nails And over the plush Persian rug. I skipped the trajectory of Classic Pulp. (Imagine you using House of the Wolf As a platform for your commitment to tomorrow), Casting about instead in Manager’s Picks: (Martin Amos, James Joyce and Faulkner) Good company, but not your cup of tea, I guess. Moving on, I nosed through Treasures Under Glass (Lee Friedlander, “Self Portrait, Inscribed”), And—relieved not to find you lurking there— I ziggzagged on to Signed Copies and Ephemera.

But the wish wouldn’t take.

This is not a disaster, as only you would say— (Who could parse a sentence with a verb riding on Hope Like a pro)—So tomorrow I’ll try again, Just to be in motion, trying to do something, Or change something, making over a world You could see—with your quiet searchlight gaze— That I could never quite imagine by myself.

At the Easel

Confession. I would like to paint your face. Maybe I will. It won’t be among your heroes sitting Exuberant upon proud stores of libraries. Nor resting, Charmed, and tightly clasped between the hearts of friends. Nor even at Lake Rosseau with its peaceful blues brandishing Breakers upon your exuberant love for Wendy. Nor can I paint you Resolute like wind, gazing straight into the maw Of that dreaded beast that took you one September. Yet I concede: Whereever you are I’ll someday dip my brush And paint you like the portrait in my mind. I’ll be the shade


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That traces the certain voyage your eyes made When crinkling up to the edge of your smile, And then I’ll explode into colour—like tablets, a covenant— With your voice sounding the deeps.

I Sing the Poet Electric – To Roger I. Simon By Judith P. Robertson

You are the archive in which I store my future The book of hours through which I measure faith I read within the pages of your countenance Contested memory’s fierce counselor and face Upon the great wide staircase of your record You greatly give yourself in what is good We lean from out your skies to capture wonder Merci, monsieur, et toujours, Aprés Vous

Previously published in JCACS, Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies).

Volume 47 - Number 2