Two-day ethnography symposium to focus on Indigenous-settler relations

The Centre for Imaginative Ethnography (CIE) will host “The Imaginative Ethnography Symposium: Ethnography, Imagination & Indigenous Settler Relations”, an event featuring a series of guest speakers and workshops for graduate students.

The event, curated by Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, Laura Levin and Marlis Schweitzer of York U’s Department of Theatre, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), takes place April 6 and 7 in 305 York Lanes.

cie imaginative ethnography symposium final web high qualityKeynote speakers include: Lee Maracle, an instructor at the University of Toronto, the Traditional Teacher for First Nation’s House, and with the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and the S.A.G.E. (Support for Aboriginal Graduate Education; and, Sarah King, a professor in the Liberal Studies Department at Grand Valley State University.

Maracle is the author of a number of critically acclaimed literary works and the co-editor of a number of anthologies, including the award winning publication, My Home As I Remember. She is a member of the Sto: Loh nation. In 2009, Maracle received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from St. Thomas University. Recently, she was the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the premier’s award for excellence in the arts. Her latest works are: Celia’s song, Memory Serves and otherWords and Talking to the Diaspora.

King is an ethnographer, environmental philosopher, and anthropologist of religion, and is interested in the role that religion and culture play in shaping human relationships to the natural world. Her areas of specialization include comparative religion; place; ethnography and community-based research; Indigenous-settler relations in North America; environmental values and conflict; food justice and sustainable agriculture; and North American environmentalism. She is the author of Fishing in Contested Waters: Place and Community in Burnt Church/Esgenoôpetitj (University of Toronto Press, 2014).

The event kicks off on April 6 with the workshop “Ethnography and Activism”, led by King from 3 to 5pm. It is open to graduate students from across the University. The workshop will attempt to build a collaborative, critical conversation exploring the relationship between ethnography and activism. Who employs activism in the ethnographic field? Is the work of ethnography itself activism? How is research changed when collaborators or community members within the ethnographic field see academic researchers as targets for transformation? Where are there opportunities for ethnography to help build transformative communities, and when should we take them?

From 5 to 7pm, Maracle will deliver a keynote presentation titled “Performance, Indigeneity and Canada’s lack of imagination”.

Day two of the symposium begins at 10am on April 7 with a roundtable discussion “Storytelling and Activism: the role of imagination in transforming Indigenous-Settler relationships” including both Maracle and King (roundtable chair), as well as Martha Stiegman (Faculty of Environmental Studies, York), Megan Davies (Graduate Program in Theatre & Performance Studies, York), Deborah McGregor (Osgoode Hall Law School, York), and Naomi Adelson (Anthropology, York).

Roundtable participants will share stories about the role of imagination in transforming Indigenous-settler relationships, and King will offer follow-up questions, and facilitate a dialogue between the presenters and the audience.

Closing out the two-day symposium is a keynote by King on “Contesting Place, Constructing Activism: examining the dispute at Burnt Church/Esgenoopetitj, N.B.”, which takes place from 3 to 4:30pm.

After the Supreme Court’s 1999 Marshall Decision upholding Mi’kmaq fishery rights, a prolonged violent conflict broke out over indigenous fisheries at Burnt Church/Esgenoôpetitj, N.B. The inability of the Canadian public (writ large) to attend to the values and concerns that motivate those involved in the dispute inflamed and prolonged the violence.

This presentation explores some of the activist strategies employed by dispute participants to draw attention to their values and concerns, the stories that local people tell about these strategies, and the ways that they make sense of their experiences now that the conflict is over. Paying attention to the complexity of disputes such as the one in Burnt Church is itself a critical strategy in resisting the ‘whitewashing’ of Canadian identity and politics.

All lectures are free and open to the public; however, the workshop is full. If you would like your name placed on the waiting list, or for more information on the symposium, email Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston at

The symposium is sponsored by the Theatre and Performance Studies Graduate ProgramPerformance Studies (Canada) Speaker Series; Department of Theatre; Dean of Arts, Media, Performance, and Design (AMPD); Department of Anthropology; and Office of the Vice-Provost Academic.