“Performing Cartography” inspiration behind annual Theatre and Performance Graduate Studies Symposium

York University’s fifth annual Theatre and Performance Studies Graduate Symposium “Performing Cartography” will present a series of paper panels, guest speakers and other events for a full day on April 29.

It takes place at on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Wendat Nation, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Métis Nation of Ontario at York University, Toronto, Ontario with a keynote speech delivered by Mishuana Goeman.

The symposium considers Canada as it nears its 150th birthday (2017) and the subsequent celebration, and reflects on the significance of looking back to consider the circumstances surrounding that birth.


While carving out its own space, Canada violently displaced and dispossessed Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. One of the ways this displacement and dispossession was (and continues to be) enacted is through the cartographic eye of the colonizer.

Thinking about the performative act of cartography and how it has helped shape the settler state Canada, this symposium inquires what performance and indigenous forms of mapping can contribute to embodied or other alternative forms of mapping.

Goeman, an associate professor and vice-chair of the Gender Studies Department at the University of California, Los Angles, will present the keynote talk titled “Electric Lights, Tourist Sights: Gendering Dispossession and Colonial Infrastructure at the Niagara Falls Border”.

Goeman will discuss how Niagara Falls has become an important monument marking the boundary of the United States northern border and Canada’s southern border. For Seneca people however, the falls are the place where the Thunder Beings reside and thus it is a place instrumental to Seneca experience of place.

Built up as a tourist site in the early 1900s, and later marketed as a honeymoon site, Niagara Falls has become an important geographical area for Goeman to extend her work in examining state produced space (such as making of monuments and jurisdictions) and Indigenous place-making (such as the reflection of experiences through intergenerational stories regarding specific sites, that in turn produce a value system).

Niagara Falls becomes a site of biopolitical power in which Americans and Canadian settlers come to know themselves by not only sacrificing the Indian maiden, but literally sacrificing Haudenosuanee histories, land, water and meanings of place. By exploring the visual postcards, romanticized propaganda and the work of Seneca choreographer Rosy Simas, as well as unpacking a history of the development of hydroelectric power and technologies, Goeman will explore the fissures and contradiction in settler colonial placemaking and intend to bring a broader awareness of geographies and storytelling that refuse a silencing of the power of the Thunder Beings.

Other highlights of the symposium include:

Re-Manifestations, an installation by Kim McLeod and Helene Vosters
This work explores and invites participants to intervene into the popular narrative of Canada as a settled nation.

Closing presentation, a talk by Sandra Laronde
Laronde, the founder and artistic director of Red Sky, will deliver a talk on Backbone – a cutting-edge new dance creation inspired by the ‘spine’ of the Americas that combines contemporary Indigenous dance with athleticism to express their power, formation and spirit.

Talking Treaties Audio Gallery, a partnership between Jumblies Theatre and First Story
In the spring of 2015, interviews were collected with local historians, educators, and public figures, on their relationship to, and understanding of, Treaties in Toronto. Their responses were edited down into four separate five-minute audio tracks, and serve as inspiration and content for a large scale multi-year performance creation taking place at Jumblies Theatre’s The Ground Floor and in hands on workshops across Toronto.

The symposium is sponsored by the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design; Vice-President Academic and Provost’s Office; Faculty of Graduate Studies; Vice-Provost Academic’s Office; Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies; Department of Theatre, Graduate Program in Theatre & Performance Studies; Theatre and Performance Studies Graduate Students Association; Department of Dance; Department of History; and Department of Geography.

For more, visit www.yutpssymposium.wordpress.com or email yutps.symposium@gmail.com.