Though I initially returned to Canada to conduct a cross-country study of major museums, I quickly realized the untenability of conducting a critical project aimed at assembling a national narrative – even one that uses pluralism as its organizing principle. This year has been one of great transisition and soul re-orientation for me. While I continue to be interested in and work with museums, I have switched my research focus to engaging with various negotiations between local, national, and transnational frameworks. Ottawa has become a fascinating case study and site for public engagement.
‘Ottawa the city’ and ‘Ottawa the national capital’ are two conventional ways of understanding the semiotics of where I live and their implications for daily life. I am currently working on a series of articles that challenge this dichotomy and question the persistence of national myths.
The first is a co-edited long-form article exploring contemporary monument culture in
Ottawa. Spurred by the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism and the National Holocaust Monument, I have been working with Jerzy Elżanowski (Carleton University, Indigenous and Canadian Studies) to trace a genealogy of importing figurative commemorative forms to Ottawa. We argue that a prefabricated transnational resolution has come at the expense of possible contemporary reconciliation with local and national cultural memory challenges.
The second article gives an in-depth analysis of the burgeoning alternative walking tour scene in the city, including (de)tours, Jane’s Walks, Indigenous Walks, and People’s History Walking Tours. These walking tours offer subjective, contingent, and often disruptive views of the capital, challenging the formality of the teleological and official walks given by groups such as Ottawa Walking Tours, a view that will be increasingly poignant as the city gears up for Canada 150 celebrations. The two complementary articles engage with settlership/unsettlement in the symbolic terrain and physical space of Canada’s capital city, and have laid groundwork for my new major research project.
In addition to these research projects I have begun collaborating with colleagues on two new initiatives: the Cultural Memory Workshops and Light Lichen Line. Both initiatives seek to bring different kinds of knowledge and experience together in relevant co-creative endeavours.