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Reparative Aesthetics: The Museum's Incarceration of Indigenous Life | thá:ytset: shxwelí li te shxwelítemelh xíts'etáwtxw

Date & time
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Registration is closed


Dylan Robinson


This event is free


Angus Tarnawsky



Reparative Aesthetics: The Museum’s Incarceration of Indigenous Life

This online talk at Concordia University is hosted by the Indigenous Futures Cluster, Landscape of Hope and Department of Communication Studies.

thá:ytset: shxwelí li te shxwelítemelh xíts'etáwtxw
Reparative Aesthetics: The Museum’s Incarceration of Indigenous Life


Across the globe, museums filled with glass and plexiglass vitrines display collections of Indigenous belongings. These cases render the life they contain into objects of display, things to be seen but not touched. Alongside the life of ancestors who take material form, thousands of Indigenous songs collected by ethnographers on wax cylinder recordings, reel-to-reel tape and electronic formats are similarly confined in museums. These songs also hold life, but of different kinds to that of their material cousins.

For Indigenous people, experiencing these systems of display and storage are often traumatic because of the ways in which they maintain the separation of kinship at the heart of settler colonialism. To re-assess the role of the museum as a place that confines life is to put into question its relationship to incarceration. If the museum is a carceral space, how then might we define repatriation in relation to practices of “re-entry” and kinship reconnection? In what ways might prison abolition apply to the museum? These questions, among others, have increasingly been focalized through the reparative aesthetics of Indigenous artists.

About the speaker

Dylan Robinson is a Stó:lō scholar who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts at Queen’s University, located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples. His research focuses upon the sensory politics of Indigenous activism and the arts, and questions how Indigenous rights and Settler colonialism are embodied and spatialized in public space.

His current research documents the history of contemporary Indigenous public art (including sound art and social arts practices) across North America. This project involves working with Indigenous artists and scholars to collaboratively imagine new models for public engagement, to create new public works that acknowledge Indigenous histories of place, and to envision future sovereignties.

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