Abstracts

Barrett, Paul (McMaster University), and Varadharajan, Asha (Queen’s University) “Remembrance of Things Past: The Air India Saga and the (Un)making of Identity and Community”

Brampton, ON is an important site for investigating race and nation. We consider the roles of media, community and the Gurdwaras in the fashioning of faith, activism, and identity. In doing so we ask whether and how Air India has something to do with or say to “us.”

Basu, Lopamudra (University of Wisconsin-Stout) “Oak Creek Tragedy: The Limits of Memorialization and Community Activism”

My paper focuses on the 2012 attack on the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and studies documentary films like Valerie Kaur’s Divided We Fall and Oak Creek: In Memoriam, and performances by community organizations like Serve2 Unite, which memorialize this event. The Oak Creek tragedy problematizes post 9/11 South Asian American identity and points to difficulties in building broad coalitions against hate crimes.

Bhatia, Nandi (University of Western Ontario) “Chance and Coincidence in Anita Badami’s Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?

This paper will address the role of “coincidence” and “chance” as narrative strategies in Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? (2006) and examine what function they serve in rethinking the Air India tragedy and its effects on communities of women across religious, regional, and class lines.

Bowen, Deborah (Redeemer University College) “Teaching Bharati Mukherjee’s ‘The Management of Grief’: The Recuperative Power of Fiction”

Mukherjee’s 1988 story about the aftermath of the Air India disaster foregrounds the inability of Canadian social agencies to understand the culturally-determined psychic mechanisms associated with trauma. Reading this story years after the event makes it as real and visceral to my students as if it had been yesterday, but with the added awareness of the political significance of the shaping of public memory.

Failler, Angela (University of Winnipeg), and Saklikar, Renée Sarojini (Simon Fraser University) “Creative Remembrance: Poet and Critic in Conversation”

This presentation features poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar in a live interview with scholar-critic Angela Failler discussing air india [redacted], a recent work of operatic theatre based on Saklikar’s poetry. Together Saklikar and Failler reflect on the challenges and possibilities inherent in producing aesthetic responses to the complex and ongoing history of the Air India bombings.

Gidaris, Constantine (McMaster University) “Precrime and Preemption: ‘The Minority Report’ in Bill C-51”

In “The Minority Report,” Philip K. Dick introduces us to a dystopic world where unconscious mutants foresee future crimes or “precrime,” enabling authorities to preemptively apprehend a suspect before the potential commission of a crime. This paper aims to explore some of the preemptive elements in Bill C-51, and suggests that preemption may rely on subjective processes of racialization rather than objective legal justification.

Guillemette, Joel (McMaster University) “‘Infantilism by Loss’: The Ghostly Child, Loss, and Embodied Witnessing in Padma Viswanathan’s The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

With a particular focus on discourses of “infantilism by loss” in Padma Viswanathan’s The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, I contend that the manifestations of ghostly children—as an extension of recollected memories—illuminates a promising understanding of the politics of loss, since the death of the child not only provokes the embodiment of an inevitable trauma in Venkat, but also enables the performativity of loss.

Hubel, Teresa (Huron University) “Classifying Ethnicity for a Multicultural Nation: Representing the Air India Tragedy”

My paper will explore the class implications of various creative and non-fictional texts in the Air India archive to demonstrate how class prejudice as well as middle-class status is often normalized, a gesture which confirms nationalist ideals that proclaim Canada a predominantly middle-class place and renders working-classness not only inferior but threatening to the interests of the multicultural nation.

Khan, Zarah (McMaster University), and Marcaccio, Alexandra (McMaster University) “Re-membering the Air India Bombings: Towards a Creative Approach”

This paper discusses the tensions between private memories and public histories alongside state agendas of remembering. Thinking of the 1947 partition in parallel to the Air India bombings, we discuss alternative avenues such as personal testimonies, literary works, and contemporary visual art, to consider how creative works can reveal insight into complicated realities and the many histories of a tragedy.

Marjara, Eisha (independent artist) “Remember me Nought: Fixing Memory on Frames of Film”

In a video presentation filmmaker Eisha Marjara discusses her feature NFB docudrama Desperately Seeking Helen, her photo series Remember Me Nought and her upcoming feature film Calorie. She explains the ways in which her art complicates memory, grief and identity by deconstructing the form with the use of the cinematic frame, while attempting to fix a narrative that undercuts linear storytelling.

Maxey, Ruth (University of Nottingham) “‘Prosthetic’ Memorialization: Revisiting Bharati Mukherjee’s Literary Responses to the Air India Flight 182 Bombing”

This paper will examine Clark Blaise and Bharati Mukherjee’s The Sorrow and the Terror (1987), and Mukherjee’s short story, “The Management of Grief” (1988), exploring the ways in which these literary works act as “prosthetic” memorials in the absence of official North American commemoration in the years following the Air India 182 terrorist attack.

Moosa, Farah (Vancouver Island University) “‘Another version of this moment exists’: Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s children of air india and the Air India Saga”

This paper explores how Renée Sarojini Saklikar’s poetry collection children of air india engages with the Air India archive and dominant versions of the Air India story in order to challenge conceptions of a singular story. Saklikar presents personal narratives that exist within, against, and alongside official versions.

Pada, Lata (Sampradaya Dance Creations; York University) “Dance and Grief of the Air India Tragedy”

Drawing upon her 1995 dance drama Revealed by Fire, Pada will address an artist’s effort to use her craft to work through the trauma of surviving while her husband and daughters perished on AI Flight 182. Lata Pada is a dance performer, choreographer, professor of dance, and spokesperson for the families of Air India victims.

Ridon, Manjeet (University of Nottingham) “No Place Like Home in Srinivas Krishna’s Masala

Drawing upon Marc Augé’s theory of the “non-place,” spaces of displacement not related to history or personal identity, I argue that Krishna’s 1991 film explores how diasporic Indian communities have experienced political trauma and marginalisation in Canada in the aftermath of the Air India tragedy.

Seshia, Maya (University of Alberta) “A Critical Examination of Governmental and Public Responses to the Bombing of Air India Flight 182”

This paper explores what the Canadian government and public’s responses to the Air India catastrophe reveal about race, Canadian citizenship and the Canadian nation. Analysis of House of Commons’ debates, newspapers, Inquiry reports and counter-narratives underscores the extent to which systemic racism persists and whiteness continues to be the norm underlying conceptions of the Canadian nation and citizenship.

Shabnam, Shamika (McMaster University) “Food, Palatability and Socio-Political Discourses around the 1985 Air India Tragedy in The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

My paper focusses on the treatment of food and its connections to loss, grief and memory in Padma Viswanathan’s The Ever After of Ashwin Rao. I will move from a historical overview into discussing the fictional depiction of the Air India Bombing through a complex layering of food and palatability.

Singh, Milan (Simon Fraser University) “Acts of Citizenship: A Critique of the Air India Inquiry”

This paper argues that the families’ testimonies in the Air India Inquiry can be used as evidence to challenge conventional definitions of citizenship. Normative parameters of citizenship erase the severity of the families’ demands, ignoring their ongoing struggles for information, services and justice from the Canadian government. I argue that discourses of citizenship need to consider the agency of subjects and the challenges they face.

Soni, Raji Singh (Virginia Tech.) “Grieving States, Mourning Time: Sikh Memory and Postnational Justice”

Transnational violence poses a postnational challenge for historicizing the will to justice from the Komagata Maru and Partition to 1984 and Air India 182. This challenge situates the Congress Party’s anti-Sikh pogroms and their aftermath as a case study of state violence and impunity in an era of vaunted universal human rights. The diasporic will to reclaim states jurisprudentially “from below” involves grieving (i.e. claiming through grief, grievance, mourning, melancholia), not relinquishing, a governmentalized state-form.

Thompson, Veronica (Athabasca University) “‘Kanishka’s Souls’: Air India and Farzana Doctor’s All Inclusive

All Inclusive alternates between the two interwoven narratives of its central characters, Ameera Gilbert and Azeez Dholkawala. This paper discusses the novel’s interrogation of the weak reception of and responses to the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985, exploring the ensuing personal grief and persistent memory of the event, and confirming its continuing impact.

Young, Jessica (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) “‘Tell the World How 329 Innocent Lives Were Lost and How the Rest of us are Slowly Dying’: The Transnational Legacy of 1985 Air India Tragedy”

This paper examines the transnational implications of Canada’s commemoration of Air India as it bolstered Canada’s domestic and foreign policies while eliding transnational histories of violence. To counter the state’s limited commemoration, I examine literature and memorials to highlight how shared memories of trauma and colonization have always been interwoven into the commemoration of the Air India tragedy.