Keynotes

Stef Craps is an Associate Professor of English literature at Ghent University, where he directs the Cultural Memory Studies Initiative. He is an important scholar in the fields of trauma and postcolonial studies. Craps investigates the specificity of colonial traumas in relation to the hegemonic trauma discourse and explores the ethico-political stakes involved in the postcolonial memory work that literature undertakes.

“Travelling Trauma”

Trauma studies has lately begun to move into various new—or, at least, previously neglected—realms of experience and inquiry. If the field had seemed to be stagnating somewhat since its early burst of creative energy in the 1990s, the last few years have seen a number of attempts to take it in exciting new directions by dispensing with a range of trauma-theoretical orthodoxies. Initially regarded as an exclusively European or Western phenomenon, trauma is increasingly being studied in transcultural, transnational, and global contexts. Moreover, rigid ideas about the proper way to bear witness to trauma are giving way to greater tolerance and appreciation of the multifarious shapes and forms in which trauma testimonies come. Another sign of pluralization and diversification is a nascent interest among trauma scholars, who have traditionally focused on experiences of innocent victimhood, in the experiences of perpetrators and other categories of people implicated in traumatic events or histories. My paper will discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of the concept of trauma as a tool for cultural analysis travelling to such pastures new.

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Susheel Gupta is the recipient of the 2016 Ontario Bar Association’s President’s Award for his “significant contribution to the advancement of Justice in Ontario and around the world.” He is the spokesperson for the Air India Victims’ Families Association (AIVFA) and Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Mr. Gupta lost his mother on Air India Flight 182 at the age of 12 and it was this tragedy that led him down the path to a career working in the public service.

“Families’ Voices, Communities’ Grief: Victims of Air India”

This presentation draws on deep personal and professional experience with victims of the Air India bombing, and as a victim of the same, to discuss the needs of people who face such injustice. From consideration of the unique issues impacting children to the more generalized impact on families, the justice system, and the country broadly, this presentation asks us to reflect on a wide range of factors involved in serving diverse and multicultural communities. It provides an overview of the Air India Victims’ Families Association’s struggle for a public inquiry and provides some context for why it is important to have support mechanisms in place for first responders and those involved with assisting victims. Finally, the presentation raises key questions about how to adequately empower people who have been victimized, how to work alongside those individuals with sensitivity and respect, and how to build strong partnerships together in order to draw upon their experiences to facilitate our respective areas work and strengthen Canada’s response to tragedy.

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Sherene Razack is a Distinguished Professor of Critical Race, Gender and Citizenship Studies in Education. She teaches in the Department of Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Her wide-ranging research and acclaimed published work is in the areas of nation-making and race in Canada, law and violence, and terrorism. She was commissioned as an expert witness  on racism for the Air India public inquiry.

“Anti-Brown Racism Today”

The assessment that the date of the Air India bombings, June 23, 1985, is “not seared into the nation’s soul” is virtually undisputed. It would be hard to find anyone who believes that as a nation, our national response to this terrorist act bore even a passing resemblance to our response to the World Trade Centre and Pentagon bombings on September 11, 2001. Given the tremendous loss of life on that June day in 1985, and the fact that the majority of persons who died were Canadian, an obvious question arises as to why this act of terrorism had so little impact. An obvious answer is not forthcoming although Canadians of Indian origin have offered their own view that racism is at least a part of the reason for national indifference. In this address, I discuss Anti-Muslim racism today, and specifically the case of Omar Khadr as a subset of Anti-Brown racism. In exploring the anti-Muslim racism aimed at Khadr, I hope to provoke a conversation about the place of Brown people in the nation today, more than two decades after the Air India tragedy.