11.20 Pedagogies of Remembrance as Affective Practice: Reading Testimonial Literature of Indian Residential Schools with Future Teachers
Heritage practices of making meaning through and with the past are inherently pedagogical, bringing the past to bear on the present in ways intended to create the conditions for desired futures. In an “age of testimony” and of increased skepticism regarding the “global rush to commemorate atrocities,” encounters with traumatic pasts in heritage and museological practices of public history need to be studied in terms of their volatile affective heritage and the intense emotion they provoke. Simon argues that the indeterminacy of this affective intensity in audience response demands practices grounded in “pedagogies of remembrance” (2005) that structure the movement from affect to thought and civic judgment essential to building more ethical and just social relations in the present. “Required in democratic civic life,” he argues “are forms of public history that encourage us to engage historical inheritance not as a patrimony to be acquired and admired, but as a form of work that requires commitment and thought.” Pedagogy has much to offer those wish to engage in socially transformational and not simply therapeutic affective practice: it asks how the affective response provoke by the force of the past can be channeled toward ethical judgment. Pedagogy recasts heritage practices not as “recognition and proprietorship,” but rather as an “event” that interrupts contemporary social relations and convokes processes of “publics-in-formation.” The challenge of heritage pedagogy, Simon argues, lies in staging encounters to allow people to experience the “touch of the past” (2005) as something not affirming but testimonial and testamentary, demanding responses that not only witness human suffering but reflexively inquire into ongoing political cultures that enable violence.
In this practitioner narrative study, I will theorize my use of testimonial literature by residential school survivors in an undergraduate course designed to foster future teachers’ institutional skepticism and memory as treaty people and members of a deeply implicated, transgenerational community of educators with ongoing ethical implications and obligations. This research responds to the call by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2009-2015) for education to cultivate decolonial forms of historical consciousness.
The curriculum analysis draws from the emerging field of remembrance-based pedagogies of public history to evaluate how educators might work with the affective force of testimony as a “constitutive element of heritage making” in settler colonial societies. The qualitative analysis of student texts produced in the course of three years focuses on moments of affective and epistemic crisis in student writing to examine the stakes, risks, and dynamics of their struggle to make meaning from difficult knowledge and histories of loss.