Thank the Tribes, No, Literally

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

In one of the oddest moments at Vancouver’s 2015 Modern Language Association convention, a moderator thanked the local Native Canadian Indian tribes for hosting the convention. Moderator Penelope Kelsey, an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado, said, “Thanks to these three nations for allowing us to conduct this panel today” and went on about how the tribes never officially ceded their ancestral lands to Canadians by treaty.

The panel Kelsey moderated, “Violence on the Borders: Memory, Gender, Geography,” featured presentations on:

  1. “New Jurisdictions of Violence and Survivance in the Native Borderland,” by Joshua Miner, of the University of Iowa;
  2. “Staging the Disappeared: Selective National Memory in Chicana Detective Fiction,” by Julia Istomina, of Ohio State University at Columbus;
  3. “Border Epistemologies: George Washington Gómez and the Geopolitics of Genre,” by Rebecca Sanchez of Fordham; and
  4. “Asian American Women Writing against ‘Racial State,’ Capitalism, and Sexual Violence,” by Lingyan Yang, of Indiana University of Pennsylvania

With several panelists absent, and with Professor Lingyan Yang unable to attend due to illness, the panel was a skeleton crew. One panelist read the sick colleague’s paper, which had some notable quotes, referring to Canada’s treatment of Japanese civilians during World War II, similar to U.S. and FDR’s internment camps:

  • “Violence of the racial state”
  • “Violence of capitalist” aggressors
  • “Global violation of Asian history by the American empire,” without laying more of the blame on Canada, but giving much credit to “feminist Marxism”