Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines an embodied, co-creative process of building solidarity grounded in difference for a forthcoming accessible exhibit, entitled Performing Progress? Disrupting Ontario’s Institutional Legacies of Eugenics. The exhibition aims to disrupt histories and legacies of “betterment” discourses in Ontario educational institutions and to cultivate activist art. It builds on my archival research at the University of Guelph on betterment discourses, such as euthenics (race improvement through environment and hygiene) and eugenics (race improvement through heredity) (Richards 2010), being taught in Ontario in the early- to mid-20th century. While performances of betterment sought to define and control those deemed “unfit” (to be human) and unify (and humanize) a disparate settler population (Peters 2017), this exhibition turns its gaze to the nuanced, gestured, covert, and unevenly co-experienced meanings of embodied performances of imagined progress to think about intersectional subject formation and relations within institutions. The aim of the exhibition is to expand an understanding of non-normative vitality and advance social justice. The co-creative process draws on decolonizing theory of incommensurable solidarity—a process of building solidarity, grounded in difference, between those who are unevenly implicated in colonialism (Gaztambide-Fernández 2012). In line with the core values and commitments of the exhibit’s co-funders, Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice and the Guelph Civic Museum, three activist artist-researchers, who lead with difference, joined me in co-creating the exhibition. I examine this process as reconciling with past colonizing practices in order to decolonize Canadian educational institutions in the present and future.