Council for Museum Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Canada has long been known as a polite country, a place where people will apologize when you get frustrated with them for saying sorry all the time. In the past few decades this tendency towards apology has been embraced as unofficial national policy, a politics of repentance evident in formal apologies and discourses of redress and reconciliation coming from various governmental, educational, and heritage institutions. This particular form of a politics of repentance is grounded in practices of recognition that acknowledge specific historical instances of violence and exclusion. As part of a broader multicultural and settler-colonial form of nationalism it works to reaffirm the borders between a dominant national self and those others to whom apologies are offered, as well as the relative positions of these groups within the borders of the nation-state. In this sense, the act of apology is both limited and limiting. It is also part of much longer conversations, stemming from decades of difficult struggles and opening up spaces for dialogue within the borders between people with different experiences of what the nation has been, what it is, and what it might become. Museums and other heritage institutions have asserted themselves as both hosts and mediators of this dialogue. This paper addresses how they are doing so in the city of Vancouver in ways that discipline the conversation and reproduce the borders of a politics of repentance. It concludes, with some commentary on how the conversation also extends beyond the constraints that are identified.