Cultural Trauma, Colonialism and Collective Responsibility: The Case of the ‘Indian Residential Schools’ in Canada

Title
Cultural Trauma, Colonialism and Collective Responsibility: The Case of the ‘Indian Residential Schools’ in Canada
Speaker(s)
Speaker: Eric Woods # University of East London
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
18th Apr 2018 11:00 - 18th Apr 2018 12:00
Location
1st floor Practice Suite (CMB 1.12)
URL
http://www.cst.ed.ac.uk/events_at_the_centre/open_research_seminars/2017_2018/cultural_trauma,_colonialism_and_collective_responsibility_the_case_of_the_indian_residential_schools_in_canada

This is a co-sponsored event between Sociology and the Centre of Canadian Studies

Abstract

This paper discusses the cultural forces that both constrain and enable the process by which collectivities take responsibility for the suffering of others. To do so, the paper applies the concept of perpetrator trauma to the case of the ‘Indian Residential Schools’ in Canada. The residential school system was informed by a racist view of Indigenous cultures and was designed as mechanism for assimilating Indigenous children. Physical and sexual abuse was widespread throughout the schools. The school system was recently the subject of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and has now become the preeminent symbol of the maltreatment of Indigenous people in Canada. But who was responsible for this tragedy? Was it the individual abusers? Was it the churches that were responsible for running the schools? Can the state also be held responsible for funding the schools? Perhaps responsibility also lies with the wider Canadian nation, in whose name the schools were created, and for whom the racist ideology that informed the school system was common? These kinds of questions are not merely a matter for the courts. They are also moral questions, and they implicate collective identities. This paper focuses on the latter. It traces how such questions have been addressed in order to understand how and why various social actors have both resisted and accepted responsibility. In doing so, the paper also touches on the meaning of the recently completed Truth and Reconciliation Commission.