Good Mourning Canada? Canadian Military Commemoration and Its Lost Subjects
Vosters, Helene Teresa
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Using the Highway of Heroes as my point of departure, in “Good Mourning Canada? Canadian Military Commemoration and its Lost Subjects” I interrogate the role of Canadian military commemoration in the production of hierarchies of grievability and the construction of nationalist narratives. I argue that military commemoration plays a critical role in the performative constitution of the privileged—and the “lost”—subjects of Canadian nationalism. My investigation looks first at how Canadian military memorial projects operate as a means of interpellating Canada’s citizen populations into a particular kind of settler-nationalism, and second, at how performance might serve as a methodology towards the production of counter-memorials that resist the forgetful narratives of Canadian nationalism. My methodological approach weaves historical, theoretical, and performance analyses with first-person reflections on three counter-memorial meditations I performed as a method of embodied inquiry and critical engagement. While the reflective remains of Impact Afghanistan War are scattered throughout this dissertation, and Unravel: A meditation on the warp and weft of militarism and Flag of Tears are discussed explicitly in the final chapters, all three counter-memorial meditations inform—and are informed by—the entire project. Throughout this dissertation I deliberately posit both Canadian military commemoration, and performance, as broadly construed. I investigate repertorial performances of commemoration—like the Highway of Heroes, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and Impact—in addition to the archival performances of institutions and objects—like the Canadian War Museum, military fatigues, and Unravel’s threaded remains. I also intentionally wander outside the constructed borders of Canadian military commemoration to consider how these memorials disappear the violence of settler-colonialism. I bring popular culture performances of nationalist and counter-nationalist narratives—like the Winter Olympics and Jeff Barnaby’s film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls—into conversation with performances overtly linked to the contested terrains of Canadian social memory, like the World War I and II documentary, The Valour and the Horror, and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In bringing this range of performances together under the umbrella of Canadian military commemoration I make visible the larger scenario of Canadian settler nationalism and its sticky “inter(in)animations” with militarism and colonialism.