What is Loss?



One man's gain? Settler colonial violence and loss on multiple registers
Laura Ishiguro, University of British Columbia


This paper examines the 1870 murder of a white baby in British Columbia, and the trial and acquittal of a Stolo man for her murder. This case raises questions about the multiple meanings and forms of loss. It is a story about a violent death, a family's grief, and an unresolved case. But so too is it a story about individual violence wielded by a powerful settler against Stolo people, and the structural violence wrought by a colonial legal and political system against Indigenous peoples. Such threads cannot be woven together into a simple zero-sum calculus of loss and gain - too often the historiographical impulse or implication. Instead, I interrogate the tense, complicated relationship between individual and structural losses in this case. As I conclude, histories of settler colonial violence must be able to take seriously different, sometimes conflicting, registers of loss without invalidating structural analyses of power and justice.

"It Does Not Matter to Anyone": Narratives of Serb Women Who Left Sarajevo after the Siege
Jelena Golubovic, Simon Fraser University


When the siege of Sarajevo ended in 1996, the neighbourhoods that had been under the control of the besieging Bosnian Serb Army were handed over to the Sarajevo government. Many Sarajevans celebrated the reunification of the city. But, fearing violent reprisals, the majority of Bosnian Serbs in the reunified districts fled their homes. "They say we just left, that we just went away. But we fled. Who leaves their home when nothing is wrong? People only leave when things are bad, when they are afraid for their safety." Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, Jelena Golubovic asks: "What is loss when it is felt by those on the "wrong" side, that is, on the side of the perpetrator?" "What is loss when "it does not matter to anyone?"" And "what is loss when one's own suffering is so intimately bound up in the loss and suffering of others?"

Wanitoon ani Mikan: Concepts of Loss in Anishinaabemowin
Margaret Noodin, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee


Wanitoon, the word for loss in Anishinaabemowin, is connected by morphology to such words as wanim (to mislead), wanishkwem (to disturb), wanitam (to misunderstand) and other concepts of mistake and confusion. By contrast, the word mikan, to find, is one that evokes restoration equivalent to regaining consciousness which is expressed as mikawi. In these linguistic patterns we find ontologies that cannot be defined by or equated to terms in English, French or other languages which dominate the fields of cultural studies, philosophy and psychology. To address the question of what is beyond loss, Margaret Ann Noodin reframes ideas of loss and recovery from an indigenous linguistic framework that includes discussion of interdisciplinary and multi-modal approaches to reconciliation.

Survivors amongst survivors: Narrating loss across disaster, epidemic and war in Sierra Leone
Megan Bradley and Mohamed Sesay, McGill University


In recent years, Sierra Leoneans have faced the catastrophes of civil war, Ebola and a massive mudslide in August 2017 in Freetown, which killed more than 1000 people and displaced thousands. Whereas losses and violations in the war have been addressed through formal and informal transitional justice processes, experiences of loss in the Ebola outbreak and following the mudslide have been less forthrightly examined in national public debates and accountability processes. Against this backdrop, and drawing on qualitative fieldwork following the mudslide and Ebola outbreak, we ask: How do survivors themselves understand their experiences of loss, across times of war, epidemic disease and natural disaster? We focus not only on the local discourses and symbols used to signify dispossession but also the purposes of survivors' stories, which often go beyond foregrounding immediate post disaster conditions to raise broader questions of socioeconomic injustice and the responsibility of transcendental and earthly agents.