What Remains?



Archival remnants: Photographic archives and the erasure of Black history in Canada
Rachel Lobo, York University


This paper considers the historiographical challenges brought on by dislocation and demonstrates how longstanding Afrodiasporic communities in Canada have collected and preserved photographs in order to combat institutionalized modes of erasure and articulate social and spatial identities. The main site of this investigation is the Alvin D. McCurdy fonds at the Archives of Ontario, a collection of historical photographs of communities in Amherstburg, Ontario---a major terminus of the Underground Railroad. Building on recent scholarship this study investigates the discursive continuity between archive and historical narratives, and reconceptualizes the term "archive" to include alternative sites and materials for the reconstruction of historically marginalized groups. These "counterarchives" can perform a recuperative role in mapping the development of diasporic identities and communal memory. Specifically, this article investigates how photographic archives can provide crucial visual documentation of the geographies of slavery, segregation, and dispossession, spatializing acts of survival within the Canadian landscape and its history.

Remembering the Losses of Japanese Canadians

Kaitlin Findlay, Heather Read and Jordan Stanger-Ross


This paper uses over 100 interviews from the collection of the Landscapes of Injustice research project to explore memories of loss and perseverance in the 1940s. Some narrators detail the hard choices their families made as they determined which vestiges of their material lives could be saved. Some describe their destruction of property to prevent its seizure. Others still shift the discussion away from the things they lost, instead telling stories of how people rebuilt home and community. In this paper three researchers (Read, Stanger-Ross, Finlay) work together to interpret this history. Deliberately multi-vocal in form, the paper works to convey the complexity of ownership, community, and family in the context of loss. 

Recounting Life Before: The Presence of Loss in the Early Accounts of Montreal Survivors of the 1994 Genocide Against Rwandan Tutsis

Steven High, Concordia University


Recounting life as it was before the 1994 Rwandan genocide is infused with the knowledge of what was subsequently lost, making even the most cherished memories bitter-sweet. The afterlife of loss will be the subject of my inquiry. The paper will consider the ways that loss imbues life story accounts of life before the genocide for 31 Rwandan-Montrealers with a focus on the following questions: Does a sense of loss destabilize chronological accounts, leading survivors to skip back and forth in time? Where is loss is most evident in these life stories? I would also like to reflect further on the feelings of loss. There is sadness and grief of course. But what of other emotions? I will also consider the ways that loss lives in the dialogical relationship between the interviewer and interviewee: in the questions posed and in the co-presence of shared grief.

nik'oyi: what remains

Niki Sandoval and Diana Greenwood


Co-authored by Niki Sandoval and Diana Greenwood this paper travels the intersection between experiences of loss, healing, reconciliation, and rebirth with a group of indigenous community members in California. Through longitudinal relationships between community members, educators, and therapists, participants are reaching new understandings of personal and community loss. The result is nik'oyi a Shamala Chumash word meaning to return. nik'oyi symbolizes a return to self, family, and community through remembrance. By touching the roots of histories and reclaiming collective stories of trauma: a new awareness of accountability, responsibility, and relationship is fostered in self, family and community. 

Life After Demolition: The Absented Presence of Montreal's Negro Community Centre

Kelann Currie Williams, Concordia University


In 2014, The Negro Community Centre (NCC) located in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal was demolished after being closed for nearly 25 years. In the physical world, the NCC no longer exists, however when its 2035 Coursol address is entered into Google Street View (GSV), the centre stands upright, its digital presence defying its physical absence. To engage with the question of what remains?, this paper will focus on the connection between the physical remains of the NCC following its demolition and its digital remains in the form of GSV spatial imagery which proceed its demolition. By considering how lost Black geographies can be relocated and re-experienced through geographic web applications, she will articulate how a Black sense of place, despite always being a site of loss, resists physical and virtual spatial configurations.

"I remembered you": Mourning at New York City's Potter Field

Leyla Vural, Independent Scholar


Whatever one thinks happens after death, there's a materiality to it that every society has to deal with. Death leaves behind the body and the bereaved. For many, what we do with the body and how we remember our dead is as much a marker of power (or the lack thereof) as it is of tradition or culture. Since 1869, New York City has been having inmates from the city's largest jail bury the city's poorest people in mass, unmarked graves on Hart Island, a remote island that is New York's potter's field. This paper by Leyla Vural interweaves audio clips from oral history interviews about mourning with people who have friends and family buried on Hart Island with thoughts on what the island says about what historian Raphael Samuel called the "moral topography" that we all traverse.

"We're writing a eulogy": Beyond the loss of Single Room Occupancy hotels in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Angela Kruger, Queen’s University


On June 2, 2017, the City of Vancouver closed The Balmoral, a Single Room Occupancy hotel (SRO) in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). One year later, on June 20, 2018, the City closed The Regent, a neighbouring SRO across the street. These closures may mark the beginning of a landslide loss in DTES housing stock capable of hastening the violent displacement of an already marginalized neighbourhood. Nevertheless, a community of precariously - housed SRO tenants is exerting their right to remain. Based on nine months of participatory research with this community, including interviews, archival study, and collaborative writing, Angela Kruger’s paper challenges the idea that the closure of these buildings is strictly the loss of housing stock. These closures are also stirrings, inciting a neighbourhood of agents, living and dead - one hundred years of powerful cross - cultural urban survivance - prepared to demonstrate, resoundingly, the power of community. This paper is a call for listening.

Telling and Not Telling Stories of Loss in Poland Seventy Years After the Holocaust

Stacey Zembrzycki, Dawson College


What do stories of loss sound like seventy years after the Holocaust and how are they remembered in the places where the losses themselves occurred? What remains and what is beyond loss for survivors of this genocide? When Steven Hopman returned to Poland in 2010 for the first time since leaving in the postwar period he was not ready, willing, or capable of sharing his story. As part of a March of the Living contingent of survivors tasked with educating students about the Holocaust, he avoided his personal narrative and struggled with feelings of anger and hostility toward any Poles he encountered throughout this trip. For Steven, telling his story was like "having a scar, having it heal, and then ripping off the scab" It was too difficult. Unlike the four other survivors on the trip, this experience effectively silenced Steven rather than helping him come to terms with what had happened to him and his family. For him, the past was not a distant place but an experience he still struggled to understand and live with. This paper problematizes Steven's experience and details the stories that could and could not be told, exploring what remains but also what is beyond loss and cannot be shared.