"Je suis île" / "I Am Turtle"* Symposium


October 5,6 & 7, 2017

What Spaces are there for the Representation of First Nations and Inuit Artistic and Cultural Expression in the City?


The Symposium


As part of the programming of the 375th anniversary of Montreal, the many stories surrounding its spaces and the plurality of the voices occupying the metropole are being presented and celebrated. Despite the increasing number of Indigenous peoples living or passing through the city, the history of First Nations as well as their numerous present-day projects based in Montreal are marginalized by the official program. This underrepresentation of Indigenous communities in urban settings seems to be characteristic of a larger North American reality. For artists and researchers in the field of arts and literature, among others, the following question arises : what spaces in urban centers are dedicated to First Nations’ artistic representation? Many indigenous creators and social agents are currently dedicating themselves to the creation and the transmission of cultural practices and of rhetorics of recognition in complex spaces, be it through artistic projects or socio-political initiatives (Idle no More).

Through various creative processes (artistic, literary, and cinematographic), the current reality of First Nations’ communities are being articulated while underscoring a resurgence of traditional practices. Elements of the city are being reclaimed and redefined in reservations, and vice versa. As these initiatives illustrate a desire for the (re)appropriation of urban landscape and heritage, is it relevant to think in terms of de-territorialisation or of re-territorialisation when reflecting upon the realities of urban natives navigating between reservations and cities? Is the concept of the city or of the metropole to be considered in itself as a way to circumscribe and to organize the territory at the expense of minorities? By its singular geographical position, between mount and river, Montreal has played the role of a cultural and commercial crossroad, offering a potential of exchanges, transformations and integrations. As art opens up possibilities, space must be used as a platform.

If the festivities of the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal serve as a stepping stone for the critical reflections which will be developed throughout this symposium, we want to open dialogues transcending the frontiers of the metropole and to reach out to different urban contexts. In hopes of decolonizing relationships between First Nations and settlers, we wish to establish, via this symposium, an open space for critical and respectful dialogue in order to examine the abovementioned dynamics of erasure, (re)inscription and (re)appropriation taking place in urban, institutional and virtual settings. We are particularly interested in communications proposing practical and theoretical initiatives which support the advancement of Indigenous cultures and languages in urban areas. What artistic projects – already in place or to be imagined – offer an opportunity to critically rethink and to decolonize our urban spaces and their future? The goal of this symposium is ultimately to give (back) a platform to micro-histories (Ginzburg) via individual and collective theoretical, artistic, literary, cinematographic, political or urbanistic (counter) narratives.



Possible Topics of Discussion

This list is non-exhaustive.


Survival and the support of thriving Indigenous languages in urban contexts

Writing in the city / writing on the reservation

(Re)appropriations and representations of places of belonging in Indigenous art and literature

Historical and visual heritage in urban areas

Stories of homelessness

Alternative art spaces

Indigenous cultural tourism, festivals and broadcasting activities

Public art

Organising Committee

Marie-Eve Bradette

PhD student, Comparative literature, Université de Montréal
Julie Graff

Julie Graff

PhD student, History of Art, Université de Montréal
Gabrielle Marcoux

Gabrielle Marcoux

PhD student, History of Art, Université de Montréal
Alexia Pinto Ferretti

Alexia Pinto Ferretti

PhD student, History of Art, Université de Montréal
Louise Vigneault

Louise Vigneault

Professor, History of Art, Université de Montréal