Scripturalizing Here & There – Example Analysis Paper

ISS Annual Meeting (2018) – Program
January 9, 2018
Scripturalizing Here and There – Guidelines for Seminar Presentation
January 25, 2018

Scripturalizing Here & There – Example Analysis Paper


  1. General description of scripturalizing dynamic(s)/practice(s)/event(s) (who, what, when, where?)
    In re: “Truth and Reconciliation.” Of particular interest–the language as this has become enshrined in Canada in the Calls for Action of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the government to address the genocidal practices of the previous century’s residential schools for indigenous children and therewith also the lingering “fall-out” of the country’s colonial past. As a result, there are now multiple ways in which these Calls for Action have been ostensibly embraced and are being implemented by different religious and academic communities, including universities, theological colleges and other such training centres.
  2. Genealogy/evolution (whence?; what are previous related representations)
    From the perspective of “scripturalizing,” what is most striking to me in this process is the almost total absence of any kind of explicit reference to – let alone reflection on – the rhetoric of reconciliation itself. The term is used as if it were a self-evident good, as if we all obviously would want to become reconciled, but without ever clarifying what “reconciliation” actually is if and when it were ever to be achieved. My suspicion is that what is NOT being SAID is, in fact, a sign of a lingering conscription within a long-standing Western (Latin) Christian discourse about “atonement” and all that it pretends to know about the human condition. How is it that a rhetoric with such patently “religious” undertones continues to be employed so effortlessly and so gladly by people who otherwise typically would claim to be (and perhaps are) decidedly “secular”?
  3. Analysis:
    A. Representation/Performance/Poetics (how it is seen of experienced?)
    In a handout prepared for the First Annual Meeting of the ISS, I have already described the Annual Conference of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences conducted 16-17 November 2015 in Ottawa at which, among other things, the question of implementing “reconciliation” of / in / through the academy with Canada’s First Nations was the order of the day. It was, in my opinion, a sustained performance of a collective desire to carry out this mandate, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the constant re-inscription of academic business as usual. Even more distressing has been the degree to which it augured repeat performances to come.

    B. Power issues/type, directionality of mimetics (whose scriptururalization? who has scripturalized whom?)  
    As a colleague (Jennifer Reid) casually remarked in a conversation about the language of Truth and Reconciliation vis-à-vis Canada’s First Nations: beyond the fact that, in her opinion, no member of any one of these nations would ever have chosen such language to describe their objectives, the main problem with the language is that it typically means “too much reconciliation, not enough truth.” In other words, it typically fails to support staying the course, going all the way, keeping the truth-telling up until a satisfactory account of the whole “problem” can be achieved. On display becomes the governing lack of nerve, or desire, to acknowledge what has been really going on.

    C. Consequences, developments (what has it effected, set in motion?)
    What has surprised and perplexed me is the apparently willing and committed involvement of different members of Canada’s First Nations in the process of Truth and Reconciliation, even as it is clear that they are not always “in” it in the same way as each other and / or “other” Canadians are. It is also clear that some more recent non-European immigrants to Canada are unsure how reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations will not mean, in practice, another round of discrimination against them.


Leif E. Vaage (30 December 2017)

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