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category: Social Science
published: Nov 2020
publisher: UBC Press

The Theatre of Regret

Literature, Art, and the Politics of Reconciliation in Canada

by David Gaertner

tagged: indigenous studies, canadian

The Canadian public largely understands reconciliation as the harmonization of Indigenous–settler relations for the benefit of the nation. But is this really happening? The Theatre of Regret asks whether reconciliation politics will ultimately favour the state’s goals over those of Indigenous peoples. Interweaving literature and art throughout his analysis, David Gaertner questions the state-centred frameworks of reconciliation by exploring the critical roles that Indigenous and allied authors, artists, and thinkers play in defining, challenging, and refusing settler regret. Through close examination of core concepts in reconciliation theory – acknowledgement, apology, redress, and forgiveness – this study exposes the deeply embedded colonial ideologies at the root of reconciliation in Canada.

About the Author
David Gaertner is a settler scholar of German descent and an instructor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia, where he specializes in digital storytelling. He is also a co-editor of Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island.
Contributor Notes

David Gaertner is an assistant professor in the Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. His articles have appeared in Canadian Literature, American Indian Cultural and Research Journal, and Bioethical Inquiry, among other publications. He is the editor of Sôhkêyihta: The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe and co-editor, with Sophie McCall, Deanna Reder, and Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, of Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island.

Editorial Reviews

The Theatre of Regret is a timely book that implores Canadian settlers to look at the uncomfortable truth of the narratives we tell ourselves: the truth of residential schools and the truth of ongoing settler colonialism and violence.

— BC Studies

…Gaertner argues that it is imperative reconciliation centres Indigenous perspective and creates space for Indigenous voices. The Theatre of Regret does just this with depth and flair…

— Journal of Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Studies

Theatre of Regret is a significant contribution to the studies of transitional justice and reconciliation literature.

— University of Toronto Quarterly

The Theatre of Regret offers a thought-provoking critique of "reconciliation" as it has been captured by settler colonialism.

— Native American and Indigenous Studies. Volume 10. Issue 1. Spring 2023.

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