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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Casting light to fill shadow : a decolonial aesthesis in Secwepemcúl'ecw Willard, Tania


The basis of this thesis is to link research into the physical anthropology of Interior Salish people in the early colonial period in British Columbia with the measuring and dislocating of Indigenous lands as expropriated by Settler policies in a research creation model to be exhibited as an installation and exhibition. By examining physical anthropological records, anthropometric data and ethnographic life-casts of Interior Salish people made during the North Pacific Jesup expedition (collection of the American Museum of Natural History, NY) and an Interior Chief's delegation to Ottawa in 1916 (collection of the Museum of History, QC) my research will connect the practice of anthropometric measurements with government policies of land dispossession as problematized methods of the colonial politics of measurement and survey. My thesis project attempts to locate, within the subjects of the study, a political imperative of land rights struggle through relational and installation based artworks within these conceptual paradigms. Using methods of Indigenous ways of knowing like: decolonial aesthesis, the politics of refusal and the Secwepémc concept of kweselktnéws, a culturally specific concept of relationality, grounds my research within my family, responsibility, community and territory. My MFA thesis project, Casting Light to Fill Shadow: A Decolonial Aesthesis in Secwepemcúl'ecw, will model alternative ways to engage with and value Indigenous knowledge(s) in relation to decolonial aesthetics. Through this project I will draw out the connections between ethnographic study, Indigenous land rights and contemporary art practice adding to the bodies of knowledge around Indigenous and decolonial aesthetics.

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