On December 10, Professor Jennifer Brant attested to how Indigenous maternal methodologies can transform research and teaching. Part of a lecture series sponsored by the Office of the Associate Dean, Research, International and Innovation, her talk drew an audience of over 70 OISE faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff.
Brant began by reading a poem entitled “This is Indian Land” by Lesley Belleau. This opening served as a Land Acknowledgment that recognizes the deeply troubled history of the lands we call home. After acknowledging the longstanding struggle of reconciliation in Canada, she considered the difficulties with finding a footing in institutions of higher education that continue to perpetuate Eurocentrism. Extending the teachings of Tekeni Guswentha – The Two Row Wampum treaty, recently shared with the OISE community by Dr. Rick Hill, she asked “What does it mean if one foot is in the canoe and one foot is in the ship?”
For Brant, the answer extends bell hooks’ work on homeplace as a safe space of renewal within the context of racialized and sexualized violence. Brant theorizes the concept of homeplace as liberatory praxis through a decolonial and Indigenous feminist lens. She noted that theory is a discursive space from which Indigenous peoples, particularly women, have historically been excluded. Yet, Indigenous knowledges and narratives hold transformative power that can shape praxis in liberatory ways. She brings this synergy into her methodology by extending the work of Indigenous women scholars who have carved out spaces for Indigenous storywork and ceremony in research. This ensures a culturally specific and holistic research environment that engages participants in meaningful ways and delves into the narratives that, in the words of Beth Brant, can indeed “clear the brush for others to follow."
Brant draws on Indigenous knowledges, specifically Indigenous literatures, in both her research and teaching and re-envisions her classroom as a safe homeplace to engage in advocacy and activism. It is a space where colonial violences and structural inequalities are named and acknowledged, ethical dialogue is encouraged, and students are encouraged to bring their full identities into the classroom. Brant prompts students to engage in creative acts of resistance by theorizing and advancing transformative knowledges that will reimagine the spaces we call home.
Photo by Christopher Katsarov.