The Canadian public largely understands reconciliation as the harmonization of Indigenous–settler relations for the benefit of the nation. But is this really happening?
Reconciliation politics, as developed in South America and South Africa, work counter to retributive justive in order to redress the divide opened up between survivors and perpetrators as a result of historical violence. The Theatre of Regret asks whether, within the context of settler colonialism, this approach will ultimately favour the state over the needs and requirements of Indigenous peoples. Interweaving literature, art, and other creative media 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 its core concepts – acknowledgement, apology, redress, and forgiveness – this study exposes the colonial ideology at the root of reconciliation in Canada.
Introduction: Bearing Witness to the TRC
1 The Theatre of Regret: The Politics of Reconciliation after the Second World War
2 Listen to the Bones: Colonial Static and the Call for Reconciliation
3 To Acknowledge, but Not to Accept: Critical Reflections on Settler State Apologies
4 Redress as a Gift: Historical Reparations and the Logic of the Gift
5 An Exercise in Forgiveness: Confronting the Risk of Forgiveness and Empathy
Conclusion: “Shallow Reconciliation” and the Indigenous Future Imaginary
Notes, Selected Bibliography, Index
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.
Theatre of Regret is a significant contribution to the studies of transitional justice and reconciliation literature.
~Jonathan Nash, Department of English, University of Victoria, University of Toronto Quarterly
The Theatre of Regret offers a thought-provoking critique of "reconciliation" as it has been captured by settler colonialism.
~Melanie Braith, University of Winnipeg., Native American and Indigenous Studies. Volume 10. Issue 1. Spring 2023.
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.
~Christine Anonuevo, University of Northern British Columbia, 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…
~Alice Higgs, doctoral graduate, University of Sheffield, Journal of Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Studies