Jerzy Elżanowski (Ottawa) / Mercator Fellow 2018: Against a Totalizing Discourse in Heritage: Questioning Erasure in Canada and Poland

Technische Universität Berlin
Hörsaal H 111, Hauptgebäude
Str. des 17. Juni 135
10623 Berlin


Alongside the 2015 decision of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to name the In-dian residential school system a “cultural genocide” came a flurry of national commemorative initia-tives largely focused on wars and genocides that happened elsewhere. The disjuncture between a call by the Commission, the Indigenous resistance movement, and activist academics for deep self-examination, and the concurrent public and national celebration of Canada as a “land of refuge,” sit uneasily together in the commemorative landscape of Ottawa. This bifurcation leaves little space for a critical assessment of essentializing practices that can be observed both in the work/resistance of those eager and those unwilling to effect structural change. Based on an interrogation of the discursive fields surrounding Ottawa’s Polish-led Monument to the Victims of Communism, this talk considers the possible utility (and outlines the limits) of multidirectional and processual/relational models of heritage-making in an ongoing colonial context.


Jerzy (Jurek) Elżanowski
is Assistant Professor in Indigenous and Canadian Studies (Heritage Conservation) at Carleton University, jointly appointed to the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture. His current research projects focus on a) the history and historiography of urban war damage, including archival bomb damage maps and destruction surveys; b) difficult monuments in Canada’s National Capital Region in the context of transnational commemorative practices; c) multi-vocal consultation methodologies for engaging communities in design for public installations. He holds a professional Master’s degree in Architecture from McGill University, and a joint PhD in Heritage Conservation, Architectural History, and Interdisciplinary Studies from the Bauhaus University Weimar and the University of British Columbia. He has taught and practiced in the fields of architecture and heritage conservation across Canada, Germany, and Poland.