Podcast, Arts & Culture, Social Justice

Episode 149: Performing History & Land in Vancouver’s Stanley Park — with Selena Couture

December 07, 2021
Subscribe via:     Soundcloud   Apple Podcasts   Spotify   Google Podcasts   Podyssey   Youtube

Performance scholar and Associate Professor in the Dramatic Arts department at the University of Alberta Selena Couture joins Am Johal to talk about her latest book, Against the Current and Into the Light.

Selena speaks about how her book explores varying historical and contemporary performances involving Stanley Park through language, relationships to land, and the unlearning of settler knowledges. She draws from colonial and counter-colonial performances such as the 1946 Jubilee show, and the public performances of Native Brotherhood of BC in the same year.

Selena also explores how her doctoral dissertation and the taking of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language classes influenced the creation of her book, and speaks about the instability of archive-based “truths,” by discussing the fabricated history of Lord Stanley’s dedication of Stanley Park to “people of all colours, creeds and customs.” 

Selena and Am end their conversation by speaking of the absence of Indigenous women from historical archives, and the resonating performances of contemporary Indigenous women artists such as Quelemia Sparrow and Marie Clements.

About Our Guest

Selena Couture

Selena Couture is a settler scholar and Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton/ Treaty 6 territory and Métis Region No.4.

Her projects engage with theatrical and cultural performances including speech acts, place naming, Indigenous language revitalization and phenomenological spatial orientations. Through these elements she explores relationships to land: deconstructing conceptions of settler colonial whiteness and possession while foregrounding the maintenance of Indigenous places through performance. Publications include, Against the Current and Into the Light: Performing History and Land in Coast Salish Territories and Vancouver’s Stanley Park (McGill-Queen’s UP Indigenous and Northern Series, 2020) and On this Patch of Grass: City Parks and Occupied Lands (Fernwood 2018).

She holds a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, “Decolonizing Performative Reenactments of History” which engages with the historical narratives created in rural BC, taking into account the lack of treaties to govern settler access to the land; the continuously present Indigenous protection of unceded territories despite settler colonial extraction; and the unique relation to the lands expressed through Indigenous languages.

She is also a co-director of the Ecologies research cluster in the SSHRC Partnership Grant “Hemispheric Encounters: Developing Transborder Research-Creation Practices,” (2020-2027) led by Dr. Laura Levin of York University. The project is developing a network across the Americas of organizations, artists, activists and scholars actively working in and with hemispheric performance to share strategies and resources. Her research in this project focuses on human and environmental effects of transnational resource extraction, as well as site-based performance strategies of refusal that address urban, environmental, and spatial politics.

Her research practice responds to the growing crisis of global warming, develops a wider collaborative network and expands efforts to create responsible relations with Indigenous people, lands and all other-than-human beings.

Photograph of Selena Couture courtesy of Gatherings Partnership.

Cite This Episode

Chicago Style

Johal, Am. “Performing History & Land in Vancouver’s Stanley Park — with Selena Couture.” Below the Radar, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Podcast audio, December 7, 2021.


Stay Up to Date

Get the latest on upcoming events by subscribing to our newsletter below.