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Dr. Michelle Folk -- How Keepsakes From India Are Souvenirs of Empire and Otherness: Reading Personal Archives for Colonialist Narratives on South Asia

Fri., Oct. 14, 2022 3:30 p.m. - Fri., Oct. 14, 2022 4:30 p.m.

Location: Campion College Auditorium and Zoom

Abstract: We use things to remember. Objects – photos, letters, notes, and more – are carefully and intentionally curated by us with the purpose of remembering the past. Our thoughtfully-curated collections that evoke joy, happiness, and, at times, sadness in us for very subjective and personal reasons have shared meaning – they are collective mementos too. Charles A. Bradbrooke (1873-1948) served in Britain’s Imperial Army at Aden and Lucknow before settling in Saskatchewan in 1911 and becoming the Indian Agent at Pelly. The Saskatchewan Archives’ Bradbrooke Fonds is an assortment of things we imagine ourselves collecting as remembrances – awards, newspaper clippings, notebooks, and postcards. I imagine the fonds as mementoes for Bradbrooke, perhaps being stored in a drawer or a box in an attic and pulled out when he wanted to reminisce about his time in Aden and Lucknow. Bradbrooke’s keepsakes, however personal they were for him, offer us a unique glimpse into history. They were a way of communicating Eurowestern narratives on South Asia using accessible and commonplace objects during the period of British colonialism. Keepsakes like the ones Bradbrooke collected during his time in India were a means of disseminating colonialist ideologies through everyday artefacts. I will examine the Bradbrooke Fonds and other personal archives (e.g., Regina’s Norman MacKenzie) for what we can learn about colonialist narratives from objects that, while intended as personal memories of India, cannot be interpreted or understood apart from these narratives.

Bio: Michelle L. Folk received her PhD in religious studies from Concordia University. Her dissertation Ascetics, Devotees, Disciples, and Lords of the Matam: Monasteries in Medieval Tamilnadu examined endowments recorded on the walls of South India’s religious institutions from the ninth to thirteenth century for what epigraphical records reveal about the activities and people associated with matams during this period. Research and teaching interests include asceticism and monasticism, gender and sexualities, narrative, and colonialism in the South Asian context. As a member of the department of gender, religion, and critical studies, she teaches in religious studies at Campion and Luther Colleges at the University of Regina. Her current project examines how ephemera in personal archives reflect colonialist narratives and discourses of Otherness. She is a member of the executive and program co-chair for the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion (CSSR).

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