An International Workshop on Post-Orientalism / Un atelier international sur le post-orientalisme

Maurice Jr. Labelle, University of Saskatchewan

2018 marks the fortieth anniversary of Edward Said’s opus, Orientalism—an event that merits collective reflection. As a means of joining growing transnational conversations amongst scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and activists that think critically about decolonization in the twenty-first century, McMaster University’s Wilson Institute for Canadian History will be hosting this week an international workshop on the theme of post-Orientalism, from Thursday September 20thto Saturday September 22nd.

According to literary scholar Hamid Dabashi, post-Orientalism “is not a mere critique of colonial representations;” rather, it re-presents “the manners and modes of fighting back and resisting [imperial culture]” and the structures it constructs.[1] By gathering emerging and established scholars from Canada and abroad, An International Workshop Post-Orientalismon Post-Orientalism / Un atelier international sur le post-orientalisme is meant to push forward the broadly defined framework of (re)conciliation within the field of decolonization.[2] Most importantly, it will do so in a relational manner attentive to differences among diverse peoples within and between various countries of the world, and the ways in which these differences carry over into current decolonial initiatives.

As a decolonial concept and approach, post-Orientalism remains under-theorized and -applied in historical and interdisciplinary scholarship.[3] Scholars have exhaustively tested Orientalism and identified its limitations, but failed to deeply engage with the transformative migrations that followed its publication in 1978. That is, they have traveled with Orientalism in hand, but not post-Orientalism in mind and heart. Edward Said himself identified this global phenomena. When reflecting upon the transnational conversations engendered by Orientalism, he determined that “there is still a remarkable unwillingness to discuss the problems of Orientalism in the political or ethical or even epistemological contexts proper to it.”[4]

Above all, Edward Said’s Orientalism empowered a “decentered consciousness” that critiqued international relations and its leading societies, unsettling the Western world on individual and collective levels.[5] By revealing the prevalence and power of imperial ways of seeing and being, Orientalism fuelled an emerging politico-cultural wave of decolonization in the world, first as resistance to imperial power and the demand for justice, but then as a call for universal equality in human relations built on a new terrain known as “reconciliation.” Recognizing that imperial cultures transcended a new liberal international system that on paper simultaneously supported the so-called end of empire and the creation of postcolonial nation-states, disparate intellectuals and activists turned to Orientalism when “decolonizing the mind.”[6] On a transnational plane, (re)conciliation thus “has as its object colonial discourse.”[7] It represents decolonial processes and praxes of harmonisations between different peoples and nations whose relations are structured by imperial mentalitésand their legacies. By identifying (re)conciliation as the core form of decolonization historically embedded in Edward Said’s Orientalism, An International Workshop on Post-Orientalism / Un atelier international sur le post-orientalismeaims to create an inclusive space to conceptually refine post-Orientalism and historicize its travels in Canada and abroad.

In the Canadian context, post-Orientalism can be useful in thinking about responses to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and its calls to action, fostering a deeper societal commitment to the lifelong process of (re)conciliation. As such, a post-Orientalist approach contributes to scholarly understanding by illuminating the ongoing efforts to redress Settler Canadian mindsets and the healing of Indigenous peoples across Canada. Indigenous and Settler scholars alike are increasingly and rightly scrutinizing the legacy of Canadian imperialism and confronting its dehumanizing stereotypes and clichés.[8] The workshop both engages with, and contributes to, the literatures on imperialism in Canada and Canada’s involvement in global imperial systems. In the process, it hopes to further connect the study of decolonization in Canada with those of the broader world by not only contrasting disparate decolonial experiences, unearthing linkages and divergences, but also by comparing the types of anti-imperial activisms that occurred within the country’s borders with those happening elsewhere. Ultimately, the workshop seeks to find valuable ways to examine decolonization in Canada by purposefully going beyond a nationalist framework.

For some time, Orientalism’s particular place within scholarship on Canada has been scant. A workshop on post-Orientalism, held at the leading institute of Canadian history in the world, reorients this relationship and does so by explicitly decentering “Canada” within the field of “Canadian history”, thereby opening up new points of access and possibilities for Indigenous and Settler scholars to engage with historical narratives and the ongoing work of (re)conciliation. In sync with the L.R. Wilson Institute’s mandate to better comprehend how Canada has influenced—and been influenced by—transnational phenomena, it indeed links non-Canadian histories of decolonization with those of Canada.

Outside the emerging academic field of decolonization history/studies, it has become common parlance to “decolonize” topics, places, and things, such as Manitoba, hospitals, and curriculums. In many Canadian cases, the use of decolonization metaphors has had the counter-productive effect of abating “settler feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all.”[9] In other A Conversation Posterwords, such decolonization metaphors have not been matched by the structural consolidation of reconciliatory practices. An International Workshop on Post-Orientalism / Un atelier international sur le post-orientalisme strives to create a public space to more deeply engage with big-picture methodological and epistemological questions that scaffold decolonial praxis in contemporary scholarship.

The workshop is open to the public. All sessions are being held at L.R. Wilson Hall, room 2001, with the exception of Thursday’s keynote, which will be held at the Indigenous Circle. Here is the final program.


Thursday 20 September 2018:

4:00 PM: Keynote:A Conversation with Dr. Lorenzo Veracini and Dr. Allyson Stevenson on Settler Colonialism and Challenges with Contemporary Decolonization

This keynote event will be held at the Indigenous Circle (between the Faculty Club and Whidden Hall). In the event of rain, it will move to the Indigenous Ceremonial Room, L.R. Wilson Hall, room 1003. 

Friday 21 September 2018:

10:00 AM: Opening Remarks and Registration

10:30 AM: Panel 1: Living with Said’s Orientalism

Chair: Ian McKay (McMaster University)

  • Maurice Jr. Labelle, “The Boomerang Effect of Decolonization”
    • Discussant: Mark Philip Bradley (University of Chicago)
  • Mira Sucharov, “Representation, Subjectivity and Justice: The Challenges and Demands of Allyship through the Public Intellectual Platform”
    • Discussant: Abdel-Razzaq Takriti (University of Houston)

12:00 PM: Catered Lunch

1:00 PM: Panel 2: What is Post-Orientalism?

Chair: Maurice Jr. Labelle (University of Saskatchewan)

  • Rachad Antonius, “Les subalternes des subalternes peuvent-ils parler ?”
    • Discussant: Mohammed Turki (Université de Tunis)
  • Mary-Ellen Kelm, “Re-Evaluating Binarism: Postcolonial Studies, Settler Colonialism, and Indigenous Health Research in 20thCentury Canada”
    • Discussant: Allyson Stevenson (University of Regina)
  • Laura Madokoro, “Exile and Orientalism: Thoughts on Edward Said and the Study of Refugee History”
    • Discussant: Sung-eun Choi (Bentley University)

2:30 PM: Break and light snacks

2:45 PM: Panel 3: Said and Anti-Orientalism

Chair: Virginia Aksan (McMaster University)

  • Lorenzo Veracini, “Exodus orRevolution: ‘World Turned Inside Out’ vs. ‘World Turned Upside Down’ in a 1980s Exchange”
    • Discussant: Laura Madokoro (McGill University)
  • Mohammed Turki, “De la critique de l’Orientalisme au nouvel Humanisme”
    • Discussant: Todd Shepard (Johns Hopkins University)


Saturday 22 September 2018:

10:30 AM: Panel 4: Transnational Origins of Said’s Orientalism

Chair: Brittany Luby (University of Guelph)

  • Yasmeen Abu-Laban, “Edward Said and the Politics of Race”
    • Discussant: Mira Sucharov (Carleton University)
  • Todd Shepard, “Thinking ‘Arabs’ and Sex in Seventies France with Said”
    • Discussant: Mary-Ellen Kelm (Simon Fraser University)
  • Sung-eun Choi, “Rupture and Rebirth: Jacques Berque and the Mediterranean Path to Islamic Modernity”
    • Discussant: Rachad Antonius (Université de Québec à Montréal)

12:00 PM: Catered Lunch 

1:00 PM: Panel 5: Traveling Orientalisms and Decolonial Consciousnesses in the World

Chair: Sean Mills (University of Toronto)

  • Mark Philip Bradley, “When the World Went South: Orientalismand the Making of the Global South”
    • Discussant: Lorenzo Veracini (Swinburne University of Technology)
  • Allyson Stevenson, “Howard Adams: A Prairie Métis Critique of Canadian Imperialism”
    • Discussant: Yasmeen Abu-Laban (University of Alberta)
  • Abdel-Razzaq Takriti, “Orientalismand the Palestinian Revolution”
    • Discussant: Maurice Jr. Labelle (University of Saskatchewan)

2:30 PM: Closing Remarks and End of Workshop


[1] Hamid Dabashi, Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in a Time of Terror(London: Transaction Publishers, 2009), xii.

[2] For instance, see John Drabinksi, “Reconciliation and Founding Wounds,” Humanity4, 1 (2013): 117-132; Peneloppe Edmonds, Settler Colonialism and (Re)Conciliation: Frontier Violence, Affective Performances, and Imaginative Refoundings(Basingstroke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2016); Paulette Regan, Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada(Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2010); Leanne Simpson, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence(Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2011); and Hannah Wyile, “Lost in Translation? Conciliation and Reconciliation in Canadian Constitutional Conflicts,” International Journal of Canadian Studies51, 4 (2016): 83-115.

[3] Exceptions are: Dabashi, Post-Orientalism; Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); and Gyan Prakash, “Writing Post-Orientalist Histories of the Third World: Perspectives from Indian Historiography,” Comparative Studies in Society and History32, 2 (1990): 383-408.

[4] Edward Said, “Orientalism Reconsidered,” Race & Class27, 2 (1985): 2.

[5] Ibid., 15.

[6] Ngūgī wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature(Oxford: James Currey, 1986).

[7] David Jefferess, Postcolonial Resistance: Culture, Liberation, and. Transformation(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 156.

[8] See Chris Anderson, “Métis”: Race, Recognition, and the Struggle for Peoplehood(Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2014); Sean Carleton, “Colonizing Minds: Public Education, the ‘Textbook Indian’, and Settler Colonialism in British Columbia, 1920-1970,” BC Studies169 (2011): 101-130; Glen Coulthard, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life(Regina: University of Regina Press, 2014); Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America(Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2012); J.R. Miller, Residential Schools and Reconciliation: Canada Confronts Its History(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017); Ian Mosby, “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1949-1952,” Histoire sociale / Social History46, 91 (2013): 615-642; and Adele Perry, Aqueduct: Colonialism, Resources, and the Histories We Remember(Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2016).

[9] Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization Is Not A Metaphor,” Decolonization1, 1 (2012): 10.


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