Encounters on Contested Lands

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3898-8

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3897-1

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3896-4
Publication Date
December 2018
Page Count
232 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Encounters on Contested Lands

Indigenous Performances of Sovereignty and Nationhood in Québec
Julie Burelle

Winner, 2019 John W. Frick Book Award
Winner, 2020 Ann Saddlemyer Award
Finalist, ATHE Outstanding Book Award for 2020
Mention Spéciale, Société québécoise d'études théâtrale

In Encounters on Contested Lands, Julie Burelle employs a performance studies lens to examine how instances of Indigenous self-representation in Québec challenge the national and identity discourses of the French Québécois de souche—the French-speaking descendants of white European settlers who understand themselves to be settlers no more but rather colonized and rightfully belonging to the territory of Québec. 

Analyzing a wide variety of performances, Burelle brings together the theater of Alexis Martin and the film L'Empreinte, which repositions the French Québécois de souche as métis, with protest marches led by Innu activists; the Indigenous company Ondinnok's theater of repatriation; the films of Yves Sioui Durand, Alanis Obomsawin, and the Wapikoni Mobile project; and the visual work of Nadia Myre. These performances, Burelle argues, challenge received definitions of sovereignty and articulate new ones while proposing to the province and, more specifically, to the French Québécois de souche, that there are alternative ways to imagine Québec's future and remember its past. 

The performances insist on Québec's contested nature and reframe it as animated by competing sovereignties. Together they reveal how the "colonial present tense" and "tense colonial present" operate in conjunction as they work to imagine an alternative future predicated on decolonization. Encounters on Contested Lands engages with theater and performance studies while making unique and needed contributions to Québec and Canadian studies, as well as to Indigenous and settler-colonial studies.
About the Author

JULIE BURELLE is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of California San Diego. 

"Encounters on Contested Lands is a powerful book presenting, from a performance studies perspective, a searing indictment of the performed relationship between Québécois efforts to ground their claims to nationhood in Indigeneity and Indigenous peoples themselves." —Ric Knowles, author of Performing the Intercultural City

"Encounters on Contested Lands joins an ongoing conversation around the challenges and possibilities of decolonization from the perspective of Performance Studies, and represents an important contribution to decolonial thought and practice across the Americas. Specifically, it broadens this conversation by offering a much-needed investigation, in English, of decolonization and performance read in relation to Québécois claims of sovereignty." —Martha Herrera-Lasso González, Theatre Research in Canada

"Julie Burelle’s Encounters on Contested Lands conducts an in-depth, comparative analysis of French québécois de souche (white descendants of French settlers) and Indigenous performances of sovereignty and nationhood in Québec. It sheds light on complex cultural forms, expressions, and denials of settler colonialism and whiteness in the historical, political, and cultural context of Québec while attending to the critical force yielded by contemporary Indigenous theatre, film, visual arts, and activism . . . Throughout her book, Burelle skilfully draws on theoretical works in performance studies and Indigenous studies, as well as in other fields, in order to problematize the still largely unacknowledged French québécois de souche settler colonial project. Her refined and extended knowledge of the province’s political, cultural, and literary history, combined with her detailed, contextualized, and soundly theorized analyses of performances by both French québécois de souche and Indigenous artists in the province allow for a convincing unveiling of the 'angles morts' ['blind spots'] that Nawel Hamidi et al. have incited us to debunk in relation to First Peoples in Québec." —Isabelle St-Amand, Modern Drama

"Burelle's close study of performance in the context of Québec offers poignant questions about sovereignty, identity, and settler colonial responsibility. Encounters on Contested Lands unsettles the 'willful forgetting' that constitutes so many missed or failed encounters in real life performances of settler colonialism." —Jenn Cole, Trent University

". . . trenchant, intelligent, and important work on a subject that continues to be of vital interest and importance." —Rebecca Harries, Theatre Journal

". . . an important contribution to scholarship about performance in and of the Americas." —Vivian Appler, The Journal of American Drama and Theatre