The Turn to Indigenization in Canadian Writing: Kinship Ethics and the Ecology of Knowledges
Keywords:Indigenous kinship, ecologies of knowledge, epistemicide, cultural indigenization, decolonization
This article heeds the recent shift in cultural criticism and creative writing toward imagining “a functional ecology of knowledges in Canada” (Coleman, “Toward” 8) that takes its conceptual lead from Indigenous epistemologies. Through the close reading of Thomas King’s novel The Back of the Turtle (2014), Wayde Compton’s short-story collection The Outer Harbour (2014), and Daniel Coleman’s nonfiction book Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place (2017), the article reveals the connection between Indigenous notions of kinship and the turn to trans-systemic epistemologies in contemporary Canadian literature and criticism from distinct Indigenous, Afro-diasporic, and Euro-settler cultural backgrounds. The analysis draws on Indigenous theories on kinship underlying Indigenous resurgence and decolonization, and sets them in conversation with King’s reflections on story-telling and world-building, Compton’s theoretical charting of African Canadian space as Afroperipheral within diaspora criticism, and Coleman’s self-retraining to redefine settler belonging and knowledge. The analysis leads to the conclusion that, by promoting the awareness of the interdependence between the natural environment, humans, and other-than-human beings that is central to Indigenous epistemologies, these works constitute a key contribution to the shift toward the construction of an ecology of knowledges, and hold the potential for renewed decolonizing efforts, social justice and environmental sustainability.