IASH Intellectual and Literary History Public Seminar Series

Cultures and Values

Professor Pamela Klassen

The Value of Stories in an Age of Reconciliation 

The work of humanities scholars is to tell stories about people in their dizzying diversity across times and places, at the same time that we clarify the grounds on which such stories are told. Put another way, we tell stories while also reflecting on the stakes of which stories are told and valued, and who does the telling. In this presentation, I reflect on the value of stories at a time when settler-colonial nations, including Australia and Canada, have undertaken processes of apology, truth, and reconciliation for colonial violence and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. I focus in particular on my own process of telling The Story of Radio Mind, a book focused on an early-twentieth-century Anglican missionary who embraced his role in the spiritual invention of the settler-colonial nation of Canada. At the same time, he criticized the evils of residential schools and grew to see himself as a psychic researcher exploring the borders of mind and spirit. As state-sponsored historical retellings such as the multi-volume report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools are met with both Indigenous critiques and racist backlash, what difference do the stories of the past make for our possible futures?

Pamela Klassen is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, where she is also Vice-Dean, Undergraduate & International in the Faculty of Arts & Science. Her most recent publications are The Story of Radio Mind: A Missionary’s Journey on Indigenous Land (University of Chicago Press, 2018) and Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State (University of Chicago Press, 2018), co-authored with Paul Christopher Johnson and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan. Her book Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity (University of California Press, 2011) won an Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Religion in 2012. She currently holds the Anneliese Maier Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation in support of a five-year collaborative project entitled “Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies,” undertaken together with Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer of the University of Tübingen. For more information, please see http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/pklassen/ 





Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower (Building #1)