5th Vienna Lecture in Canadian Studies

Vienna Working Papers in Canadian Studies Vol. 4 (2021) “Canada Is… What?! A Meditation on the Diasporic Threads of Settler Colonialism.” (Ed. Stefanie Schäfer)

Several months prior to the presentation of this paper at the 2021 Vienna Lecture in Canadian Studies, I invited Canadian Studies students at the University of Vienna to participate in CANADA IS…WHAT?! by sharing some of their “thoughts and impressions, dreams and nightmares, images and memories, hopes, fears and random musings about this place called Canada.” I then engaged participant contributions through a performative artistic self-reflection on the intersections of family history and national memory. This paper is the product of that exploration and is framed as a conversation between me, a second-generation settler-Canadian of Dutch descent, and an audience of faculty and students at the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Vienna.


As I wrote a few months back, I will be presenting The Vienna Lecture in Canadian Studies which is hosted annually by the Vienna Centre for Canadian Studies. The event is free and open to anyone on or off Facebook.

To register for this Zoom event, please send an e-mail to by 31 May 2021.

A few CANADA IS… WHAT?! contributions

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who sent in a contribution and to the many more who engaged with me in thought provoking conversations!

Below are a few of the wonderful contributions I received.

Canada is a name, not a place.
Canada is smiling.
Canada is a violent, white-supremacist nation state. Its damage cannot be overstated.
Canada is where I live, where I ask myself if I’m meant to be here.
Canada is my strongest memory.

Christina Hajjar

When thinking about what is Canada, it is very hard for me to shake off a montage of different images and landscapes constructed through juxtaposition and contrast: a majestic snowy forest cuts to crowded Pride party at St. Catherine street in Montreal summer, on to a quaint coastal town in Newfoundland with a low-fi motorboat maneuvered by a lonesome fisherman who crosses the still frame. Cut to a shot of corporate downtown Toronto, two mid-thirties of biracial people in business casual sip on coffees in travel mugs and laugh. Cut to a group of unspecified Indigenous people in a drum circle (yet in this montage is mute, or with a piece of subliminal music that flattens the cacophony). Etc.

It’s as if I swallowed an ad format that shapes my thoughts about Canada, even though I live here for 4+ years and know otherwise. Perhaps the pervasiveness of Canada’s overt and covert branding strategies has partly created a distance I haven’t been able to stitch together: even though it’s significantly more complex than the ad—in better and worse terms, and beyond—the notion and nation of Canada feels sealed by an impenetrable veneer of invisible plastic to me.

A different way of putting it is as if I met Canada through online dating, and although they seem like someone who is perfectly suitable for a relationship, who is in many important ways aligned with me, when we met in person, there was no chemistry.

Another try: when I dig my feet in its soil, roots don’t attach. Maybe because I’m an uninvited guest, a settler, a hydroponic being.


A beacon
And a gaslighting

Chris Sinding

from Kim McLeod

Thanks for the invitation to contribute – here’s a link to some of the lecture slides I use when I start my class on Canadian theatre – which also asks students to think differently about what Canada is. Canada is what … for Helene

Selena Couture

CANADA IS … WHAT?!  A ‘crowd-sourced’ and tactile critical inquiry into our collective notions of ‘Canada’

Here’s the thing. I’ve been invited to be this year’s speaker at the annual Vienna Lectures in Canadian Studies. While certainly an honour, the invitation has left me somewhat — well — speechless. Truly. It’s not that I don’t have things to say about Canada. The reason I showed up on the radar of the lecture series organizers is that I published a book about unbecoming Canadian nationalisms. But that was different. It was part of a larger conversation within and with this land called Canada. This is a new context, an unfamiliar landscape. So, I’m reaching out to you, within Canada and without.

Part litmus test, part call and response, I invite you to share your thoughts and impressions, dreams and nightmares, images and memories, hopes, fears and random musings about this place called Canada. I will engage your responses through tactile and task-based actions as a way to ground my inquiry into our diverse and varied, lived and imagined, relationships to this place/nation/construct called Canada.

Your responses will be integrated into a performance-based multi-media presentation I will give on June 2, 2021 at this year’s annual Vienna Lectures in Canadian Studies. Everyone is welcome to contribute, whatever your location or point of view. Contributions can be written, or image based.

To contribute: 

  • Send your responses by April 1, 2021, to OR add them to the comments section below.
  • Share this invitation with your friends, family, community, students, colleagues, students, classmates…

Artist-scholar statement:

My work explores issues of state-sponsored or sanctioned violence, nationalism, and the role of artistic practices in mobilizing processes of critical engagement and collective reckoning. Drawing upon a labour aesthetic and a vocabulary of the everyday I construct task-based durational counter-memorial meditations that seek to engage the public in a dialogue about our collective relationship as multiply-located beings concurrently inhabiting and manifesting history.

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