Danielle Taschereau Mamers was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the JHI from 2017 to 2019, during the themes of Indelible Violence: Shame, Reconciliation, and the Work of Apology and Reading Faces, Reading Minds. Since her time at JHI, Danielle has also held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wolf Humanities Center and a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Most recently, she has returned to the University of Toronto as the Managing Director of the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative.
Danielle provides an overview of the project she worked on while at the JHI and shares what her fellowship experience was like. She also updates us about her current work and articulates why she thinks interdisciplinary humanities institutes are important.
The JHI Experience
The two years I spent at the JHI formed the foundation of my research career. My fellowship offered the focused research time I needed to write the first draft of a book manuscript based on my dissertation. The manuscript—titled Settler Colonial Ways of Seeing—is currently under contract with Fordham University Press. The book examines how the Indian Act, status cards, and other state-authored documents are technologies have materialized the category of Indian status in Canada and how Indigenous artists have critically intervened in these documentary politics. Towards the end of my second year at the JHI, I had the opportunity to hold a manuscript review workshop, where I shared the first half of my manuscript with experts in my field and with JHI colleagues. The feedback I received from the workshop was foundational to future drafts of the book.
During my postdoc, I also had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for my second research project. Currently titled Bison Bison: The Life and Death of a Political Animal, this project uses bison as a case study to examine how multispecies relationships are shaped by colonialism and are critical to decolonization. Across a series of articles, book chapters, and essays, this project examines multispecies relationships in two sites of knowledge: settler archives and wildlife reintroductions. At the JHI, I engaged in preliminary archival and policy-based research, which resulted in the publication of “Human-Bison Relations as Sites of Settler Colonial Violence and Decolonial Resurgence,” in Humanimalia (2019).
Beyond research outputs, my time at the JHI shaped my relationship to research by offering the space to work consistently and in community. One of the most important—and enduring—aspects of my fellowship was the writing group I formed with four other fellows in my second year. We started out meeting weekly as a way to provide support for persevering with lengthy writing projects, like book manuscripts and dissertations. After each of our fellowships concluded, we stayed in touch and in March 2020 we reconvened twice per week online. I’m such a fan of writing groups, that I have written essays about them for Avidly and NicoleDieker.com and helped form the Public Writing in the Humanities JHI Working Group (2021-22).
I have just wrapped up my SSHRC postdoc at McMaster. During this fellowship and my position at the University of Pennsylvania, I continued to build my bison research and to revise my book manuscript. The time and space of additional postdoc fellowships allowed me to write a lot! I’ve published bison research in a range of journals, including Settler Colonial Studies and Journal of Narrative Politics, as well as a forthcoming chapter in Decolonising Animals (Sydney UP). I’ve also begun a third research project—currently titled Art As Thought: A Methods Manifesto (co-authored with Dr. Marta Bashovski, URegina)—which argues for art as a method of political theorizing.
Alongside my academic research, I have been experimenting with writing for non-academic publications. What started as a curiosity was nourished through the March 2021 Public Writing in the Humanities workshop facilitated by Irina Dumitrescu and hosted by the JHI. Since then, I have published a range of essays and criticism, including an opinion column on bison reintroduction and decolonial politics with the Globe and Mail, an exhibition review in Femme Art Review, an advice column on ethical practices for hosting guest lecturers in University Affairs, and about the magic of writing groups in Avidly.
The Value of Interdisciplinary Humanities Institutes
Beyond the time and space to conduct new research, the most important aspect of my JHI experience was the relationships I developed. In my two years, I had the opportunity to learn from several Indigenous fellows—Audra Simpson, Tracey Lindberg, John Borrows, and Alex Wilson. Our conversations continue to shape my work today.
Similarly, spending time with fellows on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis created an energizing and supportive environment. I learned a great deal about the research and writing processes by having the opportunity to engage with fellows at all stages in their careers, from tenured faculty and other postdoctoral scholars to graduate and undergraduate students. I was able to continue this unique and important model of interdisciplinary and inter-generational engagement at the Wolf Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania Many of the relationships I developed at these humanities institutes have continued as research collaborations, ongoing writing groups, and close friendships.