Allison Hargreaves – “Compelling Disclosures.”

Citation: Hargreaves, Allison. “Compelling Disclosures: Colonial Violence and the Narrative Imperative in Feminist Anti-Violence Discourse and Indigenous Women’s Writing.” Canadian Woman Studies 27.2/3 (Spring 2009): 107-113.


Hargreaves looks at Beverly Jacob’s (NWAC) response to the government’s 2008 apology as an act that utilizes the platform offered up by the State’s performative act of contrition while also “work[ing] against it” (110). She goes on to argue that storytelling in the context of mainstream anti-violence work has tended to act “as a covert strategy for the management of racialized others” (110).

Scope/Organization/Main Points:  

Hargreaves notes that problems arise when “experiential understanding of oppression is validated as a necessarily political form of knowledge” (107). Indigenous women’s stories are received in such a way that recognition and validation take on a particularly political weight (109-110). Conversely, Indigenous storytelling might compel disruptive and resistant forms of listening, if storytelling is understood as something that requires respect and personal investment: “Listening here comes with responsibilities of interpretation and understanding that go beyond liberal forms of recognition – toward a witnessing” that is radically re-constitutive of its actors (110).  

Testimony is often read into the autobiographical work of Indigenous women (110); too often “the life writing of Indigenous women [has] often been fetishized for its supposed ‘artless’ conveyance of ‘the truth’ of Indigenous women’s experiences” (110). Hargreaves studies responses to Indigenous writing in order to prove that claim, noting how reviews often presuppose and legitimize a “touristic gaze” (111).  It’s interesting, in terms of critical museum studies, that the literature of women falls under the category of “ethnography” – offering a clear empirical route –“unmediated access” —  to a factual account – while something like music or art that doesn’t appear to be telling a story is channeled into the art realm, subject to colonial interpretation and the hierarchies of aesthetics.   

Points of Importance/Interest:

She closes with a passing reference to the “irresistibility” of recognition (112), an important nod to the affective and ideological force of colonial recognition, both for those who mete it out, and those who act in response to it.  


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