Kirsten McAllister

Generation: Sansei


Kirsten Emiko McAllister is a Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. She grew up with her two brothers on the territories of Snuneymuxw Nation in what is now called Nanaimo in British Columbia. Both sides of her family, the Nakashimas / Mukai and the McAllisters / McQuarries have lived on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Nations for four generations.

Her research focuses on memory and political violence. Using fieldwork, archival research, spatial analysis and interviews she has researched how Japanese Canadians have used, for example, photography and memorials to not only record and make public statements about their experiences in internment camps but to also transform the damaging aftereffects. She is especially interested in intergenerational memory, and how artists have explored both what the community has found difficult to confront as well as new ways to imagine who we are amidst environmental crises, decolonization and the rise of new imperial centres. She has also applied her interests in dispossession, internment and displacement to the contemporary global context, and has studied how asylum seekers, for instance, have attempted to narrate their experiences in countries like Canada and the UK where they seek refuge.

McAllister’s work as a scholar and teacher has been profoundly shaped by what she learned from the Japanese Canadian community. In the late 1980s she worked closely with Issei and Nisei when she ran the oral history project for Vancouver’s JCCA; during the 1990s she assisted the Kyowakai Society in projects at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver. From these elders she learned, for instance, that research involves more than simply collecting facts. It requires rebuilding intergenerational relations and relearning community values, including its ethos of reciprocity and responsibility. Moreover, insofar as research always has an agenda, she learned it always involves power and thus the need to ask who the research serves, the community or the individual researcher? Her most recent publications include, “After Redress: the Continuing Political Struggle”, a volume that she and Mona Oikawa are co-editing with Roy Miki (under consideration at UBC Press); and her manuscript, “Asylum, Art and Transforming the Social Geography of Glasgow” which is under contract with Palgrave-McMillan Press. Her other publications include Terrain of Memory: a Japanese Canadian Memorial Project (2010 UBC Press), Locating Memory: Photographic Acts, (co-edited with Annette Kuhn, 2006 Berghan Press). She has published on Japanese Canadian cultural politics, Asian Canadian contemporary art, media representations of asylum seekers and community-based art as well as racism and colonialism in journals like BC Studies, West Coast Line, Space and Culture, the Canadian Journal of Communication, the Canadian Review of Sociology, Visual Studies and Communication, Culture and Critique. In addition, as a writer she has published autoethnographic and prose essays in art catalogues and in publications commissioned by, for example, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

TAGS: Literary Arts |

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Photo credit:Kayla Isomura

Kirsten McCallister photo credit Kayla Isomura