Giving / Taking Notice


  • Dylan Robinson Queen's University


This essay—drawing from and extending my previous work on settler colonialism and perception—takes up the practice of listening positionality as a form of noticing our noticing. I argue that one aspect of decolonization involves calling attention to the ways in which we notice not just settler colonialism events as instances of historical and contemporary injustices against Indigenous people, but how settler colonialism’s structures pervade everyday life and the more extraordinary realm of the arts. Our ways of noticing settler colonial structures are guided by and foreclosed upon by our positionality, in our experience of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Critical listening positionality, in this context, means developing an awareness of how we hear structures of settler colonialism and then letting that awareness lead toward practices of sensing otherwise. In order to test out how one might improvise with listening positionality, the essay offers an example of my own listening to the recording “Round Dance” by Cree-Mennonite cellist Cris Derksen on their album Orchestral Powwow.

Author Biography

Dylan Robinson, Queen's University

Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2020), coeditor of Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016), and cocurator of Soundings, an internationally touring exhibition of Indigenous art scores.






Ethics of Performance and Scholarship