Dr. Angela Failler

Researcher Profiles

Dr. Angela Failler

Dr. Angela Failler, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies; UW Chancellor’s Research Chair; and Research Affiliate with the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies

Can you share a brief description of your current research.

My primary research program explores the formation of public memory related to the 1985 Air India bombings, a traumatic event in which 331 people were killed, the majority of whom were Canadians. In particular, I am interested in how the bombings have been remembered through official memory-justice work, government sponsored public memorial sites, documentary and media re-presentations, and artistic commemorations. A set of broad questions underpins my research: How does each of these practices or sites of remembrance frame the bombings as a memorable event? What are the wider social, cultural and political conditions that make remembering meaningful in these instances? What do these practices or sites tell us about dominant cultural notions of the relationship between nation, identity, belonging and security? And finally, what does a study of remembrance practices offer towards cultivating a critical understanding not only of the Air India bombings, but also of the broader context within which “anti-terrorist” efforts are currently being waged?

In what ways could this research affect the average person?

This research calls upon each of us to re-think narratives of Canadian national identity and history that we take for granted as “collective memory,” and to question whose memories are privileged and whose forgotten within these narratives.

For you personally, why do you want to do this kind of research?

I am interested in the notion of memorial kinship, and the importance of being responsible to the histories of others beyond one’s own experiences and identifications.   

What is the most satisfying part of this research?

The most satisfying part of this research has been my exchanges and collaborations with artists who have found creative ways to represent and work through the traumatic after-effects of this particular history, most having lost family members in the bombings.

What kind of student involvement do you have in this research?

I have had several student research assistants working with me on this program. Elan Marchinko, for instance, accompanied me to Ireland for the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombings. We attended a memorial held on the coast of Cork near where Air India Flight 182 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Elan assisted me in video and photo documenting the site, as well as interviewing memorial goers. Elan has since developed her own research project out of this program. She is working closely with a professional dance artist and choreographer in Mississauga whose repertoire includes a performance about her own journey through the process of grieving the loss of her husband and daughters who were killed in the Air India bombings.

What would you say to students who may be interested in this field of study?

The study of public memory, or cultural memory, is critical to our understandings of the present and our hopes for the future. Thinking about public histories and cultural formations through the lens of remembrance offers a valuable and nuanced approach to social critique.