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Abstract

This paper uses Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s concept of the “genocidal continuum” to examine the materiality of documents in the context of Canada’s historical treatment of indigenous peoples. We discuss Canada’s Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, using a hermeneutic perspective inspired by Hans-Georg Gadamer, and argue that the Report’s status as a material document plays a complex role in Canada’s acknowledgement of its past treatment of indigenous cultures and its current efforts at reconciliation. Virtually all societies contain philosophical, religious, and social norms that implore us to be responsible, ethical, or loving to everyone, even the stranger. But in cases where entire groups are accorded the status of “other,” we need to reinterpret these norms at the level of what Bowker and Star call “collective moral passages.” Documents communicate between individuals at this collective level, and become the articulations of collective moral choice.

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