Inclusion and Intersection are not the same

When we talk about inclusion, what does it really mean? When decisions are made, who makes them and for whom? Inclusion identifies people who are considered “not normal” as a “problem” to solve, and by doing so, forces some of us to assimilate dominant strategies that power holders think are best. This approach makes us disappearing drops in an ocean. The ideology of inclusion was supposed to provide equal access, opportunities and resources, but it leads to deeper internalized marginalization instead. As an artist coming from a third-generation Deaf family, I don’t want to be a drop “included” in an ocean, or for space to be made especially for me inside a dominant hearing community’s project. I want to come with my culture and artistry alongside my hearing collaborators and find out where the intersection of our cultures leads us. Intersectionality puts everyone on rafts in the ocean, and gives us a view from where we can see ourselves and others as we are. No one ought to have to change or assimilate into a dominant “normal.” What is the definition of normal anyway? We live in a cross-cultural world where we will experience conflicts. But whenever that happens, we should look at shared problems to solve together. No one person or community is “a problem” to deal with. The lens of intersectionality shows us exactly what our privileges are and how to use them to dismantle discrimination and prejudice. As a Deaf artist, processes led from an intersectional perspective leave me more empowered and successful. I am seen and heard.

— Dawn J Birley

I’ve always been a lover of Shakespeare, that came from my foster father, and so when I came out into the real world, super excited to take my first Shakespeare class, and the teacher was like, “you know, absolutely you can take my class, but you know that you’ll probably never work in Shakespeare — like you’ll never actually get hired in Canada to do any of these roles.” And I was like, what? What, what do you mean? Because I was like of course I can do anything, like my foster father, who was a high school drama teacher, and was like: yeah, anybody can do anything. But one of the concepts at that time was that the only way that you could do Shakespeare was through a colonial lens — a subsequent instructor said that — and that really messed me up because it was like, why why why why? I don’t want to do Shakespeare through a colonial lens. And why do we have to? So a lot of the beginning of my exploration in this was “how do I fit myself in.” How do I find a place for myself within the context of a classical work or, really on a general level, the Canadian industry. And so it was, you know, just a passionate interest of mine to find a place for myself. Because I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. So then when I was the artistic director and principal of the Center for Indigenous Theatre in the early 2000s, one of my constant worries for the students there was, what kind of industry would be welcoming them and how could they find a place. My question to the students was, what would it mean for you to bring your living culture to the work, whatever work that was. And that’s really what I think about, as an actor, a director, and an artist-facilitator: how can I create an environment where, within the context of what we’re exploring or discovering, there is lots of space for cultural identity within the work. How can I make that space? How can I ensure that the artists involved feel that they have permission to be who they are? And that is everything from an accent, to a language that they speak, to a gestural language, to a way they might respond in terms of pacing. You know, we’re so ingrained in a Western-North-American sensibility, based on what was a colonial way of working in Europe. But even more ingrained, even more rigid in North America, because I think we’ve tried to hang on to this ideal or this idea of what Western theatre was there. And so everything that I’m trying to accomplish is to allow space for the intersection of cultural identities. Who are you as a person? What is the joy that you have when you move? What is the joy that you have when you sing? How is that best expressed? And by opening up the possibilities of, you know, allowing artists to come with whatever they bring to the work. That’s what I’m interested in.

— Jani Lauzon

This could be an opportunity to learn to recognize the expertise of others and the expertise that doesn’t come from nationally recognized theater training programs. That could be what this online time leads to: a recognition of different expertise in different forms of performance.

— We Quit Theatre