Assuaging settler anxieties: May Chew, ‘Mooring subjects of heritage: proprioceptive emplacement at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2016
Abstract: This article examines how visitors to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (HSIBJ) in Fort Macleod, Alberta, are physically and affectively situated within an immersive heritage landscape. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, HSIBJ is inextricably tied to regional Blackfoot and settler-colonial histories, as well as the tensions that emerge between the two. HSIBJ’s Interpretive Centre is organised to plunge audiences inside the ‘live’ archaeological scene and an evocative heritage landscape. It does so through technologies, including motion-triggered projections, which locate and secure visitors within official national – and universal – heritage narratives. The central argument of this article is that HSIBJ’s Interpretive Centre beckons subjects of heritage through proprioception, the awareness of the body’s position in and movement through space. Extending beyond the physiological sensation of one’s own body, proprioception also works alongside the two other substantiating buttresses of archaeology and heritage to provide a gravitational ground upon which the visitor is located and their subjectivity confirmed. Proprioceptive grounding emplaces a body within an expanded and ‘ancient’ narratology of nation, and in this way, also becomes the mechanism through which exogenous settlers assuage anxieties about their latecoming status.
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