zum Inhalt springen

Dissertationsprojekt von Lena Rüßing

Indian Residential Schools: Indigeneity, Transitional Justice, and Postcolonial Reconciliation in Canada (Arbeitstitel)

In the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, more than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were systematically taken from their families and communities, and sent to so-called Indian Residential Schools where physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional abuse were commonplace, and the practice of their cultural traditions was forbidden. The Indian residential school system was a crucial component in an overarching settler colonial policy of oppression towards Indigenous peoples, which tended to assimilate Indigenous children into the growing Euro-Canadian settler society. The schools were operated by different churches and funded by the federal government.
Since the late 20th century, several initiatives such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) were established to address the diverse forms of colonial injustice inflicted on Indigenous children in these institutions and to work towards new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, based on mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and Indigenous self-determination.
The doctoral dissertation project retraces the history of reconciliation between residential school survivors, their families and communities, and the government and church denominations. The study focuses on different reconciliation elements involved in the process of coming to terms with the history of residential schools such as Government and Church apologies, litigation, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), and the TRC. It is thereby the central aim of the study to place emphasis on Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on reconciliation and their understanding of the addressing of residential school policies. The project will connect approaches from Transitional Justice, Indigenous Studies, and Postcolonial Studies.



Lena Rüßing studied Media and Communications Studies and History at the University of Bonn. She also holds a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Studies in European Culture from the University of Konstanz and the University of Pretoria. After finishing her studies in 2014, she received a scholarship from the “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” Center of Excellence at the University of Konstanz from November 2014 till April 2015 (for the preparation of her doctoral studies). Currently, she is a doctoral candidate and scholarship holder at the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne at the University of Cologne, doing research on Indian residential schools and postcolonial reconciliation in Canada. In 2017, she was awarded the annual doctorate scholarship by the “Stiftung für Kanada-Studien” in Germany. Her doctoral project is affiliated to the Modern History Department of the School of History at the University of Cologne and is supervised by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Lindner (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Barbara Lüthi (University of Cologne), and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dr. h.c. Claus Kreß LL.M (Cambridge/University of Cologne). Her research topics include Transitional Justice / Peace and Conflict Studies, Settler Colonial History (with a particular focus on Indigenous-Settler relations in Canada), Indigenous History, Postcolonial Theory, and Genocide Studies.

Kontakt: lena.ruessing(at)uni-koeln.de



Mit Brigitte Weiffen: Transitional Justice. Allzweckwaffe für die Gerechtigkeit, in: Katapult Magazin für Kartografik und Sozialwissenschaft, 5, 2017, URL: http://katapult-magazin.de/de/artikel/artikel/fulltext/allzweckwaffe-fuer-die-gerechtigkeit.


Vorträge (Auswahl)

„Indian Residential Schools in Kanada: Zum Umgang mit ‚Versöhnung‘ in den Regierungsentschuldigungen der Jahre 1998, 2008 und 2017“
17. September 2018: Vortrag im Rahmen des Workshops „Versöhnung als theologischer Begriff im interdisziplinären Spannungsfeld“ (17.–18. September 2018), DFG Graduiertenkolleg „Selbst-Bildungen. Praktiken der Subjektivierung“, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg

„Coming to terms with the history of Indian residential schools in Canada: the example of the Exploratory Dialogues“
11. April 2018: Vortrag im Rahmen des 39. American Indian Workshop „Arrows of Time: Narrating the Past and Present“ (10.–13. April 2018), Ghent University, Department of History

„Indian Residential Schools: A History of Postcolonial Acknowledgement in Canada“
17. Februar 2017: Vortrag im Rahmen der 38. Jahrestagung „Neue Perspektiven auf Suburbia - Revisiting Suburbia“ der Gesellschaft für Kanada-Studien e.V. (17.–19. Februar 2017), Hotel am Badersee, Grainau

„Wahrheit und Versöhnung in post-kolonialen Gesellschaften. Die Wahrheitskommissionen in Kanada und Mauritius“
05. März 2016: Vortrag im Rahmen der Tagung „Verzeihen – Versöhnen – Vergessen“ der Sektion Kultursoziologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie (04.–05. März 2016), Universität Luzern, Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät

„Transitional Justice in post-kolonialen Gesellschaften: Die Wahrheitskommissionen in Kanada und Mauritius“
25. Januar 2016: Vortrag im Rahmen des Kolloquiums zur Neueren und Neuesten Geschichte, Historisches Institut, Universität zu Köln

„Truth Commissions in Post-Colonial Societies. The Cases of Canada and Mauritius”
16. Oktober 2015: Vortrag im Rahmen des Symposiums „The Brazilian National Truth Commission in the Context of Latin America: Local, National and Global Perspectives” (15.–17. Oktober 2015), VolkswagenStiftung, Schloss Herrenhausen, Hannover (in Kooperation mit dem Zukunftskolleg der Universität Konstanz)



Internationale Konferenz „Dealing with the Past to Create a Peaceful Future: Young Scholars’ Perspectives on Transitional Justice“ der Transitional Justice Research Group der Universität zu Köln, 14.–15. September 2018, Universität zu Köln, Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät



Gründungsmitglied der Transitional Justice Research Group (TJRG), Universität zu Köln

Mitglied der Gesellschaft für Kanada-Studien e.V.



2016: Förderpreis der Stiftung für Kanada-Studien für ihr Promotionsprojekt „Indian Residential Schools: A History of Postcolonial Acknowledgement in Canada”.


Titelbild: „global“ von vege/fotolia.com // Portraitfoto: Patric Fouad