David Gaertner

Assistant Professor
Associate Editor and New Media Curator, BC Studies

Office: Buchanan E-175
Phone: 604-822-9624
Email: david.gaertner@ubc.ca

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My most recent research is based in a specific question: how do we locate Indigenous literature, so often grounded in land, space, and place, within cyberspace, a space without place, a landless territory? Since it was first announced in William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, cyberspace has provided—in both content and form—evocative ground for world building and storytelling from a wide range of authors. Indigenous writers and artists have made fundamental contributions to cyberspace from its inception, both in its development as a literary trope and as a medium to create and share stories. As a notional environment, however, cyberspace is still largely considered a space without place, which, for many, calls into question its applicability in Indigenous worldviews. Given the centrality of land in Indigenous epistemologies and the ongoing threats to traditional territory by colonial governments, precisely what a “landless territory” might mean for Indigenous writers is an evocative and pressing issue, particularly as more and more Indigenous authors take to the Internet to create and share stories. My work offers a critical yet affirming theorization of Indigenous cyberspace that emphasizes the work created by Indigenous storytellers, artists, authors, podcasters, and programmers. I argue for a more complex, nuanced understanding of cyberspace and illustrate the ways in which Indigenous new media artists are connecting it to land, place, and bodies.

Practice and pedagogy are also an important part of this work. I recently received a small grant to develop the “Empowering Indigenous Voices” initiative with CiTR—UBC’s campus and community radio station. “Empowering Indigenous Voices” is a collaborative project I developed in partnership with the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies (CIS) and supported by CiTR to promote Indigenous perspectives and empower Indigenous and allied students through training and participation in broadcasting and multimedia initiatives. With the grant money we received this summer, an Indigenous Media Collective, led and managed by FNIS students will: 1) Produce a new generation of media makers with the skills, training, and experience necessary to critically and creatively address Indigenous issues at UBC and in Canada. 2) Improve UBC and Greater Vancouver’s access to locally‐produced Indigenous media through radio, podcasts, and public events featuring prominent Indigenous scholars and media makers from across Canada. 3) Generate a sophisticated set of resources for all students, faculty, and staff to productively engage the complexities of Indigeneity in the twenty-first century.

Visit David Gaertner’s website.

Winter Term 2

FNIS 454 (3) Indigenous New Media

Students will contextualize and comparatively analyze Indigenous new media from 1990 to the present moment. New media is loosely defined as digital, interactive and/or networkable content that involves user feedback and creative interaction, such as net and video art, video games, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), interactive installation, podcasts and stereoscopic photography. Focus will be on Internet art and curation, interactive websites and audio maps. Students will develop and put into practice a set of skills for analyzing, comparing, researching and writing about Indigenous new media and produce a collection of digital stories. If you have any questions, feel free to email Dr. David Gaertner at david.gaertner@ubc.ca.
Prerequisite: One of FNIS 100, FNSP 200, FNIS 210, FNSP 210, FNIS 220, FNSP 220 or instructor permission.
Term: 2

FNIS 501F (3) Graduate Special Topics Seminar

Winter Term 1-2

FNIS 400 (6) Practicum/Advanced Research Seminar 

Applied research/community oriented project designed and implemented in collaboration with student, faculty and Aboriginal community organization. Emphasis on examining ethical issues and developing culturally respectful and academically rigorous forms of research. Credit will be granted for only one of FNIS 400 or FNSP 400.
Pre-requisite: Either (a) all of FNIS 310, FNIS 320 or (b) all of FNSP 310, FNSP 320. (Students must pass FNIS 320 or FNSP 320 with a B- or higher or request program approval.)
Term: 1-2

For a full list of our course offerings and their instructors, please visit this page.

Featured Publications

Gaertner, David, ed. Soykeyihta: The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe. Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Gaertner, David, The Theatre of Regret: Art, Literature, and the Politics of Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press, 2020.

Gaertner, David. Melissa Habrel and Autumn Schnell. Recoding Relations: A Four-Part Podcast Series on Indigenous New Media

Gaertner, David. Elizabeth Lapenseé and Karyn Recollet. “Indigenous.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. Eds. Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers. Modern Language Association, 2020.


“Towards a Pedagogy of Closure: The Open Access Debate in Indigenous Studies.” Handbook of Digital Humanities. New York: Routledge (forthcoming).

“Fish Scales, Dark Matter, and Radical Relationality: Conceptualizing Consent in Augmented Reality” Co-authored with Karyn Recollet. In the Contemporary Indigenous Dance Anthology. University of California, Riverside (forthcoming).

“Indigenous Digital Pedagogy.” Co-authored with Karyn Recollet. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Modern Language Association, 2018. https://github.com/curateteaching/digitalpedagogy/blob/master/keywords/indigenous.md

“Indigenous in Cyberspace: CyberPowWow, God’s Lake Narrows and the Challenges of Creating Indigenous Territory in Cyberspace.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 39.4 (2015): 55-78.

“A Landless Territory: How Do We Articulate Cyberspace within the context of Indigenous Studies?” Learn, Teach, Challenge: Approaches to Indigenous Literatures in the 21st Century. Eds. Linda Morra & Deanna Reder. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier UP. 493-498.

“‘Something in between’: Monkey Beach and the Haisla Return of the Repressed.” Canadian Literature 225 (Summer, 2015): 47-65.

“sehtoskakew: ‘Aboriginal Principles of Witnessing’ and the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and Around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Eds. Keavy Martin and Dylan Robinson. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier Press, 2015. 135-156.

“Translating Reconciliation.” Translation Effects: The Shaping of Modern Canadian Culture. Eds. Louise von Flotow, Sherry Simon and Kathy Mezei. Ottawa: McGill-Queens University Press, 2014. 444-57.

“‘Redress as a Gift’: Historical Reparations and the Logic of the Gift in Roy Miki’s
Redress.” In Tracing the Lines: A Symposium to Honour Roy Miki. Eds. Christine Kim, Maia Joseph, Larissa Lai, and Chris Lee. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2013. 67-75.

“Here Comes the Neighbourhood: Encountering the Problem of the Neighbour in Space.” Co-authored with Jason Starnes. West Coast Line 73 64 (2012): 4-9.

“Performing Neighbourhoods: an Interview with the Creators of PodPlays.” West Coast Line 73 64 (2012): 38-43.

“‘The Climax of Reconciliation’: Transgression, Apology, Forgiveness and the Body in Conflict Resolution.” Bioethical Enquiry 1.1 (2011): 245-56.

“Labour, TAships and the Gift.” English Studies in Canada 35.4 (2011): 14-19.

“‘The Magical Power of Words’: Font and Ideology in Western Newspapers.” SHIFT 1.1 (2008): 1-17.

The Theatre of Regret: Troubling Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press (in production).

Sôhkêyihta: The Poetry of Sky Dancer Louise Bernice Halfe. Selected with an introduction by David Gaertner. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2018.

Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Literature From Turtle Island. Eds. Sophie McCall, Deanna
Reder, David Gaertner, Gabrielle Hill. Wilfred Laurier UP, 2017.

Commissioned Writing
“Back to the Future: Sovereignty and Remediation in Skawennati’s Timetraveller™”.
Commissioned by the Dunlop Art Gallery. Regina, Saskatchewan. October, 2015.

Digital Interventions
Novel Alliances: Allied Perspectives on Indigenous, Art, Politics, and New Media. Novel Alliances is a blog featuring short articles, notes, and resources on Indigenous media, culture, and politics. Since I launched it in 2013, Novel Alliances has hosted nearly 10,000 unique visitors and hosted content written and produced by FNIS students. https://novelalliances.com/about/

Never Alone: Resources and Reflections: I designed this website as a resource for students and researchers investigating the Inupiat video game Never Alone. It features links to resources for the game and the Inupiat community as well as essays by Indigenous studies scholars produced specifically for the site. A number of professors now use the website in their classes and I continue to add essays and resources written by colleagues and students. https://ilsaneveralone.wordpress.com/

Symposium for Indigenous New Media. This website was created as a resource for the Indigenous New Media Symposium, a two-day event held on the traditional territory of the WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation as part of the 2018 Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI). The symposium was a starting point for an extensive capacity building and knowledge mobilization project at DHSI that will include the production of best practice materials and models to support Indigenous peoples and research in the digital humanities (DH). It remains online as a resource for students and researchers: https://indigenousnewmedia.wordpress.com