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imagining our futures

Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), October 18-19, 2019

About Imagining our futures

On October 18th and 19th, 2019, Aging Activisms (a research collective based at Trent University and led by May Chazan) hosted Imagining our Futures, a two-day, arts-based research workshop exploring questions of aging futures in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough). This workshop was a continuation of May’s ongoing research on storying activisms in Nogojiwanong (Stories of Resistance, Resurgence, & Resilience, 2016-2020) – building a local archive of oral histories of activisms through intergenerational storytelling, art, and media creation with diverse community activists, artists, and organizers. This Imagining our Futures workshop is going to contribute to Jillian Ackert’s MA research, which will take a critical look at what makes or does not make Peterborough age-friendly.

This two-day workshop was a follow-up to Aging Activisms’ ongoing storytelling work, specifically revisiting and engaging discussion around the theme of aging futures. Many of the stories recorded through the Stories of Resistance, Resurgence, and Resilience project challenge colonial, heteronormative, capitalist, ableist ways of thinking about what/whose aging is deemed successful or positive, and, by corollary, whose futures are regarded as failed. The storylines shared in these workshops have contested not only ideas about aging as decline, but also dominant ideas about successful futures belonging to those who are able-bodied, able-minded, white, wealthy, heterosexual, and so on. Even more than this, stories recorded in this project push back against dominant preoccupations with individual futures – futures dependent on capitalist systems, and on human aging as isolated from land, water, plants, animals, and the spirit world. 


Delving further into these themes, Imagining our Futures invited participants to reflect and create together around the following questions:

  • What makes or would make this community a good place to grow old(er)? 

  • What makes or would make this community age-friendly?

  • What do you imagine yourself to need to enjoy a positive future in this community?

  • Are people thinking about aging futures in the context of climate crisis and/or environmental, societal, or economic transition? If so, how? 

  • What does a just/ fair/ equitable future look like in Nogojiwanong? 

  • Where might we look for leadership, vision, and imagination toward the transformation we want? 


We explored these questions through intergenerational circle conversations, collage-making, and creating a collective art installation of the Odenabe (Otonabee) river. Together, we shaped complex and multifaceted imaginings, reflecting what diverse community organizers and social changers think about their futures in this place – what might be missing, what needs to change, and how to make this happen. 


We are deeply grateful to those who joined us in this visioning, for sharing their knowledges, perspectives, time, and energy, and to our research and facilitation team: Jillian Ackert, carol andrews, Melissa Baldwin, Ziysah von Bieberstein, Jenn Cole, and Madeline Whetung. We are also profoundly fortunate to have gathered on Michi Saagiig Anishinaabeg territory; the land, water, and life here sustains us and shapes the knowledge we produce. Thanks to Jenn Cole for grounding our conversations with beautiful projections of swimming salmon, from her recent (now-travelling) Gitigaazh art installation, and to Traill College, Black Honey, By the Bridge, and the Trend. 

Photos from the workshop

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