Lorraine Weir came to oral history from Irish studies early in her career and Indigenous Studies more recently via a bridge from the Law and Society field and papers on the concepts of “time immemorial” and “oral tradition” in the Tŝilhqot’in case. She worked as an expert witness in touchstone Canadian censorship court cases and has published on censorship, James Joyce and semiotics, and such Canadian writers as Margaret Atwood and Nicole Brossard. As a theorist who has worked in a variety of contexts, usually comparative, Weir is interested in contact zones between regulatory discourses, often with an Indigenous and/or minority community focus. A fifth-generation descendant of Irish Famine survivors, she grew up in Montréal and holds a B.A. (Hons. English) from McGill University, and an M.A. (Irish Studies) and Ph.D. (Irish literature) from Ollscoil na hÉireann (National University of Ireland).
Weir taught in the English Department at UBC for 50 years. She chaired the Program in Comparative Literature, was among the second generation of founding members of the Women’s Studies Program, was a Faculty Associate in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, taught and supervised in the Centre for Curriculum and Instructional Studies in the Faculty of Education, was a member of the Law and Society Program, an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law (1989-90), supervised interdisciplinary dissertations in a variety of contexts and units, and took great pride in advising, mentoring and getting to know her students. In 1987-88 she organized the monthlong semiotics summer school known as ISISSS88 (International Summer Institute of Semiotic and Structuralist Studies) at UBC, giving local and international graduate students the opportunity to work with Gayatri Spivak, James Clifford, and Thomas Sebeok among many others.
Weir began as a specialist in James Joyce, studying Canadian literature when she returned to Canada after grad school in Ireland, and taught courses in modernism, contemporary Canadian literature, and in theory and history of theory (semiotics, hermeneutics, sociolegal studies) for much of her career, turning to the study of Indigenous literature in 2000 with a course on Derrida and Delgamuukw. She taught Indigenous literature courses for the next 19 years. Weir was awarded a Killam Teaching Prize in 2006. In 2012 she was invited to work with Chief Roger William on an oral history of the Tŝilhqot’in title and rights case.
Her publications include Writing Joyce A Semiotics of the Joyce System (Indiana University Press, 1989), Margaret Atwood Language, Text and System (co-edited with Sherrill Grace. UBC Press, 1983), Jay Macpherson (ECW Press, 1989), and Lha yudit’ih We always find a way – Bringing the Tŝilhqot’in Title Case Home (forthcoming from Talonbooks, 2022).
Forthcoming from Talonbooks:
Lorraine Weir & Roger William, Lha yudit’ih We always find a way – Bringing the Tŝilhqot’in Title Case Home (Winter 2022)
Lha yudit’ih is a community oral history of T̂silhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, the first case in Canada to result in a declaration of Aboriginal rights and title to a specific piece of land. Told from the perspective of the Plaintiff, Roger William, joined by fifty Xeni Gwet’ins, Tŝilhqot’ins and allies, this book encompasses ancient stories of creation, modern stories of genocide through smallpox and Residential school, and stories of resistance including the Tŝilhqot’in War, direct actions against logging and mining, and the twenty-five year battle in Canadian courts to win recognition of what Tŝilhqot’ins never gave up and have always known. “We are the land,” as Chief Roger says. After the violence of colonialism, he understands the court case as “bringing our sight back.” This book witnesses the power of that vision, its continuity with the Tŝilhqot’in world before the arrival of colonizers two centuries ago, and its potential for a future of freedom and self-determination for Tŝilhqot’in People.