Photo of Orly Lael Netzer

Orly Lael Netzer


Degrees:Ph.D (Alberta), MA and BA (Tel Aviv)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 4143
Office:DT 1208


Orly (she/ her) studies cultural forms of testimony in contemporary Canada (from memoirs, to autobiographical poetry, and installation or performance art), asking how relations within the nation-state are shaped by practices of reading as acts of witnessing. To date, her work analyzed art-based and literary testimonies shared by communities Indigenous to Turtle Island or those who arrived to Canada through experiences of forced displacement and migration. Grounded in an understanding of creative testimony as deeply rooted in colonial logics and structures, Orly’s research interrogates the tensions between the roots of testimonial discourse, its distinctly anti- and decolonial aims, and the neo-colonial realities of its movement as cultural commodities across nations and locations. With her research firmly situated in the fields of autobiography and cultural studies in Canada, Orly’s current work turns to the intersection of memory and mediation studies, examining how the use of digital media and technology is pushing testimonial discourse to new frontiers and raising new questions on cultural memory and the ethics of bearing witness.


Orly’s courses often focus on the production, mediation, and reception of cultural objects, how they shape/ challenge/ imagine national identity, the public role of collective memory and counter-memory in cultural institutions, and the uses of life stories as vehicles for socio-political change. With over a decade of university teaching experience, Orly approaches her courses as active sites of learning, exploring Canadian Studies as a distinctly political site of inquiry that is formulated through its settler-colonial, nationalist, Indigenous, and transnational histories and trajectories. In so doing, her pedagogy uses critical humanities approaches to explore how cultural production is strategically mobilized to shape our ways of being with others, within and beyond the nation. Prior to joining SICS I was the Director of the Language Excellence Centre at Tel Aviv University (2012-203), and an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Alberta (2017-2022) where I also served on the executive committee of the Canadian Literature Centre (2015-2017).


Selected Publications

Edited books

In Search of Right Relations: Ethics and Life Narratives. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. [under review].

Trans Narratives: trans, transmedia, transnational. Co-edited with Anna Horvat, Sarah McRae, and Julie Rak. Routledge, 2021. (ISBN 9781032058436)


Peer reviewed journal articles

“Material Weapons: Paratext, Ethics, and Testimony in Carmen Aguirre’s Something Fierce.” “Testimonial Encounters in the Americas” special issue of AmLit – American Literatures edited by Molly Appel and Leila Pazargadi, 1.1 (Oct. 2021): 64-85. doi: 10.25364/27.1:2021.1.5 [open access]

“A VR Empathy Machine: Canada Reads 2019, Testimonial Transactions, and the Cunning of Affective Recognition.” Canadian Literature, 242 (2020): 58-78.

“Collaboration” co-authored with Maria Faini and Emma Maguire, in “What’s Next? The Futures of Life Writing” special issue of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies. 32.2 (2017): 247-250. doi: 10.1080/08989575.2017.1289017.

“From Qallunaat to James Bay: An Interview with Mini Aodla Freeman, Keavy Martin, Julie Rak, and Norma Dunning” co-authored with Rebecca Fredrickson, Brandon Kerfoot and Katherine Meloche. Canadian Literature 226 (Autumn 2015): 112-123. doi:

Edited special issues

“Teaching Life Writing: Theory, Methodology, and Practice” a special issue of a/b: auto/biography studies co-edited with Amanda Spallacci. [forthcoming Fall 2022].

“Auto/biography in Transit” special issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly co-edited with Jason Breiter, Lucinda Rasmussen, and Julie Rak, 38.1 (Winter 2015).