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Spectacle, spectrality, and the everyday : settler colonialism, Aboriginal alterity, and inclusion in Vancouver Baloy, Natalie J. K.


This dissertation examines everyday social relations in the settler colonial city of Vancouver. Its contemporary ethnographic focus updates and reworks historical and political analyses that currently comprise the growing body of scholarship on settler colonialism as a distinct socio-political phenomenon. I investigate how non-Aboriginal residents construct and relate to Aboriginal alterity. The study is situated in three ethnographic sites, united by their emphasis on “including” the Aboriginal Other: (1) the 2010 Winter Olympics, which featured high-profile forms of Aboriginal participation (and protest); (2) the Mount Pleasant public library branch, which displays a prominent Aboriginal collection and whose staff works closely with the urban Aboriginal community; and (3) BladeRunners, an inner-city construction program that trains and places Aboriginal street youth in the local construction industry. Participants in this research include non-Aboriginal “inclusion workers” as well as non-Aboriginal patrons at the library, construction workers on a BladeRunners construction placement site, and audiences at Aboriginal Olympic events. I explore how my participants’ affective knowledges shape and are shaped by spatial and racializing processes in the emergent settler colonial present. My analysis reveals how everyday encounters with Aboriginal alterity are produced and experienced through spectacular representations and spectral (or haunting) Aboriginal presence, absence, and possibility in the city. In relation to inclusion initiatives, I argue that discourses of Aboriginal inclusion work to manage and circumscribe Aboriginal difference even as they enable interaction across difference. Ultimately, I suggest that social projects aimed at addressing Aboriginal marginality and recognition must actively engage with and critique non-Aboriginal ideologies, discourses, and practices around racialization, meaning-making, and settler privilege, while working within and against a spectacular and spectralized milieu. This research demonstrates how critical ethnography can be leveraged productively to analyse settler participation in the reproduction and transformation of the colonial project.

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