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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Home economics education in British Columbia 1913-1936 : through postcolonial eyes de Zwart, Mary Leah


My study examines white cultural practices in home economics education in British Columbia between 1913 and 1936 through two home economics manuals developed in the province for the express purpose of educating young women. My methodology is informed by postcolonial constructs, social feminism, and white studies. My experiences as a classroom teacher and as a volunteer teacher in Malawi are interwoven with my findings. I use the metaphor of white sauce, a recipe frequently made in traditional classrooms, in describing the current close alignment of home economics with white culture. To see home economics through postcolonial eyes means to examine the aftermath of practices that developed from colonial times. While the argument has been made that Canada is not postcolonial, for the purposes of my discussion, I consider it to be a settler colony. I examine three fundamental aspects of postcolonial analysis, gender, class, and race from the perspective that home economics is a gendered subject dominated by white cultural practices and practical rather than academic in focus. In conclusion I argue that no grand narrative is available for re-imagining home economics as a vital force in education. The voices of young professionals and examples of atypical home economics teachers demonstrate that change in home economics is possible. The recognition that home economics education of the past has reflected white cultural values will allow a re-envisioning of a more ethical, meaningful and responsive home economics education of the future. Other curriculum areas can also benefit from re-examining the roots of their practice.

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