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Beyond guilt, shame, and blame to compassion, respect and empowerment : young aboriginal mothers and the first nations and inuit fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effects initiative Salmon, Amy


Over the past decade, the "problem" of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects among Aboriginal peoples has received increasing attention from the Canadian nation-state. However, few feminist, anti-racist, anti-ableist, and anti-colonial scholars have offered a critique of FAS/E "prevention" policies aimed at Aboriginal women. In this dissertation, I present my analysis of the "official knowledge" and "public pedagogies" articulated in one such policy, The First Nations and Inuit Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/ Fetal Alcohol Effects Initiative (herein "the Initiative"). This analysis unravels the complex and contradictory tensions in contemporary state policy formation. My findings show how the Initiative paradoxically supports the development of inclusive, grassroots approaches to FAS/E prevention in Aboriginal communities while at the same time eclipsing the voices and concerns of Aboriginal women. Though neglected in the official policy texts and talk of the Initiative, young Aboriginal mothers' agency and insights are central in the dialectic of ideology, discourse, and lived experience that this study documents. To facilitate this shift, I engage a productive methodological synthesis of textual analysis, institutional ethnography, and participatory research, by grounding my analysis of the texts in indepth group interviews with six Aboriginal mothers whose lives include substance use and FAS/E. This study offers significant implications for the development of future policy, research, and "culturally appropriate" pedagogy for and about FAS/E "prevention". My findings do not support the outright rejection of medical models of disability, as has been favoured by many critical theorists and activists on the grounds that such models are universally oppressive and disenfranchising. Rather, the women's insights into their own lived experiences emphasize the simultaneously enabling and disabling consequences of medicalization. Accordingly, my findings underscore the urgent need to reconsider the roles of "race", gender, class, nation and dis/ability in contemporary theories and practices of substantive citizenship and nation-building in and outside of education.

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