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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Whitewashing history : social constructions of whiteness in Armstrong, B.C., 1890-1930 Bourgeois, Robyn S.


This thesis examines the social construction of white racial identities in the small, rural British Columbia community of Armstrong during the time period 1890-1930. Focusing on public documents - newspapers and the minutes and legislation of the local city councils – I utilize an intersectional framework, incorporating critical race, feminist, anti-colonial, Marxist, and queer theory and scholarship to critically interrogate the construction of whiteness and its dominant status in Armstrong. Employing critical discourse analysis, this thesis dissects how whiteness was raced, classed, gendered, and sexualized within the public discourse of the community. My analysis of whiteness follows three major themes: land, morality, and weddings. In my discussion of land use, I demonstrate how racialized constructions of land use, which demonstrated the superior nature of white land use and the inferior nature of Chinese and First Nations land use, were employed by white Armstrong to affirm and reaffirm their dominant status in the community. Further white control over land was facilitated by the construction of the ideal white immigrant within newspaper-run immigration schemes. In my discussion of morality, I make clear that not only did moral issues divide white from non-white, but they also contributed to fracturing and hierarchical ordering within whiteness itself. Thus, while Christianity and alcohol helped divide white from non-white, issues pertaining to the moral training of white youth and temperance and the Women's Christian Temperance Union served to divide and order whiteness itself. Finally, in my discussion of weddings, I demonstrate how the institutionalization of middle-/upper-class weddings within the newspapers contributed to the establishment of gendered, classed, and sexualized norms [particularly a heterosexual norm] for white Armstrong. Further analysis of the heterosexual norm demonstrates a fractured white masculinity in the community. Finally, this section concludes with a discussion of the ideal white feminine ideals of wife and mother and the role that consumption played in establishing a fractured white femininity.

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