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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teaching civilization : gender, sexuality, race and class in two late nineteenth-century British Columbia missions Greenwell, Kim


Despite the recent proliferation of work around the subject of residential schools, few analyses have deconstructed the concept of "civilizing the Indian" which animated the schools' agendas. This thesis examines the discourse of "civilization" as it was expressed and enacted in two missions in late nineteenth-century British Columbia. Archival primary sources and published secondary sources are drawn on to provide an understanding of what "civilization" meant to Euro-Canadians, specifically missionaries, and how it was to be "taught" to the indigenous peoples they encountered. Colonial images and photographs, in particular, reveal how missionaries constructed a vivid and compelling contrast between "civilization" and "savagery." An intersectional framework is employed to highlight the ways in which ideas about "race," class, gender and sexuality were essential elements of the "civilizing" project. The goal of the thesis is to show how "civilizing the Indian" was premised not only on a specifically hierarchical construction of Whites versus Natives, but also intersecting binaries of men versus women, normal productive heterosexuality versus deviant degenerate sexuality, bourgeois domesticity versus lower class depravity, and others. Ultimately, it is argued, the discourse of "civilization" regulated both the "colonized" and the "colonizers" as it secured the hierarchical foundations of empire and nation.

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