Class 7 — Notes

Today we focused on the ways in which whiteness is reproduced to not be seen, to be invisible. We focused on the implications that has on bodies in Canada, in particular on women’s bodies as subjected to intersectional femicide in the case of Pamela George. We then watched Alanis Obomsawin’s The People of Kattiwapiskat River and had a brief discussion on the ways in which this community is marginalized from all directions.

Using Sara Ahmed’s phenomenological analysis and method we read and commented on Razack’s piece which focuses on the trial of the murdered Pamela George. Whiteness is deeply ingrained in the colonial history Canada. Following the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, much changed – the act told specific bodies which way they can orient and which spaces they can be in and how they can extend. The act was created as a way of getting rid of indigenous peoples even though it was marketed as a pact to ease indigenous-settler relations. As such, it did little to assuage indigenous populations, and stripped them of their livelihood. The remains of colonialism are still very much prevalent today in discourse, laws, policies, etc.

Colonialism : practice of domination which involves the subjugation of one people to another. Usually involves a transfer/theft of land and transfer of population to this new territory – Canada is built on colonialism – when we talk about how “young” Canada is, we erase the history of this land and the people, that are still living it.

Colonialism makes the world ‘white’ a world ‘ready’ for certain kinds of bodies and the murder of Pamela George is one consequence. Last week, we saw the ways in which cities are ready for heteronormative bodies built for them. For example, as we will see later also with able bodiedness, the way dominant groups  construct spaces to have the objects they desire within reach.

Ahmed uses phenomenology to make us think whiteness — phenomenology asks us to be aware of the lived embodied experience, it is the study of lived experience. It also foregrounds orientation — orientation is the activity in which we position ourselves to have some objects within reach, and other not in reach – this is how we take up space, we are shaped by objects, because we orient/re-orient towards specific objects. Such as the ways in which we are produced by our environment, the desks, the classroom, but also by the heteronormativity of a neighbourhood -in the ways we act, show public displays of affection, how fast we walk.

coms324-7 slides

Questions to Consider

  • How does whiteness orient bodies in particular ways?
  • When thinking of what things do we can understand whiteness as something people do. It isn’t  a ‘natural’ category but an on going history, something we are making, producing. As such, what does whiteness do (think of the Pamela George case)? How does it reproduce itself and maintain domination?
  • Razack wants to denaturalize the space and bodies that constitute the Pamela George trial — remember we said spaces are not natural or neutral. As such, what spatial practices make this violence happen?
  • Explain how intersectionality works in the Pamela George case.
  • Why is critiquing the purchase of the zamboni a reproduction of dominant forms of power? Reflecting on our discussion and the stories of The People of Kattiwapiskat River, what is your response to the criticisms?
  • Research the Idle No More movement.
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