Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE)

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Kean, E. M. (2019). Relative Families: Kinship and Childhood in Early Canadian Juvenile Literature, 1843-1913. Thèse de doctorat inédite, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.


This thesis examines representations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children that circulated through various reports, magazines, and fictional stories that were produced for and about children in Canada’s settler colonial context. Particularly, I focus on the archives of two related institutions, the interdenominational Canada Sunday School Union’s annual reports (1843-1876), and the Shingwauk Industrial Home’s monthly juvenile magazine,Our Forest Children(1887-1890), as well as two juvenile adventure narratives,Canadian Crusoes(1852) by Catharine Parr Traill and “The Shagganappi” (1913) by Emily Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake). Through the nineteenth century, childhood emerged as a stage of development in the making of a racialized adult identity; I find that these archives and texts record uneasiness about racialized systems of feeling and reveal the colonial management regime’s preoccupation with strengthening certain affective bonds of relationality in order to naturalize dominant, Eurocolonial practices of kinship.

My argument through this thesis follows and extends critical approaches to discourses of kinship from scholars interested in deploying Indigenous and postcolonial critiques of Western kinship traditions (Gaudry 2013, Justice 2018, Morgensen 2013, Rifkin 2010). These scholars variously draw on Michel Foucault’s theory of biopower, which they find to be central to the production and proliferation of the institution of settler colonialism in North America, and query how the biopolitical management of Indigenous people was constructed through particularized institutions (such as the residential school) and discourses (such as blood quantum). My project builds on this work by focusing on the representation of child-centered affect in Canada’s settler- colonial context. While kinship figures as a dominant narrative through this thesis, I argue that the figure of the child emerged as the node through which the colonial management regime worked out competing forms of kinship in Canada’s settler-colonial context.

In the first chapter, I close read the content of the annual reports that were published by the Canada Sunday School Union. I focus specifically on the “technologies of transparency” that reveal the kinds of investments that were made in the lives of real-life settler children in Canada. The Union’s interest in tracking the circulation of Sunday school libraries, for instance, reflects an impulse to inculcate Christian feeling within the nuclear family. The second chapter builds on the colonial management regime’s investment in the emotional lives of children, but shifts the focus to the lives of the Indigenous children who attended the Shingwauk Industrial Home in Sault Ste. Marie through the late 1880s. I demonstrate how Reverend Edward F. Wilson utilized the generic codes of popular British juvenile magazines of the period to showcase how the home’s Indigenous students learn how to articulate appropriate expressions of Christian feeling. In chapter three, I draw attention to Catharine Parr Traill’s undertheorized juvenile adventure novelCanadian Crusoes.I argue that Traill represents vignettes of an Indigenous kinship practice in order to stage the incorporation of a young Kanien’kehá:ka woman into the Euro- Canadian family. Finally, the fourth chapter examines how Emily Pauline Johnson represents the incorporation of mixed-race children into the Canadian nation in her juvenile adventure novel, “The Shagganappi.” While scholars read “The Shagganappi” as a tale of successful racial- intermixture, I argue that such readings only serve to reinscribe the fantasy that Canada is comprised of a “mythical métissage” (Gaudry 85).


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Adresse civique

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
90, avenue Vincent d'Indy
Pavillon Marie-Victorin – C-536
Outremont (Québec) H2V 2S9

Adresse postale

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
CRIFPE – C-543
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7