Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
Drawing on archival materials, including legislation and policy under the Indian Act (1876), and contemporary accounts circulated in the Canadian news media, this dissertation brings together theories of biopolitics and psychoanalytic accounts of the death drive to explore strategies of subject-formation and self-making within the circuitry of the Canadian Indian Residential School System (IRS), 1883-1996. The dissertation excavates some of the IRS founding mythologies, the logics subtending it, and elaborates some of its effects. Provoked by the IRS quo animo, “Kill the Indian in the Child,” the dissertation asks: 1) By what logics did “killing the Indian in the child” register in the colonial commonsense? In other words, how did this paradoxical warrant to simultaneously sacrifice and save (sacrifice to save) make sense? 2) Within the IRS, how was this figurative itinerary literalized on actual child bodies? By what means, and along which axes, was “the Indian” sliced from “the child,” and the former exposed to death and the latter subjected to technes of saving? 4) What kinds of politics did this paradoxical warrant of simultaneous death and saving inaugurate, produce, formalize? Examining the promise and limitations of archives, the dissertation resists recuperative action towards the redemption of subjects and subjectivities as lost but knowable objects. Instead, I point to events, subjectivities, moments, and bodies that seem to ‘slip’ or ‘overflow’ the archive, that direct us to indeterminate spaces of partial presence. In so doing I pursue a form of performative encounter with that which importantly remains unfixed. Each chapter frames its own form of writing into disappearance, and is less concerned with ratifying the veracity of a particular account than in understanding the terms that structure its non-recoverability through and against the archival drive to fix and claim. Considering the untimely quality of IRS violence, I consider the disappearance of the Indigenous child body as a sign whose tenuous evidentiary status connects questions of sexuality and colonial worlding with the logistical workings out of the fantasy of eradication through the mundane operations of everyday life.