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«The Solidarity Encounter Between Indigenous Women and White Women in a Contemporary Canadian Context by Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis A thesis submitted ...»

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The Solidarity Encounter

Between Indigenous Women and White Women

in a Contemporary Canadian Context


Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis

A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Graduate Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

University of Toronto

© Copyright by Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis 2015

The Solidarity Encounter

Between Indigenous Women and White Women

in a Contemporary Canadian Context Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis Doctor of Philosophy Graduate Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto Abstract This dissertation tracks the gendered operation of white settler liberal subjectivity at a specific site of settler colonial relations—the “solidarity encounter” between Indigenous women and white women in Canada. Through in-depth qualitative analysis of interviews and self-reflection (as a white settler woman ally), I examine the encounter’s intersubjective relations, shining the theoretical spotlight on how white women negotiate our tenuous status as settlers. Attentive to the complexity of these relations, including how white women allies grapple with our dominant positionality, I signal the perniciousness of white settler liberal subjectivity and the deep quest for legitimacy/innocence at its core. This quest, I argue, manifests itself as a white desire for proximity to Indigenous women, which in turn takes various forms and is often experienced by Indigenous women as invasive. I dedicate three chapters to mapping the sometimes subtle expressions of this desire (e.g., the need for acceptance, inclusion, forgiveness, healing, empowerment/purpose, friendship) and its role in liberal self-making projects, i.e., how it serves to negate colonial hierarchies and/or white settler women’s colonial complicity therein. Further, I develop the concept of the “impulse to solidarity”—the bundle of desires and discursive practices that propels white settler women in their pursuit of proximity, an impulse related to, ii but distinct from the “helping imperative” (Heron, 2007). White women allies find it difficult to resist the gendered dictates of liberal subjectivity, which in a settler colonial context demand our reproduction as legitimate national subjects vis-à-vis Indigenous women Others. Despite the inescapability of the “colonial present” (Gregory, 2004), I also note a cautious optimism among participants regarding the possibility of non-colonizing solidarity. I propose a framework for reconfiguring intersubjective relations in the solidarity encounter best encapsulated by the directive “step back, but not out.” Struck by pervasive spatial references in participant narratives, I characterize the problem (colonizing solidarity) and its solution (non-colonizing solidarity) in spatialized terms—white settler women must interrogate and curb our solidarity impulse and related practices of proximity. We must recognize when settler liberal self-interest takes centre stage, compels us to “come too close” and diminishes the collective political work of solidarity.

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I would like to acknowledge those with whom I’ve shared this journey. You are many and, as they say, more valued than words can express...

First, this research would simply not have been possible without the participants: Zainab Amadahy, Lee Maracle, Wanda Whitebird and those who remain anonymous. I extend to you my heartfelt gratitude for your time and insights.

And, to my supervisor, Dr. Sherene Razack, I send my sincerest appreciation. Your particular combination of encouragement, critique and generosity of time and spirit (not to mention your incredibly fast turnaround with feedback) is truly remarkable. Thanks also to the members of my committee, Dr. Jean-Paul Restoule and Dr. Rauna Kuokkanen, for your discerning comments and kindness throughout these many years. I am also indebted to Dr. Juanita Sundberg, Dr. Lauren Bialystok and Dr. Njoki Wane for their willingness to serve as external and internal-external examiners in the final oral exam.

I am also fortunate to have received generous public funding in the form of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship and a Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) Doctoral Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Additionally, I’d like to acknowledge the camaraderie and support of all my fellow OISE students and Robarts buddies, including Adam Perry, Valerie Damasco, Yu Kyung Kim-Cho, Robyn Bourgeois, Sheila Stewart, Tannis Atkinson, John Doran, Arie Molema, Lori Neale, Sara Carpenter, Dan Hill, Hang-Sun Kim, Rob Heynen, Adil Mawani, Arun Chaudhuri and so many others. Thanks also to the professors who have guided me in course work and beyond, including Dr. Bonnie McElhinny, Dr. Angela Miles, Dr. Kiran Mirchandani, Dr. Martin Cannon and the late Dr. Roger Simon. I have also been warmly welcomed by my colleagues at the Department of Gender Studies (and beyond) at Memorial University. One could not ask for a better work environment! Thanks especially to Joan Butler, Dr. Pat Dold, Dr. Sonja Boon, Dr. Vicki Hallett, Natalie Duchesne, Dr. Amanda Bittner and Dr. Katherine Side (and our friendly neighbours in the Humanities Program—that would be you, Dr. Jennifer Dyer). I am also thrilled to be working alongside Dr. Mario Blaser. And, I am indebted to my students who remind me continually of the main reason why I took this path.

iv For much of my time as a doctoral student, I lived at 35 Charles Street West (UofT Student Family Housing) with my partner and daughter. This community has created lasting, fond memories for me, and I continue to miss you and your families—this includes Brenda Wastasecoot, Bobbie Flowers and Dayle Wastasecoot; Rochelle Johnston and Koen Van Rossum; Alon Eisenstein and Neta Raz; Asia Cichocka and Lukasz Sicinski; Mandeep Kaur Mucina and Devi Dee Mucina; Adwoa Onuora; Sheila Batacharya and Prasad Bidaye; Vichi and Cristian Ciocani; Mete and Jitka Eryilmaz; Soma Chatterjee and Praśanta Dhar; Suddhaseel Sen and Anupama Mohan; Ajamu Nangwaya; Jeff Myers and the many others who came and went over those (seven) years. A big shout-out to my friends and compañeras in struggle at No More Silence—Audrey, Barbara, Carmen, Krista, Doreen, Stephanie, Jen, Sheryl, Wanda, Cass, Selina, Gloria and Darlene, and the many others who have supported the work. I am also much appreciative of Dr. Grace-Edward Galabuzi, Dr. Margot Francis and Dr. Lee Cormie for their friendship, intellectual prowess and political vigor. A special thanks to my mentor, colleague and friend, Dr. Janet Conway. I continue to be sustained by your positivity, intellectual wit, political astuteness and confidence in my abilities.

And to my far-away family, please know that I always carry within me your humour, love and intense zest toward life. Finally, I feel blessed to have both Dennis and Marlena in my life. You are my guiding lights. (I owe you some quality time!) I thank you with all my heart.

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____________________________________________________________________ ii Acknowledgements __________________________________________________________ iv Table of Contents ___________________________________________________________ vi List of Appendices __________________________________________________________ ix Chapter 1 Introduction _______________________________________________________ 1 The Problem/Paradox of Solidarity ___________________________________________ 1 Situating the Problem: A Review of the Literature _______________________________ 3 Indigenous women’s/feminist theorizations of the colonial encounter ___________ 4 The legacy of “whitestream” feminism ______________________________ 6 Lack of an anticolonial theoretical framework and practice ______________ 8 Indigenous/non-Indigenous solidarity, alliances and coalitions _______________ 11 The intersections of Indigenous/feminist postcolonial and critical whiteness studies _________________________________________________________________ 13 Mapping Intersubjective Dynamics in the Solidarity Encounter ___________________ 15 The study design ___________________________________________________ 17 Key terms and concepts ______________________________________________ 18 Overview of Chapters ____________________________________________________ 22 Summary and Contributions _______________________________________________ 27 Chapter 2 Approaching Solidarity: The Research as Encounter ____________________ 33 Reflections of a White Settler Woman Researcher ______________________________ 35 Class ceilings/white colonial privilege __________________________________ 36 Un/becoming a (white) gringa _________________________________________ 37 At OISE: towards activist scholarship (and self-reflexivity) __________________ 38 No More Silence ___________________________________________________ 40 Designing the Study _____________________________________________________ 41 The participants ____________________________________________________ 44 Lines of inquiry: reversing the gaze ____________________________________ 47 The risk of re-centring whiteness_______________________________________ 49 Methodological Matters __________________________________________________ 52 An auto/ethnographic approach to solidarity encounters ____________________ 52 Anticolonial feminist approaches to research _____________________________ 55 On power, discourse and the (liberal) subject _____________________________ 58 vi Beyond the compliance–resistance binary________________________________ 61 Reading the data____________________________________________________ 63 The coding process _________________________________________________ 65 A cautionary note on white/settler self-reflexivity _________________________ 68 Reaching (beyond) the Limits of Subjection___________________________________ 70 Chapter 3 The Gendered Colonial Subject ______________________________________ 79 Solidarity Encounters in the “Colonial Present” ________________________________ 80 The Gendered Colonial Subject ____________________________________________ 82 The “double positioning” of white settler/imperialist women _________________ 83 White women/feminist liberatory aspirations in modernity __________________ 86 Poised to save: The gendered colonial move to universal status _______________ 89 Euro-Canadian Settler Women and Canadian Nation Building ____________________ 93 National castings: white settler women and Indigenous female Others _________ 94 Towards “self-consciously oppositional” white settler feminism ______________ 97 Pursuing Liberal/Colonial Subjectivity: Desires for Proximity and Transcendence ___ 101 Stranger fetishism _________________________________________________ 102 Operationalizing the desire for proximity _______________________________ 103 White Settler Women in the “Colonial Present” _______________________________ 108 Chapter 4 The “Impulse to Solidarity”: White Women, Proximity and Settler Self-making _________________________________________________________________________ 115 A Methodological Note __________________________________________________ 117 The Importance of Solidarity _____________________________________________ 118 Positioned for/in Encounter_______________________________________________ 121 Proximity at Work: Reinstalling Colonial Logic/Colonial Selves _________________ 131 Defining proximity in the solidarity encounter ___________________________ 133 Desiring proximity—telling (about) autobiographical moments______________ 135 Becoming/overcoming and transformation in the solidarity encounter_________ 136 Indigenous Women and White Desire ______________________________________ 150 The Impulse to Solidarity ________________________________________________ 161 Conclusion____________________________________________________________ 162 Chapter 5 Romanticization, Resistance and National Subjects _____________________ 168 Revisiting the Colonial Logic of Western Subjectivity _________________________ 170 Making up for Western Lack: Proximity, Appropriation and Nation Building in Canada _____________________________________________________________________ 174 The colonial logic of invoking “lack” __________________________________ 175 vii Appropriation and national belonging (settler gain/Indigenous loss) __________ 179 Indigenous Women on Political Activism/Solidarity, Collective Survival and Responsibility _________________________________________________________ 188 Politically positioned: Indigenous women and collective survival ____________ 190 Indigenous romanticization as re-affirmation and resistance ________________ 195 Deconstructing the “Indigenous woman subject” _________________________ 199 The allure of the “authentic Indian” ___________________________________ 202 Conclusion____________________________________________________________ 206 Chapter 6 Making Exceptions: The “Good White Settler Ally” ____________________ 211 Whiteness as Exceptionalism _____________________________________________ 212 White settler guilt__________________________________________________ 215 Making Exceptions to the/Settler Rule ______________________________________ 220 Making friends ____________________________________________________ 223 Competing declarations _____________________________________________ 227 Exceptional struggles (with the politics of declaration) ____________________ 237 Self-reflexivity Revisited ________________________________________________ 243 Conclusion____________________________________________________________ 247 Chapter 7 Towards Non-colonizing Solidarity __________________________________ 252 The Space of Solidarity: “Step Back, but not Out” _____________________________ 254 Solidarity at a distance ______________________________________________ 260 Curbing the impulse to solidarity: the mitigation of healing discourse _________ 264 The fraught promise of self-reflexivity _________________________________ 268 Conclusion____________________________________________________________ 270 References ________________________________________________________________ 274 Appendices _______________________________________________________________ 297

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