Controlling indigenous mobility: Katherine Morton, ‘Hitchhiking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Billboards on the Highw ay of Tears’, Canadian Journal of Sociology, 41, 3, 2016, pp. 299-326


Abstract: Whether too much or the wrong kind, constraining Indigenous mobility is a preoccupation of the province of British Columbia. The province remains focussed on controlling Indigenous mobility and constructing forms of contentious mobility, such as hitchhiking, as bad or risky. In Northwestern British Columbia hitchhiking is particularly common among Indigenous women. Hitchhiking as a mode of contentious mobility is categorically named as “bad mobility” and is frequently explained away as risky behaviour. Mobility of Indigenous women, including hitchhiking is deeply gendered and racialized. The frequent description of missing and murdered Indigenous women as hitchhikers or drifters fosters a sense that “choosing” a bad mode of mobility alone is the reason that these women disappear. This paper will identify how hitchhiking, framed as contentious mobility, supports the construction of missing and murdered Indigenous women as willing, available and blame-worthy victims. Morality is tangled up with mobility in the province’s responses to Indigenous women who hitchhike. This paper engages in a critical discourse analysis of billboards posted by the province of British Columbia along the Highway of Tears that attempt to prevent women from hitchhiking. This paper will identify the point of convergence between contentious mobility, violence against Indigenous women and larger questions of colonialism and the negotiation of racialized and gendered power imbalances through the province’s constraining of Indigenous mobility.

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