Settler girls: Stephanie-Danielle Claude, Presencing Settler Colonialism: White Settler Girls’ Engagement with Colonial Violence, PhD dissertation, University of Ottawa, 2021

16Jan21

Abstract: Euro-Western girls are well represented within the field of girlhood studies. However, there exists a silence in the girlhood literature vis-à-vis the ways that white settler girls maintain and resist systems of colonial injustice. Everything that is known about white, North American girlhood is, therefore, predicated on a foundation of settler colonialism that has never been interrogated. The current research disrupts the colonial fixation on Indigenous “dysfunction” in order to interrogate settler identity. More precisely, drawing on girlhood theory, Indigenous feminist theories, and settler colonial theory, I examine the ways that white settler girls negotiate recently emerging discourses related to colonial violence against Indigenous women and girls. Using feminist, qualitative, narrative methods, I conducted twelve in-depth, semi-structured interviews with white settler girls, aged fifteen to seventeen, living in Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Montreal. My analysis of the interviews offers critical insights into white settler girlhood in the following ways: the complex ways that Canadian identity and whiteness are intricately linked; the ways that white settler girls disrupt and support national narratives that erase Canada’s relationship to colonialism; the ways that Canadian curricula fail to adequately prepare settler girls to make sense of colonial violence; and the complex ways that settler girls tend to situate colonialism in the past. These insights reveal the on-going structure of colonialism in Canada and the way it shapes the identities and lived realties of settler and Indigenous girls. They also create space for further discourses surrounding the socio-political interventions required to restructure relations of colonial oppression in radical ways.



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