Excerpt: Wallace Stegner is perhaps best known as a chronicler of the arid West. As he put it in his 1987 lecture “Living Dry,” “The West is defined … by inadequate rainfall, which means a general deficiency of water . . . . Aridity, and aridity alone, makes the various Wests one” (American West 6, 8). But if Stegner anticipated an environmental historian’s definition of the West as “a region of scarcity, where water sources are few and far between,” he also explored scarcity as a cultural condition (Worster, Under 31). From his ruminations on John Wesley Powell’s “homemade education” (Beyond 8) to his account of the “deprivation” of his own “frontier” upbringing (Wolf Willow 25, 23), Stegner mapped another geography of Western scarcity: information deserts where books are rare treasures; aging towns whose young people have left in search of opportunity; places where entire histories have eroded away, replaced by imported traditions. This essay examines that alternative geography through its most eloquent statement, Wolf Willow (1962). As Stegner reconstructs his family’s failed venture homesteading a borderland wheat farm and his formative experiences in the nearby town of “Whitemud” (his fictionalized name for Eastend, Saskatchewan), he illuminates the relationship between different forms of scarcity, the historical process that has produced them, and possible strategies for adapting to them. Wolf Willow thus offers an opportunity to reconsider not only the history of Western regionalism and its relationship to settler colonialism, but also the potential futures of the region—considered both as a particular geography and as a general concept—in an age of global climate crisis.

Description: The Australian nation has reached an impasse in Indigenous policy and practice and fresh strategies and perspectives are required. Trapped by History will highlight a fundamental issue that the Australian nation must confront to develop a genuine relationship with Indigenous Australians. The existing relationship between Indigenous people and the Australian state was constructed on the myth of an empty land – terra nullius. Therefore, interactions with Indigenous people have been constrained by eighteenth-century assumptions and beliefs that Indigenous people did not have organised societies, had neither land ownership nor a recognisable form of sovereignty, and that they were ‘savage’ but could be ‘civilized’ through the erasure of their culture. These incorrect assumptions and beliefs are the foundation of the legal, constitutional and political treatment of Indigenous Australians over the course of the country’s history. They remain ingrained in governmental institutions, Indigenous policy making, judicial decision making and contemporary public attitudes about Indigenous people. Trapped by History shines new light upon several historical and contemporary examples where Indigenous people have attempted to engage and dialogue with state and federal governments. These governments have responded by trying to suppress and discredit Indigenous rights, culture and identities and impose assimilationist policies. In doing so they have rejected or ignored Indigenous attempts at dialogue and partnership. Other settler countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America have all negotiated treaties with Indigenous people and have developed constitutional ways of engaging cross culturally. In Australia, the limited recognition that Indigenous people have achieved to date shows that the state is unable to resolve long standing issues with Indigenous people. Movement beyond the current colonial relationship with Indigenous Australians requires a genuine dialogue to not only examine the legal and intellectual framework that constrain Indigenous recognition but to create new foundations for a renewed relationship based on intercultural negotiation, mutual respect, sharing and mutual responsibility. This must involve building a shared understanding around addressing past injustices and creating a shared vision for how Indigenous people and other Australians would associate politically in the future.

Abstract: Mythologized as a former artist’s colony, Wychwood Park is a gated community in midtown Toronto that encompasses fifty-eight homes built at the turn of the twentieth century. Wychwood Park’s landscape plan is one of Canada’s earliest examples of a garden suburb – a suburban design model derived from the turn-of-the-twentieth-century English Garden City movement. The Park boasts the highest concentration of Arts and Crafts domestic architecture in Toronto. Famous early residents included artists and art patrons who were instrumental in establishing what became the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario College of Art and Design, and the Ontario Society of Artists. In this dissertation, I argue that Wychwood Park is a white settler colonial landscape. This argument is informed by the idea of landscape as an actor in social and political processes, rather than a reflection of them. The physical landscape of Wychwood Park, and the extent to which it reflects the ideas and values that sustain settler colonial rule, are seriously interrogated in this project. I am interested in the ways that a neighbourhood like Wychwood Park can teach Torontonians something about how patriarchy and racism work and what it means to live in an environment shaped by gendered/racialized thinking and social organization. I am informed by Richard Schein’s contentions that “discourses of racialized social relations work through landscapes”
and that landscapes are the sites in which racialized discourses become “materialized.” In this dissertation, I situate the patriarchal and racialized social relations of settler colonialism within the material landscape of Wychwood Park. This approach highlights Wychwood Park’s engagement with the settler colonial project, addressing a gap in existing literature on the Park specifically and on Toronto history as a whole.