Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Campus Life, Canada, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Women on 2017-03-06 03:16Z by Steven

Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society

Between The Lines
April 2002
320 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781896357591

Edited by:

Sherene Razack, Distinguished Professor of Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Race, Space, and the Law belongs to a growing field of exploration that spans critical geography, sociology, law, education, and critical race and feminist studies. Writers who share this terrain reject the idea that spaces, and the arrangement of bodies in them, emerge naturally over time. Instead, they look at how spaces are created and the role of law in shaping and supporting them. They expose hierarchies that emerge from, and in turn produce, oppressive spatial categories.

The authors’ unmapping takes us through drinking establishments, parks, slums, classrooms, urban spaces of prostitution, parliaments, the main streets of cities, mosques, and the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders. Each example demonstrates that “place,” as a Manitoba Court of Appeal judge concluded after analyzing a section of the Indian Act, “becomes race.”


  • Introduction: When Place Becomes Race / Sherene H. Razack
  • Chapter 1: Rewriting Histories of the Land: Colonization and Indigenous Resistance in Eastern Canada / Bonita Lawrence
  • Chapter 2: In Between and Out of Place: Mixed-Race Identity, Liquor, and the Law in British Columbia, 1850-1913 / Renisa Mawani
  • Chapter 3: Cartographies of Violence: Women, Memory, and the Subject(s) of the “Internment” / Mona Oikawa
  • Chapter 4: Keeping the Ivory Tower White: Discourses of Racial Domination / Carol Schick
  • Chapter 5: Gendered Racial Violence and Spatialized Justice: The Murder of Pamela George /Sherene H. Razack
  • Chapter 6: The Unspeakability of Racism: Mapping Law’s Complicity in Manitoba’s Racialized Spaces / Sheila Dawn Gill
  • Chapter 7: Making Space for Mosques: Struggles for Urban Citizenship in Diasporic Toronto / Engin F. Isin and Myer Siemiatycki
  • Chapter 8: The Space of Africville: Creating, Regulating, and Remembering the Urban “Slum” / Jennifer J. Nelson
  • Chapter 9: Delivering Subjects: Race, Space, and the Emergence of Legalized Midwifery in Ontario / Sheryl Nestel
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Contributors
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Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871–1921 (review) [Allan Cho]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2012-11-12 21:54Z by Steven

Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871–1921 (review) [Allan Cho]

University of Toronto Quarterly
Volume 81, Number 3, Summer 2012
pages 690-691
DOI: 10.1353/utq.2012.0090

Allan Cho, Program Services Librarian
University of British Columbia

As part of a new collective at the University of British Columbia re-envisaging the landscape and boundaries of early Canada, Renisa Mawani’s Colonial Proximities exemplifies a new wave of scholarship on ‘Pacific Canada.’ Focusing on how migrants from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the Americas interacted with each other and with First Nations peoples historically, the important work of these scholars examines the parallels beyond the histories of French-English Canada and to larger histories in North America.

Situated in this intellectual context, Mawani argues that these early interracial encounters between aboriginal peoples, Chinese migrants, and other “racial enemies” provoked such deep concerns among colonial authorities that a production of a number of ‘juridical racial truths’ were needed to pave the way for modes of governance that eventually pervaded for the remaining century. As a contact zone saturated by interraciality, the colonial administrators sought a delicate balance of moral assimilation for its aboriginal populace and physical segregation of its Chinese settlers. Not only did fear of racial encounters promulgate accusations of either coerced or deliberate prostitution ever threatening to colonial morals, heterosexuality ultimately became a contested field among the colonial authorities that sought to regulate the social mores of its inhabitants.

Unfurling a bio-political conundrum, this settler colonialism produced a paradoxical blend of assimilation and segregation intersecting at one of the colony’s main economic engines, the salmon cannery industry. Could the economic fortunes that required an abundant supply of cheap labour from Chinese and aboriginal workers in the canneries justify the possibilities of this ‘contagion’ that would result from intimate contact between these races? Could the desire for racial purity within a racially mixed labour force even be possible?

Whereas aboriginal women were seen as an internal danger to the colony, Chinese women were racial enemies who threatened the racial balance of its white populace. Liquor provisions further worked to augment racial divisions and fortify existing power structures dominated by European colonialists. The illegal liquor trade served to underpin the hostility that exacerbated the accusation of Chinese selling liquor to aboriginals, which required an ‘interracial prevention.’ Matters became complicated, however, when mixed peoples, the ‘half breeds,’ challenged and defied colonial taxonomies, as colonial authorities could no longer easily pinpoint those that it needed to control.

Not surprisingly, these interracial exchanges among aboriginal peoples, European colonists, Chinese migrants, and mixed-race populations engendered racial anxieties that sustained colonial institutions run by the Indian agents, missionaries, and legal authorities who sought manifold ways to monitor these encounters through friendships, alliances, and even sexual relations. This legislation of race emerged as a common voice among the largely white administration. Lively debates and discussions eventually led to the creation of royal commissions, further solidifying colonial procedures and legislation that would systematically demarcate racial lines.

Colonial Proximities is an evolution of Mawani’s doctoral dissertation, showing a maturation of ideas. This fresh and more fluid understanding of early Canada is one that seeks to examine the role of trans-Pacific migration in multiple directions throughout the Pacific region, highlighting the history of racism and exploitation of migrants and displacement of First Nations people…

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‘Half-breeds,’ racial opacity, and geographies of crime: law’s search for the ‘original’ Indian

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2010-10-14 18:46Z by Steven

‘Half-breeds,’ racial opacity, and geographies of crime: law’s search for the ‘original’ Indian

Cultural Geographies
Volume 17, Number 4 (October 2010)
pages 487-506
DOI: 10.1177/1474474010376012

Renisa Mawani, Associate Professor of Sociology
The University of British Columbia, Canada

Discussions of hybridity have proliferated in cultural geography and in social and cultural theory. What has often been missing from these accounts are the ways in which mixed-race identities have been forged, contested, and embodied spatially. Inspired by recent calls in cultural geography to rematerialize race and drawing from the growing literature on law and geography, this article examines the material dimensions of hybridity, how it was legally produced, gained traction, and slipped in the quotidian spaces of everyday encounters. Focused on late-19th and early-20th-century British Columbia (Canada), I trace the emergence of the ‘half-breed’ as a new racial personage and juridical taxonomy that unsettled racial hierarchies and spatial distinctions between aboriginal and white settler populations. Unlike other colonial contexts, mixed-race peoples on Canada’s west coast did not threaten European superiority alone but were believed to endanger the protection and assimilation of aboriginal peoples. Proximities between ‘half-breeds’ and ‘Indians’ were politically charged for two reasons. First, racial differentiations between these populations were often imperceptible, and second, their putative distinctions were closely bound up with concerns over territory and with aboriginal well-being. The racial opacity of mixed-race peoples created some sites of mobility for those in-between. However, their unknowability shored up the uncertainties of colonial knowledge production and the limits of existing racial repertoires, creating persistent demands for new markers of racial otherness in the process. Crime and immorality became potent signifiers of racial inferiority aimed at differentiating half-breeds from Indians and providing authorities with additional optics through which to problematize and govern their affective and geographical encounters.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871–1921 (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, History, Law, New Media, Social Science on 2010-06-28 17:31Z by Steven

Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871–1921 (review)

Canadian Journal of Law and Society
Volume 25, Number 1, 2010
E-ISSN: 1911-0227 Print ISSN: 0829-3201
DOI: 10.1353/jls.0.0104

Eve Darian-Smith, Professor of Law and Society
University of California, Santa Barbara

Colonial Proximities is a scholarly, innovative, and illuminating exploration of law, race, and society in the British Columbian colonial periphery. It makes a significant contribution to postcolonial studies in its exploration of the complexities of British settler societies’ engagement with racial differences and of the managing of such differences through a range of laws, strategies of governance, and bio-political techniques. Its singular contribution is to bring together colonial histories of European–Native contact and European dealings with the increasing presence of Chinese immigrant populations, along with the growing and unruly classes of “half-breeds.” Because the author links Native studies with migrant studies and reads these two sites of racial engagement as interconnected and mutually constitutive, the analysis presented is rich and deep, filled with the narratives, constructions, and often conflicting ambiguities of race that preoccupied colonial administrators, missionaries, and legal agents in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Building upon Mary Louise Pratt’s conceptualization of the “contact zone,” where peoples geographically and historically separated are brought into the same social space and forced to confront their mutual relations, Renisa Mawani underscores the interracial and cross-racial dimensions of the contact zone in British Columbia.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2010-02-14 03:01Z by Steven

Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921

University of British Columbia Press
288 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780774816335
Paperback ISBN: 9780774816342

Renisa Mawani, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of British Columbia

Contemporary discussions of multiculturalism and pluralism remain politically charged in former settler societies. Colonial Proximities historicizes these contestations by illustrating how crossracial encounters in one colonial contact zone — late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British Columbia—inspired juridical racial truths and forms of governance that continue to inform contemporary politics, albeit in different ways.

Drawing from a wide range of legal cases, archival materials, and commissions of inquiry, this book charts the racial encounters between aboriginal peoples, European colonists, Chinese migrants, and mixed-race populations. By exploring the real and imagined anxieties that informed contact in salmon canneries, the illicit liquor trade, and the (white) slavery scare, this book reveals the legal and spatial strategies of rule deployed by Indian agents, missionaries, and legal authorities who, in the interests of racial purity and European resettlement, aspired to restrict, and ultimately prevent, crossracial interactions. Linking histories of aboriginal-European contact and Chinese migration, this book demonstrates that the dispossession of aboriginal peoples and Chinese exclusion were never distinct projects, but part of the same colonial processes of racialization that underwrote the formation of the settler regime.

Colonial Proximities shows us that British Columbia’s contact zone was marked by a racial heterogeneity that not only produced anxieties about crossracial contacts but also distinct modes of exclusion including the territorial dispossession of aboriginal peoples and legal restrictions on Chinese immigration. It is essential reading for students and scholars of history, anthropology, sociology, colonial/ postcolonial studies, and critical race and legal studies.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: Heterogeneity and Interraciality in British Columbia’s Colonial “Contact Zone”
  • 2. The Racial Impurities of Global Capitalism: The Politics of Labour, Interraciality, and Lawlessness in the Salmon Canneries
  • 3. (White) Slavery, Colonial Knowledges, and the Rise of State Racisms
  • 4. National Formations and Racial Selves: Chinese Traffickers and Aboriginal Victims in British Columbia’s Illicit Liquor Trade
  • 5. “The Most Disreputable Characters”: Mixed-Bloods, Internal Enemies, and Imperial Futures
  • Conclusion: Colonial Pasts, Entangled Presents, and Promising Futures
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Read the front matter and chapter 1 here.

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